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Lost Kattobingu

Chapter Text

Murky classroom, way too familiar everyday faces of his classmates and digital blackboard…

Just another normal day of his first year at high school.

Michael brushed through his pink locks out of boredom while waiting for the class to begin. His electronic notebook was already set at the desk, his fingers fiddling with a keychain of an Aztec mask attached to his pencil case. Everyone else were still wandering around the classroom, totally ignoring the fact that class was about to begin. Teacher was surely taking longer than usual.

“Alright, take your seats!” a brown haired man in late thirties entered the class, making all the students instantly getting back to their places “While your notebooks are starting, I’d like you to know that we’ll be having someone new to join us today.”

With others too busy with preparing the electronic notebooks, Michael was the only one to see the new classmate coming in. Dressed in typical school attire consisting of dark slacks, white short-sleeved shirt and red tie, was seemingly shorter boy his age. The boy’s black hair was spiked along with the red bangs that somehow made him look a bit taller. He’d certainly look taller if he wasn’t holding his head so low though. The boy barely moved his eyes off the floor, staring at it like he was afraid to look up.

“Okay, why don’t you introduce yourself?” the teacher asked the boy once he got in front of the blackboard. The new classmate made hardly any reaction and only when teacher lightly tapped his shoulder did the boy looked up slightly.

Michael could finally see that the new student had bright crimson eyes, nearly identical to his bangs. The pink haired boy imagined they would look even prettier if they had more light in them. For some reason something was missing in them, something that would make them more alive. As how they were now, they looked bleak, like a faded painting.

The boy took electronic marker and wrote those few letters on the blackboard, a usual way for the new students to make an introduction. After what felt like minutes, the black haired boy was finally done with writing and he politely bowed to the class.

“M… my name… is Y-Yuma… Ts-Tsu…kumo.” the boy stuttered, continuing to look at the floor while uttering those few sentences “I-I… transferred… from Maimi City… It-it’s nice… to meet you…”

Man, the guy talked like he was a sheep in a wolf den, Michael thought. The way his hands trembled, the way he was eyeing the floor and how quiet his voice was… the pink haired boy hasn’t seen anyone this shy before. He was even worse than himself during middle school and that was saying something.

“Alright Yuma, you can sit next to Arclight in the back.” the teacher showed at the only free spot in the classroom.

Yuma made a quiet nod and took a seat next to the Michael who welcomed him with a smile. Despite the warm welcome, the transfer student only blinked as he began taking the electronic notebook and other things out of his school bag. His expression remained pretty much the same during the lesson, blank and unfocused. From time to time, Michael glanced at Yuma who didn’t appear to make much notes and from the look of it he wasn’t listening to the lesson as well.

During the break, Yuma didn’t move from his spot and before Michael could say anything to strike up a conversation, the next lesson began. At that one too and for the rest of them, the black haired stared at his notebook with empty eyes like he wasn’t aware of his own existence. Even when the lunch break began, Yuma simply took out his bento box with two rice balls and began to slowly chew onto one. No attempts to socialize with anyone, no questions about the lessons and most of all not a single word since the stuttering introduction. By now the other students probably forgot about the fact that they had a new classmate at how well Yuma made himself invisible.
Once the last lesson was finally over, Michael made one more attempt to try to know the new classmate. The pink haired boy used to be pretty shy and he knew well how hard must’ve been for Yuma to make friends at the new school.

“Hey.” Michael gently tapped Yuma’s arm which made him flinch slightly “My name is Michael Arclight. I thought you should know my name since we will be sharing the desk from now on.”

The black haired boy looked up slightly, half-avoiding the eye contact as he bowed slightly as a reply. Michael was about to ask him some more questions when he noticed something dangling around Yuma’s neck. Whatever it was, it certainly looked ancient, painted in sparkling golden colour with a single green gem on top.

“Wow this looks like Aztec ornament!” Michael chirped in excitement “I saw pictures of them in books, but I haven’t seen one for real! Where did you get it?”

Yuma looked at the shining pendent, cradling it carefully as it was about to break any moment. Michael didn’t expect much reaction considering how silent the other boy was so far, so it kind of surprised him when Yuma looked up and actually opened his mouth to answer.

“M-my dad… gave it to me…”
“Really? Where did he get it?”
“I-I don’t… know…”
“I actually have this keychain with me! It’s plastic though, but yours looks real!”

Too engulfed in his own excitement when seeing pieces of ancient artefacts, Michael failed to see the tears bubbling up at the edges of Yuma’s eyes. As much as the black haired boy enjoyed the fact that someone else had the same passion as him, Yuma couldn’t hold his tears back anymore. Even as Michael began to talk about the book about ruins he had read recently, the transfer student didn’t feel like being there anymore. Despite the all-school cleaning hour coming soon, Yuma raced out of the classroom right away, quietly apologizing to the pink haired boy as the tears rained down his face.

Michael watched him stunned, shocked by the other boy’s reaction to simply talking about their interests. Being overly shy alone wasn’t the reason behind Yuma’s fidgeting behaviour… no it must’ve been something more. He already looked so scared the moment he entered the classroom and when he stormed away he looked outright terrified. Just what was going on with that transfer student?

 

The thought of the certain black haired boy wouldn’t leave Michael’s mind, even hours later when he was cooped up in a busy bus on the way home. His family lived at the top of a of luxury suites right at the centre of Heartland. He didn’t like to brag about it, but Arclight family was pretty wealthy, thanks to his father’s work as a scientist at many fields. Still, Michael preferred to attend a public high school rather than prestige private boarding school full of rich brats. He hoped to make some friends despite of who he was, but so far he didn’t have much luck. The pink haired boy just reached the top floor where his family’s apartment was via elevator when he nearly bumped into another person.

“Sorry! I didn’t see you!” Michael apologized quickly, picking the plastic bags that the other person dropped.
“It’s fine, snacks won’t go anywhere.” the person replied in casual manner.
“Oh hello there Ryoga!” the pink haired boy recognized a familiar face “Do you have another tag duel with my brother today?”
“Yeah and we were supposed to be going already but that idiot forgot where he stuck his damm Mirror Force card.”
“Don’t you have any other copies of it? I mean it’s not that rare card.”
“The puppet bastard insisted he had to use the limited edition card…” the purple haired boy sighed when the doors opened with such force they nearly flew off the hinges.
“My fanservice is ready!” an older teen with blond and dark red hair shouted as he made his entrance with a deck of cards in his hand.
“Yeah, yeah, let’s just get going before we’re disqualified from the tournament for being late.” Ryoga already pressed the button for the ground floor on the elevator.
“What? I have to look presentable to my fans.” Michael’s brother chuckled “You aren’t jealous, are you?”
“Sh-shut up!” the purple haired teen barked back though his cheeks turned redder significantly.

The duo consisting of Ryoga and his brother Thomas went off bickering at each other until the elevator was several floors below. Michael just let it be and entered their apartment. Luxurious wasn’t even remotely close to describing it. The furniture had Victorian design with a modern touch, just how his father liked it as he was a big fan of various historical periods. Huge glass windows let in all the light possible, making it look like a country villa with a panorama view at the Heartland. The pink haired boy passed the living room with a red couch, adorned by several pink pillows where an elderly looking man was sitting.

“Hello III, how was your day at school today?” a man with long fair hair tied in braid asked once he noticed him over the some research papers he was reading.
“Pretty much the same as always, father.” Michael replied, slightly grinning at the fact that his father, Byron Arclight, used his nickname instead of an actual name.
“That’s nice to hear.” the man put away his monocle “I managed to finish majority of my work for today, so what do you say we have dinner together for a change?”
“I would love to!” the boy smiled.

His family consisting of two brothers and a father would have dinner together where they would talk and laugh about their everyday lives. But with his eldest brother Chris at the college at the different town, other brother Thomas becoming busier with card game tournaments and his father working on several projects, those dinners became rare. At most Michael would get a chance to be with either Thomas or his father and that would happen only few times per month. The pink haired boy would so eat his dinner alone while watching historical documentaries, so the thought of being with his father tonight made him more than glad.

Michael hurried with his homework and school project about ancient civilizations as he could already smell the home cooked meal from the kitchen. In Arclight family he would usually took care of all the cooking, though it was Byron who taught him everything. This time they had simple pork cutlets with rice, one of the first dishes that his father taught him how to prepare. While he would make them a bit differently, he still enjoyed the crispy dish.

“So, was your school day really that ordinary or was there at least something new about it?” Byron poured himself a glass of wine.
“Well we did learn some new stuff about Mayan culture…” Michael also remembered something else “And… we got a new transfer student from Maimi City.”
“Did you get to meet this new student?"
“I did… but he was really shy and…” he thought about the boy’s odd behaviour “… he didn’t really seemed like he wanted to talk with me in the first place…”
"Oh, that's really unlikely considering how nice are you with everyone. Did you manage to catch his name at least?"
"I think it was Yuma... Tsu-something. I didn't hear it that well since he was stuttering so much."
"Yuma? As Tsukumo Yuma?" Byron raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"Yeah, I think it was Tsukumo." Michael took a sip of water "Do you happen to know him?"
"I-I actually do..." his father stuttered slightly, oddly similar to how Yuma did.
"Father? Is everything alright?"
"Do you remember when I was out of town for a couple of weeks?"
"When you were helping out at the funeral around a month ago?" Michael didn't like where this was going.
"Yes..." Byron set a hand on his forehead "The people that were put to rest were my old friend Kazuma and his wife Mirai Tsukumo. Yuma's parents."

Michael placed his hands on his mouth in shock. Now it made sense of why Yuma was acting the way he did. The poor guy probably hasn’t recovered from the shock considering it hasn’t been that long. And when Michael asked him about the pendent… yeah that must’ve upset him really bad. To only mention the recently passed away parents must’ve been like poking his hurting heart.

“Kazuma and his wife were both adventurers, travelling to the mysterious and dangerous parts of the world like it was nothing. To think something as ordinary as the plane crash took them…” Byron reached for his bag that stored all of important documents.
“I didn’t know…” the pink haired boy still felt guilty for being so blunt towards the person with fragile mental state.
“I met their son couple of times.” his father showed him an old photo of himself being accompanied by a younger man who carried a five year old boy on his shoulders “Yuma was a spinning image of Kazuma, always smiling and excited about everything.”

The pink haired boy stared at the photo, looking at Yuma’s crimson eyes, so full of life and gleaming like the brightest gems. Then he thought about the empty orbs he was met with at school, a shadow compared to what they once were. Thinking back to his old elementary school years, Michael always remembered how he was all alone with books, with no one willing to become his friend. Yuma was alone now too, trapped in a bubble of sadness and unable to have the adventurous spirit that Michael saw on the photo. It was taken from him along with his parents.

“From what I know, Yuma and his older sister moved back here to Heartland since Kazuma’s mother lives close by. I just didn’t know he’d start school so early.” Byron put away the photo “I can’t imagine the burden that poor child is carrying…”
“I’ll help him!” Michael blurted out.
“Are you sure about it, III? I know that you’re trying to make friends and all, but…”
“It doesn’t matter… I just can’t ignore someone who’s all alone. I don’t want him to go through one hundred times harsher situation that I did.”

Byron smiled as he ruffled Michael’s pink bangs, looking at him proudly. Michael may be the youngest of his three sons, but he was certainly the one who got all the kind personality from his mother. To see him act so gentle and sweet towards the person he just met was just like watching certain someone whom he haven’t seen for ages.

 

Though that was easier said than done.

Michael tried all kinds of ways to encourage Yuma to talk with him, but neither of them really worked. The very next day he had handed him the notes of all the lessons so far, kindly adding that he’d be more than glad to explain him the things he didn’t understand. Yuma was surprised to see someone helping him out in school, but when he tried to talk with him, it was like something in him snapped and he reverted back to his nearly lifeless persona.

The second attempt was at the PE class. They had a swimming lesson at the school’s huge indoor pool which was big enough for all the students to not feel squished. When he saw that Yuma put on swimming trunks like the rest of the class, Michael felt as he’d be able to hang up with him if only for a bit at the pool. But it soon turned out that was highly unlikely to happen. Instead of jumping into the water, Yuma sat in the corner, leaning against the wall, hugging his knees in fear like he was on a small island surrounded by sharks. Trying hard not to be too pushy, Michael kindly extended his arm to invite him for a swim or at least to talk about Atlantis (since the structure built for a springboard reminded him of it) all to no avail since the other boy wouldn’t stop trembling.

In the following days nearly the same situations repeated over and over. He tried inviting him to eat lunch together at the roof to which Yuma mumbled he wasn’t that hungry. When they worked in a pair due to sitting at the same desk, the black haired boy would only talk about the assignments they were doing. Then at the cleaning hours, Yuma even avoided him, mopping at the places as far from him as he could. At that point Michael wasn’t even sure if it was possible to ask him to walk home with him together. Whatever he did in order to try making Yuma open up to him, the other boy responded with either running away or nearly bursting up in tears.

Michael didn’t want to make him feel worse than he already did, but at the same time he couldn’t just watch him drown deeper into his own ocean of misery. Yuma would appear more distant with each passing day, more colour leaving his face and more life leaving his already empty crimson eyes.

Days turned into weeks and before he knew it, November’s name was at his wall calendar. By now he more or less ran out of ideas of how to get close to Yuma without forcing him. He’d still bring him additional notes and help him at exercises that Yuma seemingly had troubles with for which the other boy always thanked him, but other than this, they had practically no communication between them.

