All he saw was a small red blotch against a pale sea of white.
It was shaped like an abstract drawing of a flower—like someone tried to sketch one, changed his mind at the very last minute and tried to erase it but simply couldn’t.
Now it looked like something that should have been perfect but became a masterpiece—beautiful with its imperfections.
“Promise me you’ll wait for me?”
15 minutes until the next train arrives.
Ryoichi’s eyes snapped open at the long, whiny sound of a train departing followed by the clickity-clack its wheels made against the metal rails.
He was sitting down on a bench, the one nearest a stone stair which led to a floor below him. A cold wind blew and the temperature felt genuinely uncomfortable against his feverish skin—which was his normal body temperature.
He ignored the cold and straightened his coat, zipping up its collar so it covered his mouth and reached his cheeks. He stood up, stomped his feet against the asphalt to regain blood circulation in his legs and looked around. He didn’t know how long he’d been asleep because his body felt sore and sluggish like he had been sleeping in the wrong position for a long time.
He was in a nearly empty train station. It was not a modern station like what he was used to—but what one might see in the furthest towns of the city. It wasn’t old but evidence of neglect was obvious with the cracks on the wall and rusts on the metal posts holding up the rickety roof.
There were a couple of people standing by the platform and some, sitting on the stone benches lined up against the wall—their expressions ranged from gloomy to peaceful. Nobody looked particularly at home there and no one paid him nor anybody else, save for a few people who looked like they came here together, any attention.
Beyond the station was an endless sea of blackness and it was the perfect background to the red ominous numbers of an LED clock hanging from the ceiling counting the minutes until the next train arrived.
His mind wandered off aimlessly until his thoughts hit a wall when he realized he couldn’t remember how he got here in the first place. He definitely couldn’t remember himself taking off from or trying to go to some place so why was he in the station?
The only plausible explanation was that he spaced out...again. Something that had been prevalent these past months especially when he awakened his true powers. He held on to that thought and was almost ready to laugh it off before leaving the station when someone walked past him, bumping onto him roughly. He almost lost his footing, but he managed to stay upright because he always had impeccable reflexes and a great sense of balance.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to.” He was quick to apologize because though he knew it wasn’t his fault, it would never hurt him to be a nice person. And also because the contact made him realize, with a start, how much he felt cold and lonely during the entire time he was standing here.
“Sorry about that,” Echoed an apology. The person was a man with thick, cropped dark hair and eyes which were an impossible shade of blue it reminded Ryoichi of the ocean.
He looked like he was probably the same age as his, despite appearing bigger—with the lean slightly muscular build and a couple of inches taller than him.
He looked intimidating and despite saying sorry, he didn’t look sorry at all. His mouth was taut, his chiseled powerful-looking jaw clenched tight. But he saw a fleeting look of shock flash by before the man’s blue eyes followed by confusion which he could have just imagined because they were gone in just a split second.
“No, I’m sorry… I was… Spacing out.” Ryoichi insisted, like the nice person that he totally is. But also because he was a bit intimidated by how the man looked.
Because though both of them were wearing casual clothes, Ryoichi’s grey woolen coat, worn-out jeans and slightly dirty white sneakers looked shabby compared to the stylish way the man was black and grey plaid shirt, its buttons undone to reveal a white muscle top underneath, spotless dark pants and sneakers that looked brand new. He felt underdressed.
Thankfully, the man didn’t notice the way his eyes scanned him from head to toe or noticed the thoughts he was thinking.
The man just sighed and gave him a small smile which earned a soft gasp from the smaller man. Ryoichi didn’t expect such a gentle expression to appear on the man’s callous face, but his smile was, if he was being honest… breathtaking.
“Did you just arrive?” he asked and Ryoichi frowned at the odd question. He didn’t know how to answer it because he couldn’t even remember going here but what bothered him was the way he asked the question—like he knew Ryoichi should be here. Nevertheless, Ryoichi just shrugged because he was too nice to call him off “I guess so… I don’t know how I got here, though.”
The man frowned at him then asked again, “You don’t know what happened to you? You don’t remember how you got here?”
Ryoichi was getting more confused with what he was asking and how he didn’t seem like he was indeed asking him a question. He shook his head and the man’s frown deepened, “Do you remember your name?”
