ake me Smile, Big Brother / Fragile Smile
The red haired boy tiredly poked around his bento box, preferring to shift the pieces of fried shrimps around the rice with chopsticks rather than eating it. Veggies were like always pushed on the side, but for some reason he found them more appetizing than the rest of his lunch.
“Gotcha!” another pair of chopsticks snatched a bigger fried shrimp that quickly disappeared in a mouth of a boy his age.
“Yugo! Quit stealing Yuya’s food!” another similar looking boy shouted “I made sure to give you all the same portions!”
“The lunchtime break is almost over and if he’s not eating it, why let it go to waste?” the blue haired boy mumbled while munching onto the crispy dish.
“You can have it, I don’t feel like eating anyway.” Yuya sighed as he pushed the rest of his food towards Yugo.
At that moment both lookalikes with an addition of a pink haired one gave him a wide-eyed look with their jaws dropping like the red haired teen just blurted out the biggest nonsense. Yuya on the other hand barely noticed it as he was far too busy at putting his things back into the school bag.
“No offense little bro, but are you in the right mind?” Yugo was the first to break the awkward silence.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Yuya put away his bento box after his brother didn’t touch it.
“Because you usually go all feral if Fusion tries to steal as much as a carrot from you.” the pink haired sibling sighed before emptying the rest of his juice box while Yugo raged for Yuri teasing him with the wrong pronunciation of his name.
“Guess I’m not in a mood to do so today.” the red haired boy swooped his bag over his shoulder as he headed back to the classroom.
If the previous action left them with dropped jaws, this one was an additional puzzlement. While the younger siblings fighting for food was nothing uncommon, the total ignorance however was a rare sight. Usually Yuya and Yugo would throw some friendly punches, sometimes throwing some of the less desirable foods at each other until Yuto would go into his all-big-brother mode and broke them apart while Yuri would just observe them while laughing his heart out. This time no one expected Yuya would leave just like that.
“Must be the Monday.” Yuri shrugged his shoulders.
Back in the classroom, Yuya got back on his seat, threw some random notebooks and pencils on the desk, so it at least looked like he was prepared and almost immediately buried his head in his crossed arms. He really didn’t care what his brothers thought, he just wanted the day to end already since his ever growing headache just wouldn’t stop. It started pestering him sometime before the weekend and he didn’t thought it was much of a big deal, not at least until the last night when it hurt him so much he barely slept. Then there was also a piercing pain in his throat, scratching him to the point he had trouble swallowing solid foods. And now the loss of appetite. Yuya felt bad for not eating the lunch that Yuto and his older brother Zarc prepared, but just the look at his favorite dish made him nauseous.
“Alright, take your seats and open your textbooks where we finished the last time.” the teacher entered the classroom along with those few late comers, which were ironically his brothers along with the other quadruplets of this class, who took their respective places at their desks. Besides his own family Sakaki consisting of himself and his three nearly identical brothers plus parents and older brother, there was another family, Akaba that also had a set of quadruplets.
Yuya could see Yugo secretly passing notes to the green haired member of Akaba family named Rin who giggled and nodded in response to something that the blue haired asked her. Rin’s sister Ruri kept glancing and smiling at Yuto who hardly kept his beet red blushing in check as he tried to focus on the lesson. The third Akaba sibling Serena was a total opposite to Yuri since she kept glaring daggers at him while he simply smirked like a Cheshire cat. The youngest of the four sisters, Yuzu was apparently the only one who was actually listening to the teacher since Yuya was closer and closer to his notebook that he rather used for a pillow than for its intended purpose.
As soon as the teacher ended the lesson, Yuya felt all too familiar smack of a fan on his head that joggled him out of his nap. He needed a while before he was face to face with the pink haired girl whose face was full of fury and annoyance.
“When will you actually be awake during the lessons?! I’m tired of borrowing you my notes all the time!” Yuzu growled while gathering her things.
“Sorry…” was Yuya’s only response as he too took his bag and as-a-matter-of-factly left the classroom, leaving puzzled Yuzu behind.
“Hey, mom’s picking us around three, want to go to the Game Club?” Rin announced after checking the messages on her turquoise colored cellphone.
“Ehmm… sure.” Yuzu said a bit uncertainly when still seeing Yuya’s pale face.
“Yo, did you say Game Club?” Yugo playfully threw his arms around Rin’s shoulders from behind.
“Yeah, are you four coming too? Syuzou got us some new games to try out!” the green haired said to which the boy nodded.
“Zarc’s picking us up after three. We’d take the bus, but mom insisted he picks up this week when she’s absent.” Yuto joined the conversation with Ruri next to him.
“She’s a judge in that cooking show, right? Your mom must be busy.” the pink haired girl asked.
“Not that much, but the finals are this week, so she has to be there nonstop to get the things going. Hopefully we’ll get to spend some more time together as a family once she gets back. Even Zarc hardly ever comes home at reasonable hour.” the lavender haired boy sighed.
“Well, he is a university student and at least he’ll come to pick us up this week.” Yugo muttered as they all passed the several hallways until they reached certain doors with a familiar sign.
Game Club was basically a rearranged old storage for gym supplies. A PE teacher named Syuzou Hiiragi, who happened to be a good friends with both of quadruplets’ parents, happened to notice today’s generation of students stuck on computer and video game screens all the time and decided to start a mini club to get them to enjoy the good old board games. Yuya and others just started high school when he just got the Game Club going. Syuzou managed to scatter all second-hand shops, cheap online stores and garage sales to get the classic games and once more students joined the club, parents and school staff too went to their attics and basements to donate their old board games. By now they had nearly two huge wardrobes filled with various boxes, decks of cards and modern-looking board games, thanks to the money they earned during their last year’s school festival.
When Yuto, Yugo, Yuzu, Rin and Ruri entered the room, they could see the rest of their siblings already busying themselves at random places of the room along with other club members. Yuya was sitting on the floor with orange haired boy, coloring a piece of carton, shaped like a cloud, white. Despite being in the different class, Dennis Macfield got pretty close with Yuya since they were both in the drama club and for the past month, the school festival’s stage play was all what the two of them were talking about and got so busy they even worked on the set during Game Club time. Then there was Sora Shounin, a cyan haired boy with a ponytail and lollypop in his mouth playing a game using poker cards with a blond haired boy who constantly complained about something. Shingo Sawatari used to despise Game Club, saying it wasn’t fit for his persona, though once a throwing darts game was introduced he eventually joined too.
“Just imagine how awesome would this game would be if we could play it on the roof.” Sora grinned wide, the lollipop nearly shattering under the pressure of his teeth.
“We would just be on the roof, no big deal.” Sawatari snatched another card “And besides, according to your logic, I would be on top of it by now and you would be hanging from it.”
“Not anymore.” the cyan haired boy showed the just drawn card “Queen of spades brings me the ultimate victory and you… die.”
At that point Sora began to laugh evilly, so Yuzu and Ruri just moved away since Rin and Yugo already settled down at the table meant for studying the brand new games while Yuto went to say hi to his other two friends who were seniors. Fortunately they found the group they usually hung out with pretty fast.
“Yuzu, Ruri!” lilac haired girl wearing glasses called, holding a box so damaged that only duct tape held it together “Look what Allen’s sister found at her friend’s house!”
“Game of Life? Doesn’t it sound like a board game version of The Sims, Sayaka?” Ruri read the title, observing a blurring picture of people driving cars in circle around some roulette-looking thing.
“Oh, I heard about it, but I never actually played it!” Yuzu excitedly clapped her hands “Trust me, it is way more exciting than that lame video game!”
“Allen said he won’t play it because it only has cars.” Sayaka dragged a protesting brunet boy to the table.
“What? Trains are cool too!” Allen crossed his arms as the pink haired girl set the board and figures.
At the other table another board was set too, but the aura around it was way more menacing than at the previous one. Serena still glared at Yuri like she was about to rip his head off while he just chuckled and found her facial expression as the greatest source of entertainment.
“Ready to settle the score, Luna dear?” Yuri took a seat like the chair was his own throne.
“You’re on it, cabbage head.” Serena too sat down, cracking her knuckles.
Then they at once reached into the bag with square shaped objects, setting them on the stands and kept their eyes locked at each other’s faces. Almost everyone in the room could feel the tension of the two of them forming a perfect strategy to win. Even Yuya in the corner, the farthest point from the table, could feel the precise way of his brother setting the letters and Serena’s burning passion to win. Not after Yuri beat her at Scrabble for the third time last week.
Not too bothered by the heating battle between two hated rivals were Rin and Yugo who were just in the middle of opening several plastic wraps that Syuzou got them. According to the rules they had to get at least 80 cards out which was more difficult when you had packages with only five cards. They also had to keep in mind that they needed only Synchro version cards since it was supposed to be the easier version of that game.
“When a, for example level two, tuner monster synchronizes with, for example level five, monster you can summon level seven monster.” Rin read the instructions out loud “You can also combine them with spells to raise their attack points and therefore attack your opponent to lower their life points.”
“Just how many numbers and different points does this game have? Man, this is more complicated than our math lessons!” Yugo looked over the cards.
“You’re just saying it because you’re dying to get on your motorcycle.” the green haired girl giggled while trying to construct her deck out of Windwitch monsters.
“What if we would play it while driving our bikes?” the blue haired boy seductively leaned over to Rin who responded with a knee in his stomach.
“Don’t be stupid! Who in their right mind would play a card game while driving a motorcycle?!” she shouted as poor Yugo slipped to the floor from the pain “Just imagine how much chaos there would be if everyone played card games on motorcycles!”
As the biker boy struggled to recover from the heavy hit, Yuto was instructing Shun Kurosaki and Kaito Tenjo of how to play a new board game. Unlike the rest of the club members who were in the first two years of high school, the duo was in the final year of the high school. Usually they would be playing the XYZ version of that popular card game that Yugo and Rin were currently learning how to play, but since the Game Club was supposed to be a group activity, Yuto convinced them to join him for a board game. Since older duo wasn’t a particular fan of classic games, quizzes and that Game of Life the girls were so crazy about, the spiky haired teen decided for a detective game. The upperclassmen curiously observed a sinister looking board, the figures and small cards, though in the matter of minutes they got a hang of it.
“So if I got this right… I, Marik Ishtar murdered the Pharaoh with Millennium Rod in his own tomb?” Shun read the cards on a field resembling an underground cellar.
“Let’s see… I, Ryou Bakura murdered the Pharaoh with Millennium Ring at the Throne Room?” Yuto checked his own cards after placing a tiny circle shaped accessory on the field looking like a pyramid.
“What about I, Lord Dartz murdered the Pharaoh with the Seal of Orichalcos in the Ancient City of Atlantis?” Kaito sighed at his cards when moving his figure at the underwater city looking field.
“I think we ran out of other options…” Yuto checked the instructions again since he hasn’t played the game for a while.
“Do you really think Seto Kaiba was the one who murdered Pharaoh with Blue Eyes White Dragon on the top of a freaking zeppelin?” Shun wild-guessed when trying to remember all scenarios so far.
“Are we even supposed to confess the murder in this game?” Kaito scratched his head in confusion “Isn’t the point that only one of us finds who the murderer is, where the crime took place and which murder weapon was used and yada yada yada?”
Yuto sighed and went reading the back of the half-chewed box for the fifth time while Kaito and Shun observed all the cards and figures that were heavily chipped at the sides. The table next to them was occupied by the only other senior that was in the Game Club. Reiji or in other words, the big brother of Akaba family, had his eyes buried into a stack of papers containing Kakuro and Sudoku puzzles and by the amount of scribbled papers so far, others could only tell that he was either trying to create his own game or just wasn’t in the mood for anything else. There was also one more member, Gon Gongenzaka Noboru who was currently helping out at his family dojo and despite preferring older board games like Go and Shogi, he too attended the club whenever he wasn’t too busy at home.