Then on one particular day once they were done with all the mopping and Yuma already went home without saying goodbye, Michael finally got a chance again. When checking over his bag to see if he took all of his stuff, his eyes became wide when he noticed something shining on the bench. Yuma’s pendant! The rope was torn which must’ve meant that it slipped off Yuma’s neck without him knowing. Michael quickly grabbed it and rushed out of the classroom in hopes that black haired wasn’t out of the school yet.
But unfortunately, one of the female students saw Yuma leave school a while ago and was probably at home already. With no other choice, Michael instantly reached for his cell phone that held all the information about his classmates, including Yuma. Yuma’s address was in walking distance of Heartland Academy so Michael set it on his cell phone’s GPS. It didn’t take him long, twenty minutes at the most when he arrived at the house that was clearly out of place compared to futuristic buildings surrounding it. Not that it looked old-fashioned or anything, it actually looked rather cosy, reminding him of his own home back in Domino where technology wasn’t as advanced yet. The house was a nice combination of European and Japanese style, also having a small garden surrounded by a hedgerow.

Not to be too distracted by the house, Michael cleared his head to think of why he was there in the first place. So should he just ring a bell, give Yuma the pendant back and leave? That would probably be for the best, simple and formal. The pink haired boy found the front doors right away, pressing the bell button. But no one answered, even after ringing it few more times. Michael assumed no one was at home and thought about leaving the pendant in a mailbox or something when he saw the lights turn on at the top floor. He instantly rang the bell again, with an addition of knocking and still no one opened the door.

Michael stepped back a bit and realized someone was indeed inside, but that person didn’t either hear a doorbell or just didn’t want to face anyone. The pink haired boy was inches away from dropping the pendant into a mailbox when his mind was instantly filled with flashbacks of all the times that he tried to help Yuma so far and now there was another chance to do it. Now there were no classmates around, no teachers and no one in particular, just the two of them. The plan that unfolded in his head might seem crazy, but for Michael not trying at all looked even crazier.

Storing the pendant into the safety of his pocket, Michael took a deep breath before heading towards the side of the house where light was still on. Carefully grabbing onto the bricks that were projecting out of walls and any gutters that looked attached enough to support his weigh, the teen moved foot by foot higher. He would sneak to his father’s study at their old home when he was little, learning to climb pretty much on every building as long as it has things to grab on to. It may make his situation worse, but Michael was really on the point where he was willing to risk if it meant to help a person he didn’t want to see sad. Few more movements up and his was at the top floor, right above the illuminated room and once he stepped into it, boy was Michael surprised.

The room he entered through an open window was filled with ancient artefacts from all over the world. There was a nice arrangement of Aztec masks, right next to carved totems and various tribal plumes. Closets and chest had even more of those items, along with even weapons and quite precious looking ornaments. For moment Michael completely forgotten why he even got here in the first place as he was lost in a beauty of historical artefacts that he loved so much. Without a second thought he put on one of the masks, amazed at the actual hard wood it was made off and not some cheap plastic.

“W-Who’s th-there?” a familiar stuttering voice brought him back in reality.

The pink haired boy quickly put the mask back on the shelf, though it didn’t do much when he was met face to face with the transfer student whose head was peeking through the attic flap. Yuma’s eyes were wide from fear and his hands were visibly shaking when he saw Michael right there. Trying to not make situation any worse than it already way, Michael quickly reached for Yuma’s pendant and rose it up so the other boy could see it.

“I’m sorry for getting in your room uninvited, but you forgot this at school and I wanted to return it to you in person!” Michael tried hard not to sound like a crazy stalker “You weren’t answering the doors…”
“Oh…” was Yuma’s only response as he climbed into the attic room.
“I’ll leave right away, just show me to the entrance!” the pink haired boy bowed as an apology.
“I-It’s… okay….” Yuma stepped closer in order to reclaim his missing pendant “I w-was afraid… I-I lost it on th-the way home… th-thank you.”
“You’re welcome… I guess.” Michael smiled awkwardly as he once again looked around the room at the artefacts “Those items are so amazing, especially the Aztec artefacts… to think you have so many of them right here…”
“My d-dad brought them… from his travels.” Yuma’s tone of voice changed to slightly calmer one, putting the pendant with a fixed rope around his neck “Emperor’s Key was among the first ones.”

Yuma then looked at the chest under the hammock, noticeably enough for Michael to look as well. There lay a single framed photo of two people with the pendant in their hands. The youngest of Arclight family immediately recognized them as Yuma’s parents and could sense a building uneasiness in the other boy.

“I’m sorry about your parents.” Michael finally said after minutes of awkward silence “It must’ve been really hard for you lately.”
“H-how did you…?” Yuma raised his eyebrows in surprise.
“My father was friends with your father. He told me what happened to them…” the pink haired boy clenched his fist “I’m really sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable during the last few weeks, but I wanted to help you out in some way. I know how much it hurts to lose someone dear to you…”

The black haired just stared at his classmate, but not in fear or annoyance. The way Yuma observed Michael was like an additional artefact found a place in the treasured attic that he built up carefully with his father. It’s been a while since his eyes have showed that spark in them again. Even though it was a very mild spark, Michael saw it, that little sign of a passionate spirit in crimson eyes.

“You l-like Aztec culture?” Yuma finally asked after a while with no sign of showing Michael out.
“Yeah, it’s one of my favourite’s actually.” the other boy replied back in surprise.
“I th-think th-there are more Aztec ar-artefacts in the chest behind you.”

Like it was nothing, Yuma walked towards the said chest and swiftly undid the bindings to open it. Michael curiously crunched down to see it better, his green eyes gleaming at the sight of ancient items that showed more of mysterious Aztec culture. Michael handled each artefact with utmost of care, listening to stories that each item had. Yuma almost didn’t stutter at all when telling them, though he would stop from time to time to just relive all the happy memories with his father. But just like two children going through toys, the two boys carefully examined each and every item in the chest. Soon they opened another case and the moment they finished it they would go around the room, exchanging their passions for ancient artefacts.

“Y-you said you l-lost someone too…” Yuma said once they were close to checking out the last item in the room “If-If it’s okay to ask…”
“It’s alright, and it was my mother.” Michael sighed as he reached for a thick bracelet he wore around his wrist “I was really young at the time, five or six at most, but I do remember her…”
“Oh… I’m sorry.”
“You seriously don’t need to apologize for anything. It has been years after all.”
“Wh-What happened?”
“My mother had a terminal disease… she fought it well when I was little, but once I started school she became weaker… and eventually she lost the battle…
“Arclight-kun…”
“No need to be so formal… just call me III.”
“III? Why III?” Yuma blinked in puzzlement.
“It’s how my family calls me…. Michael Arclight is just a nametag…”
“III…” the other boy said in more sophisticated tone “It sounds my-mysterious in a way.”

Michael grinned at Yuma, actually feeling his heart warming up a bit when hearing it from the black haired boy. As they continued to casually chat with each other, the pink haired boy noticed that Yuma stuttered less and less the more they talked. At that point he wasn’t even sure how much time has passed, but it was certainly long since it was already dark outside for a while. That and there were steps coming from below.

“I know you’re not hungry, but the dinner is on the table… Yuma.” someone else’s head peeked through the attic flap, their eyebrows up from the surprise.

The person was a red haired woman in early twenties whose hair was tied in a high ponytail. While her eyes were dark purple, she had several red highlights in her hair, similar to Yuma’s bangs. This was probably his sister who was surprisingly much older than Michael thought.

“I didn’t know you had a friend over…” she gave her brother a confused look.
“I f-forgot something at s-school. He brought it to me.”
“Well the dinner is ready and there’s more than enough for your friend too. Though hurry up unless you want it cold.” Yuma’s sister shut the flap as she headed towards dining room.

Yuma sighed as he followed her, Michael not far behind, cautiously climbing down the wooden ladder.

“I really should be going home… I didn’t tell anyone where I was going.” Michael whispered to Yuma who only grabbed his arm and led him down the stairs. The rest of the house looked like a mixture of traditional European and Japanese home as well, especially the combination of traditional paper walls and pastel green wallpapers covering the majority of the walls.

The room to which they eventually arrived looked like dining room, kitchen and living room all squished together in one room. Compared to his family’s dining room, it was rather tiny, nearly smaller than the grand table at his house alone. But with the warmth coming from the still hot stove and a table adorned with many various dishes, it felt unexplainably cosy. An elderly woman carried the plates on the table, not saying a word when putting another one for Michael.

“I’m grateful for your hospitality, but I should really be going…” the member of Arclight family politely declined that invitation to dinner.
“Nonsense dear, there’s enough food for everyone. Just take a seat next to Yuma and thank for your food before you start to eat.” an old woman, whom he assumed to be Yuma’s grandmother, gave him a warm smile.

Michael sat down a bit awkwardly, on the only free chair left at the table. Yuma soon joined him, bringing along an additional mug with a steaming tea. As the rest of Tsukumo family took seats, Michael couldn’t help but to adore nicely prepared dishes, mostly consisting of traditional Japanese cuisine. There were fried chicken strips, grilled fish, miso soup, meat potato and plenty of rice. He didn’t even know where to begin as to how delicious it all looked, so he pretty much followed Yuma’s lead, taking a little of everything in order to try it all.

Michael put his hands together while mumbling a quiet itadakimasu before trying the first home cooked meal that wasn’t made by him or his father. He had cooked plenty of dishes so far, but the ones that were made by Tsukumo family were outright mouth-watering. Not just the flavour, the entire feel of it tasted amazingly and simple at the same time. Michael couldn’t help but to imagine his brothers and father at the table too, enjoying a meal together like in the old times before they moved to Heartland.

“So are you Yuma’s classmate?” Yuma’s sister, Akari as he heard Yuma call her, asked cautiously observing him while sipping her mug of tea.
“Yeah…” Michael replied rather nervously “We sit at the same desk in class.”
“That’s just wonderful! It’s been a while since Yuma brought friends home.” Yuma’s grandmother smiled “Do feel welcome to visit whenever you want.”
“Thank you…” the pink haired boy reached for his cell phone, just to see how late it was “Oh no! My last bus left half of an hour ago.”
“You can stay over.” said Yuma “I have enough space in my room.”

Yuma’s grandmother and Akari both gave the black haired boy a “are you sure?” look, but dismissed it once they realized Yuma didn’t stutter at all when saying the whole sentence. They finished the rest of the dinner in peace, with Yuma excusing himself earlier as he went to prepare an extra futon in his room for Michael. As a thank you for delicious dinner, Michael offered to help Akari wash the dishes which she gladly took. Scrubbing the plates and cutlery with bunch of dish soap, Yuma’s older sibling was quiet most of the time unless her grandmother asked her anything. The pink haired boy politely exchanged those few words with the two women about himself and by the time they were done, they pretty much found out about everything about him.

Just before he headed towards Yuma’s room, Akari pulled him into a tight hug, the kind of hug that Chris would give him when he was younger. Though unlike his brother, the young woman had happy tears bubbling at her eyes like Michael just gave her a puppy or something.

“Thank you…” she whispered, releasing him from her bear hug “Yuma had been seriously depressed ever since… that day. I tried to be there for him, but I’ve been working all the time and never really got a chance to talk with him at all. So, thank you for being his friend.”

Michael was surprised that Tsukumo family already saw him as Yuma’s friend, though come to think of it he did spend majority of the afternoon with Yuma like they’ve known each other for years. Not to mention he also had a meal with him and is going to spend a night at his house. This certainly wasn’t how he imagined his becoming friends with Yuma would go, but he was that more glad that it happened.

Going to Yuma’s room, he was half surprised that Yuma prepared a futon for himself and that he’d get an entire bed for himself. He protested a bit, which the transfer student dismissed right away, saying he used to sleep in the hammock all the time so futon was no trouble. Michael so just gave up and put on the pyjamas that were set on the edge of the bed before following Yuma to the bathroom where he brushed his teeth with Yuma’s extra toothbrush.

Once they were both properly ready for bed, they pretty much threw themselves respectively on their beds, snuggling into the warm covers like kittens. Yuma turned off the lights right away as it was pretty late and they would need to get up early for school the next day. Michael stared at the silhouette of his classmate in the dark room, who was lying on his side facing the other wall. To think that a simple returning of a lost pendant would turn into a sleepover… Michael certainly didn’t expect that. But before falling asleep, he had to make sure of something.

“Yuma… your sister and grandmother called me your friend… but am I really your friend?” Michael said in a whisper, afraid of what the answer may be.
“You are…” Yuma replied right away “III… you were my friend the moment we met and helped me out.”
“Yuma…” the pink haired boy almost gasped at how mature the other boy sounded that moment, completely opposite to how he was so far.
“Everyone wanted to help me out after… what happened… But sooner or later they gave up on me. They saw me as fragile child and once they marked me as too broken, they left.” Yuma stopped, sounding like he was wiping a tear “But you didn’t give up on me, neither had you pitied me like others did. You just wanted to be friends with me… treating me just like another classmate. No one has ever gone to such lengths for me.”
“I’m glad to hear that…” Michael nearly got teary from Yuma’s speech.
“III… will you stay friends with me?”
“I will… I promise to never leave you.”

Their promises might’ve sounded a bit far-fetched considering they’ve knew each other for less than a month, but deep down they felt like they’ve known each other their whole lives. Even as they slept so close to each other, it was like their dreams were intertwining. Together they continued with their adventure full of ancient ruins where they would be exploring a mysterious temple or look for the lost treasures. And when Michael saw Yuma’s eyes again, they were no longer blank and lifeless. No, this time they were of the crimson colour, sparkling as brightly as the ancient rubies that they were about to claim in their quest.