It was Ryoichi’s turn to frown, “Yes, of course. Tadashi Ryoichi.” Then remembering his manners again, he added, “My apologies, I forgot to introduce myself earlier.”
The man crouched low so their faces were only inches apart and Ryoichi blinked at the sudden close proximity. Then he pulled away quickly making the tall man burst out in laughter.
Ryoichi gaped at him… admiring how his laughter sounds and looks like. He wasn’t restraining himself, too—letting his shoulders shake with every roar of laughter which seemed to rumble from the very core of his body.
He managed to calm himself enough to offer a handshake to Ryoichi, “Fumihiro Satoshi. Nice to see you here.”
12 minutes until the next train arrives.
Ryoichi looked around again at the strange surrounding and the unlively people, noticing how their earlier ruckus did nothing to illicit a response from them. Yes, it was definitely weird. “Well, where is here exactly?”
“A train station.” Satoshi replied unhelpfully. Ryoichi wanted to roll his eyes but he was too decent to do it. Instead he sighed, “I can see that. But I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
Satoshi hummed his response and then turned to him with a curious expression, “How old are you?”
Ryoichi was too polite not to answer, “Twenty-four.” to which Satoshi’s eyes widened in surprise and a bit of gloom, “You’re too early. Are you really supposed to be here?” He sounded concerned… really concerned.
“I don’t even know where here is exactly. And you seem to be so keen on not telling me either.”
Satoshi blinked at him then chuckled blankly, carding through his fringes before turning to him with an intense gaze, “I’m not allowed to tell you until I know you’re here to ride the train.”
“Why is that?”
“Because some people are not supposed to be here.”
The situation was getting on his nerves—he was confused and the only man who talked to him was speaking in riddles, but he maintained his calm, “Ano… Fumihiro-san. I don’t know what you mean by that. How would I know if I’m supposed to ride the train?”
Satoshi frowned, his blue eyes getting darker and Ryoichi began to wonder where he saw that eye color before but dismissed the thought as soon as it came. “Well, just check if you have a ticket.” he said a little too impatiently, “Check your pocket. You must have hidden it somewhere.”
Ryoichi didn’t understand what he was trying to imply because he definitely doesn’t remember buying any form of ticket but the look on the man’s face convinced him to do check his pockets.
He dug on his pockets at the same time then gasped when he felt a single smooth piece of paper inside his left pocket.
10 minutes until the next train arrives.
He stared blankly at the ticket train he pulled out from his pocket. His wide violet eyes turned to Satoshi’s blue sullen ones and he couldn’t mistake the sadness and disappointment he saw.
He looked down at the ticket again—it wasn’t the typical ticket, too. There was no logo of the train company, no time of departure and arrival… not even a destination. Only two words were written on it bold, black letters:
The words intimidated him and the promise of not returning somehow formed a lump at the back of his throat. He didn’t know why it felt like that because he could just walk out now and go home to his family, to Ryota… because he knows despite his looks, they—he would be willing to take him.
Satoshi sighed and sat down on the bench he was sleeping on earlier. He gazed up at Ryoichi, his somber expression unwavering and Ryoichi felt like reaching out to him but he didn’t because despite being nice, Satoshi was still a stranger.
Satoshi turned to the people waiting by the train, particularly at an elderly couple who sat silently beside one another. They were not talking to each other, but the man was cupping his wife’s hand like it was made of gold. “They came here a few days before you did. They came together. Isn’t that sweet?”
Ryoichi blinked, unsure what to make of it. It was impossible for people to be allowed to stay in a train station for days, “Why don’t they just board the train?”
Satoshi shrugged, “Who knows? Maybe they’re not ready yet.” He turned to one girl standing very near the edge of the platform, looking lost, “Suicide.” He said as casually as possible.
Eh? Ryoichi turned to Satoshi who was still looking at the girl. “What suicide? You mean she attempted to kill herself?”
“No.” Satoshi said, “She did succeed. Now she’s here.”
That was the last straw. Ryoichi glared at Satoshi and hissed, “What are you saying? I don’t understand!” He was already raising his voice but Satoshi wasn’t paying any attention. He was roll calling the people by the train station like it was totally normal: the man on the corner drowned, the woman looking lost sitting on the bench on the far right died of childbirth.