All members of the Game Club enjoyed the activities with each other, if not for learning the new games then just for the reason of hanging out. At times they couldn’t even tell the time passing since they had such a great time. Though Yuya on the other hand just kept on painting the drama set, hoping that the basic task would make him forget about the killer headache and occasional scratching on his throat. He however soon realized it was doing the opposite effect.
“Eh Yuya… you don’t need to paint the floors too.” Dennis said when he saw his friend’s brush slipping off the carton base “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I just…” Yuya coughed before he could finish the rest of the sentence “… had my mind *cough* off a bit.”
“Are you sure? Your voice is all raspy and you look a bit pale. Here, let me check for you…” the orange haired boy reached for Yuya’s forehead to see if he possibly had a fever.
“I’m fine, you don’t need to worry.” the red haired boy backed off before Dennis could touch him.
Dennis was going to insist that his friend wasn’t as healthy as he claimed to be when almost at once Ruri’s and Yuto’s cellphones began to ring. The respective self-proclaimed older siblings of the quadruplets both exchanged those few words with the callers and once they ended the calls they urged their siblings to get going. Serena had to be practically dragged away since she wasn’t done with game yet and by the fact that Yuri insisted that “predaplant” was a word which got him a great deal of points.
Reiji and the girls so headed off first since their mother was already at the parking lot in their family minivan, big enough for the whole Akaba family since they also had a younger brother Reira who was currently attending elementary school and an older sister Ray who attended the same college as Zarc. Shun too headed back home with his bicycle while Kaito went to pick his little brother Haruto, who was also Reira’s classmate. Dennis and Sora walked home together since they were neighbors, Allen waited for his sister who would come to pick him up with a motorcycle from the nearby college and Sayaka helped Syuzou around the Game Club a bit since her house wasn’t that far from the school. Sawatari too waited for his ride (bragging many times how fancy his father’s car was) and last but not least members of Sakaki family headed towards the backyard where their big brother awaited them.
A year of collage sure or just the day so far did a number on Zarc since his hair was spikier than usual, bags were forming under his eyes and his enthusiasm was practically nonexistent. An old car he was using to get to his college had also seen the better days, but other siblings didn’t really mind as it was better than overly crowded bus.
“How was the school?” Zarc smiled despite his tired face.
“You don’t ask how the school is on Monday.” Yuri sighed as he threw himself on the front seat.
“Hey, today was supposed to be my turn for the front seat!” Yugo pouted at his brother.
“Say Fusion again and I’ll make you eat that word!”
“Boys, okay I get it, school sucked today so let’s just get home alright.” Zarc nudged to Yuto and Yuya to drag the protesting Yugo in the car and drove those twenty minutes to the house.
The white haired adolescent knew he took the easy way of how he solved the family situation, but at that moment he was really exhausted from writing a seminar paper for three days straight of little to no sleep. His brothers were more or less quiet during the drive, even Yuya who would usually ask him about what he was working on at the moment. That and also the fact that the youngest of the quadruplets didn’t really look like himself as he appeared like he was dozing off and his cheeks were glowing in almost the same shade as his hair. But before he could ask him anything they were already at their house. Yugo immediately headed for his room in order the get rid of his uncomfortable school uniform while Yuri went to check the flowers he was currently growing for his Biology project. The rest of them also went to change, though unlike Yuto and Zarc, Yuya remained in his room for a while even though he was supposed to help them prepare dinner.
The moment he got in his room, he instantly buried his head in the pillow. The headache wouldn’t give him a break, even after having a whole bottle of water and worse, besides his throat hurting he felt feverish all over his body. Yuya knew he might’ve ignored his health in the last few weeks, but he really wanted to help out at the Drama Club. Their show was supposed to go visit children’s hospitals after the school’s festival and if anything other than performing, Yuya loved to make kids smile and gather donations to help the hospital. Yuya suddenly coughed some more, stirring up his dog out of sleep. Husky with ginger and white fur lazily let out a yawn, but once he noticed his owner, he happily wag his tail and went off to greet the red haired boy.
“Hey Odd-Eyes.” Yuya smiled slightly as the dog smothered him with puppy kisses while his mismatched eyes of crimson and green gleamed full of energy, completely opposite to his owner “Yeah, I missed you too.”
Yuya gently scratched Odd-Eyes behind his ears, the canine relaxing into the touch as he rested his head in Yuya’s lap. It has been almost ten years since he had opened a colorful box on Christmas morning where the then puppy awaited him, instantly falling in love with a little ball of fluff that grew up to be Odd-Eyes. That brought him back the memories of times when his father, Yusho Sakaki, wasn’t as busy and the rest of his family felt more connected. Ever since his dad got a job overseas, Yuya barely saw Yusho more than a few days at home before he had to fly back. He surely missed him, especially since Zarc, who took over his job of making them all smile, started college and was also rarely home, except for the times when Yuya’s mom, Yoko Sakaki, had cooking shows like the one she was working on at the moment. It was only a question of time before his brothers would become too busy to spend time with him.
“Yuya? You in there?” a knock on the doors brought him back to reality “Me and Zarc thought we could make curry and rice today for dinner. Mind helping us a bit?”
“Coming!” Yuya recognized Yuto’s voice and quickly put on his old cargo pants and an orange hoodie since he haven’t managed to change just yet.
In a matter of minutes he was already down the stairs and he would be even faster if he’d tripped over Yuri’s cat that for some reason liked to nap there. The bronze furred pet named Starve Venom didn’t even notice him as it was too busy grooming himself and soon retreated to Yuri’s room, probably to tangle around his brother’s neck while he worked on his herbarium for school. From the sound of the engines humming and echoing from the garage, Yuya assumed Yugo had managed to convince Zarc to let him work on his motorcycle before dinner.
“I left you carrots and potatoes on the counter.” Yuto pointed at the veggies while struggling not to cry when cutting the onions.
Yuya nodded and despite the spacing out he took a hold of a peeler while Zarc watched over the pot where the meat was already being stir fried. One carrot didn’t appeared to be much of a challenge to peel, but once he started with another one, Yuya hardly saw where the sharp edge was going. The acidic scent from the onions and strong smell of spices didn’t make it any better and before he knew it Yuya yelped, holding onto his bleeding finger. Before Yuto, who was closer, could do anything, Zarc was faster, pressing a paper towel over the wound.
“Are you alright?” Zarc asked, checking under the temporary bandage while instructing Yuto to watch over the stove.
“I just dozed off a bit, I’m okay.” Yuya assured him, though the silver haired sibling knew that fake smile all too well.
“Are you sure?” Zarc wasn’t convinced, especially when feeling Yuya’s feverish skin “You’re as pale as a sheet, you feel warm and you just cut yourself out of dizziness. I’d say you’re…”
“I’m really fine, please don’t overreact. I might’ve caught a slight cold, but those are normal during the fall.” Yuya said quietly enough so Yuto wouldn’t hear him over all the noises in the kitchen.
“Just… don’t overwork yourself and stay inside for the time being. If it gets worse I’m taking you to the doctor.”
“I promise. I have to work on the drama set anyway so I’m not going anywhere.”
For his own safety, Zarc rather had Yuya set the table and go feed Clear Wing. Yugo’s parrot would go after their dinner if he wasn’t distracted by his own food enough otherwise. The bird was originally intended to be Yuto’s birthday present from Shun since his family ran a veterinary station and Kurosaki Shelter for Avian Species, but for some reason the parrot got attached to the blue haired sibling more (probably due to mistaking Yugo’s dual colored hair for another macaw bird). Still, despite following Yugo everywhere except for the outside, Clear Wing seemingly knew that when his owner was working on his motorcycle he should stay away in order to not bother him. Once the blue and yellow feathered macaw noticed his bowl being filled with pumpkin and sunflower seeds, he immediately went headfast for his food.
“Easy.” Yuya grumbled when he felt pieces of seeds hit his face and by the sound of quiet whining he guessed it was time for Odd-Eyes’ dinner too. He was in the middle of opening another bag of the food when he was approached by Yuto, his expression more serious than usual.
“Is your finger alright?” the lavender haired sibling asked while Yuya filled his dog’s bowl, Odd-Eyes happily digging right into it.
“It really was nothing, I was just being a klutz.” the red haired boy tried to force out a smile.
“Just be careful.” Yuto sighed as he was about to head back into the kitchen “Oh, and dinner will be ready soon.”
“Bro?” Yuya called before his brother left “Are you going for a jog with Shun and Kaito today?”
“Well yeah, why do you ask?”
“Can you take Odd-Eyes with you? I promised Dennis I’ll finish up a part of the set we’re working on tonight so I doubt I’ll have a time to walk him.”
“Sure, but you’re cleaning Dark Rebellion’s cage tomorrow.”
The last of their pets was a jet black bunny that Yuto got for another birthday, exactly a year after they got Clear Wing. Shun kind of felt bad for his best friend not having a suitable pet for himself, but once he saw Dark Rebellion in the nearby shelter, he couldn’t help but gave it to Yuto. The little rodent might’ve looked cute and fuzzy, but deep down it shared a bit of lavender haired boy’s personality as he could be both gentle and confident in his actions. The name Dark Rebellion came from the fact that the bunny would chew just about everything that came into his way, even the cage itself. Yuto had to rearrange his bedroom entirely just to keep all the wooden pieces, clothes and wiring out of bunny’s strong incisors.
By the sound of meowing, Yuya could tell Starve Venom was getting food as well and soon enough Zarc called them at the table. A smell of delicious looking curry along with rice, made according to their mom’s recipe, was enough to draw Yugo out of the garage, though Zarc ushered him to go change since a great amount of oil and dirt covered his working jumpsuit. Yuri showed up almost unnoticeably and patiently waited at the table as the rest of the Sakaki family took seats. By the time Yugo was back, Zarc already distributed the food for them. Without another word, the blue haired sibling dug right into it, almost identical to Clear Wing who was still devouring the seeds mixture, and the others followed suit sooner or later.
“So… any plans for today?” Zarc started awkwardly since their mom would usually ask and he was basically taking over her role this week.
“Jogging with Shun and Kaito. We have a track match next week.” Yuto replied after swallowing the first spoonful of curry rice.
“I’m meeting up with Dennis and Sora. They said they needed my biology notes.” Yuri mumbled while picking out the carrots.
“Rin said she needed help with her motorcycle, so I’ll go to Akaba’s…” Yugo started at which Yuri whistled.
“Oh, is Fusion having a date?” the pink haired teased, making his brother blush both from anger and embarrassment.
“For the last time, it’s Yugo not Fu…”
“Fusion! Fusion! Fusion!” Clear Wing started screeching while flying around until landing on Yugo’s shoulder.
“See? Even the bird agrees with me.” Yuri grinned as he delectably had another spoonful of rice.
“Because you repeated it so many times that Clear Wing ran out of any other words to imitate!” Yugo narrowed his eyes, though he didn’t lounged after the pink haired sibling, knowing he won’t get to eat the rest of the dinner if he would cause a scene.
Zarc was about to turn to Yuya and ask him the same when all of a sudden, the youngest of the quadruplets began to cough violently. The silver haired worriedly patted his back despite knowing it wasn’t that sort of a cough. By what he knew it could be the very same thing that his brother told him not to worry about.
“I’m *cough* fine. Just a *cough* piece of *cough* meat.” Yuya uttered out unconvincingly, only making his brothers worry more.
“Have some water.” Yuto passed him a glass which the red haired sibling took gratefully.
“That sounded like a huge ass piece.” Yuri mumbled before he got scolded by Zarc for making a joke out of serious situation.
“You really okay?” Yugo, completely shifted out of his usual obnoxious behavior into a more protective, big-brother-like-one.
Yuya nodded speechlessly, only emptying the rest of the glass as he excused himself and carried his merely touched plate to the kitchen counter, muttering a quick “I’m not that hungry” and retreated back into his room. His siblings watched him in confusion as they felt like they were seeing a deja-vu of today’s lunchbreak. Usually Yuya would be the one to fight for the seconds with Yugo, not leaving as soon as having a single bite. They knew something was definitely off, but they also didn’t want to pry into their brother’s matters when he was seemingly upset about something.