Even when the morning came, Yuma still smiled as widely as he did when he looked at the gems in the dream. Michael who woke up before him was met with a sleeping form of boy with an adventurous spirit that finally found its way back in Yuma’s heart. There was still lots of it missing and Michael was more than ever determined to help him get it back. When Yuma woke up he was a bit puzzled of who the other boy in his room was, but once he remembered the dream he formed a slight smile as he got up and began preparing for school.

After as equally delicious breakfast as the yesterday’s dinner was, Michael and Yuma headed for the school. Even though they were rather earlier there were already so many students there. Yuma was seemingly fidgeting around them, flinching at their touches like they burned. Michael so led him through the crowd with as less people as possible, hoping to help with his severe anxiety.

“III… is it okay if I hold your hand? I don’t like being in crowds… I feel like I’m going to get lost.” Yuma nervously asked, shifting from one leg to another.
“Of course. As long as it helps you.” Michael gently offered his hand which Yuma took gratefully.
“Thank you…” the black haired leaned into the touch as the two of them walked towards their classroom.

Though what Michael didn’t expect was that the moment their hands made contact, he felt a tingling feeling in his chest. What he didn’t know that time was that it was a beginning of something that would mark his life forever.

He was starting to fall in love with Yuma…

 

 

 

Preview for the next chapter: In order to help Yuma with his anxiety attacks in the crowds, III invites him to go to the movies. Despite being rather late, III manages to get the last two tickets to see Dark Side of Dimensions movie where Yuma surprisingly stumbles upon an old friend of his.

 

 

And this marks the first chapter in 4 part fanfic about III and Yuma falling in love. I went with 4 part love story: first - meeting a person, then realizing you're in love, then planning to confess and lastly confess the love for real. I might be a bit late since it's a Christmas fanfic, but who cares, here's all the fluff that you can get. ;) Yuma and III also won't be the only ship in this since there will be more characters appearing in each chapter. That's it for now and stay tooned for the future chapters that will all come out this week :D Also each chapter will be titled after one of III's quotes.

And in case you’re wondering, yes Chris/V is attending the same college as Zarc and Ray from Fragile Smile (in fact they’re close friends too) and Kaito also went to see the same movie with Haruto as III and Yuma will.

 

As always kudos, comments, questions, critics... all highly appreciated, they all always make me write more :D

 

Chapter Text

“Going to the movies?” Yuma blinked at Michael’s suggestion while putting his electronic notebook in the school bag.

“Yeah I know it’s a bit late and sudden, but Dark Side of Dimensions is a really good movie. My brother went to see it last week and recommended it to me. I tried inviting my other brother, but he said he’s too busy.” Michael said as the two of them left the classroom.

“I don’t know if sis will allow it. I mean it’s on Monday and all…” the black haired boy wondered, but when met with a pair of persuading green eyes, Yuma could hardly refuse “I’ll think about it.”

It’s been little over three weeks since the two of them became friends and they would spend as much time as they could together. They would mostly hang out at Yuma’s room or at the attic with artefacts where they continued to talk about ancient civilizations and how they would one day go visit the places that Yuma’s father did. That and Michael would help Yuma with his school work. Yuma was already two months behind, so any help from his pink haired friend was more than welcome. Michael turned out to be an excellent teacher and would patiently correct his friend until he got the things right. It may not seemed like it, but Yuma was actually smart at several subjects, like History and Geography, though the certain other ones, like Math and Science, presented quite a problem. Fortunately Michael knew several tricks to understand it faster from his elder brother Chris and before they knew it, Yuma gradually caught up with all of his school subjects.

 

A recently achieved C- at Math, not excellent, but still better than F, was probably a good way to start a conversation with Akari. Though he was a little bit in a doubt he’ll be allowed to go out and return late at the school day. Ever since they’ve moved to Heartland, Akari found dozens of reasons to keep him at home at all times. Before their parents’ death she never appeared to actually care about him due to being discreetly jealous since he’d usually get all the attention as the younger child. But once they came to Heartland, Akari became very protective of him and would do anything to keep her only family left safe.

 

“Sis?” Yuma peeked into his sister’s working room, the only room in the house that was equipped with modern technology. As a freelance journalist, Akari needed quite a lot to stuff for her work and sometimes she would work for days on a single article.

“Already back from school?” she turned around while still typing something on her computer.

“Yeah… I just wanted to tell you that I managed to get C- minus at Math…” Yuma nervously pulled the electronic device from his pocket that contained all of his school’s documentation.

“Oh, that’s amazing!” Akari actually stopped typing in order to give her brother a quick hug.

“III helped me out a lot.”

“The pink haired kid who’s been constantly visiting you for the past couple of weeks?”

“Yeah him… and today he invited me to go to the movies with him. I was just curious if I can go too…”

“Yuma…” Akari sighed to which he was sure that she wouldn’t allow him “What you want to do is for you to decide… I know I must’ve kept you away from everything ever since the accident in order to protect you… but since you’ve became friends with that guy, I know I can trust you more.”

“Sis...” Yuma had tears running down his face at her words, instantly wrapping his arms around her in gratitude “Thank you…”

 

The older sibling smiled as she returned the hug, knowing that her little brother is slowly becoming himself again.

 

 

 

 

Michael waited nervously at the doorstep of Yuma’s house. It was the day they were supposed to go to the movies and the pink haired boy had been looking forward to it ever since Yuma texted him that he can go. The movie would start in little more than two hours from now on, enough for him to pick Yuma at his house, walk to the main train station and check out the movie theatre a bit before it starts. It sure has been a while since he was there, the last time probably being when he went to check Bonds Beyond Time movie, nearly five years ago.

“Bye sis, bye granny!” Yuma shouted while buttoning his winter coat “Seeya tomorrow.”

 

Yuma managed to get a wool cap over his spiked bangs, fully ready for what was yet to come. He also carried a backpack with his sleeping clothes and school supplies since he was supposed to spend a night at Michael’s place. The other boy’s house was after all at the walking distance of the movie theatre, so it was easier for Yuma to sleep over at Michael’s and take the same bus as he does in the morning to get to school.

 

“All set?” Michael asked despite knowing the answer.

“Yeah!” Yuma hardly covered his excitement.

 

Soon they were on the train, talking about movies since they were going to see one. It turned out that Yuma watched a lot of adventurous documentaries, some of which Michael liked too. The black haired boy also watched some of the TV series, mostly based on mythical civilizations of the past although he really liked a science fiction series ESPer Robin too. He briefly mentioned that he actually knew the person portraying the space hero, Fuya Okudaira, whom he met by coincidence when the actor visited his father’s adventure guide signing. Yuma admitted that he needed some time before he recognized him since he was wearing a disguise, but once they got to a bit more private place Yuma got a chance to get to know the young actor and even got his autograph.

 

“You’re really amazing Yuma…” Michael smiled as he stared at Yuma’s eyes that were sparkling more by each day they spent together.

 

Yuma was about to respond when the speaker announced that their stop was close by, so the two of them moved towards the doors. Holding onto Yuma’s hand due to a lot of people everywhere, Michael guided him through several moving stairs and hallways until they finally reached the movie theatre. There were less people since it was a weekday and since they still got over an hour before the movie started, they decided to just get the tickets and have bubble tea or something until then.

 

Michael went to buy the tickets while Yuma looked over the flyers that announced the upcoming movies. The black haired boy was rather hyped for The Dark Side of Dimensions since they were supposed to get the special edition of cards for a game he haven’t played since elementary school and some of the cards were based on ancient civilizations. When Michael mentioned that his brother Thomas Arclight is actually a regional champion, Yuma’s jaw nearly dropped since the pink haired boy looked nothing like a certain blond and dark red haired teen.

 

With tickets in their hands they had just enough time to get a bubble tea on the other part of the movie theatre. Michael admitted he wasn’t that fond of the popular drink since he preferred homemade tea, but there were few green tea and black tea flavoured choices that were close enough. Yuma actually never had bubble tea before, so it was not surprising that few tapioca balls slipped into his throat when he slurped it too fast. Luckily Michael reacted in time, tapping his friend’s back until Yuma was no longer choking on a chewy ball.

 

“Let’s just sit down, we’re not in a hurry.” Michael pointed towards the free bench when someone called a familiar name.

 

"Yuma?"

 

A black haired boy turned around to see a child around eight years old staring at him with a mix of confusion and soon excitement. The boy had cyan coloured hair and warm hazel eyes that were pointed directly at Yuma.

 

"Yuma!" he called again, this time running closer and pulling Yuma in a hug "It is you!"

 

Michael was s bit puzzled to see Yuma not panic or fidgeting away like he usually did when people would touch him. Instead of that he simply returned the hug and gently caressed child's hair.

 

"Do you know him?" the pink haired boy observed the kid who was wearing dark blue sweater with white stripes and ochre pants.

“Haruto!” another voice called in the distance like the person behind it was in panic “I told you to stay…!”

 

At that moment Yuma was dumbfounded by the older looking boy who appeared almost out of nowhere, continuing to call name Haruto. The voice belonged to a person that looked at least few years older than Michael and Yuma, his hazel eyes, identical to the child, staring at the black haired boy in confusion. The boy was wearing black and red coat over white running leggings and black trainers like he had just came out of a track field.

 

“Look brother! It’s Yuma!” the kid, Haruto apparently, smiled as he continued to hug Yuma “It’s been so long since we’ve seen him!”

“H-hey Kaito…” Yuma blurted nervously and turned towards Michael “Our parents used to work together…”

“I didn’t expect to see you here…” Kaito stepped closer, observing Yuma up close “Are you doing alright?”

“I do…” the black haired looked down, but then pointed his eyes at Michael “III helped me a lot…”

“III… as one of Arclights?” Kaito turned to the pink haired boy who nodded slightly “Thought so, your older brother Chris or so called V is actually my tutor and is currently helping me study for the finals. I’m Kaito Tenjo and this is my little brother Haruto.”

“You know my big brother? But he’s studying in Miami City.”

“Well, I actually live there. I just came to Heartland since Haruto wanted to see Dark Side of Dimensions while it is still in Heartland’s theatres.” Kaito pulled movie tickets out of his pocket “Speaking of which we were about to get popcorn.”

“Mind if we go get it too?” Michael smiled at Yuma giving Haruto a piggyback ride and running around fast.

“Not at all.” Kaito replied already walking towards the snack stand.

 

Due to several people already waiting, Michael and Kaito had to wait in line while Yuma went showing Haruto around. Several minutes have passed before a staff member wearing a shirt with movie theatre’s logo assisted them.

 

“One big popcorn and rainbow cotton candy.” Michael ordered first as Kaito looked at the menu, checking several different options over and over.

“Alright…” staff member who was obviously tired from the work said as he scooped the popcorn into a paper bag “Anything else?”

“Do you happen to have caramel spread for popcorn? And non-fizzy drinks?” Kaito asked as soon as Michael took his popcorn.

“I don’t think so…” the staff member looked up for the first time and nearly paled at the sight of the certain blond haired teen “Let… me check.”

 

Kaito gave him a confused look, but once he saw him check the shelves with supplies, he ignored the strange feeling and rather went digging for his wallet. The staff member with bright blue eyes and long blond hair pulled in a ponytail looked oddly familiar, especially due to the glare he was secretly giving, like Kaito had just punched him in a face or something. Kaito so just ordered the rest of the snacks and put the precise amount of money on the counter.

 

“Cartoon of apple juice, one bottle of mineral water and caramel flavoured popcorn.” the staff member counted at which Kaito merely nodded and took the snacks as soon as Michael paid for the snacks as well. The blond haired teen mouthed a quick thank you and already headed towards Haruto who was overjoyed to see popcorn with his favourite spread. Yuma was pretty excited to try the cotton candy as well and before they reached the movie theatre, the black haired boy had the sugary treat all over himself. Haruto giggled at the sight of Yuma trying to get it off while Michael and Kaito just shook their heads at the sticky situation.

 

At the same time, someone else felt anything but what the party of four did. The blond haired staff member gritted his teeth as he walked towards the pantry, his ponytail jumping up and down with each angry step.

 

“For the last time Girag, I’m not going all over to Miami City just for some stupid high school festival.” another staff member with pointy brown hair and tanned skin complained over the cell phone.

“Bu-But Sanagi Chono will be there! Please come with me Alito! I don’t want to go alone!”

“Tsk fine, but you’re buying me a lunch. You know how bored I can get if there’s nothing to do.”

Also… since Akihiko transferred to that school about a month ago…. you could…”

 

Alito cancelled the call before the blond haired teen could hear what the person on the other end could be suggesting.

 

“What’s up Mizael? You look like you’ve just swallowed a lemon.”

“He’s here! Damm bastard is here!”

“Who?”

“Kaito freaking Tenjo! The pitch perfect boy is here!” Mizael’s face literally turned red “And he didn’t even recognize me!”

“Look, it has been years since that day, maybe you should just let it go already.”

“Hell I will! I won’t let him forget what he did!”

“Do what you want…” Alito sighed as he headed back to the counter “You can bitch about it for however long you want, but it won’t change the fact that he had all the right to leave the track team in elementary school. Hell he was better on his own than all of us together.”