These things didn’t make any sense in Ryoichi’s head and he felt tremendous fear at the implication of these facts… If they hold true. Before he realized it, he was already biting down his lower lip and clenching his fist stubbornly on the side. “Stop it. Stop. STOP.”
“And me…” Satoshi said and Ryoichi turned to him sharply, eyes suddenly filled with unshed tears. Satoshi paused because he didn’t want to see Ryoichi cry, but he also needed to hear this. “Car accident. I was twenty-six.”
“What are you saying?” Ryoichi wiped his tears before they fell and Satoshi tapped the empty space beside him, gesturing for him to take it, which he did. His body also unconsciously leaned on the man’s shoulder when he did so. There was something oddly comforting in the person’s presence and their bodies fit like two missing pieces in a puzzle.
“Where does this train take us?”
Satoshi’s shoulders moved when he shrugged, “No idea. Haven’t ridden it yet.”
Ryoichi looked up at the man with bleary eyes, “Why not?”
Satoshi smiled, “People choose not to ride the train for various reasons.”
“So, what’s yours?”
Satoshi blinked at him. He looked like he was struggling inside, trying to decide whether he should spill it or not. Ryoichi fixed him an intense stare until he sighed in defeat, “I’m waiting for someone.”
Satoshi shrugged, “Someone I love.” He said it casually like it was the most normal thing to say and Ryoichi couldn’t help but break out into a smile, “I never took you as a romantic.”
“I’m not. But I made a promise.” he said nonchalantly, “Been stopping by for almost five years now.”
“That’s quite a long time.”
He shrugged, “I’m okay waiting a little bit longer. I wanted him to live a longer life.” There was hesitation and sadness in his voice when he turned to Ryoichi. “Do you remember what happened to you now?”
Ryoichi wanted to know where the sadness was coming from so he turned to the man and suddenly, he sees him—really sees him.
"Matte yo, Satoshi-kun!"
"You're so slow, Ryo-chan!”
Ryoichi scowled at the name and seeing the grin from the older boy a few steps ahead of him, before he deliberately stopped. It was a hot summer day and their neighbors brought him along in their family trip to the beach.
The Fumihiro's lived across the street from their compound—they own a tofu shop which Ryoichi's mother favors most. Their son, Fumihiro Satoshi was a dark-haired boy four years his senior and he was tasked with delivering tofu to the Tadashi's household. It was when he first met Tadashi Ryoichi—the only son of the head family.
He was a lonely kid, but he has a really gentle smile which Satoshi liked. Ever since then, they became inseparable and even if the Tadashi family never allowed strangers inside their compounds, somehow, Satoshi was able to breach the walled compound because of Ryoichi's friendship.
"I don't want to play with you anymore." Ryoichi said, tears rimming his green eyes. Satoshi frowned—he likes Ryoichi fine… but there are times he hated this side of him. He is such a crybaby and Satoshi is especially weak from his tears. It's unfair and he grumbled as he traced his way back to the kid who was now sobbing silently.
He put a hand on top of Ryoichi's head and smiled an apology, "Hora, hora... Stop crying. I won't tease you again."
He held out his hand but Ryoichi didn’t stop crying. He sighed and knelt down until he could wipe the tears away from his cheeks with his sandy palms. “I’m sorry I made you run after me a lot even when you said you didn’t want to. I won’t call you slowpoke again.” He stopped a chuckle from coming out with the term because he didn’t want to make Ryoichi cry more.
“Promise me you’ll wait for me?” Ryoichi’s voice was soft and sweet when he peeked from his hands.
Satoshi blinked at him, surprised at the promise the boy was asking him. But the green eyes were looking at him expectantly and he couldn’t help but smile at the innocence of the promise. He put out his pinky and smiled, “I promise.”
"Satoshi, open up the door please..." His mother called and he groused as he put aside the manga he was reading and removed himself from the kotatsu. He didn't know who would be coming this early on a Sunday when their shop isn't even open yet.
The doorbell rang for the third time and he frowned, scratching his head in annoyance as he slid the door open, "Haaai... Ohayouu..." His voice was laced with disdain but he stopped when he saw Ryoichi's face brimming with unshed tears. He frowned when the boy leapt into his arms and whined his name, "Satoshi-kuuun!" His mother who was curious came out from the kitchen and saw the boy. "R-Ryoichi-kun?" She said, "W-What's happening?"