As the one responsible for his little family, Zarc said he’d go talk to him later so the others can go on with whatever plans they had. Yuri, Yugo and Yuto nodded in unison and the rest of dinner lasted in silence.
Soon Yuri got a call, saying he’s meeting up with his friends and Yugo too muttered that he should get going before it gets too dark. Yuto just helped Zarc put the dishes in the washing machine before he went to retrieve his jogging clothes from the dryer. The only one left was the silver haired sibling who was lost in his thoughts of what was he supposed to do. Yuya indeed was sick, however he refused any of them close to him so that neither of them could check him out up close. Since when was usually cheerful tomato head this cold towards his own family? Zarc admitted it he wasn’t that much around his family lately due to writing reports and studying for the tests all the time, but a change as drastic as this certainly wasn’t something that simple to ignore.
Zarc even considered calling his mother for an advice when he remembered she was probably in the middle of the live-show. Putting his cellphone away he concluded to let Yuya cool off for a bit, then talk it out about it, let him sleep on it and in case his condition worsens, get him to doctor first thing in the morning. Fall colds were after all really common and they would mostly go away with some tea and a rest.
Yugo soon passed the hallway wearing his white riding suit and sporting a helmet in his hands. When talking with Rin in the school, the green haired member of Akaba family suggested inviting Yuya as well so Yuzu could join, but considering the situation at dinner, he doubted about having company so he just headed straight for the garage. Double motorcycling date had to be moved to some other time.
His white motorcycle was well prepared and cleaned to the shine, ready for a ride. Yuya’s red motorcycle was leaning against the wall, covered by an old sheet and collecting dust at how rarely it was used in the last month. It took Yugo everything to not fiddle with the bike, if only for a bit, as he really missed the days when his brother would join him for a ride and tech him new tricks. Rin was way too hot headed and protective for such things.
With a sigh Yugo put on his helmet and left the garage through automatic gates. The blue haired sibling could catch a glance of Yuri on the sidewalk and the gleam of a reflector his cat was wearing, before he made a turn.
Starve Venom was just a kitten when the pink haired member of Sakaki family brought it home after rescuing it from the streets and the cat has followed him everywhere except school ever since, either by walking by his side or nestling in the hood of a coat he was wearing. Yuri didn’t really mind Starve Venom’s company since his fur provided a great deal of warmth in this cold fall weather. Soon he could see a mess of curls in the distance and a waving hand, proving it to be Dennis. The orange haired boy had a scarf wrapped almost all the way up to his eyes and hands tucked away in the pockets.
“Wasn’t Sora supposed to come too?” Yuri looked around for his cyan haired friend.
“He’s in the middle of that creepy hobby of his again.” Dennis shuddered at the thought of it.
“Since when is sewing up stuffed animals creepy?”
“It is once you start combining them with freaking scissors and chains.”
The two of them walked to the port, exchanging the thoughts of the online RPG they were currently playing while observing the setting sun in the horizon. The clouds even turned orange and pink just to enhance the beauty of the fall. But no matter how beautiful it looked, Dennis’ thoughts couldn’t stray away from the issue he had.
“I’m worried about Yuya. He has been working himself to the bone to complete the set for the school’s festival.”
“Guy loves performing, stage plays and all other adorable nonsenses connected to it almost as much as you do. Let him enjoy.”
“Yeah… but since the last week he has been getting disoriented at the most basic of things and today he looked so pale and exhausted. Are you really sure he’s alright?”
“Now that you mentioned it, he did skip both lunch and dinner…”
“You should tell him to take it easy for a bit. I don’t want him to push himself so much for the things that I and others in Drama Club can do as well.”
“Others are babying him so much that he doesn’t have a chance to take care of himself.” Yuri sighed as he kicked a can lying in front of him “When we were little everyone would raise the roof if Yuya would as much as scrape a knee since he was such a crybaby. Later on Yuya would grow up and slowly became more independent, but others would still treat him like he was a porcelain doll.”
“Kind of explains why he doesn’t want to ask for help… he thinks he’s just in a way and that it’s not that bad.”
“I’ll let him know that French fries head is concerned for his wellbeing.”
“Did… did you just call me French fries head?”
“Well yeah if all of you can all call me red cabbage, I can as well give you as equally stupid nickname.”
“I guess I can’t argue with that…”
Yuri and Dennis exchanged some more silly nicknames and despite the laughter, the pink haired was silently worried about his sibling who was probably still stuck in his room.
Yugo in the meanwhile has just rang a bell at the doors of rather huge building, big enough to house all nine members of Akaba family. Rin was pretty fast to open him and invited him inside (also punched his head for being late and not taking his shoes off) since she still needed to change in her riding suit. Yugo waited in the living room where he had to explain to Yuzu that Yuya was too busy to come which she brushed off that she was planning to write song lyrics for her Musical Club anyway. Sitting on the cushions by the coffee table was Ruri teaching the youngest member of Akaba family how to make paper birds with origami technique for upcoming school festival. Reira was a really shy kid, but he loved helping up his older siblings. Sprawled across the armchair was Ray, whose maroon hair was tied into two long ponytails and her eyes glued to the thick textbook she probably had to memorize for college.
During the time he waited for Rin, Yugo could also spot Serena in a tracksuit with a duffle bag around her shoulder leaving the house and Reiji accompanying her since he was going to give her a ride to Gongenzaka’s dojo where she had her martial arts lessons. Yugo didn’t see neither of their parents, guessing they were as always at work. At last Rin showed up in her white and pink riding suit and pink helmet, ready for a ride. The green haired girl gave a quick good-bye to her remaining siblings and the two of them almost immediately boarded his motorcycle.
The sun was nearly out, but that didn’t stop Yugo from going all the way on the road designed specifically for fast vehicles such as his. Rin let out a joyful cry despite gripping the handles on the bike tightly. They both felt the wind passing them by like it was just a warm breeze due to riding here for so many times. The road led them towards the set of bridges connecting them to the other city apart from their hometown. They visited New Neo Domino many times before, especially during the time when they were building up their bikes. Even though Maiami City had tons of workshops and stores, New Neo Domino had this passion for motorcycles that their hometown didn’t have, probably because of the Fudo Technologies that continued to develop the vehicles. Even Yugo’s mother, who used to work at the motorcycling workshop, recommended the Fudo brand,
“Oh man, here’s the turn!” Yugo shouted when his favorite part of the bridge came into view.
“Don’t you dare! It’s too dark for your acrobatic experiments!” Rin hardly kept herself from punching him for even thinking about the risky stunt.
“Watch me! Wee!” the blue haired boy winked as he pulled the full speed ahead, right towards the curled turn. Rin kept her eyes shut though she couldn’t ignore the amount of adrenaline she got from the extreme jump. The motorcycle was even in the air for a while, giving them an illusion of flying. Once they were safely on the ground they let out a gasp of relief while still feeling the pure thrill of it.
But soon enough, they saw blinking blue lights and heard an annoying siren.
“Damm, it’s Security!” Yugo quickly tried to make a run for it but he wasn’t fast enough as two police-looking motorcycles blocked the front escape and another one in the back.
“Driving over the speed limit and performing prohibited stunts again, are you?” one of the officers scanned Yugo’s bike for an ID since all who possessed a motorcycle were in Security’s system.
“I went over it just slightly!” the blue haired boy tried to make an excuse before Rin managed to silence him up.
“Shut it Yugo, you were clearly way over it!” the girl smacked him on the head for arguing with an officer.
The duo went on bickering until an officer whose helmet covering majority of his face, stepped closer to the two teens while dismissing the others.
“Guys I’ll handle these two, you go take care of that other speed limit violation.” he said to which others protested a bit, though sooner or later they were convinced enough to leave. Once they were gone, the man removed his helmet with a sigh “You two will be the death of me one day.”
“Crow!” Yugo shouted from surprise “It’s been a while.”
“That’s an officer Blackbird to you. Quit using my underground racing name.” the orange haired man sighed as he took out an electronic device.
“But you were so cool during those days! Spreading the beautiful black wings of freedom, I am the Black Winged Dragon!” Yugo spread his arms pretending to fly when he earned another smack, this time from Crow.
“Yes, yes, my silly teenage self was dumb enough to recite this before every single match, but I’m an adult now and you two made some serious violations…” the duo gulped down, suddenly faced by the reality of the situation “… which I’ll let you go off with a warning. I know Mondays are horrible, but putting your lives in danger isn’t an answer and the next time I won’t be as forgiving.”
With no other words, Crow put his helmet back on and drove away. Yugo and Rin needed a while before they realized they got away with it due to the fact that they knew the officer, thanks to Yugo’s father knowing a friend of Crow’s. They got back on the bike, knowing they should be getting back since the Security was practically everywhere probably nagging anyone who would even slightly break the law and they didn’t want to risk another caught-in-the-act situation. As they drove Rin dreamingly looked at the sky that went from the bright blue to purple since it was getting dark.
“Too bad Yuya and Yuzu weren’t with us. I bet we wouldn’t get in this mess if they were to be here.” the green haired girl mumbled.
“Nah, Yuya really wasn’t in the right mood. He’s been acting weird since this morning and he just cut off everyone at the dinner.” Yugo drove at the steady speed so he could still talk with Rin.
“So Yuzu wasn’t joking when she said he did the same to her.”
“Yuya cutting off YUZU?! Now that is worrisome.”
“She also said he looked tired and not really there too.”
“Come to think of it, Yuya has been acting similar the whole weekend as well. He was shut in the room all the time, working on things for that club of his.”
“Sounds like you in the garage with your bike.” Rin giggled “It feels like forever since the time that I spent practically the whole summer break at your house so we could build our motorcycles.”
“Yeah, Yuya was visiting dad overseas that time, Yuto went to that sports camp with his group, Zarc was with your sister and Yuri… actually I have no idea where he was. I just know mom was at home since she kept brining us lemonade and refreshing snacks.”
“And when you were covered by motor oil I just took water hose and splashed the hell out of you!”
“Not before I threw you into an inflatable kiddie pool that mom prepared for Clear Wing to play in!”
“Then we just stood there soaked to the bone, right when your mom brought us ice cream and Clear Wing flew around shouting Fusion all the way!”
Yugo and Rin laughed out loud when remembering that sole summer years ago. Was it really only two years since that happened? Because to them it felt so much longer. Their families firstly met when Yusho worked with Rin’s father, Leo Akaba and soon the co-workers became close friends along with their growing families. Over the years their children regularly participated in playdates and family trips to various places around Maiami City, especially the performances of famous Yusho Sakaki. As a man who started off as a simple entertainer and animator at events for all generations, Yusho has come the long way to where he was now. Thanks to his charismatic personality he captured the hearts of many and it wasn’t long before he would start getting job offers from all around the world. For a while he stayed at Maiami City, but around three years ago he got an offer from overseas that he simply couldn’t refuse. True he provided more than enough for his family, but that didn’t make any of them miss him any less.
“Yugo?” Rin called her friend when noticing he made a wrong turn.
“Sorry, I was just thinking… about dad and… Yuya…” Yugo searched for the right street to take Rin home “He changed.”
“It’s what happens as we grow up. You’ve changed a lot too.”
“Well you’ve learnt how to really give your all when you have a goal. You’re also thinking more and take things seriously if you want to.” the girl leaned towards Yugo, embracing him from behind “Though at times you can still be such a child.”
“Heh, can’t help at that.” he slowed down since they were only few blocks away from Akaba residence.
“I think you should talk with your brother if you’re worried about him. That’s at least what Ray does when either of us isn’t acting like ourselves.”
“Guess it wouldn’t hurt to try.” Yugo mumbled as he parked at the gates of Rin’s house “We’ve arrived milady.”
The green haired girl only grinned and pressed a quick peck to Yugo’s cheek, making him blush redder than a traffic light, before heading back inside. The boy almost immediately rushed back home, feeling more thrill out of that little action than the one that nearly caused them arrestment.