 

The conversation left Mizael anything but calm, in fact it even pissed him off more than he already was. He continued to stare in direction that Kaito and others went, determined to go get him as soon as the movie was over and his shift was done. Until then he’ll have to endure more of the way too familiar smell of buttery popcorn and serve more customers. Alito on the other hand was handling the drinks and snacks to a group of girls with such a charm that one of them nearly fainted. Mizael had an urge to blurt out to all other girls that approached his classmate that the tanned teen had eyes on someone already and went unleashing his anger on a sack of corn in the machine that popped almost as intensely as his nerves.

 

 

On the parking spot of the movie theatre someone else was about to have teen love crisis. One boy wrapped in a coat and scarf awaited another one who arrived there with a motorcycle.

 

“You surely took your sweet ass time getting here, Ryoga. My fanservice nearly left me by the time you finally appeared.” Thomas grumbled while purple haired boy was in the process of removing his helmet.

“Not my fault Rio took so long to get ready for her date and even once she was ready she complained I was going too fast.”

“A date you say?” Thomas raised his eyebrows in seducing manner “Which guy won the heart of my very first crush? A guy who can offer even more fanservice than me?”

“Hate to say it, but you lost to a thirteen year old girl.”

“Don’t tell me she was actually serious when she said she had hots for Kotori!? Oh no, the puppet gods have forsaken me!”

“Shut it drama queen, I’m right here. As her brother and your boyfriend.”

“Yes yes, I’m so lucky that Rio has a twin that is nearly as hot as herself.”

“What do you mean by nearly?” Shark practically pouted when pulling after Thomas’ collar.

“Relax, I’m just teasing. You’re obviously the hottest… OH MY GOD, Seto Kaiba is in this movie!” Thomas nearly screamed when seeing the movie poster “I had no idea that sexy asshole stars in Dark Side of Dimensions!”

 

Ryoga just sighed while dragging Thomas away from the movie poster so they could get tickets in time.  They quickly fetched a couple of drinks and bunch of snacks, including corn chips with a load of melted nacho cheese and then got into auditorium before all the commercials ended. Ryoga was about to lean back in the comfortable seat when a familiar strand of pink haired at the front seats attracted his attention.

 

“Isn’t that Michael?” Ryoga nudged it to Thomas.

“I doubt it, baby bro wouldn’t go to theatre by himself since… HOLY HELL it is him!”

“He doesn’t seem to be alone…” Shark tried to look more closely “I can’t see who is with, but he’s definitely there with someone.”

“This explains why he would keep nagging me for an opinion of how he looked in various outfits…” Thomas thought when realization suddenly hit him “He’s on a date!”

“Shhhh, shut your trap before he and the rest of movie theatre hears you.”

“He didn’t say a word about it… what if he’s out with some creep?!” the teen was ready to stand up and go check it for himself before he was pulled back by Shark.

“For goodness sakes, just sit down, eat your nachos and watch the damn movie! Whoever he’s with seemed about his age and the last time I checked Michael has more brain than you do, Mr. fanservice.”

“Fine, but if there’s any kissing, she or he will have to answer to me!” Thomas still wouldn’t back off, glaring at the mysterious person talking with his younger brother.

“You’re unbelievable.” Shark sighed as he took a sip of his coke.

 

At last the movie began and all the people went quiet instantly, starting to chew on the popcorn and pointing their eyes at the projection. Yuma’s eyes beamed from excitement since it has been a while since he was at the movies and the opening scene surely shook entire movie auditorium into an awe. For the next hour and a half, the two teens followed a plot of ancient spirits trapped in artefacts discovered by main characters who were pulled in an action packed story full of decisions and unexpected plot twists.

 

At one point Michael reached into a shared paper bowl with popcorn, his eyes too focused on the movie to realize there wasn’t much of it left. Blindly picking around the burnt grains of corn on the bottom, Michael suddenly felt something much softer than a fistful of popcorn.

 

It was Yuma’s hand.

 

Ever since the day the two of them became friends, Michael would hold Yuma’s hand whenever the other boy felt anxious or just needed some comfort. The pink haired boy never saw the hand-holding in any sort of a romantic way, rather a brotherly-like way. Due to growing up with two older brothers and a loving father who would regularly act overprotective towards him, especially after his mother’s death, Michael saw nothing wrong with showing family affection to Yuma. The black haired boy was always ok with it since he found it easier to open up to his friend and gradually breaking out of his shell.

 

But why did he felt butterflies in his stomach and his heart beating to the point that his chest hurt? Whatever it was, it was certainly different from when his brothers would hold his hand. He knew he allowed Yuma to call him after his family nickname, but was the other boy really just a close friend to him?

 

“III? Are you alright?” Yuma turned towards Michael once he realized just for how long his hand was being held.

“Yeah… I just remembered something…” he forced a smile as he focused on the movie again “So what was that Diva guy planning again?”

 

The rest of the movie went on pretty fast and the whole time Michael tried hard not to touch Yuma, not because he was feeling uncomfortable, just a bit unsure due to the feeling in his chest. Towards the end of the movie he even spent more time staring at Yuma’s gleaming eyes as it showed just how much Yuma has changed from the frightened child with empty eyes. Whenever he would try to get closer to his friend, Michael had a weird gut feeling like someone was watching him that disappeared the moment he looked back. Just what was making him feel so uneasy and puzzled?

 

By the time the credits were rolling, Michael hardly realized that at that point he was so busy watching Yuma’s excited and smiling face that he completely didn’t see how the movie ended. Never mind that, he’ll see it once it will be available on TV.

 

You could always replay the film after all.

 

Yuma’s sparkling eyes were a sight that could never been replayed, no matter how beautiful and full of life he looked at that point.

Michael had to be nudged several times by Yuma before he noticed that people were already leaving auditorium, including Kaito whose little brother was hardly walking around. The four of them headed towards the exit since the Tenjo brothers had a train to catch if they wanted to get home in Miami City at a reasonable hour. Still, they had couple more minutes to spare before the two siblings had to leave.

 

“That made up civilization was pretty interesting. I wonder if it’s based on existing culture or not.” Michael started to distract himself from all the butterflied gathering in his stomach.

“Yeah, the objects had awesome designs too, especially those pyramid shaped ones.” Yuma shouted in excitement that didn’t help his pink haired friend’s bushiness.

“Well, if you’re interested you can check Miami’s High School festival in couple of weeks. A lot of educational institutes will have stands there, including Millennium Research group that actually worked with the producers of the movie.” Kaito added.

“Brother will have a stand too! With rockets and galaxies!” Haruto exclaimed.

“Uh Astronomy based stand? Sounds like something my brother would make.” Michael smiled, remembering all the planetariums that Chris took him to along with all the spaceship models still exhibited in his old room.

“He actually helped me out a lot. Chris wanted to be there too, but he has an exam on that day.” the blond haired reached for his cell phone to show some of the pictures where he was making decorations for the stand.

“Nice!” Yuma checked the pictures of galaxies with an interest “How many stands will be there?”

“Well from what I know, my friend Shun will present his family’s shelter for avian species, couple of girls that I know will have singing workshops, there will be a stand about Fudo technologies, idol Sanagi Chono will perform with the school’s band… I think there will be also a cosplay café, some mini tournaments and tons of other stuff to check out. Uh, there will be also a recreation of Smile Universe event from several years ago.”

“Really?!” Yuma’s eyes beamed even more when he remembered a showed that he enjoyed so much during the time he was in Miami City.

“Members of drama club have been overworking themselves to make it come true. I surely hope no one gets sick from all that work. I’d love to see it.” Kaito nodded, feeling his brother’s body leaning more and more against his leg.

“Yeah, Yusho Sakaki’s show was just amazing!” the black haired boy’s eyes were again filled with sparkles of excitement.

“I should get going. It’s passed the Haruto’s sleeping time and we both have school tomorrow.” Kaito picked up his sleepy brother so the child’s head was leaning against his shoulder “It was nice to see you again Yuma. I hope you make it to the Miami’s High School festival.”

“You too Kaito!” Yuma waved as the two siblings headed towards the train stop.

“Have a safe trip home.” Michael finally found something to say over something that was clearly of Kaito’s and Yuma’s same interest.

 

Kaito gave them a quick wave before practically running down the staircase with sleeping Haruto in his arms. Though Yuma and Michael weren’t the only ones who saw it.

 

Hidden behind a stand with upcoming movie dates, Mizael carefully listened to every word that Kaito said. If it weren’t for the two teens he knew by appearances, that were attending Heartland Academy, he would probably give Kaito a speech he’s been putting up together for years. But now that the blond haired was already on a train he couldn’t do much.

 

“So you’re going to Miami’s High School festival?” Mizael thought while going through his long, now loose, blond hair “I guess I’ll ask Alito and Gilag if I can join them…”

 

 

On yet another part of the movie theatre a couple was getting home. Or trying, would be a better way to say it. Ryoga was losing his patience at his boyfriend who couldn’t step away from the poster with life-sized Seto Kaiba.

 

“I get it okay! You worship Seto Kaiba, can we go now? I rather not drive into some weirdos on the road at this hour.” Ryoga narrowed his eyes when Thomas didn’t appear to hear what he was saying “Oi! We should get going!”

“Just a minute Shark boy.” the other teen pulled out his cell phone for a photo “This selfie with a legend of Duel Monsters and action movies will triple the fanservice on my blog. I can already hear my fangirls screaming.”

 

The purple haired teen sighed as he sat down on a bench, trying to think of anything that would distract him from his growing temper. At times Thomas would have a talent to push on all of the wrong buttons at once while laughing menacingly. Though fortunately the other teen took the rest of the photos quite fast and was fully ready to jump on Ryoga’s motorcycle as soon as they get on the parking lot.

 

“I’m sorry it took so long.” Thomas threw his arm around the other teen, leaning close to his lips in order to give him a kiss “You’re still my hottie and the next time I’ll make sure to give you 100% of my attention.”

“Don’t…” Ryoga mumbled, but couldn’t do much when he felt Thomas’ lips on his own.

“Why not? We had a nice date so far and it’s only appropriate we finish it properly.”

“Just stop…” the purple haired teen was clenching his fists now, his temper close to a limit.

“Why? Can’t I give you an affection as your wonderful boyfriend? You make my fanservice going crazy.” Thomas failed to notice just how rapid Ryoga’s breathing was becoming.

 

In that moment Ryoga outright lost it and grabbed him by his collar. Thomas instantly forgot all about his favourite card game idol and his fans the moment he saw Ryoga’s dark blue eyes filled with so much anger he hardly believed it. And not only anger…

 

At the edges Thomas could see tears prickling out.

 

“Don’t go off with kissing, promises and pretty words to avoid our issues. You always do it and I’m sick of it!” Ryoga let go of him as the more tears poured out of his eyes “It’s already hard as it is that you started dating me just because I look like Rio, your dream crush that turned you down the second you asked her out!”

“Ryoga I…”

“I hate it, okay! I hate it that you’re treating our relationship like an entertainment! I hate it that you’re drooling over some celebrity you don’t even know in person! I hate it that you don’t pay attention to my feelings!”

 

Thomas felt like the shards of Ryoga’s broken heart were flying into his own. Was his boyfriend really hurting because of all of this? They’ve been dating for two years now and for Ryoga to explode with such intense emotions before saying anything… it hurt him too. He always thought that the purple haired teen was in a way thinking like his fans, people who enjoyed his blog and loved to see him play Duel Monsters. But not Ryoga. No, his tag duel partner was the right opposite of it, preferring to keep his emotions for himself instead of throwing them on everyone. Come to think of it, Thomas now knew for certain that it wasn’t the fact that Ryoga resembled his twin sister that attracted him.

 

It was because Ryoga was different.

 

Without a second thought Thomas pressed his boyfriend close to his chest, no matter how much the other struggled to break free. The tears continued to run down Ryoga’s cheeks the more he cursed over Thomas who remained quiet, taking every word as seriously as he could.

 

Sooner or later, Ryoga ran out of insults and reasons to hate Thomas, so he just sobbed into his arms while the other teen gently caressed his hair. Then he moved away the locks that were covering Ryoga’s eyes, carefully tucking them behind his ears. And lastly pressed a gentle kiss on his forehead.

 

Just like on their very first date at the nearly the same spot.

 

“I’m truly sorry about it… I never took your words seriously. I’m sorry I had to push you to this point in order to realize it.” Thomas continued to hold his boyfriend close “I knew how distant your emotions are… and this doesn’t mean you don’t have them…”

“I guess… it’s sorta my fault too… I always keep them for myself…”

“And you do it for a reason. I have no excuses…”

 

The two of them eventually found their way to Ryoga’s motorcycle, but when they got on it, home wasn’t where the purple haired teen was headed.

 

“Do you think Heartland’s Arena is still opened?” Ryoga asked once driving out of the parking lot.

“Considering it’s ran by AIs, I guess so? Why?” Thomas got confused at the mention of place where Duel Monsters tournaments were held.

“I think we both need a duel to clear our thoughts. Even as tag duel partners we have to face each other from time to time.”

“Heh, you got that right.”

 

Ryoga accelerated towards the stadium looking building as Thomas let out a joyful shout, earning several puzzled glances from passers-by. But they didn’t care. All that mattered was that they get to have a duel with brand new special edition cards they got from the movie theatre.

 

 

 

Michael and Yuma didn’t have much trouble getting home. As soon as Kaito left, the two of them headed straight towards Michael’s house, Yuma amazed by the fact that the pink haired boy lived in such a fancy home. The moment they got in, the black haired instantly went checking out the unique furniture that he knew well from the books about mediaeval times and that was just enough for Michael to excuse himself, saying he needed to use a bathroom, and finally get a break from it all.