Ryoichi extracted himself from Satoshi and gave his mother a polite bow, "Ohayou, obasan. I'm sorry for the intrusion this early... I just... I just..." The unshed tears threatening to fall began falling now and Satoshi felt a tug in his heart which he simply couldn't understand where it came from. His mother walked towards them and led Ryoichi inside, "Hora, hora, don't cry. Satoshi, go get some water to calm him down."
Satoshi snapped back to his senses and turned to his mother before nodding and running inside the kitchen to fetch a glass of water. His mother lead Ryoichi inside and has alread seated him in the kotatsu by the time he came back. He put the glass of water in front of Ryoichi who appeared too small and too fragile now. They've been friends for two years now and he had never seen Ryoichi this upset—the worst part is he doesn't know why. "Oi, speak up." He said, getting more and more impatient. Ryoichi turned to him with glazed eyes and he hated how those tears made him feel. He wanted to scratch his own eyes out just so he won't see Ryoichi crying.
"I-I... I'm going to be a big brother."
Both he and his mother gaped at him. Before he broke out laughing. His mother flashed him a glare to shut him up and he did, but he couldn't help a few more snickers to pass his lips.
"You're upset of this, Ryoichi-kun?" His mother asked gently to which the boy shook his head defiantly.
"No. I'm not... I'm just..." He paused as if trying to consider his words, "Scared... I'm just scared I won't be a good brother."
Satoshi needed to bite the inside of his cheek to stop another string of laughter. He looked at Ryoichi who was still looking down at his hands and not meeting their eyes. His hands were clenched into tiny little fists and placed on top of his bent knees. Tears were still streaming down his face and Satoshi wondered how this crybaby could be an old brother to someone. It sounds ridiculous, even to him... but, he also knows the boy has a kind and caring heart.
He moved so he could flick his finger on the boy's forehead and he wailed in pain, placing a hand on the spot he hit which was now becoming red. When Ryoichi gave him a questioning look, he gave him a smile, "You'll be alright, don't worry."
"Huh? You won't be able to deliver tofu tomorrow? Why?"
Satoshi picked up a pebble and ran his fingers over its smooth surface before throwing it on the wall where it bounced and clattered on the ground. They were inside the Tadashi compound, the house where Ryoichi lives was the one furthest from the gate and since his family left to take two-year old Ryota to the doctor, they were basically alone. He grinned at Ryoichi who was still looking at him warily. "Ah..."
"Are you going somewhere? When will you be back?"
Satoshi bit on his lower lip. He didn't know how to say this to the boy who was now expectantly looking at him—his emerald eyes filled with kindness. Satoshi felt his heart melt and he wondered how he could go through with this, without seeing the boy cry again. But he also knew, delaying it wouldn't make things better. He would find out sooner or later. Better now. "I won't be back until a few years."
Ryoichi's eyes widened and Satoshi thought 'there... there it is.'
"A few years? Why? I... I don't understand."
"I'm going to attend another high school. I'd be living with my grandparents for the meantime." He said, looking straight at the green orbs now glistening with tears. He knew this would happen—he mentally and emotionally prepared himself for this. And yet, all those preparations were wasted because his heart right now was breaking into two pieces. He wanted to beg Ryoichi not to look like that, but that wasn't like him. Instead, he flicked the boy's forehead and smiled, "Oi, don't cry. I'm not gonna die."
Ryoichi rubbed the spot he flicked and gave him a scowl. At least, that stopped him from crying. "I'm not gonna cry for you, idiot."
"You totally are." He smirked, amused that the boy would even try to deny it while wiping at his eyes. "Besides, it would just be three years."
Ryoichi nodded, biting his lower lip and looking away, "Then that's okay."
"Don't miss me too much, 'kay?" He said earning another look of disgust from the boy.
"Oh shut up. Be... good there."
"Roger!" He said, "I'd call you everyday. And I'll make sure you'll be the first to know once I get myself a girlfriend over there." He saw Ryoichi stiffened at that and the boy turned to him, eyes wide with shock, "G-Girlfriend?"
Satoshi smiled inwardly. He was glad the boy gave that reaction. He didn't know when it started but for the past few months, he realized that the friendship he had with the boy was blossoming into something he couldn't quite define yet. It confused him and gave him many sleepless nights, until he realized what it was. He liked Ryoichi. Liked him more than friends.