“Oh boy, it finally happened! Wait until Yuya hears about this! He so owns me twenty bucks!” Yugo excitedly shouted as he drove home full speed ahead, hoping no Security officers were nearby.
As soon as Yuto heard the sound of the front doors closing and humming of bike’s engines, he knew his brothers were out and that he should get going too if he wanted to catch the remaining light of the day. He already put on his running leggings and purple sport jacket over a matching black sweatshirt. Zarc passed him in the hallway right when he was putting on his trainers, carrying the rest of the laundry. The quick message from Shun notified him that his friend just left his house, so Yuto took a dog leash from the drawer and went to retrieve Odd-Eyes. He was a bit uncertain when he was about to knock on Yuya’s door, considering his mood at the dinner, but a deal was a deal so he knocked.
The ginger husky was immediately up when hearing the door opening, instantly greeting him by licking his hand. Yuya on the other hand was at his enormous desk, painting what appeared to be dozens of smiling emojis on a big piece of galaxy-colored background paper with his head down and completely focused in his work. The red haired sibling didn’t really register the fact that his brother was in the room as he remained doing what he did so far. Only when Yuto gently touched his shoulder did Yuya turn around, his crimson eyes staring tiredly at him.
“I’ll be going now, I just came to pick Odd-Eyes.” Yuto said and his brother nodded slowly, nudging to his dog that he could go outside.
“Have a nice run.” Yuya mumbled quietly as he dismissed Yuto right away.
The lavender haired sibling understood Yuya was still in that sour mood, so he quickly snapped a leash on Odd Eyes and headed outside where Shun was already waiting for him. Like him, he was also wearing running leggings along with a turquoise sweatshirt and a purple sport jacket with an addition of a red scarf. He was right in the middle of stretching when Yuto exited the house, Odd Eyes wiggling his tail in excitement at being outside, although he was quite confused when he saw that Yuya wasn’t coming along as well. Yuto too noticed that his brother wasn’t the only one who won’t be coming along.
“Kaito couldn’t come?” the lavender haired boy asked.
“Midway to your house, he remembered he was supposed to take Haruto to the movies tonight. I guess he forgot due to being on Monday.” Shun did the last stretch before he was ready to go.
“It surely is an unlikely day for the movies.”
“I think it’s because the movie, Dark Dimensions or something won’t be in theaters by tomorrow anymore and you know how Kaito can’t say no to Haruto.”
Yuto smiled at the thought of Kaito being all sweet and caring whenever his little brother was around. The small cyan haired member of Tenjo family had an impressive ability to turn his quiet and cold big brother into the gentlest person ever.
“How come you’re brining Yuya’s dog along?” Shun asked as they started jogging slowly for a warmup.
“Yuya’s working on something for Drama club and he didn’t think he’d have a time to walk him.” Yuto replied and now that they were running on the pavements illuminated by streetlights, could see his senior’s face “Say what kind of birds did you got today? They surely did a number on your face.”
“Someone reported bunch of owlets trapped under a cut-down tree and when we checked them up close to see if they were alright, their mom appeared out of nowhere and clawed the hell out of us.”
Yuto chuckled at the thought of Shun trying to handle an angry momma bird while Shun himself was one. During his first days of school, Yuto had trouble finding friends other than members of Akaba family due to his extremely shy persona. For weeks he would stick only with his brothers and Ruri, until the black haired girl introduced him to a family friend who happened to be Shun. The teal haired immediately welcomed him to his group, consisting of Kaito, Sayaka and Allen. Neither of them treated him any differently just because he was shy and once Yuto expressed his interest for sports he only grew closer to Shun and Kaito, who would start inviting him to jogs and sports field.
The path of the jogs would usually start at their houses, then go around the parks, sometimes by the port and made a big circle until they were back at their homes. Even if it was raining, they would simply put on raincoats since they enjoyed running way too much.
Eventually they even joined school’s track team and started participating in tournaments where they won many titles. Yuto smiled when remembering a particular running contest where he accidentally tripped and fell, but over all the noise of the crowd he heard Yuya’s voice cheering him on which helped him to pick himself off and continue. Even though he came in third, his red haired sibling embraced him and congratulated him the same way if he were to win.
“Your mind still here?” Shun brought him out of his thinking.
“Sorry… I was just thinking about-“ Yuto said, but his friend butted in before he could finish.
“How did you…”
“Well Kaito acts the same when he’s thinking about Haruto. I bet I’d be the same if I was big brother myself.” Shun grinned as he continued to lead the way of their running path “So, what’s up?”
“Yuya hasn’t been himself lately. I mean he’s still cheerful and smiles, but I keep getting a feeling something is troubling him and today he wasn’t even eating that much.”
“Did you try talking to him?”
“I did… but every time he assured me he was alright or that he just needed some space.”
“You two really are related.” the teal haired boy chuckled when he decided to make a stop at the vending machine with drinks in the park for a rest and talk.
“Excuse me?” Yuto leaned against the tree, petting Odd-Eyes while Shun threw few coins into a slit.
“Yuya is basically doing the same thing you do when you don’t wish to trouble others.” Shun took two cans of warmed tea out of a vending machine “Don’t you remember the sports camp two years ago?”
“You mean a sports summer camp that turned out to be a military boot camp? Oh yeah, I clearly remember the hell you and Kaito dragged me to.” Yuto narrowed his eyes as he took a sip of the canned tea.
“And yet you never complained about it. Every time anyone asked if you can keep up with us or if you were feeling well, you did exactly that – pretended to be okay. All of that stress and exhaustion caused you to become sick as soon as we came home.” the teal haired senior crumpled the emptied can “Neither me or Kaito would think of you any less if you’d tell us that you had a hard time. I mean you’re younger than us and you don’t have as much stamina as we do. We’d understand completely if that camp wasn’t your thing.”
The lavender haired boy gripped the empty can, feeling Odd-Eyes’ body circling around his legs. He couldn’t deny his friend’s words. He and Yuya really were alike when it came to those kind of situations. Why this became the case only now? From what he remembered his brother would always tell them if something was bothering him. But then again, ever since their dad left for work, they’ve been all going through major changes. They started high school, Zarc started college, their mom became busy, their friends grew distant… a lot of things happened.
“I think I should talk to Yuya.” Yuto concluded as he threw an empty can into a recycling bin.
“Way to go, big brother.” Shun joked, readying to continue the jog.
“Unfortunately this title belongs to Zarc.” Yuto grinned, despite the reserved nickname making him blush a bit.
Yuto and Shun chuckled at the thought as they picked up the pace when reaching their favorite part for run. Even Odd-Eyes showed his enthusiasm as he ran along the forest path full of grass and hardly any people in sight.
Back at the house, Yuya fought against another coughing fit, no matter how much water he drank. His handy work was getting literally nowhere of how many times he had to snap out of his dizzy state or how many pieces were ruined as a result of his shaky hands. He promised Dennis he’d finish the Smile Universe background by the end of the last week and yet he was still not even remotely done with it. Though what make him feel bad the most was how he acted towards his friends and family the last few days.
He didn’t mean it, he really didn’t, but he’d always end up either pushing others away from himself or acting overly cold. The growing headache didn’t make the situation any better since it made him tired and not thinking clearly. Yuya also couldn’t ignore his raspy throat and the fact that he felt like his forehead was going to melt at the same time as his body felt like it’s going to freeze, despite wearing a warm hoodie.
At times like this, he’d tell his mom or just take some cold medicine, like he did for nearly two weeks. But the medicine either didn’t work or he didn’t have a cold in the first place. With his mom at the work, he could ask Zarc instead since even his older brother could tell that Yuya was sick. Though he didn’t want to really bother Zarc, especially now that his exams were approaching. He knew well how drained his brother was every day when coming home from college and just how brutal his assignments could be. Zarc had his hands full enough, he didn’t need to add up his own problems on the growing pile.
Yuya reached for the paints to finish up the rest of the background when he realized that he ran out of them. Sighing, he stood up and headed for garage where he kept the majority of his art stuff. When opening the garage’s doors he shuddered at the coldness coming from the downstairs. Was it always this cold or did Yugo just forgot to close the garage’s doors properly? Never minding that, he looked for the footstool since he couldn’t reach the top shelf of the stand where his stuff was stored.
Pushing all the performing accessories aside, Yuya started getting dizzier the more he searched through the colorful objects. Perhaps he should really just lay down for a bit and agree to let Zarc take him to the doctor tomorrow. Zarc didn’t have early morning lectures, so he wouldn’t bother him as well. Yuya then finally spotted the tubes full of colors, but just when he was about to grab them, a killer headache exploded in his head.
The sudden pain made him completely disoriented and as he tried to regain the balance he accidently hit his head against the shelf. Like the headache wasn’t enough, the pain from the hit evaporated on his forehead. Yuya tried hard to just get himself to sit somewhere so the pain could calm down a bit, but since he was still standing on the footstool it was quite difficult. As carefully as he could, Yuya cautiously attempted to get off the footstool but due to dizziness he failed to notice a lower shelf. He bumped into it with a back of his head and the moment he did, the blackness spread across his eyes.
Armed with a mug of a steaming tea and cookies, Zarc carefully knocked on Yuya’s door. He said to himself he’ll go talk to his little brother right away, but then he remembered about the laundry he was supposed to take care of. Luckily the majority was already folded, probably thanks to Yuto since he was keen on doing the chores unconsciously if he were to just go retrieve his clothes. He passed the said lavender haired sibling on the hallway when taking the just dried clothes to the room where they’d be ironed. By the time he was done arranging whose clothes were whose, the house became obviously quitter since majority of his brothers were out and pets were napping.
Zarc took on opportunity to make Yuya some tea as a way to calm down his supposedly sore throat and talk with him a bit to catch up a bit, since it’s been a while since he got some alone time with him and by talking he’d find out what else was bothering him besides the cold. Adding some of mom’s delicious chocolate chip cookies would surely bring a true smile on his face. Now only if Yuya would respond to him already.
“Yuya?” Zarc carefully opened the door “I know you’re in the middle of that project of yours, but I brought you some tea and…”
The silver haired sibling was stopped in his tracks when he realized that his brother wasn’t in the room. Zarc looked around, just to make sure if he really wasn’t there and put the tray with warm drink and snacks on his nightstand since the desk was completely occupied by materials and half-finished project. His bed was still unmade and all of Odd-Eyes’ toys were scattered around the dog basket as well as the clothes that Yuya wore weeks ago. It surely looked like it has been a while since he properly cleaned his room, though Zarc couldn’t really judge since his own room looked similar if not worse.
“Yuya?” Zarc called again, and there was still no response.
Perhaps he was somewhere else and couldn’t hear him since their house has gotten rather huge ever since the quadruplets got their own bedrooms after nearly ten years of sharing a single room with two bunk beds. Or maybe his brother was ignoring him. Even though Zarc hardly believed it to be the case, it could be possible, considering what happened at the dinner. But still the oldest sibling continued to call after Yuya while checking the rooms.
The top floor showed no sign of Yuya and once Zarc moved to the first floor he was starting to get worried. Where could his brother possibly be if he wasn’t in the bathroom, kitchen or any of his brothers’ room? The garage! Right, Yuya kept all of his art stuff that couldn’t fit into his own crammed closet one floor below him. He probably went to take some things for the drama set he was working on.
“Yuya? I left you some tea in your room.” Zarc said loudly while walking down the stairs “I completely understand if you’re busy, but do you think you could- Yuya!”
Zarc paled at the sight of his brother sprawled across the boxes that were next to the stand. The silver haired sibling immediately rushed to Yuya’s unconscious form, taking him in his arms, fearing for the worst. By the dim lighting of an old light bulb, Zarc could see Yuya wasn’t only unresponsive but had a wound dripping down his forehead as well. When feeling for his pulse, the older sibling was shocked of how warm or better tell how much was Yuya burning up.