 

It may not seem like it, but the whole way home when Yuma was holding his hand felt both torturous and pleasant. In one way he enjoy it since his heart beat fast and warmed him up, though in the other way his stomach felt like butterflies caused a hurricane in it!

Just what was with all of this? Was he really so deep in love that his body was already reacting to it? And if he was, just what it was suggesting?

 

“III? Are you in there?” Yuma knocked on the door, sending another tornado of butterflies in his stomach.

“Yeah… do you need anything?” Michael somehow managed to sound decent enough.

“I feel like sleeping already… is it okay if I just fall asleep on the air mattress next to your bed?”

“Sure.” Michael thanked all possible deities that he got everything ready before they went to the movie theatre. If he would have to do it now… boy it would be difficult.

 

It took him nearly twenty minutes before he calmed down at last and by the sound of quiet breathing, he concluded Yuma was asleep. Slowly he got in his room, slipping in his pyjamas and set his cell phone on quiet. It was eleven already and by his father’s coat and shoes at the doorstep, he guessed he was in the bed too. In a way he wanted Yuma to meet a man who was good friends with his own father, but considering everything that happened that day it could freely wait until a better time.

 

Pulling covers over his head, Michael hoped a good night sleep would prepare him for the next day when his beating heart and wild butterflies would probably go after him again.

 

But during the night, Michael woke up due to a dry throat and grumbled at the fact he ate so much salty snacks that evening. With no other choice since his water bottle was empty, the pink haired boy silently headed for the kitchen where he had not one but nearly three glasses of water before he deemed his thirst taken care of for the night. Quietly, so he wouldn’t wake up his father, Michael was about to reach the door leading to his room when lights suddenly turned on.

 

Quickly covering his mouth before his yelp could wake up the rest of his family, Michael’s green eyes went wide when he saw a familiar figure leaning against the wall.

 

“Brother!? Why are you up?! It’s like one o’clock in the morning!” Michael asked with unlikely high pitched voice.

“Checking on my baby bro of course.” Thomas grinned.

“Scratch that, weren’t you supposed to be at Ryoga’s place?”

“I was, but I decided to go home.” he coyly stepped around like he was on a fashion runway “What? Can’t I come home whenever I want?”

“It’s not that… just that…”

“You have a friend over, aren’t you?”

“How did you…?!”

“I saw the two of you at the movie theatre. I must say you were pretty close to you know-“ Thomas imitated smooching sounds and pretended to kiss one of his cards that he carried around at all times.

“Brother!” Michael’s cheeks turned bright red “It was nothing like that!”

“Riiiiiiiiight… if that’s true then I’m a unicorn.”

“Seriously, we just went to see the movie since you were too busy to go with me.” the younger sibling looked away since his older brother’s eyes were way to prying into him “What do you want anyway?”

 

Thomas only nudged at the half-opened doors, revealing a sleeping form of Yuma, all curled up on an air mattress. The face of a black haired boy was peaceful, like the dreams he was seeing were his favorite.

 

“You love him, don’t you?” Michael blushed even redder at his sibling’s words “Before you ask why, your face is saying it all. You look like a freaking schoolgirl in love whenever I mention him.”

“B-but we really are just friends! Yuma has been through a lot and I’m just trying to help him out!”

“By inviting him on a date that ends in your bedroom?”

“Brother! Stop teasing me already!” the pink haired boy pouted which made Thomas even more daring to tease him.

“Relax, I’m not expecting you to go THIS far on your first night.” the older sibling continued to laugh though soon his expression shifted to more serious one “But seriously… I’ve noticed how much you changed during last few weeks. I might’ve not been home that much… but even I can tell you smile more and that you’re less shy… Is it because of him?”

 

Michael looked towards his room, staring at the face of a person for whom he never thought he’d develop such strong feelings. He mentally admitted to himself, he first reached out to Yuma because he saw himself in him and wanted to help him out, but now? He began to see him more and more as a person that warmed up his heart, a person whose passion for similar interest was pouring into him… and someone who made him happy in a way no one did before.

 

“Just tell him how you feel…” Thomas said in a firm tone, remembering Ryoga’s crying face “Today I’ve realized just how important your feelings are in a relationship.”

“Brother…” Michael hardly believed his older sibling would say something as compassionate as that.

“But don’t rush it, hell whatever you do, don’t be too straightforward! Otherwise the guy you’re crazy about will get a wrong idea!”

“What do you suggest then?” the younger sibling crossed his arms “It’s sort of hard to find a way between being blunt and not too straightforward for such serious situation.”

“Geez you got me here…” Thomas sighed, trying to remember more of what Ryoga told him that night.

“I mean… I doubt I’ll have an opportunity to make sure if he’s feeling the same way about me outside school and friendzone… unless we go to Miami City on that festival…”

“That’s it! My baby bro genius, you got it!” the older brother picked his younger one and spun him around “You’ll both get a lot of fun there and plenty of chances to learn more about him! Not to mention I’ll be there too!”

“You will?”

“Yeah, one of the school band’s bassists broke his arm and asked Ryoga if he can cover him on Sanagi Chono’s concert, so naturally I’m going too.”

“Will you really help me out? Not just tease me?”

“Believe me, after this night I’ll probably think twice before I joke around anyone.”

“Did something happen between you and Ryoga?”

“You could… say that, but it doesn’t matter right now.” Thomas playfully ruffled Michael’s hair “Now go catch some shuteye before your love life affects your grades!”

“Brother!”

“Okay, this was the last time I tease you today. Now go to bed already!”

 

 

Despite all of it, Michael grinned at his brother and headed for his bed. Just before getting in, he crouched down on Yuma’s level, watching his calm face. Whispering so quiet that only he heard himself, Michael said those few sentences.

 

“I’m afraid to say it… but my feelings for you are becoming stronger each day…”

 

Michael fixed the blanket so Yuma was properly covered up.

 

“Yuma… will you ever see me more… than your friend?”

 

Chapter Text

“Alright here’s where I’m dropping you off.” Akari stopped her car on the parking lot near the Maimi High School “Just give me a call once you’ll be set to go home.”

“Thanks a bunch sis.” Yuma grinned as he and Michael got out of the vehicle.

“You’re welcome and there’s a journalists seminar close by anyway, so I’ll have something to do.” the red haired woman glanced at her sibling “Now promise me you won’t get into trouble.”

“I pr-promise!” the teen nodded a bit nervously since his sister could be scary when using authorial tone.

“Well if you get in trouble, I can at least count on Michael to get you out of them.” she mumbled while making a U turn.

 

As Akari drove away, Yuma was filled with a sense of nostalgia when looking around Maiami City, his old home. While he didn’t attend the same school that hosted the festival, the familiarity struck him all the same, remembering the times when he would be returning home from school and his parents will be there to greet him. The two faces he’ll never see again wouldn’t stop appearing in his head so much that his hand visibly started to shake.

 

Fortunately there was someone to hold it.

 

Michael gently drew circles in Yuma’s palm, a simple action that worked miracles when his friend’s anxiety attacks would start. The boy took a few short breathes, remembering he was there to have fun with III and to meet some of old friends from Maiami City.

 

“Are you ready?” the pink haired boy asked to which the other one nodded.

 

Hand in hand they walked towards the entrance of the huge white building surrounded by a forest and many sport courts, providing more than enough space for the School Festival. Since they got there rather early due to Akari’s journalist seminar, the majority of stands weren’t ready just yet so the two of them just walked around for a while. Michael was glad that he managed to get the butterflies in his stomach under control in the last few weeks, though this still didn’t mean it was that much easier to be around him. Yuma on the other hand just remained his usual self, carefree and even cheerful at times with not a single idea that Michael has been dying to ask him that one question since the sleepover.

 

“Look! It’s Kaito!” Yuma pointed at his blond haired friend who was busy carrying boxes full of space related props “Let’s go say hi to him.”

 

Michael didn’t see the reason why not so he let Yuma half-drag him towards the stand where Haruto was colouring the stand sign. Once Kaito’s younger brother noticed them, he joyfully waved his hand, nudging them to check out their stand that was close to being done.

 

“Yuma!” Haruto threw his arms around Yuma’s waist, making Michael slightly jealous of how the kid like him could hug Yuma so easily “I’m so glad you came!”

“It kinda brings back the memories, not to mention all stands look amazing! Yours included!” Yuma beamed at the black background covered by glittering galaxies.

“Thank you, though this piece was made by someone else. I only made the planets and spaceship props.” Kaito smiled, pointing at the dozens of little models.

 

As Yuma and Michael eagerly checked all of the Kaito’s handiwork, someone else observed them through binoculars from the other side of the school. Whoever was it, sure hated to see the certain blond haired teen and yet couldn’t see enough of him.

 

“You sure are a creepy guy, Mizael.” Alito said while chewing onto a dango they’ve just bought from the nearby stand “You could’ve at least dropped the hoodie and sunglasses. Cuz you know… you’re so not suspicious.”

“Shut it.” Mizael barked as he kept zooming the binoculars on Kaito.

“You could’ve at least thank me for the ride…” Alito sighed after swallowing the last dango on the stick “But I guess you have more important things to do.”

 

The dark skinned teen had had no idea that Mizael out of all people would drag him to the school festival. Of course Girag was more than glad to have his buddy with him since he was dying to see Chono Sanagi, his favourite idol, but Alito couldn’t care less since he knew he would get bored easily. If nothing at least food was decent enough and he could flirt with cute girls to pass the time. Though for some unbelievable reason he was stuck with the blond haired creep who wouldn’t admit he has a hard crush on a former member of their track team ever since the guy switched schools.

 

“You know if you just swallow your pride and go there to talk with him…” the brunet teen was going to suggest.

“No way, if his brother is around, he’ll make me leave the second I get there. I have to get him somewhere private.” Mizael’s eyes narrowed at Kaito talking with people who came to check his stand.

“Good luck with that, I’m out of here.” Alito sighed as he reached for his cell phone to see if Girag was done shopping for Chono Sanagi merchandise.

 

Around the same time Ryoga and Thomas arrived as well, the purple haired teen carrying his electric guitar case for the concert. His boyfriend wasn’t far, making sure he didn’t get lost in all of the corridors and not getting too far from Ryoga whenever he was asked to sign a few autographs. The two of them were a rather well-known tag team when it came to Duel Monsters after all. Ryoga preferred not to be seen in only this kind of a light and wished people saw him also as a musician, A-grade student and so many other things than just a Duel Monsters champion.

 

“Only the staff members are allowed in the music room for a practice, so try not to cause any trouble.”

“But I played drums for two years, can’t they let me in?” Thomas looked hurt when Ryoga blocked him from going in the room “Just for a minute?”

“Fine, but don’t blame me if they kick you out.”

 

Thomas got a smirk on his face just like he always did whenever something went according to his plan. The room was packed with the members of school band and music club who were all nervously preparing for the performance. The musicians were practicing, playing in different cords and tuning the instruments while singers did the necessary warming up sessions led by a pink haired girl whose hair was tied into two ponytails.

 

“Now let’s try to go slightly higher at this part…” she instructed all the girls who acted as back-up singers.

“Excuse me… Yuzu Hiiragi?” Ryoga politely asked the girl who turned her focus from piano to the unfamiliar teen “Are you in charge of the concert?”

“Yes, how can I help you?”

“A friend of mine who was supposed to play the bass asked me to cover for him.”

“Oh yes, you must be Ryoga Kamishiro.” Yuzu nudged towards the group of guys with guitars “Just tell them who you are and they’ll explain you all about the concert. We’ll be performing in a few hours, so you better prepare yourself.”

“Alright, thanks.”

 

Ryoga put down his case and started unpacking his electric guitar when the sound of a slap let him know that like always Thomas already got in trouble. Like the paper fan slap wasn’t enough, the rest of the girls gave him a piece of their minds too and without the help of the male members they kicked him out of the music room.

 

“Hate to tell you, I told you so, but yeah… can’t you keep it in your pants for a single day?” Ryoga texted him.

“I can’t help it if they are all so cute! Well not the pink one or the blonde, but the one with curly blue hair was a pure fanservice! Plus she looked like Rio!”

“You do know that you’re texting this to your boyfriend? I don’t think that’s much of an improvement since the last time we had this conversation.”

“Oh geez, I’m sorry Sharkie! What can I do for your forgiveness?!”

“Well, we can arrange something…” Ryoga smirked once he finished the text and rather focused on tuning his guitar.

 

In the meanwhile Michael and Yuma found a yakisoba stand and considering they didn’t have much for breakfast they were more than glad to have some. Unlike the regular yakisoba, this version swam in gooey purple substance and veggies that even Michael couldn’t name. Yuma wasn’t that keen on trying it out, but the other food stands nearby were still not opened and the black haired teen was too hungry to look for another.

 

“Care to try out my excellent venom… I mean dish?” the purple haired boy selling it grinned at the sight of their hungry eyes.

“Eh… what is this exactly?” Michael tried to sound as polite as possible.

“My own personal recipe.” the seller’s grin turned even wider “It’s all natural from the school’s very garden.”

“Natural?” Yuma looked at the noodles that looked more like a biohazard than a popular street food.

“Natural indeed.” he chuckled at their expressions.

 

In the end Yuma and Michael gave up, buying a single portion that they decided to share. Sitting at the nearest porch, they carefully scooped the noodles with chopsticks and after the minute of hesitation swallowed it.

 

“It’s actually… not that bad.” Yuma licked his lips for any leftover sauce “It tastes kinda sweet and savoury.”

“He probably used beetroot…” Michael recognized the taste “May look weird, but the taste’s alright.”