But he didn't know how to say it because even if Ryoichi had always been kind to him and would probably not think of him any differently if he confessed, he didn't want to take a chance. So he bottled up his feelings, swearing he would never tell a soul. But there were moments like this one... times when he felt like there was a slim possibility that Ryoichi felt the same way. It wasn't enough to make him profess his feelings, but it was enough to keep teasing about it.
He gave him a satisfied grin, "Of course. What? I'm actually really good-looking so that isn't impossible, you know."
Ryoichi looked down with a sullen expression and nodded, "I guess so."
Satoshi frowned at that. He expected Ryoichi to scowl at him or stick his tongue out at him because he always told him he never liked the arrogant part of him. "What's wrong? Would you be bothered by it?"
Ryoichi shook his head, "No... I mean... Yes... I..." He took a deep breath and then turned to Satoshi, cheeks turning a shade of pink, "Do you really want a girlfriend?"
Satoshi blinked, unsure what to tell him...or actually no, he was sure what he wants to tell him, he just couldn't form the words because what he wanted to say is 'No. I don't need one. But I can't have you so...' But he wouldn't say it. Ryoichi seeing the flustered look on Satoshi's face turned away again and in a small, barely audible voice, he said "I... don't want you to have a girlfriend."
It had been three years and two months since he last set foot in their tofu shop and things have more or less stayed the same. Well, except he was itching to leave as soon as he dropped his bag on his bedroom floor and dash towards the house across the street.
It had been three years and two months since he last saw Ryoichi. Three years and two months—and both of them were tired of the time and space between them. It had been awful, the days were longer and it got awfully slower the more the day of his return got closer.
He should have gone home earlier but because his last project encountered some setbacks, he had to stay for another two weeks and finish up everything before he returned. During the years of separation, the two of them settled and identified their feelings for each other. Satoshi thought he would forget about the boy and eventually find someone else... someone fitting, but nobody compared to Ryoichi. He was the gentlest person he knew... and he has the nicest smile.
Slowly, their feelings evolved into something none of them were prepared for. They exchanged emails, called each other often and he talked to Ryoichi about the city, because the boy was homeschooled and really didn't know anything about the outside world. He was Ryoichi's only connection to it. And Ryoichi was the person anchoring Satoshi whenever he wandered too far out.
Ever since then, they started this ambiguous relationship that none of them dared put label to. Maybe putting a label to the relationship strained by distance and time would only make things more complicated and hurt more. They were happy and longing at the same time—those two things were the cruelest emotions and they were simply not ready to trap themselves in something more painful.
So they agreed to talk about things when he returned.
He changed into his casual clothes of basic shirt and jeans before he called out to his mother who was cleaning up the store which they closed an hour ago. "Okasan, I'll head out for a minute." He said to which his mother frowned.
"But you just got home. Can't you wait until dinner is over? I cooked your-"
"Huh? Who could that be?" His mother walked towards the door. It was already past nine and really quite impossible to have customers trying to buy tofu at this late hour. Unless...
His heart began pounding on his chest, when the door slid open and revealed Ryoichi's flushed face. "Ah, Ryoichi-kun!" His mother exclaimed and the boy gave him a small smile, and yet his eyes were not looking at her but at the man standing as shocked behind her.
"Satoshi..." Satoshi's name fell from the boy's lips and Satoshi's heart soared. He noted how casually the boy also dropped the ‘-kun’ on his name… something that took months of practice before he got used to it. Ryoichi got a bit taller from the last time he saw. And his hair was longer, now. Satoshi noted stubbornly that he was still taller and his hair was still longer because even now, he was still trying to one-up the boy. He smiled at their naivete, while admitting that it was the one thing he liked about their relationship.
His mother looked at the two of them then sighed, "I guess I'll leave you two alone." She excused herself, shaking her head as she returned to what she was doing.
Ryoichi stepped inside the house, invading Satoshi's personal space—and just like that, the warmth he felt staring at the boy erupted into a blazing heat, scorching his very skin. In two quick steps, he pulled Ryoichi in his arms and squeezed him tight, until he felt their bodies melted together into one singular body.
He buried his nose into Ryoichi's brown hair and felt a wetness on the crook of his neck. The boy was crying... again. He smiled realizing that the distance and time did nothing to change the soft-hearted boy. "I'm home..." He whispered until he felt small, tender hands tentatively wrapping themselves across his back.