“Yuya!” Zarc called out his brother’s name in hopes he’d respond, but the youngest of quadruplets didn’t wake up or made any sounds besides pained breaths.
Doing his best not to panic, Zarc tried hard to remember the first aid classes he took back when he was in high school. The images of injured people in the textbooks weren’t that hard to look at, but now when was seeing his little brother unconscious and bleeding he was outright terrified. He quickly pressed the towel from the lower shelf against Yuya’s forehead as he reached for the cell-phone in his pocket. The moment he unlocked the screen, he pressed the number of their family doctor.
It was nearly an hour later when Zarc was back at Yuya’s room, his fists clenched as he watched the doctor tend to his brother who was lying in a bed. As soon as the doctor assured him the help was on the way, Zarc took Yuya in his arms and carried him back to his room. Yuya’s forehead now had a bandage on along with a rug wrapped around the ice gel pack to lower down his fever.
“The skull wasn’t damaged, though the hit was powerful enough to break the skin.” a red haired woman in her thirties concluded while checking over Yuya “Though what’s really worrisome is that cold of his.”
“I should’ve acted earlier…” Zarc bit his lip nervously “It might’ve not turned out that bad otherwise.”
“Those kinds of colds are hard to detect, especially among kids your brother’s age, so you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself.” the woman turned to the silver haired member of Sakaki family “Considering the fact that he was already taking cold medicine that you found in his wardrobe and his condition didn’t improve, proves that the common reasons weren’t the cause of it.”
“Then how did he become so sick if he was taking medicine, dr. Izayoi?” Zarc asked concerned.
“I can’t tell you for certain, but in cases like your brother’s, there are multiple factors.” the doctor reached into her bag for a syringe with a needle “Stress, exhaustion, weak immune system, psychological factors, iron deficiency… and plenty others. I’ll have to test his blood to be sure.”
Knowing Yuya always hated needles, Zarc cautiously took a hold of his brother’s hand while dr. Izayoi disinfected Yuya’s other arm. The red haired boy unconsciously grimaced when the needle broke the skin, but he calmed down when he felt his older sibling gently caressing his hand and whispering him that he’ll be alright. At last the doctor collected enough blood for the tests and covered the wound with another bandage.
“I’ll be able to tell you the results by tomorrow when I can get those to the lab. In the meanwhile keep him in the bed, try to reduce his fever with ice packs, make sure to keep him hydrated and try to get him to eat easy-to-digest foods like porridge or soup. From the looks of it, your brother hasn’t been eating regularly.” dr. Izayoi carefully put containers with Yuya’s blood back in the bag “And please, don’t blame yourself. Some people are really good at acting that everything is fine until their condition worsens. Believe me, even your own family can trick you into thinking nothing is wrong.”
But Zarc knew something was wrong and it has been going for days. He’s been just too trusting of Yuya’s words that he simply ignored all the warning signs and because of it, Yuya nearly suffered a concussion or even a fractured skull.
“I’ll contact you tomorrow the minute I get the results, so I can prescribe you a proper treatment and medication.” the woman supportably petted Zarc’s shoulder “Kids his age are strong, so you shouldn’t worry about it. But if there’s anything you need, I’m always just a call away.”
“Right… thank you dr. Izayoi.” the eldest sibling showed her out of the house.
The red haired woman smiled and shook his hand as the means of comforting him as she got on her motorcycle she’d arrived with and drove away. Zarc instantly returned to Yuya with a bottle of water, trying him to swallow at least a bit. The youngest of quadruplets did take some sips, but that was as much of a response he gave before he slipped back into sleep again. Zarc wiped away some of the sweat that dripped down his brother’s face as the boy heaved in discomfort.
It’s been nearly two years since any of his siblings got sick to this point. The last time it was Yuto due to exhaustion and fickle weather during the last week of summer vacation. But that time Yoko was home and knew what to do without calling a doctor. This time he was on his own, responsible for Yuya’s health while hardly remembering the previous week due to having lots of assignments to do for college. And right he’ll have to skip college for the next couple of days and in case Yuya won’t get better even a week since he knew well that their mom couldn’t just fly from across the country to take care of him instead. No, this time he had to do it.
Though until those tests were done, he couldn’t really do much but to watch over Yuya and frequently change the ice packs. Zarc doubted Yuya would eat anything, though some apple slices wouldn’t hurt. Making sure his brother was comfortable enough he quickly took his leave for the kitchen to get some fruit. Just when he was picking a knife and a plate, Zarc heard the doors opening and soon hissing at the doorstep.
“Hey, I told you to be careful! You nearly caught Starve Venom’s tail in the door.” Yuri grumbled as he picked up his cat.
“Well, you’re the one who said to have to check his RPG game right away!” Yuto responded back while shoving Odd-Eyes inside.
“Shhh boys, keep it quiet.” Zarc shushed them right away and once the duo wanted to argue back, they noticed just how worried and grim their brother looked.
Yuri and Yuto went silent fast, knowing something wasn’t quite right. Nothing was alright when Zarc wore that expression. But just when he was about to explain them the situation, the humming of the engines and joyful shout was heard from the garage.
“Guys guys! You’ll never believe what happened! Rin just-“ Yugo rushed from the downstairs, ready to share his story when he picked on Zarc’s look and seriousness in his brothers’ eyes “Something happened, didn’t it?”
Zarc sighed as he put together what has transpired while others were out. The eldest of the siblings tried to keep apt and to the point to not make others panic as they were worried enough as it was. While he talked, each of the remaining quadruplets looked down since they were feeling guilty for not doing anything sooner as they too noticed Yuya wasn’t acting like himself. Once Zarc was done with talking, they of course wanted to help up in some way, but considering the situation the more people brining more germs inside Yuya’s room wouldn’t make it any better. So, the siblings wanted to watch over him the next day at least.
“Not a chance. You three have school tomorrow.” Zarc disapproved right away.
“So? You have college.” Yugo pouted back, crossing his arms.
“That’s different and besides you all have skipped classes enough as it was for this year already.” their big brother shot back, all three of them instantly knowing he was winning the argument.
“I haven’t skipped any of the classes.” Yuto butted in.
“Yeah, but you’ll be attending that training at the end of semester which will cover up the amount of your excusable hours.” Yuri said, making his lavender haired sibling glare at him “I might’ve skipped some classes, but my grades are top notch.”
“And I doubt they will stay that way if you continue skipping the classes you find boring. Attendance is mandatory.” Zarc sighed, face-palming in disbelief about his family “Before you even start with anything Yugo, I believe you’ve been sneaking out of the class to go see motorcycle races.”
“B-B- But Jack Atlas was in town! I couldn’t miss it!” Yugo protested even though it was pointless.
“Boys this is going nowhere. What Yuya needs is some rest and you are obviously not helping.” Zarc finally got the point straight “The doctor still has to give him a proper diagnose and until then you’ll be all go on with your regular duties, meaning do your homework and go to school like always.”
At that point there really was no more use in arguing as the younger siblings realized their big brother was right. Zarc assured them that he knew how concerned they were about Yuya and even showed him to them, so they could see he was indeed sick, but being tended to by their silver haired sibling. Yuto so offered to let Odd-Eyes be in his own room since it wasn’t really recommended to keep pets near someone who was sick and Dark Rebellion didn’t really mind since the husky got along with the bunny quite well. The confused dog yelped and whimpered when he saw his basket and toys being moved out of Yuya’s room, wanting to see his owner. Yuto could only gently pet his back as a way to comfort him and nudge him that he will be spending some time away from Yuya. Yuri said he’ll take notes in school for his brother while Yugo (though reluctantly) agreed to do Yuya’s chores.
With the things being cleared up, the remaining quadruplets headed to their rooms as it was getting late and tomorrow was a normal school day for them. Zarc gathered few home remedies that might ease Yuya’s symptoms, a cooler with more gel ice packs and plenty of water in order to further look after him. He knew he might’ve looked as overly-protective mother hen by deciding to remain at Yuya’s side even through the night, but from what he knew even the most innocent of colds may turn for the worse.
Yuya, still unconsciously lying on the bed was drenched in his own sweat, breathing with some difficulty due to his sore throat that kept causing him to cough from time to time. Zarc carefully poured some water mixed with lemon in it, hoping it would help if only for just a bit. Yuya clenched his eyes shut from the sour taste though Zarc gently rubbed the back of his neck to help him swallow. The fever didn’t appear to lessen but at least the boy looked more peaceful once the ice pack was switched. The whole time Zarc was there, he gently wiped away any prickle of sweat that slipped down Yuya’s face, tried to get him to drink more water or just made sure his brother was properly tucked in.
Before he knew, Zarc fell asleep right next to Yuya. Holding onto his brother’s trembling hand to assure him he was there, the older sibling didn’t mind the uncomfortable position one bit. He was used to falling asleep on his study desk after all and if it meant to be closer to his little sibling, he’d do it that more.
It has been such a long time since he was that close to Yuya or any of his family members for that matter. The bedtime used to be such a family event with Yusho, Yoko or himself telling a bedtime story while all four quadruplets gathered around with their soft plush toys, listening to it eagerly. At times the simple story would become a show that neither of siblings forgot and would talk about it for days. But now each sibling had their own room, completely cut away from the rest of the family.
Morning came as fast as it was annoyingly possible. Zarc was stirred out of the sleep by the typical morning noises coming from the kitchen. Fortunately he could hear Yuto mostly, probably making breakfast and urging Yuri and Yugo to hurry up. If it weren’t for him, the lavender haired sibling would mostly probably take on his role as a big brother of the family since like Zarc, Yuto could easily get in his authoritarian mode and take care of his brothers. With their mom at work, the same duties fell on Yuto’s shoulders since he had to prepare breakfast fast, pack the lunches, clean up the kitchen and probably over dozen more small things. As the Zarc checked Yuya’s alarm clock shaped like a pink hippo, he was actually surprised at how fast the boys got ready, much faster than he did for college.
“How’s Yuya?” Yuto’s head peeked into the room.
“Pretty much the same I guess.” Zarc changed the ice pack “Are you all set to go? I know I promised mom to drive you to school, but…”
“I’m sure she’ll understand. I mean we’ve been taking the bus for years now so it’s not really a problem.” the lavender haired boy fixed the tie “You just watch over Yuya, okay?”
Zarc smiled in response and saw his brother leave, joining others who headed for the bus. As the eldest of the siblings looked around Yuya’s room if he had any extra pajamas in order to change him, he couldn’t help himself but to check the drama set that Yuya was working on. The pretty colors, the pictures of happy animals and tons of smiling emoticons looked like a perfect copy of a Smile Universe event whose host was no other than Yusho Sakaki.
It has been nearly seven years since the festival took place and as Zarc thought about it he could see his young siblings as little elementary students chasing the bubbles and paper emoticons and himself taking pictures of them.
His flow of memories was suddenly interrupted by his cell phone ringing. Cursing he didn’t set the volume on quiet and was surprised it came from the person he’d least expect to give him a call.
“Yuri?” Zarc hardly believed his ears.
“Is Yuya alright?” Yuri asked in his usual manner.
“His fever still hasn’t gone down… and I think his breathing is a bit irregular.”
“Go to my room and take the herbs from the blue pot. Grind them thoroughly and then boil them in a cup of water. Then-“
“What is it for?” Zarc wasn’t sure what his mischievous sibling had in mind “Do you need it for school?”
“It’s for Yuya, idiot. If you’d let me finish you’d heard that the brew eases breathing problems. You just dip a rag into it and leave it on the chest.”
“Right… it’s nice that you want to help up your brother too.”
“Taking extra notes is troubling, so he better heal up soon.” Yuri barked into the cellphone before ending the call.
The class was about to start so he quickly put the purple colored flip phone away, but not before a certain orange haired friend saw it.
“So, Yuya was sick…” Dennis sighed in a worry “I knew I should’ve told him to take it easy.”