“I was a bit worried for a second. I mean the stand is called “Starve Venom” – how are you supposed to attract customers with this?” Yuma glanced at the stand that had more people coming. 

“I guess it has its charm.” Michael replied while scooping more noodles with chopsticks.

 

The two of them finished the rest of the portion in silence while observing more and more food stands being opened. Even though the weird yakisoba satisfied their immediate hunger, their bellies were sooner or later entranced by the many smells of all kinds of foods being prepared. Takoyaki, dorayaki, buttered potatoes and were those candied apples and chocolate bananas? Yuma seriously couldn’t wait to try them all!

 

So much that he didn’t notice that he grabbed the same set of noodles that Michael did and only realized it when they were face to face, their lips less than an inch apart.

 

In a moment of panic Michael failed to back off and instead moved his head even closer. For a brief second Michael's lips brushed against Yuma's, feeling their softness. Yuma was staring at his friend in confusion, not entirely sure what was going on. As much as the pink haired teen wanted for the moment to last forever the storm of butterflies in his stomach turned him into a blushing mess, so the poor guy excused himself under the pretense that he needed to use the bathroom.

 

All alone Yuma finished eating the rest of yakisoba, thinking about his friend. Ever since they went to movies together, Michael has been acting rather weird. Well if you could call his actions weird if not worrisome. Michael would dodge every time they were too close, finding the most clichéd excuses possible or looked like he was so lost in his thoughts that he couldn't hear Yuma talking to him. Whatever it was it certainly made the black haired teen worry. They only ate together, what was so wrong about that?

 

Fortunately someone interrupted his train of thought before his head started hurting from all the thinking. The same guy from the yakisoba stand gave him a flyer covered by more glitter and rainbows than an actual text.

 

"I forgot to give you this before. It starts in two hours." the yakisoba stand owner was about to head back.

"Smile...SMILE UNIVERSE????!!!!" Yuma exclaimed.

"Gee, you don't need to shout twerp."

"Wait..." Yuma looked at the flyer again, particularly at the photo of the cast "Is this you? Will you play the main role?"

"Nah this is my brother. Theater is more of his thing."

"But your faces look identical..."

"You wouldn't be the first to say that." the teen sighed in annoyance as he headed back to his stand "But for some reason everyone overlooks the fact that we have... you know completely different hair color."

"Oh sorry."

"Don't sweat it, but make sure to see the show. You'll surely make my little bro happy. He really worked himself to the bone to make it happen."

"Right!"

 

In the meanwhile Michael was going through a love crisis of his life. How, just possibly how did he manage to kiss someone he hasn't even confessed to and on the lips for that matter??? The festival hasn't even properly started yet and he managed to screw up this much already?

 

"Curse my life..." Michael mumbled, his hands going through his short curls to calm himself down.

 

This is not how their first kiss was supposed to go. It should've started with small, innocent pecks on each others’ cheeks, not with something so straight forward. He remembered seeing his brother kissing Ryoga on many occasions since Thomas wasn't shy at all to show affection to his boyfriend in front of everyone.

 

Why couldn't he have as much guts as his brothers? Sure Chris wasn't in a relationship at the moment, but even if he was, the eldest member of Arclight family would probably react much better than him. Only he would be nervous enough to accidently kiss his crush without asking. Just so so... stupid.

 

"Baby bro?"

 

Of all times, Michael couldn't be happier to see Thomas. The youngest member of Arclight family threw himself into his brothers' arms, crying hysterically.

 

"Wow, wow, wow." Thomas nearly lost his balance due to Michael's impact "What kind of an apocalypse is coming?"

"I messed up so bad!" Michael sniffed "Yuma probably hates me now!"

"Okay, you just... can't believe I'm the one saying this... you just take few deep breaths and then tell me what happened."

 

Michael wiped his tears in the sleeves and slowly told him about the little accident he had earlier. As much as his brother would love to tease him about it, the situation was far too serious for Michael, not to mention he promised to help him out.

 

"Look, from what you told me about this guy, he doesn't seem like a person capable of hating anyone. So you just go there, apologize and move on with your day." Thomas supportably patted his shoulder "It's your date after all."

"Brother!"

"Date attempt then." his sibling grinned "I know you have a hard crush on this guy, but if you continue to avoid him, you'll do more harm than good. Just go with the flow and enjoy the day like you would with me."

"Every time I'm with you, you tease me!"

"With V then... geez." Thomas sighed even though he knew he only had himself to blame for such reaction "In all cases the two of you are here today to have fun."

 

The pink haired teen managed to calm himself by now. His brother was right; he shouldn't make such a mountain out of a molehill. He'll go back and clear things up.

 

"Will you be okay?" Thomas playfully ruffled his hair to which Michael nodded "Good, because I have to get Shark something to eat."

"Did you get in trouble again?"

"Heh, what gave it away?" Thomas laughed nervously.

"You never buy him food, he always does it for you so I figured."

"You know me." his older brother winked before heading towards the food stands.

 

By the time Michael plucked out the courage to get back to Yuma nearly all the stands were ready and from the long distance he could tell that his friend has either already forgotten about the accident or didn't mind it.

 

"Look III! Smile Universe show starts in two hours! We so have to see it!" Yuma excitedly jumped around with a flyer in his hands.

"Great. So we still have some time to check the other stands. Any suggestions?" Michael did his best to drown down his anxiety with Yuma's excitement.

“Kaito recommended his friend's stand that has birds that you can pet! And there is also a cosplay cafe and Millenium Research stand!"

"Let's get going then."

 

Kaito's friend stand turned out to represent their own family's shelter for avian species. There were tons of photos of the shelter and birds that were living there. Of course majority of the animals lived there only temporarily, but there were some that were domesticated or unable to live in the wild and those were the ones that you could pet or take a picture with. Yuma's eyes gleamed with joy when a black haired girl named Ruri showed him how to feed several domesticated birds that gladly dug into the fistful of sunflower seeds.

 

Michael's anxiety was gone the moment the teal haired senior student named Shun allowed him to take a picture with a falcon. The bird of prey's eyes were injured to the point of not ever being able to be released in the wild, so just like Ruri's birds, the falcon was completely domesticated as well. Yuma was a bit squeamish when Michael convinced him to hold the falcon as well, but they ended up with some really good pictures so it was worth it. They bought three of them, one with Yuma with dozens of smaller birds on his head and shoulders, one with Michael and the falcon and another one where the two of them were together with the bird of prey.

 

"Thank you for your purchase." Ruri smiled when handing them the just printed photos.

"If you consider donating or volunteering, here's the card." Shun handed them two wing shaped cards that said Kurosaki Shelter for Avian Species.

 

Then the two of them headed towards Millenium Research stand that was covered by all sorts of artefacts, photos of research sites and posters presenting the every day life of ancient civilizations. Their eyes wouldn't look away from the brilliance and art of world histories. Michael and Yuma didn't even notice the time passing until the owner ushered them away after half of an hour so other people could check the stand. A bit sad since they couldn't continue reading and adoring more of the exhibited items, but they instantly cheered up when they found another series of stands near it, this time with games.

 

Due to advancing technology, the board games were nearly forgotten at this point. But not this stand. There were boxes and boxes of games, the most traditional ones like shogi to the modern ones such as Duel Monsters. In fact, the card game had an entire stand dedicated to it where cards were exhibited.

 

"Do you play Duel Monsters Yuma?" Michael asked while examining Aztec based archetype.

"I used to, but I was never really good at it." Yuma mumbled "I would only play it with my dad...

"Do you want to play it with me?" Michael quickly changed the topic.

"You play it too?"

"Yeah, I'm not that good at it either, but I'd like to play it with someone other than my brother who happens to be regional champion."

"Wow this is so amazing! Think you could get me his autograph?"

"I'm pretty sure he'd be more than glad to give it to you himself in person..." Michael replied while looking at different things sold at the stand "Say what is this?"

 

A boy wearing a grey beanie who appeared to be couple of years older than them, and seemingly also a person in charge of the stand, moved closer to them in order to give them a flyer.

 

"Custom made cards or entire archetype?" Yuma read.

"Yes, we can create cards based on anything you want. We can also adapt them for your existing deck or create an entire deck for you." the boy replied, nudging at the desk behind the stand where various drawing tools and sketches were set "I'm in charge of designs."

"And those cards can be used in official duels at the Duel Arena?" Michael observed the finished products.

"It takes couple of days for Illusion Industries to approve them, but yeah you can use them in contests and hologram duelling around a week after they are created." the stand owner showed a catalog full of pictures depicting various custom made cards "Depending on difficulty, I need from twenty minutes to an hour to create them."

 

Michael and Yuma would more than gladly get themselves some new cards, but once they looked at the time, they had to change their minds. Smile Universe was going to begin in less than ten minutes and they should’ve hurried up in order to get good seats. They thanked the stand owner by taking his business card, which read Yuuki Designs, before racing towards the main school building, looking for the theater stage.

 

Luckily they still managed to find some good seats with a good viewing point since quite a lot of people came to see the show. Michael has never seen Smile Universe play, but from what Yuma said it was an amazing play that was quite popular years ago in Maiami City.

 

The lights went out and the audience welcomed the cast with a loud applause. The curtains went up to reveal two boys on the stage, one wearing goggles and the other one whose face was concealed by a mask.

 

"Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the show that will take you to brand new universe!” the boy wearing goggles greeted with a bow “Smile Universe!”

“Buckle up and get ready, you’re up for a fabulous ride!” the other boy added “Show must go on!”

 

For the next hour it really felt like they were taken to a whole new world. Every scene was enhanced by a colourful background, actors in extravagant costumes and amazing special effects. Yuma felt like he was taken back to the time when his parents would take him and Akari to the park in Maiami City to watch weekly shows known as Smile Universe. They were mostly meant for little kids, but even adults would stop by to check them out. Yusho Sakaki surely knew how to entertain people and from the looks of it, the next generation of performers followed his footsteps well.

 

Especially the main actor. The boy really looked just like that other boy who was selling the noodles and the way he performed was nearly identical to Yusho Sakaki if not better. The story was about Sky Magician that would travel through galaxies only to find out that no one is smiling anymore. He tried to cheer up people by dancing and joking around, yet still no one smiled. Then he met a dragon and a juggler who were intrigued about his idea and all of them began spreading happiness everywhere until the whole universe was filled with smiles.

 

The moment the show was over, audience burst into a set of loud clapping and cheering. All the actors politely bowed before them, thanking the audience for coming to see their show. Yuma wouldn’t stop clapping, even praising the actors as loud as he could. Michael watched his friend in a gleam and awe, not wanting to take him away even though the people were already leaving. It made his heart melt whenever Yuma got more joy in his eyes, smiling and enjoying life like he should, so to take him away from it all truly was a struggle.

 

"Wow this was really amazing!"

"Told you! It wasn't completely the same as the one I saw as a kid, but I surely liked that they brought the dragon back. I didn’t expect it would be played by a dog!”

"So where should we head next?"

"I wanted to see cosplay cafe. From what I've heard, a lot of waiters will be dressed up as Duel Monsters characters!"

 

The two of them eventually found one of the bigger classrooms that was turned into a cafe. Fortunately there was still one table left and as soon as they sat down, a familiar face came to serve them.

 

"Welcome to cosplay cafe. Would you like to draw a card or do you prefer the menu?" boy with black and purple hair, dressed up as a butler-like Duel Monster greeted them.

"It's you!" Yuma exclaimed "You were the main character in Smile World! You were so good!"

"You must be talking about Yuya." the boy smiled "I'm his brother Yuto."

"Then you don't only have the stand with noodles, but you help at cosplay cafe too?" Michael asked, impressed at his multitasking.

"Ah you must mean my other brother Yuri. There's four of us and people tend to mistake us for one another." Yuto chuckled while handing them menus.

"Bummer..." Yuma sighed in disappointment "I really wanted to meet the main actor..."

"Well the Drama club is done for today so you might come meet him sooner or later." Yuto assured him "So what do you wish to have?"

"How does the card drawing work?" Michael asked once he noticed the same thing that Yuto mentioned on the back of the menu.

"You draw a card from my hand and you get a chance of getting special dishes that are not on the menu." the boy already set the full hand of six cards "Feeling lucky?"

 

Both Yuma and Michael ended up drawing cards from Yuto’s hand. Yuma got the card with a picture of something that looked like stuffed pancakes while Michael got a glass of a colourful drink.

 

“You got Pancake Sandwich and Rainbow Slushy.” the boy took the cards with a polite bow “Your food will be served right up.”

 

While they waited for the food and drinks, the two boys observed the rest of cosplay café. A small part of it was concealed by drapes, most likely serving as the makeshift kitchen where a boy a sandy haired boy with a pink strand was preparing food. There was another male waiter that was much taller and had silver hair, dressed up as the knight-looking Duel Monster and was currently serving to a group of girls. Other than that there were majorly girls dressed up as Spell casters or Fairy type Duel Monsters.

 

“Your pancake something and mixed slushy.” a girl, dressed up as the Warrior type Duel Monster literally dropped the food on the table, scaring the duo who nearly fell off their chairs.

“Serena! I told you to be gentle with plates even if they are plastic!” the silver haired waiter shouted “And don’t be so bold.”

“Yeah yeah, I hear you Reiji…” she sighed, fixing her crescent shaped mask and put on a forced smile “Enjoy your wonderful meal and let the slushy draw a rainbow in your lives.”