3 minutes until the next train arrives.
A look of recognition fell on Ryoichi’s face and tears began falling recklessly from his eyes. He turned to face of the man who was patiently and silently sitting beside him, “Satoshi…” He whispered and the smile he got in return was enough to make him cry all over again.
“Took you long enough.”
“I-I’m sorry.” He stammered, ashamed of himself. Satoshi chuckled then flicked him on his forehead. “Don’t worry. I barely recognized you with that white hair and violet eyes.”
Ryoichi remembered everything. And he couldn’t put on words what he was feeling right now because he knew exactly how Satoshi died. They were together that night.
“Satoshi! Satoshi! WAKE UP!” They were running out of time, Ryoichi knew that. He had pulled Satoshi away from the burning car and onto the sidewalk, but the man was still unconscious and the men after him was still on the run.
He knew they had to leave soon if they wanted to survive this. Satoshi was losing a lot of blood from the open wound on his chest. Satoshi’s eyelids flickered and slowly opened—and those grey eyes turned to him. He scanned his face and gave a smile, “Ryoichi.” His voice was quiet and Ryoichi’s heart sank. He knew what was happening. He knew and yet he couldn’t do anything.
He should have not told Satoshi who he really is—what he really is. If he didn’t, the Black Watchers would have not gone after him. Would have not used him as his weakness. This would have not happened if he didn’t tell him. He was stupid.
Satoshi read his mind. He was a normal human being, but he didn’t need super powers to know exactly what’s going on in Ryoichi’s mind. He knew the demons lurking there. He knew the self-loathing, the insecurities. He knew them all.
He smiled and with his weakening state, raised his hand to flick the boy on his forehead. It was weak and it left a blotch of red on the boy’s pale forehead. In his delirious state, he thought it looked like a flower. And it fit perfectly on Ryoichi’s beautiful face.
Ryoichi blinked at him—tears pausing for a moment before they came again. He grasped the hand which flicked him. The hand was already cold and Ryoichi knew life was quickly slipping away. He knew he had a lot to say, but he couldn’t say it. He opened his mouth to say the only thing that mattered—the only thing that neither he nor the dying man in front of him was able to say for the entire time together. Nobody said it because they thought it was a given, that their actions were enough. But it wasn’t enough.
I love you.
No words left his mouth that night. Even when Satoshi’s hand slipped away from his—the eyelids dropping and closing forever.
I love you.
He didn’t scream. He didn’t call out to him. He just stared at the man who made every bit of him feel perfect because… because…
I love you.
His tears eventually dried out.
That was the night violet replaced green and silver replaced brown. He died that night—and was rebirthed into something he didn’t know. Someone nobody could accept, not even him. And he knew only Satoshi would understand. He would accept him, love him for who he was no matter what happened.
1 minute until the next train arrives.
“Are you alright?” Satoshi whispered beside him.
Ryoichi nodded, “I’m sorry… I’m sorry you had to wait this long.”
“Idiot.” Satoshi chuckled, “I told you I’m willing to wait more years if that means you’d live long enough to enjoy the world.”
Ryoichi bit his lip as it quivered with all the emotions he had kept inside him. He reached out to touch Satoshi’s arm, and when he touched the warm, living flesh, his fingers curled in a vice-like grip. He wasn’t letting go. Never. “I love you.”
Satoshi blinked at him with surprise as Ryoichi repeated again and again, “I love you. I love you. I’m sorry it took this long for me to say it.”
A gentle smile blossomed in Satoshi’s face as he touched the hand holding his arm and pulled Ryoichi into a tight embrace, “It’s okay… knew you’d come around if I waited long enough.”
A rumbling sound came from the distance. Metal clacking with metal. Two bright lights appeared at the furthest part of the station and the louder the sounds get, the brighter the lights become. Ryoichi snuggled closer into Satoshi’s arms and closed his eyes, letting the vibrations of the braking train and the sound of Satoshi’s pounding heart overwhelm his senses.
“Thank you for waiting for me.” He whispered.
This was a special chapter of my light novel, Cold Illusion. :) You can check it out here:
The fanarts are not mine. But I just see those characters when I envision them. :)
Thanks for reading! <3