“Look, that’s just how Yuya is. If you plan out a show, he’ll literally give everything he has.”
Dennis appeared as he wanted to say something, but before he could a teacher appeared to ask if everyone was present. In unison, all three members of Sakaki family raised their hands and said their brother’s name.
“There… this should do it.” Zarc placed a rag, smelling like a mixture of mint and rosemary, on top of Yuya’s chest. In the last hour or however long it has passed, the older sibling by some miracle prepared the home remedy by Yuri’s vogue instructions and managed to fish out pajamas with buttons, so he could easily place the herb compress
His brother did stir up a bit, but he was mostly still unresponsive, only capable of drinking some more water before fading back into sleep. Just when Zarc thought about what more he could do for his younger sibling, his cellphone rang again, this time it was luckily set on the lowest volume possible.
“Dr. Izayoi?” Zarc recognized the number.
“Yes indeed. I have your brother’s test results.” it sounded like she was moving several papers on the desk “And let me just ask you… has Yuya been through a really tough situation that would affect his mental state?”
“I…” he realized the painful truth “I don’t really know… I haven’t been home that much lately.”
“I see…” Dr. Izayoi looked closely at the results “Because… the only explanation for your brother’s symptoms… are psychological factors.”
“Yeah, even though it’s more common around adults, it’s what caused Yuya to get so sick. Sometimes when the patient goes through a great deal of stress, trauma or just a heavily emotional situation, it can start affecting their body. The immune system weakens, iron levels drop and eventually body becomes vulnerable to the common illnesses.”
“Is… is there a way to treat it?”
“I can prescribe you the medicine for treating the symptoms… but if Yuya continues to be stuck in that kind of emotional state, I’m afraid it will take much longer before he’s well again. The medicine will heal his throat and lower his fever, but if his psychological state doesn’t change for the better, the symptoms will keep appearing,”
As Zarc talked with the doctor, he couldn’t shake a feeling of fearing of what might’ve happened to his brother to end up like this. Yuya used to be bullied when he was younger, though his brothers would always protect him from the bullies until he was able to defend himself at least. His grades weren’t that bad either, not straight A like Yuri’s or Yuto’s, but certainly not as bad as Yugo who had to retake a couple of tests last year. Overall Zarc didn’t consider Yuya as unhappy or emotional scarred by the way he was always smiling. Although he should’ve keep in mind that his red haired sibling was a good actor.
“You can get the most of medications without prescription in the city’s pharmacy. I’ll send you the list through the message along with the instructions. If your brother’s condition worsens, don’t hesitate to call me.” the woman’s voice brought him back out of his thinking.
“Right… thank you dr. Izayoi.” Zarc said once he found his voice again.
“In any case, I’ll be giving him another check up in a week. Be sure to give me a call a day before so we can schedule it at the proper time.”
“I’ll keep it in mind, thank you for everything.”
Zarc gripped the cellphone tight once the call ended. Right… he’ll have to come to the bottom of why Yuya was the way he was as soon as he wakes up. But for him to wake up, he’ll probably need to get him that medication. Thinking of a way to get to the nearest pharmacy without leaving Yuya for too long, his cellphone rang once again this time with another person he didn’t expect to get a call from.
“Ray?” Zarc nearly gasped at the number of a person he hasn’t seen for days. Despite being the same age, the oldest of Akaba siblings attended the same college as him but different courses, though she would regularly text him about those few lectures they attended together.
“Yeah, I’ve heard from the girls that Yuya is sick.” Ray sounded like she was walking through a busy building, probably heading for the next lecture “How is he?”
“Sleeping for now.” Zarc brushed away drenched locks of Yuya’s hair “But he’s still running a fever and has been in bed since yesterday.”
“I see… do you need help in any way? Some of my lectures got cancelled, so I’ll be free for couple of hours. I can get you the notes from your classmates or get you things from grocery store if you need.”
“Could you… go to pharmacy? The doctor sent me a list of medication that Yuya would need, but I don’t really want to leave him like this.”
“Of course, just send me what you need. I think I have just enough time to get to the pharmacy, to your place and back.”
“Thanks Ray, you’re a lifesaver.”
“Heh, always am.” Ray smiled as she hung up.
The silver haired sibling let out a sigh of relief once he got Yuya’s medications covered too. It sure was nice to have reliable friends such as the members of Akaba’s family. The thought of them spending so many holidays and birthday parties together surely brought out the memories and reminded him to ask Ray for some advice since she was majoring in psychology. Whatever his brother was going through surely wasn’t as simple as it looked.
Yuya found himself floating in reminiscent landscape, resembling the places from his childhood. The park where his family and friends would go on sunny days, the stadium where lots of unforgettable events occurred, the room of a Duel Club, the stage in the school for Drama Club… and his own house. The red haired boy silently observed the memories he treasured so much, the ones that had been going through his head for the last couple of weeks. Ever since he picked Smile Universe as a theme of a stage play for an upcoming school festival, he kept thinking about his father and siblings the more he scrolled through the photos of them that he was using as a reference. Once he and the members of drama club started working on it, the memories kept flooding him in sadness of how much the things have changed until it eventually started affecting his body.
As he walked through familiar places, he noticed the stage in the park. Yuya could see his father performing tricks and making all the children watching him smile. His seven year self was there as well, enthusiastically clapping as Yusho bowed to them, thanking them for being an excellent audience. Yuya was about to get closer when all of a sudden the sky turned dark. All people disappeared and instead of them, someone else was solely standing on the stage.
“Yuto?” Yuya gasped as he recognized his brother, though his face and hair were the only things that resembled him. Instead of black and white jacket in a combination with black pants he’d usually worn, this Yuto was wearing a tattered coat, green button up shirt and a black cravat. His eyes were also glowing in scary purple light as he was shouting the words that Yuya didn’t really understand.
Before he could ask what was going on, a blue light emerged from somewhere else. Yuya could tell they weren’t alone, but due to the light he couldn’t really tell besides the fact that the brightness was getting dangerously closer to where he stood. The red haired boy tried to move away, but his feet wouldn’t move. Yuya could only shield his eyes from the light when he felt someone pushing him away.
He rolled away and in that brief second he could see in terror how his sibling was hit instead. The force sent him flying until he hit ground in bruisers. Yuya immediately rushed to his brother, cradling him in his arms as he called for his name.
“Yuto! Bro, please wake up!” Yuya felt tears running down his cheeks. No matter how loud he yelled, the lavender haired boy wouldn’t open his eyes nor did he show signs that he was alive.
Yuya realized in terror that what he held was no longer his brother, as the limbs turned into darkness and eventually covered entire area. What remained from the park was turned into a hallway of a castle that somehow reminded him on the school trips to a faraway island with many similar historical buildings. Carefully he started walking through barely dim place until he again came across two familiar people.
“Yugo? Yuri?” he recognized his two siblings who seemed as they were facing each other before a major argument.
But this looked much more different. Their eyes were glowing menacingly and before he knew it, Yugo was thrown on the ground. Yuya tried to help his sibling somehow, but like before he couldn’t move. Yuri was surrounded by black aura as he came closer and closer to the barely moving boy. Yuya knew well that Yuri and Yugo would often get in arguments, though none of them looked as bad as this one. The siblings usually ended them with some bickering and couple of smacks in the worst cases, but they never resulted to the violence at such degree.
“Yugo!” Yuya desperately tried to reach them “Yuri snap out of it! Stop fighting!”
His pink haired sibling, however ignored him as he sent the darkness towards the blue haired boy. Yugo screamed as he was absorbed and like before, the dark covered everything up. The scenario was switched to a different location though it appeared to be not that far.
Now Yuri was the one who was facing Yuya, the dark aura around him inviting more darkness to fill the place. Yuri’s eyes were glowing and he was sporting the creepiest smile that Yuya ever saw.
“Fight me! Entertain me!” the pink haired boy laughed hysterically “Prove that you can be better than your pathetic father!”
At the mention of his dad, Yuya’s mind grew uneasy. That’s right… now that his parent wasn’t there, he was supposed to take on his role. He had to take over, he had to become better… he had to pick the pace where his father couldn’t. But why would Yuri talked about Yusho so disrespectfully, he was his father too, wasn’t he?
“I’m waiting, my other me. Aren’t you going to make me smile? Or are you too much of a coward like your excuse of a father?” Yuri grinned, making Yuya beam in anger.
His father wasn’t a coward, even if it came from his own sibling. Yuri will pay for humiliating his father’s name that way! Yuya felt the very same darkness pouring from his body as it launched itself at the pink haired sibling right away. He felt nothing but the desire to silence the person in front of him with everything he had. Yuri spread his arms as he continued to laugh, even as he was drowning in Yuya’s darkness.
But as soon as Yuri was gone, Yuya realized what he just did. He hurt his sibling intentionally! How could he do this? Yuya grabbed his head, pulling his hair as the means to wake up from this nightmare. He had to, otherwise he’ll go mad from the pain and terror he was facing. Doing everything he thought could take him out of here, Yuya didn’t notice the darkness changing the location once more. This time darkness covered everything except for a small opening that showed what was best described as the hell on earth.
The destruction was everywhere, people, including his friends were running around in panic and the sky looked as it was made out of glass that was cracking. Yuya felt his limbs frozen in place again, even though he tried to break free and escape this madness. But not before he saw one more person appear before him.
“Zarc?” Yuya recognized his older brother who looked much scarier with his slit eyes and darker hair.
“The world should be destroyed… humans shouldn’t rule it…” Zarc muttered while staring at destruction, prepared to send more darkness “Let’s finish what we started.”
At last Yuya woke up, tears streaming down his face and gasping for breath. As he did, the familiar pain of a sore throat appeared again, causing him to break into a coughing fit.
“Yuya!” Zarc instantly grabbed his brother by the shoulders, gently rubbing his back “Easy, no need to panic.”
The silver haired sibling managed to slip a water bottle to Yuya’s lips to calm down the coughing. The younger sibling gratefully took on nearly entire bottle before he got his throat to function properly again. But even when his throat was alright, Yuya couldn’t help but to bury his face into Zarc’s shirt. Zarc carefully put his arms around his brother as Yuya silently cried just like he used to when he was younger. Whatever made his little sibling react like this certainly was worrisome.
“Did you have a nightmare?” Zarc asked while holding Yuya to his chest who quietly nodded “It’s alright now, I’m here.”
“Y…yuto… yu…yugo… and y…yuri we…were gone…” Yuya heaved in tears.
“They’re alright, Yuto just texted to see how you are doing.”
“No… no they… they…”
“Yuya, none of it happened, it was just a dream.”
“Yo… you wanted t… to destroy everything.” Yuya sobbed, making his brother widen his eyes.
“Now why would I want to do that?” the eldest sibling sighed in disbelief “There are way too many things that I care about in this world. Including you, Yuya.”
“Zarc…” the younger sibling could only snuggle closer.
Yuya continued to sob quietly, barely being aware of where he was or why was he lying in his brother’s arms. Just what was that dream about and why he felt so dizzy? He didn’t know. The only thing he knew was that Zarc was there, cradling him in his arms while gently drawing circles in his back to comfort him.
As Zarc held onto Yuya, a conversation he had with Ray when she came to drop Yuya’s medication, played in his mind.
“Psychological factors? I don’t know Zarc, I would need to talk with Yuya to tell which ones affected your brother. It differs from person to person.”
“Then what should I do? Yuya will continue to return to his sick state if I don’t find out what’s causing him to be that way.”
“From what you told me the doctor found out that he came out with the symptoms about two weeks ago so whatever happened must’ve been going around for a while, a month or two at the most. Was there anything that Yuya has been struggling with or put him through a big amount of stress?”
“Well he had school but so did Yuto, Yugo and Yuri. His grades were pretty much the same and he didn’t appear to have any trouble at school. Do you think he’s being bullied again?”