 

Michael was a bit dumbfounded at the girl’s speech that was obviously learned by heart and found it even more awkward once she threw a fistful of confetti and glitter at them before storming off with the boy Reiji calling her out to behave herself. Yuma on the other hand was having way too much fun and didn’t need to be told twice to try the food.  The meaty filling sandwiched between two pancakes tasted amazing, so much that he nearly forgot to leave some for Michael. He fortunately left some and the pink haired boy got to enjoy the flavour of the sandwich.

 

For slushy they got two straws so there were no worries one would drink too much. As they slurped the rest of remaining drink their cheeks briefly touched, but this time Michael played it cool. Even though they noticeably turned redder the youngest member of Arclight family kept it together, knowing that Yuma was most likely too engulfed with the slushy to notice. He was going to confess soon, he just knew it. All he needed was the right place and right time.

 

“Excuse me.” Yuto stopped by their table again “You said you were interested in meeting the Drama Club members?”

“Yeah!” Yuma exclaimed right away.

“Well I’ve just checked and they are all at their stand outside. If you want I can give you directions.”

 

Yuma couldn’t be happier when Yuto described the way there and before he knew it, Michael was dragged there right away.

 

...

 

 

“This sucks!” Yugo sighed so loudly that Rin really had to restrain herself from smacking him “I clearly wrote Fudo Technologies that we will have a HARDWARE stand not SOFTWARE!”

“Would you just chill? It’s better than nothing.” the green haired girl said while fixing the screen “And besides we can get to try VRAINS system.”

“But we could get virtual reality motorcycle ride simulator! Or the presentation of the newest parts or even engines with the experienced mechanics!” the boy glared at the other end of the stand “Instead of that we got two newbies who won’t shut up about video game avatars and a virtual reality system suitable for kindergarten!”

 

All the hype that Yugo had about getting a chance to meet the engineers behind his favourite engines and glancing at the newest designs was reduced to zero when two trainees with a VR gear and foam swords showed up, clearly from a software department. For the rest of the day Rin and Yugo were stuck handling the fliers from the company while the Fudo Technologies duo was instructing the visitors on how to use the VR gear to log into VRAINS in order to have a battle with swords to promote new virtual reality system set.

 

“So how exactly this works?” Alito who had just come by asked, the sword fighting game clearly piquing his interest.

“It’s eh…” Yugo thought but just waved to the trainees “Hey ehm Revolver…”

“It’s Ryoken.” the white haired trainee grumbled.

“This guy wants to try the sword fight. Care to explain?” Yugo did his best to act polite towards the trainee but it was rather hard since he appeared to be only a few years older than him.

“Sure, but you’ll have to cover for Yusaku. He had an important phone call to make so you’ll be the opponent this time.” Ryoken explained and only now Yugo noticed that the other trainee was nowhere in sight.

“Fine…” the blue haired teen sighed as he started putting the VR gear on.

“Try not to kill him.” Rin whispered to him though she doubted Yugo listened. He was far too pissed off at the all the stuff that happened throughout the day.

 

Alito on the other hand couldn’t wait to finally do something interesting on the festival. Ryoken instructed him how to choose the setting and the moment he spotted ancient coliseum he clicked it right away. The people from the other stands and visitors noticed something was happening and all of them began to gather around the space circled by a tape and VRAINS system. A group of girls were especially fond of Alito who wasn’t shy to show off his muscles and they wouldn’t stop drooling whenever he looked into their way. But Alito didn’t care about them. His eyes were solely set for a certain blond haired teen with red strands who was currently checking a stand next to Fudo Technologies.

 

“Just you wait Akihiko… you’ll see how strong I’ve become…” 

 

The boy he was referring to was a couple of years older than him and used to attend Heartland Academy just like him. Akihiko was one of those students who was perfect at everything, from excelling at tests and sports, to participating in contests and attending student council meetings. Ever since the first time he talked with him, Alito had a hard crush on that guy but he knew that the guy was way out of his league for someone like him. For that moment he just wanted to show him his athletic skills, the only thing that could catch up to Akihiko greatness.

 

The second the game began, Alito charged at the blue haired boy who was completely caught in surprise. Despite the quick blow, Alito’s opponent picked himself up fast and proceeded to hit him back. The blue haired boy didn’t seem like he had any fighting experience other than simple fist fights. He just waved the sword around, hardly giving Alito anything that was even remotely considered a challenge. In fact the boy looked so inexperienced that he was afraid he’ll hurt him. Knowing Akihiko might be watching him, Alito rather just dodged and slightly brushed his opponent with the sword. He didn’t want to look like he was giving the poor kid a hard time and yet he still wanted to show off his skills in hopes his crush notices him.

 

He sparred with the boy for the next ten minutes until he could no longer keep himself back. The second he let his whole strength out he accidently knocked the boy on the ground. The scene switched from coliseum to real world and the image of Alito popped up, declaring him a winner. Yugo grunted while getting up, obviously annoyed at his loss though he had to admit that guy had some skills. Well, considering Alito was a captain of his high school kendo team, his sword skills were top-notch.

 

Full of excitement, he looked up, hoping that his fight was seen by Akihiko, but unfortunately, the teen was nowhere in sight. As disappointed as he was, Alito still helped Yugo up and took Fudo Technologies badge and VRAINS flyer as a thank-you for promoting the VR system. He took one more glance at the crowd, hoping to spot Akihiko before heading towards the stage where he was supposed to meet up with Gilag before Chono Sanagi concert.

 

Just as Alito left, another teen approached the stand, carrying two big paper bags that smelled deliciously.

 

“What did I miss?” Yusaku asked while placing one bag on the stand “That call took forever and then Kusanagi's truck passed by.”

“That junior just got his ass kicked.” Ryoken laughed as he took a sip of his drink “Good thing you had that phone call, otherwise you’d be like that guy on the ground.”

“Aren’t you supposed to fight instead of me?”

“I do, but the banana boy doesn’t need to know that.”

“You could at least give him a hot-dog if you don’t want to admit that you didn't feel like swinging that sword around.” Yusaku bit into his hot-dog while Ryoken put all extra sauces on his own.

“You know well I prefer guns.” the white haired trainee grinned.

 

...

 

“There they are!” Yuma exclaimed when noticing a group of familiar faces.

 

The members of drama club were gathered around their stand, passing around fliers for their next show and promoting Smile World with various merchandise. Even the dog that played the dragon was there, wiggling its tail and friendly greeting passers-by. The main actor, whose face was identical to the noodle stand seller and cosplay waiter, passed around stickers with smiley faces with almost the same grin.

 

Before Michael could say anything, Yuma was already at the stand, excitedly telling the main actor, whose name was Yuya according to his brother, how much he enjoyed the show. To say Yuya was bashful was understatement. The boy was nearly on the verge of happy tears when Yuma highlighted all the acts that he loved the most and compared them to the performance from when he was a kid. Michael nearly got a feeling he was seeing two Yumas at once, each of them happier than other when talking about Smile World. Yuma also couldn’t get enough of the dog’s soft orange and white fur, petting its head like there was no tomorrow.

 

“So how it is going?”

 

The youngest member of Arclight family nearly jumped ten feet high when all too familiar voice whispered in his ear.

 

“Brother!” Michael squeaked when seeing Thomas next to him “What are you doing here?! Aren’t you supposed to be with Ryoga?”

“He’s getting ready for Chono Sanagi concert, so I didn’t want to bother him and rather wanted to check how is my baby bro doing.” the older teen snickered.

“Good... I guess. We went to see Smile World and Yuma wanted to meet the actors.”
“That I see, but was there any, you know.” Thomas started making kissy noises.

“Stop it!” the younger sibling dragged him away “He’s going to see it!”

“Nah relax, he is too busy fanboying with that guy. To be honest, your crush seems dense.” Thomas rested his hand on his chin while observing Yuma “So whatever you have in mind must be as clear as possible.”

 

Michael nodded while observing Yuma, passionately talking with Yuya. He was smiling so much, more than he ever did since he met him. Smile World truly seemed to cheer him up and if Yuma was happy, Michael would gladly let him stay there as long as possible. Eventually Yuma must’ve realized that his friend was feeling a bit left out, so he nudged for them to get closer with a reassuring look.

 

“Do you want to go to Chono Sanagi concert? Yuya’s girlfriend will act as one of the backup singers!” Yuma announced which made Yuya blush brighter than tomato.

“Sh-she’s not my girlfriend!” the red haired boy uttered.

“Well, MY boyfriend will be playing in the band, so sure let’s go!” Thomas smirked while throwing his arm around Michael’s shoulder.

“III, who is that?” Yuma blinked in a confusion, having not seen this person before.

“My brother, Thomas.” Michael mumbled.

“Wait, Thomas? As Thomas Arclight? IV?” Yuya’s eyes gleamed when recognizing a familiar face from Duel Links magazine.

“At your service” Thomas bowed with a grin.

“Can I have your autograph?! I’ve only just started playing Duel Monsters, but I follow your blog!” Yuya shouted while dragging a pen and a notepad out of nowhere.

“I would like one too!” other members of drama club exclaimed, bringing out more pens and pieces of papers.

“Now, now there is more than enough fanservice for everyone.” Thomas acted like he was smitten by all comments.

 

Michael just sighed as Yuma joined the group of fanboys wanting an autograph from his overly charismatic brother.

 

 

...

 

 

“Do you have your cell phone? And your water bottle?” Kaito nervously checked over his little sibling.

“Brother, I’ll be fine.” Haruto smiled in a matter-of-facty.

“That’s right, I’ll make sure of it.” black haired girl smiled while holding a hand of another little boy “The origami workshop shouldn’t take more than an hour.”

“I know Ruri. I trust you, but I can’t help worrying about him all the time.” Kaito leaned against his stand “Make sure to come back right after the activity is over, okay?”

“Right!” Haruto replied in his ever so cheerful tone as he gave his brother a goodbye-hug and went to his classmate.

 

Reira, Ruri’s little brother, shyly outreached his hand that Haruto gladly took and the three of them were off to the origami workshop. Besides volunteering at Kurosaki Shelter for Avian Species, Ruri also led many creative workshops for children. Haruto has witnessed Reira making various origami creations during the school breaks many times and was eager to learn how to do it. Kaito could hardly resist Haruto’s pleading eyes and let him join the workshop. If Chris was there, he’d go with him, but since he was away he gave up and let Haruto be with others for a change.

 

With Chono Sanagi concert about to begin, the majority of visitors were gathering around the stage, leaving almost entire school yard empty. Kaito had stayed up later than usual the night before, getting ready for the festival so he was really craving coffee by now. He was going to get it before, but he didn’t want to leave the stand or Haruto alone while there was a lot of people everywhere. Now it looked like a better time, with not a single visitor around and vending machine just the entrance of the school building. Just in case he left a little “I’ll be right back” note and with a few coins headed towards the machine.

 

Luckily there was still a few cans of coffee left, but what Kaito didn’t expect was a person that seemingly appeared out of thin air, glaring at him like he has just drowned his goldfish.

 

“We meet again... Kaito Tenjo...” the person said with a deep voice in an overly dramatic manner.

“Do I know you?” Kaito asked with zero interest while picking up his can of coffee.

“Do not pretend that you don’t know me!” he barked, stepping right in front of him, facing him directly in the eyes.

“I don’t?” the blond haired boy gave him a confused look as he opened the can “Look, I don’t know what you’re aiming at, but I have to get going.”

“Do not ignore me!” the other person shouted and grabbed Kaito by his shoulders which made him drop his coffee.

 

Watching that much desired coffee spill on the floor make Kaito even sleepier than he was before and dealing with enraged stranger was the last thing he wanted to deal with at the moment. Couldn’t he just have that coffee and stay at the stand until Haruto gets back? According to this weird guy, it was a big fat no for him.

 

“Don’t you really remember anything?! All those years we trained together!? How we won that relay race?! How we aimed for nationals!?” the guy shouted, still holding onto his shoulders “You just left without a single word!”

 

Only now when he was literally face to face with this person and some light coming from the window shone on his face, could Kaito see it more clearly. Long blond hair that was usually in a ponytail, that one streak of hair shaped like a wing and those piercing blue eyes that glared so much on him.

 

“…Mizael?” Kaito muttered in confusion.

“Oh, now you actually know my name?! Were you planning to pretend like you always did?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t play dumb!” Mizael dug his fingers in Kaito’s jacket “You just left! Leaving entire team behind!”

 

Kaito tried to think back, tying to remember just why a former classmate would throw a fit over something that supposedly happened years ago.

 

“What do you mean I just left? I’ve told entire class I’ll be moving to Miami City weeks before.”

“That’s not the point! You stopped talking with everyone! You left me half-assed texts! You even skipped the last few training sessions and never showed up for that tournament!”

 

“Mizael…” Kaito tried to reason with former classmate who just continued to throw raging sentences at him “I thought you were angry with me.”

 

This time Mizael actually stopped and let go of Kaito’s jacket. He didn’t understand what the other teen was trying to say.

 

“When I told everyone that I’m going to move to another city, you just stopped talking to me. I thought you didn’t want to hang out with me anymore so I kept my distance for however long you needed.” Kaito said, thinking about elementary school “And to be honest, I was being distant myself at that time so I didn’t really talk with anyone unless it was school related.”

“Th-then what about the tournament!?” Mizael visibly shook at learning something he believed for years might not be true.

“Haruto was rushed to a hospital a day before.”

 

Mizael gripped his fists, trying to come up with whatever he planned to throw at Kaito’s face. But learning all of this, he simply couldn’t. He was well aware just how much Kaito cared about his little brother and if something like this happened, then he knew his former classmate wouldn’t be the same for days.