“I don’t know… you should ask him as soon as he wakes up. Those things don’t happen just overnight. They bottle up until the person is unable to take any more of it – that’s when it’s starting to affect their body.” Ray sighed as she put a small paper bag with medication and a bag of groceries on the table “Reiji came down with similar symptoms about the year ago, but mostly because he gave more damm about reaching the perfect score on those additional classes than his own health. As soon as he was done with it, I found him feverish and unconscious in the middle of the living room. Four-eyes was lucky that he hit the couch with his head. If he were to hit the coffee table he would surely crack his skull.” the maroon haired girl went on when she looked at the still sleeping boy in the bed “Oh sorry, I didn’t mean to remind you about what happened to Yuya. It looks much worse.”
“Fortunately he landed on boxes where he keeps his old stuffed animals and performing costumes. But if they weren’t there...”
“Hey, don’t feel so bad about yourself. Life is unpredictable and you won’t be always there to protect him from everything. All of your brothers are in the years where they’re figuring out of who they are and trying to become more independent. Trust me, girls are the same and from what I know your siblings are even more stubborn about it.”
Right, he should give Yuya the medicine and once his fever would calm down, he’d have an opportunity to finally ask him what was troubling him. Supporting his brother with one arm while reaching for the prepared medication, Zarc took the previously set dosages of medicine.
“Yuya… I’ll have to give you some medicine since you’re sick. Think you can swallow few pills so your fever can go down?” Zarc asked to which Yuya slowly nodded.
The pills weren’t the much of a big deal since they were practically tasteless and were to be taken with water. The boy gulped them down with a glass of water that Zarc carefully held to his mouth quite fast without a problem. The bigger challenge was presented with a cough syrup since its strong smell was already driving Yuya off. Zarc poured the thick hazel liquid on the plastic spoon and tried to get it in his brother’s mouth.
Despite being barely awake, Yuya avoided the odorous medicine like a plague. In the end Zarc had to resort to an old trick their dad would use, by playfully reaching for Yuya’s armpit, tickling him until he would open his mouth and slipping the medicine in that quick second. Yuya pulled his face at the bitterness of the cough syrup, but eventually swallowed it since it was already too deep to spit it.
“There, all settled.” Zarc put away the medication and laid Yuya back in the bed in order to change the ice pack “How are you feeling?”
“Sleepy…” Yuya uttered once his throat stopped burning from the syrup.
“You better catch some shuteye then.” he pulled the covers and extra blanket over his brother, knowing the medicine was working.
“Zarc…” the red haired boy grabbed other’s hand “Don’t go…”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere, so rest up a bit, alright?”
Yuya didn’t answer since his eyelids became too heavy before he could say another word. He dozed off in his bed, though this time he looked calmer than before, now that his body temperature was slowly lowering. Zarc used the opportunity to check the places where Yuya hit his head. From what dr. Izaoyi told him, the injuries weren’t life-threatening even though they looked pretty nasty.
The bump on his forehead was healing along with the cut he suffered when hitting the shelf. The one on the back though wasn’t that visible due to Yuya’s thick hair, so only when Zarc gently touched through those green and red locks did he found another bump. That one luckily didn’t have its skin pierced, but just in case, the elder sibling slipped a smaller ice pack there.
He hoped to talk with Yuya, though from the looks of it, the kid wouldn’t be awake for few more hours. Just how much time has it passed since Ray dropped by? Or better tell what the time now was? Reaching for his cellphone he could see it was nearly eleven in the morning. For some reason he felt as it was more and before he knew it, his phone rang yet again.
“I was just about to call you to check when you are coming home.” Zarc saw Yuto’s number.
“Well, certainly not before seven.” the lavender haired sibling replied back, sounding like he was overly tired.
“Apparently, Yuri tried to sneak out of the school through a window. Yugo was about to follow him when I caught him in the act and long story short, we earned a one way ticket to detention.”
“Ugh boys… what do I do with you?” the elder sibling face-palmed at the yet another mess his family got into “You said they’ll be keeping you in the school until seven?”
“Yeah, we’ll moping the classrooms and cleaning all the blackboards until then. Yugo and Yuri may try to get out again, but I doubt they’ll get far. Barret was put into the charge of detention classes and I know for sure they won’t be taking their chances.”
“Good thing then… though why would Yuri try to sneak out of a class?”
“He won’t admit it, but I think he’s worried about Yuya. He’s been constantly out of it in all classes so far, not responding to the teachers and the last time he was like that was when Starve Venom was at the vet.”
“I gave Yuya the medicine, so there’s no need to worry, though…” Zarc stopped when realizing that wasn’t really the case.
“Yeah?” Yuto asked when Zarc didn’t answer right away.
“Has Yuya… had any trouble at school lately? Like stressful assignments or didn’t get along with other classmates?”
“That… I’m not that sure about myself…” Yuto sighed, remembering the talk with Shun “Something is definitely there… but I can’t say for certain. He’s been throwing himself in work for the Drama Club and acted pretty much the same as he did for yesterday’s dinner lately. It’s like he doesn’t want us to know.”
“I see then…” Zarc looked at his younger sibling whose chest was now moving more evenly “Thank you for the call.”
“Don’t mention it.” Yuto smiled slightly, noticing the break was almost over “And don’t worry about dinner, girls scrapped us some of their lunches so we can last until we get home.”
The siblings said their goodbyes as Yuto headed back to the class and Zarc decided to do those few chores left from the morning while Yuya was still asleep. It didn’t take him long to finish and with Ray bringing the groceries he managed to throw something together since he hasn’t eaten since the morning due to taking care of his brother. Before he knew it couple of hours went through with his young sibling still not showing the signs of waking up.
To pass time, Zarc began tidying up Yuya’s room. He knew his brother didn’t like when other people meddled with his things since he couldn’t find them after they were put away, but little things like picking the dropped pencils and gathering the pieces of his drama set on one pile wouldn’t really hurt. As the silver haired sibling went through the things he couldn’t help but notice several thick albums.
The modern technology might’ve erased the good old photos, but Yusho and Yuya always made sure to print them and store them in the albums. From the looks of it, all those photos were taken at least seven years ago if not more. Each page was filled with moments of Smile Universe event in great detail, from backgrounds, performers, accessories and even the acts. Zarc smiled at the photos where his dad was in his circus-like outfit while performing tricks along with himself and the rest of his family. Everyone looked so happy and without a worry on the world.
When he was about to turn to another page, a smaller photo slipped out of the album, landing close to Yuya’s nightstand. As he picked it up, Zarc instantly remembered the moment that the photo captured. It was a family photo with Yuya still small enough for Yusho to have him on his shoulders, then there was Yuri who was grinning at Yugo for probably teasing him again, luckily Yoko was between them and lastly he saw himself with arms around Yuto who was smiling awkwardly for the camera. That moment was just before the Smile Universe began and if he could look up closely he saw just how excited everyone was.
“Happiness is like a pendulum, the more you swing it towards others…” Zarc recited the sentence that he heard so many times from his father.
“… the more comes back to you.” quiet voice was heard, finishing the sentence.
Zarc turned back to Yuya’s bed, seeing his brother stirring from the sleep. He slowly opened his eyes and even attempted to get up before being stopped by his silver-haired sibling.
“Hold still.” Zarc held up the fringe of his and Yuya’s hair so their foreheads could make a contact in order to check Yuya’s temperature “You’re still a bit warm, but at least you don’t feel like burning.”
“Sorry…” Yuya muttered as he was being placed back on his pillow while Zarc changed the bandage over his bump.
“No need to apologize.” was other sibling’s simple reply.
“What… exactly happened?” the red-haired continued, having no recollection of what happened after he went to get the paints for his project.
“You hit your head when you collapsed due to fever. You’ve been pretty much asleep for a day.” Zarc put away the medication, staring at his brother’s pale form “Yuya… what has been going on with you lately?”
“Nothing… I’m really fine, just caught a little cold” Yuya suddenly became all defensive, despite nearly coughing at the end of the sentence “I’ll be healed up by tomorrow.”
“It’s not nothing. According to the doctor, something is preventing you to properly heal up.” Zarc sighed as he moved closer to his brother so they were face to face “Look I know that you don’t want to bother me with it, but your health isn’t something you should ignore. You’re my brother and I’m concerned about you.”
“I guess… I overworked myself. I’ll know for the next time at least.”
“Yuya we both know that’s not the case. For crying out loud, the basic cold medication hasn’t been working for you.”
“How did you…?”
“I found it in your wardrobe. Two weeks’ worth was used up… why would you wait so long until it got so bad?”
“I didn’t want to trouble you… I’m not a kid anymore.”
Zarc could only sigh at that fact as he could in a way understand him. With their father overseas, mother working late and him working on numerous assignments there was no wonder Yuya stayed quiet. But still, even if he had the exam the same day, he would skip it without a second thought if his younger sibling needed him. He was his big brother after all and that’s what the big brothers were there for.
“Yuya… I know I might’ve been a little overprotective when you were little and that you can take care of yourself just fine now, but that’s not the problem here. You’ve pushed your body to the limit due to something stressful that you refuse to tell me about.” Zarc patted Yuya’s shoulder in support “Whatever it is, I’m here to listen.”
“But it really is nothing, I *cough* just happened to get sick.” the younger sibling smiled slightly.
“Are you really that sure about it?” the elder brother gave him a serious look “You may try to fool us with your smiles and convincing us that you’re fine… but you’re really not. Yuya… do you have trouble at school? Is anyone bullying you again?”
“No! I mean… Sawatari can be a jerk sometimes, but there’s really no one like that.”
“Then what is it? The last time you were like that was when a bunch of older kids was picking on you.” Zarc now had his arms around Yuya’s upper body, nearly hugging him “I hate to see you going through those things alone.”
Pressed against his brother’s shoulders, Yuya couldn’t help but let those few tears out. It was so hard to simply admit it without feeling like he was a defenseless child all over again. He was a high school student now, capable of taking care of himself and not needing his brothers anymore. But that wasn’t enough to overcome the ache in his heart.
“Smile Universe…” could Yuya only utter as he burst into tears, throwing his arms around Zarc’s neck.
“Oh, Yuya.” Zarc let his little brother cry “You miss dad, don’t you?”
Yuya nodded quietly, burying his face in the hem of his sibling’s shirt as Zarc could only stroke his hair.
“I was… the one to choose the theme… for Drama Club’s booth at a school festival.” Yuya said after a while “And Smile Universe came to my mind.”
“Dad would be proud Yuya, you’re becoming him more and more each day.”
“I thought I’d feel better… if I *cough* recreate it.” the red-haired looked at the photo album that Zarc left at the table “I’d never thought… that all those days I worked on it… would make me miss dad more.”
“We all do Yuya, it’s only natural that as children we’re missing our parents.” Zarc kept holding Yuya in his arms “Even I do.”
“B-but I shouldn’t… shouldn’t be so upset about it! I’m not a helpless kid anymore! I know he has to work far away … so we can live comfortably, but I want him back…. I want the things to go back to how they were…” Yuya shouted in anguish as the tears were running down his face “I just want for everyone to smile again.”
“For us to smile? Or you?” Zarc asked which made his brother raise his eyebrows.
“What do you mean?” the boy wiped his tears.
“You’re caring so much about others that you forget about your own happiness. I know well that putting smiles on other people’s faces is your goal in life, but what about your own smile Yuya? When was the last time you smiled for real?”
“I… I don’t know.”
“Your smile is just as important as others’. So…” Zarc reached for the nearest blanket “I’m going to make sure to bring that smile back!”
“Zarc!” Yuya shrieked from surprise when his brother wrapped him in a blanket and took him out of his bed “Wh-what are you doing?”
“If I’m bringing the smile back, I have to take care of you properly.” Zarc held him in his arms princess-carry style “And the best way to start is to get some fresh air into your room and some food into your belly. You must eat at least something after days of practically nothing. You’d usually eaten more than me for goodness sakes!”
Yuya blushed at that thought and only snuggled closer to his older sibling who held him carefully with one arm while opening the windows with the other one. It’s been a while since the red-haired boy was carried around, and certainly not as a princess. As soon as they left the room, Yuya was taken down the stairs and placed on the couch where another thick blanket was wrapped around him.
“Now wait right here while I make you something, got that?” Zarc pointed his finger at Yuya who gulped down in a nod at his brother who looked slightly scary “You can watch some TV in a while.”
Not waiting for Yuya to turn it on, the silver-haired reached for the remote control and meddled with channels until he found something that wasn’t 24/7 commercials or in the middle of a random movie. He was half surprised when he found a replay of a certain show.
“And now we can see the last few contestants who are fighting for the place in the finals! Isn’t this exciting?” a woman wearing a yellow dress announced in a cheery voice and showed at several youngsters at the kitchen counters who nervously worked on their dishes.
“Is this…?” Yuya scratched his head in confusion.
“Yup it is.” Zarc grinned as he headed in the kitchen “I guess you won’t be bored while I fix you up something.”
Yuya was still a bit puzzled from the previous conversation, but either way turned towards the TV screen as the announcer moved on to the next scene, interviewing several judges.
“What do you think about the show so far?” she held her microphone to each person in the jury.
“It certainly is a wonderful way to encourage young people to cook more! Out of several hundred contestants, only a few managed to get this far!” a man wearing a chef’s suit replied.
“So only three will proceed to the finals? Are there any of them you wish to see in the finals?” the announcer moved on.
“Indeed I do! Michie has been my favorite from the start! His way of coking is just enchanting!” certain blond haired woman exclaimed with way too much excitement.
“Mom!?” Yuya face-palmed at his mother’s fangirling on TV “Not before the cameras…”
But despite a little embarrassment, Yuya was glad to see his mother, if only during her job. While Yoko didn’t have as much influence on him as his father did, she was still one of many factors that held his family together. For nearly every family get-together Yoko made sure to make an amazing meal and encouraged others to help out as well. It was thanks to her Yuto and Zarc cooked so well and each and every dish she’d ever made had some sort of a story or the meaning connected to his family.
When watching the judges trying out various foods, Yuya actually felt hungry after days of feeling nauseous when just looking at the food. Luckily Zarc was fast at cooking and before he knew it, a tray with a steaming dish was placed before him on a coffee table.
“One chicken noodle soup is served.” the silver-haired uncovered the plate, letting out a delicious and oh so nostalgic smell “I’m not sure if I made it like mom usually did, but I followed the recipe closely and…”
“It’s fine…” Yuya mumbled as he took a spoonful of the soup, nearly tearing up at the familiar taste “It’s warm… and tastes like home.”
Zarc gently ruffled his brother’s hair as Yuya slowly ate more of the soup. Just in case, Zarc didn’t put as many spices and ingredients that weren’t easily digested and considering how little Yuya ate last night he even feared he’d have to spoon-feed him. Fortunately, the show did seem to stir some appetite into the red-haired boy, though he ate much slower and left out the bigger pieces of veggies.
By the time the show was over, Yuya managed to eat a little more than a half before he dozed off, nestling his head at Zarc who stayed next to him as they watched the show. With Yuya way too out of it and still a little feverish, the silver-haired sibling once again took him in his arms bridal style as he took him back to his room that was nicely ventilated and not as suffocating as it was before. Tucking him in and giving him a brotherly peck on his forehead, Zarc felt more relieved that now he at least knew how to help up his brother.
He was only sad that he didn’t see the pain that his little sibling was going through, before Yuya’s health was at risk.
“I’ll make sure to pay more attention to you from now on… sorry for not taking after dad right after he left.” Zarc muttered before leaving the room.
The next time Yuya woke up was the very next day. Considering how high the sun was, it was just before the midday and as he tried to get up, he nearly freaked out when he noticed someone at his table.
“Zarc? What are you doing?” Yuya rubbed his still sleepy eyes.
“Smile Universe of course. You need to get it done as soon as possible right? Well, we can all help you out while you rest up. Your friend Dennis called and assured me that you have done more than enough and you deserve to rest.”
“No need to panic, I remember Smile Universe like it was yesterday and I didn’t get to major in arts for nothing.” Zarc colored the rocket-looking drama set “The others will help you out for the rest of the week.”
It turned out that meant his other brothers. For Wednesday it was Yuri who unceremoniously dropped the notes on his desk as he casually asked where he needed help. Used to his pink haired sibling’s cold attitude, Yuya grinned as he instructed him to get him the sketchbook where he quickly scribbled down the designs for the remaining sets. While he did so, Yuri took his time to prepare him some apples and even cut them bunny style at which Yuya slightly pouted.
“What? They’re bunnies, you like cute stuff.” Yuri teased at which Yuya nearly threw a pink hippo plushie at him.
But overall Yuri was precise at the flower designs he had to transfer to colorful papers and was a great help to Yuya who was more or less still too weak to leave the bed. The pink haired sibling didn’t say much while they were working on the set, though once Yuya dozed off, he could feel his brother’s presence not leaving the room even after several hours.
On Thursday during the morning came Zarc who helped him draw specific shapes on carton and Yugo during the afternoon to cut them out. Of course, that particular day was especially eventful since Yugo wouldn’t shut up about the motorcycling ride that ended up more thrilling than expected. He too expressed his concern about how Yuya refused to talk with them and assured him he’ll always listen to his troubles or at least take him on a ride to clear up his head. Yugo also admitted that he missed their rides together and that he should get back on his motorcycle before he would entirely forget how to ride it. Yuya didn’t promise anything, but he did agree that it would be nice to return to their brotherly matches on the motorcycles.
Lastly came Friday, with usual help from Zarc in the morning and Yuto during the afternoon. Thanks to his brothers the set was nearly done, only a few things remained. By this time Yuya was nearly back to normal, though he still wore thick hoodies and had a blanket over his shoulders as he and Yuto sprayed glitter stars all over the unassembled background to represented dozens of galaxies.
“Kaito would love it.” Yuto grinned while putting more glitter at the corners “Ever since he applied for that astronomy course in advance, the galaxies were all he’s been talking about. His Science Club is all into it too for the school festival.”
“Is Track Club having a booth too?”
“I’m not really sure. Kaito and Shun did mention they could join it with the Game Club… but that’s just crazy. Like playing, I don’t know, card games, while running or on skateboards? That’s just crazy.”
“Yugo said something about putting them on a motorcycle. Imagine how crazy that would be.”
“Indeed it would.”
Yuto’s visit was similar to Yuri’s, just quietly working on the project, though the two of them conversed way more, not to the point he did with Yugo and also not as deep as he did with Zarc. When Yuto came to see him for the first time after Yuya got sick, the lavender-haired instantly blamed himself for acting up so late, especially after the talk he had with Shun. The talk was nearly identical to the one he had with Zarc as Yuto and Zarc were quite similar both in protectiveness and bits of advice. Either way, Yuya finally managed to let it go once talking with Yuto that it’s okay to need a little help from his family from time to time even at his age.
With set nearly done, noises coming from below, Yuya and Yuto could tell the certain time was approaching.
“The show begins in few minutes! Is everything ready?!” Yugo’s head peeked into the room, gasping for a breath from running all the way from the garage.
“Yeah, we’re coming. How is dinner looking?” Yuto arranged the last few pieces of drama set.
“Popcorn needs a minute… and I think Zarc is still arranging the other snacks.” the blue-haired replied as he quickly raced back to his own room to change from his dirty jumpsuit.
Yuya wrapped the blanket tightly around his torso as he followed Yuto towards the living room. Zarc had his hands full with brining the drinks and snacks to the coffee table while Yuri quietly watched TV with Starve Venom in his lap. Yuya and Yuto took the free spots on the couch just when Yugo was back, wearing tracksuit that Zarc threatened to throw away of how torn it was already. Ignoring the older sibling, Yugo reluctantly took place next to Yuri whose eyes were glued to the screen.
“Switch to the channel 5, Flavor Factory is airing there,” Zarc called from the kitchen while setting the popcorn.
“Yuri, get off Discovery Channel already!” Yugo shouted.
“Five more minutes Fusion, they’re about to reveal a new kind of carnivorous flowers,” Yuri said boringly which only infuriated Yugo more.
“Say Fusion one more time and I’ll stuff a flower in your mouth, you weed!”
“Guys, not now. Mom is appearing in less than five minutes.” Yuto tried to calm them down
“I have the all the snacks!” Zarc exclaimed.
“Who’s got the remote controller?” Yuya wondered.
“Odd-Eyes give this back, that’s not a toy!” Yugo went after the dog who thought they were in the middle of the play and it was even worse when Clear Wing though the same and joined them while screeching Yugo’s most annoying nickname.
Somehow they managed to switch it to the right channel just in time to see the hostess appearing to greet the audience and introduce the judges. They consisted of tall brunet man Kirigakure, another man wearing glasses and sporting a creepy wide smile which suited his name, Mr. Smiley and last but not least was a blond haired woman whose loose hair was curled up, going well with a sparkling green dress that she wore. It was no other than Yoko Sakaki herself.
“After several months we have finally reached the finals of Flavor Factory! Out of hundreds of young chefs, only three contestants remained.” the hostess turned towards the three young people wearing aprons “All three of them continued to impress us throughout the show, but only one of them will be the winner. Judges any thoughts of who may win?”
“It’s hard to say, all of their dishes were outright delicious! That trout from Teppei felt like it came from another world.” Kirigakure nodded.
“I’ll take a risk and hope for Mieru’s win. All of her predictions became true and that dish with apples was absolutely delightful.” Mr. Smile added.
“Didn’t Mieru used to go to our elementary school?” Yuto wondered.
“Yeah, she even had a crush on Yuya, didn’t she?” Yuri grinned “Oh, Darling!”
“Stop it.” Yuya blushed as he hid his face under the blanket “Yuzu might hear it.”
“Jealous much?” Yuri continued to tease “But seriously that girl was after you until the Middle School.”
“Guys, guys mom is up next!” Zarc shouted in excitement while stuffing his mouth with popcorn.
“And lastly Mrs. Yoko Sakaki, a brilliant chef who came all the way from Miami City. What are your thoughts on the finals of this contest?”
“I’m absolutely rooting for Michie! His cooking can only be described as perfection and not to mention he’s nearly as cute as my boys!” Yoko couldn’t help but stand up and wink at the camera.
“Mom!” all except Yuri blushed in embarrassment.
“Did mom just called us cute on international TV?” the pink haired sibling thought out loud.
The rest of the show luckily focused more on the three remaining competitors. Each of them was so focused on their work that it was highly entertaining to watch them. Teppei cleaning and frying the fish, Michio arranging several little dishes on the tray and Mieru doing gods-know-what while chanting something with a crystal apple in her hands.
Despite many different interests, there was luckily one other thing that connected Sakaki siblings besides Yusho. No matter what they always watched Yoko’s cooking shows as each of them found something interesting about them in it. Zarc and Yuto loved to learn new recipes and skills, Yuya and Yugo would drool after the delicious looking food and Yuri liked to observe how it was prepared.
In the end, the siblings managed to polish off all remaining snacks and watched the reveal of who will win the Flavor Factory. The drum solo was loud; the lights were blinking as the points were being collected. Just then Zarc’s cellphone rang who quickly excused himself to answer it.
“Naww you’re going to miss the big moment!” Yuya complained but instantly paid attention back to the TV as the judges held the trophy and slowly walked towards the winner.
The winner was, obviously, Michie, since he considered an advice from Yoko to be more creative and therefore made a unique dish. Just when he was about to be given the trophy, Zarc was back with a big smile on his face.
“Dad just called…” Zarc grinned even more widely
“How is he doing?” Yuto asked.
“Did he get to work on another major movie?” Yugo butted in.
“Will he host another show?” Yuri joined the questioning.
“Will he get any time off?” Yuya also asked which made all sigh a bit uneasily.
Zarc only pulled everyone into a big group hug and whispered to them in excitement.
“Dad is coming home for Christmas!”