 

“Kaito… I-I…”

“It’s alright, that was ages ago.” Kaito went off to pick the dropped coffee can “And I completely understand if you’re still angry with me about it.”

“Not really angry…”

“The whole reason why I moved was because I wanted to be closer to Haruto. His health was declining at the time and the only treatment that could help him out was in Maiami City. I know I could still attend Heartland Academy during his treatment, but I was just so worried that rather decided to switch to a school that was closer to my family in Maiami City.” Kaito threw the can in the recycling bin “It was a hard decision to make and I didn’t want to trouble you or anyone else with my problems. You especially.”

 

Mizael looked at slowly turning Kaito who gave him a sad smile.

 

“I always had hard time talking with people, but you helped me open up and even introduced me to track which I still love. When you started avoiding me I didn’t know how to respond, so I just waited and eventually let it be. I thought you didn’t want me around anymore.”

“Yeah, you were always shit with feelings that’s for sure.”

“Is that the whole reason you came here?”

“Not really… just wanted to give you a piece of my mind.”

“Well, you succeeded in that.” Kaito brought out a wallet looking for some change “Proving I’m still bad at reading people.”

“That you are… but geez… you should’ve at least said something. I thought you got scholarship and got accepted to some elite school. Or that you were avoiding everyone because you were so darn perfect at everything that you felt too important to interact with anyone.”

“And what made you believe that?”

“…rumours….”

“Isn’t that the first thing you taught me not to believe in?”

“…yes…”

 

Kaito chuckled at that.

 

“Hey, don’t make fun of me!” Mizael grumbled but let it go once realizing not much has changed since elementary school. The blond haired teen felt like yelling at something for practically wrapping himself in this mess that was pretty much a result of his own denial. Alito did call him out on it many times, to at least text him or something if he wanted to just clear things out. No, for some reason he believed throwing a tantrum would magically fix everything.

 

“Did you really come all the way from Heartland for this?” Kaito asked, still digging through his wallet for change.

“Yeah… but I came with Alito and Girag…” Mizael mumbled as he reached for his own wallet “Here, let me. It is sort of my fault you dropped your coffee.”

 

Later they were back at Kaito’s stand, sipping on drinks from vending machine. Mizael was still a bit reluctant about being there, but with Kaito and a can of green tea latte he was more relaxed, especially when his former classmate told him more of what was going on with his life.

 

“Here, my phone number and my VRAINS account.” Kaito said when returning Mizael’s phone.

“You play VRAINS?”

“Not that much to be honest, but some of my friends do and they tend to invite me for group missions. You can use an existing Duel Monsters account too, unless you deleted it.”

“I didn’t actually, I still have all dragons we’ve traded back then.” Mizael downed the rest of his drink “I haven’t played it in the last few years… or went back to track to be honest.”

 

Kaito brought out his own phone, scrolling through several websites until he found what he was looking for.

 

“Temple Draghos?” Mizael read under what appeared to be Chinese-looking building.

“It’s a sport and recreational facility with a lot of outdoor running tracks. I go there at least once a week.” Kaito clicked on photos which showed the outside more “It’s right in between Maiami City and Heartland. You can get there by train in less than an hour.”

“Why are you showing me this?” the blond haired teen observed the photos.

“So we can go for runs together again. If that’s what you want, that is.”

 

Mizael was rather lost of what he should say, especially after the whole rant. He didn’t expect for Kaito to be so cool about it which only confirmed that his former classmate just wasn’t that good at reading people and never meant to intentionally hurt him or others. Mizael was still a bit angry but mostly at himself for giving into it too fast. He was going to say something about it when a little voice interrupted his train of thought.

 

“Brother!” a little ruff of cyan hair jumped in Kaito’s arms, happily giggling with an armful of paper crafts “Look! I made all of these myself!”

 

For an eight year old, the origami dragons, birds and flowers surely looked impressive. Kaito always knew Haruto liked to watch and learn, but he never thought he was that good at it.

 

“Ruri isn’t with you?” Kaito asked once he noticed that black haired girl and her little brother weren’t around.

“Oh, they needed more waiters at Cosplay Coffee so she just walked me to the doors!”

“You walked through entire school yard on your own?!” the older Tenjo brother nearly panicked.

“Yeah and it was nice!” Haruto giggled and then turned his head towards Mizael “Are you my brother’s friend?”

“You could say that…” Mizael replied a bit nervously since he still hasn’t properly apologized.

“You look really pretty! Here! To make you even prettier!” the little boy smiled which made the blond haired teen blush bright red as an origami flower was placed on his head.

 

Kaito hardly held himself back from laughing as Haruto continued to put more origami flowers on Mizael, saying how pretty he looked. His former classmate was just utterly dazzled at Haruto decorating his head and couldn’t really stop Kaito’s brother from having fun.

 

“I didn’t know my brother had a girlfriend!” Haruto giggled innocently which made the teen blush in embarrassment even more.

 

“That’s not it, I’m not…” Mizael tried to explain but not before two familiar faces showed up in front of the stand.

 

And one of them just snapped a photo of his flowery head.

 

“Well, I didn’t expect something like this.” Alito chuckled as he snapped more photos and Mizael just wished he could crawl under a rock and die.

 

 

 

 

“The concert is about to start!” Yuya shouted to the group following him “Come on, I know the perfect spot!”

 

Yuma and III along with IV and the rest of drama club followed Yuya’s lead through a crowded area around the stage. A lot of spectators wore Chono Sanagi merchandise like shirts and hats with her logo and all of them barely hid their excitement as the backup singers and members of the band were coming on the stage. Michael instantly recognized Ryoga who was setting his guitar and trying not to murder IV who kept whistling, wishing him luck. Eventually they found a place in the back that was a bit furter away, but it was higher so the stage was easier to see. There were also a few boxes on which they could climb on to see better and III helped Yuma on without a second thought since he was the shortest in the group. The black haired teen blushed slightly when III took his hand and asked him if he was okay since he did notice Yuma growing a bit anxious ever since they got to the concert area.

 

“I-It’s fine…” Yuma stuttered a bit.

“Are you sure? We can still leave if you don’t-“

“I-I really want to see it!” the boy uttered, almost a bit too loud, but fortunately the crowd was louder “I-I’ve n-never been… to a c-concert… before.”

“Hey you might want to have this.” Thomas showed up with two glowing sticks in his arms “I was going to use them to cheer for Sharkie, but he probably won’t like it.”

“Oh I’ve seen those on concert streams.” Michael turned his on “And it’s even in my colour!”

 

Yuma confusedly eyed his before switching the button that made it glow in brilliant crimson colour. Just like the stick, even Yuma’s eyes slowly turned crimson, bringing that fire in them again. Thomas gave his little brother a wink before disappearing who knows where (probably as close to the stage as possible in order to take photos of his boyfriend up close) and Michael knew this was the time when they were supposed to enjoy the most, feeling the energy of everyone there. Just in case he gently took hold of Yuma’s hand which the other boy didn’t mind one bit and even squeezed it in return.

 

All of a sudden the lights turned off which revealed dozens and dozens of glow sticks. Then drums were heard, along with guitars and the sound of keyboard. The stage lights revealed a red haired girl with two pigtails, dressed in a puffy pink dress with a huge yellow heart.

 

“Hello everyone! Thank you for coming!” she greeted, the crowd instantly responding back with loud cheering “Let’s Heart Duel!”

 

Neither Yuma nor Michael ever heard about Chono Sanagi except for the fact that she was popular for creating songs inspired by Duel Monsters. Almost every other sentence in lyrics had to do something with duelling and while it wasn’t really clear if she is a duellist or not, she surely loved to write songs about it. The backup singers nicely added to her angelic voice and even though her songs sounded cutesy and sweet, the rock music of the band was in complete sync with her. Through all this cheering Michael could hear Yuya shout his friend’s name and maybe he even heard his brother’s obnoxious cheering for Ryoga.

 

Not visiting that many concerts, Michael admitted this one was rather enjoyable and even Yuma who seemed to have trouble being around too many people looked like he was having a lot of fun. His crimson eyes were filled with life and his stuttering was nearly non-existent when he shouted the expressions connected to duelling.

 

And as he did, he kept remembering playing Duel Monsters with his dad and how excited he was about every move, even if he was about to lose. How he shouted attacks despite there being no holograms or VR gear to see them. That didn’t matter since his dad always made it look real no matter how impossible it was.

 

The thought of his father nearly made him drop his glow stick, but fortunately Michael was there to catch it for him. For a second Yuma was afraid the anxiety was getting best of him again though his friend only smiled and placed the glow stick back in his hand. He didn’t worry over it at all, showing a complete trust in him to get through the concert.

 

Yuma couldn’t be more grateful for a friend like Michael, a person who could see his pain and still treat him the same. The time he spent with him certainly helped him get through the emptiness he has been feeling ever since he lost his parents. At first he wasn’t really sure why Michael was so determined to help him out, but with time he slowly got to know him. Just like him, the pink haired teen had also felt the same emptiness before and he didn’t want another person to go through it alone.

 

“III…” Yuma mumbled as he slowly looked towards his friend who was happily swinging the glow stick around, just enjoying the melody of the song.

 

Ever since he transferred to Heartland, Michael has been there for him, helping him with studying and keeping him company as much as he could. Even though they talked a lot and spent time together, Yuma still didn’t know that much about Michael. Well he knew all about his interests, his hobbies and what he dreamt of becoming. But deep down he was still clueless about the little things he has been noticing lately.

 

Why would he sometimes be reluctant to hold his hand? Why would he flinch when they were close even though they spent many nights under the blanket together when watching movies? Why would he sometimes just excuse himself and come back like nothing was wrong?

 

Yuma tried asking him many times, but every single time Michael would change topic or got away with yet another excuse. To be fair, Yuma would sometimes do the same thing though not as obviously. He would also avoid hand holding despite needing a little bit of comfort from his friend. Yuma mostly explained it as “getting used to being more independent” and yet it didn’t explain why he still had a need to hold Michael’s hand.

 

Could it be…?

 

He almost dropped the glow stick for the second time, though this time it didn’t slip out of his hand. Still, thinking he might have… no. It couldn’t be, he never had guts for something like that.

 

And yet now he felt like he did.

 

But how? He never been in love with anyone. His family never really gave him the proper talk, well his sister did, saying how romantic partners are a waste of time if they are not contributing to a relationship. Then again Akari was a type of a woman who focuses more on self-reliance than seeking companionship with benefits, so he wasn’t really sure what to take from her advice.

 

Still… with Michael… it just felt right. Like he could go through anything with him by his side.

 

But how could he possibly entrust him his feelings?

 

Heart Duel! Heart Duel!” Chono Sanagi sang, the crowd excitedly repeating the lyrics “I’ve set a Spell Card just for you! I hope I get to show it to you!”

 

Yuma looked towards Michael who was still caught up with the concert.

 

“My heart won’t reach you unless I attack you directly!”

 

That was it! He had an idea.

 

 

 

 

Alito with an armful of Chono Sanagi merchandise again questioned why he even came here. Sure Mizael the Elf Princess was hilarious to see, but still he was bored out of his mind. He checked every single stand by now, spent more than he should on snacks and pretty much gave nearly every activity as try, some even twice. He could go hang with Kaito but he rather not be around Mizael after taking so many photos of him. Well, it will be at least a nice bribe if he will ever need something from him.

 

Girag on the other hand headed straight for the concert, handing him all the merch he bought without a word. He’d gave an arm for his buddy, but even he had to admit that the guy was a bit too enthusiastic when it came to his idols. Girag had dragged him to many concerts before, though Alito would usually just wait somewhere else and perhaps get him all the limited stuff. If anything, the dark haired teen was always up for a competition and there was nothing like running towards the stand that had the last limited item available.

 

Though the pile of posters, shirts, hats and albums with Chono Sanagi’s face plastered everywhere was a serious overkill. At this point a slight imbalance could cause him to drop something and much to his luck this is exactly what happened.

 

A round metal case containing one of the many posters not only landed on the ground but rolled away too.

 

“You come back here!” Alito shouted like he was expecting the thing will magically roll back to him like obedient puppy.

 

With all other stuff he couldn’t really go fast so he kept his eyes on the ground, following the poster like a hawk. Eventually it stopped, hitting against someone’s leg. Whoever it was, they picked it up right away.

 

“Hey, could you please pick it up?” Alito said politely, only for his jaw to hit the ground.

 

Out of however many of people at the school festival, it had to be him.

 

Akihiko stood there in all of his brilliance, the sun shining through his blond and red locks like he was some godly desire wished upon peasants. Well, at least to Alito it looked that way.

 

And he couldn’t found him in more awkward situation.

 

Out of all times he presented himself in his manly image, Akihiko had to see him with a handful of idol merchandise. Not when he got that nice win at the VR battle or when he did all strength based games on the stands. No, it had to be him covered by pink posters and heart shaped junk. That’s probably how Mizael felt with all the flowers on his head and Alito was pretty sure karma was biting him in the ass right now.

 

“Alito?” Akihiko gave him a confused look which made the other teen even more embarrassed.

“Please don’t look… Just give me the poster.” Alito mumbled trying to think of a way to get a hell out of there “So I can lock myself in the basement and swallow the key.”

“This is your friend’s, right?” the teen handed it back with a smile “I saw you carrying them for him.”

“You… did?” the dark haired teen gave him a confused look.

“Yeah, I’ve been seeing you with him the whole day.” the teen smiled “Do you like the festival?”

“It’s cool I guess…” Alito tried his best to hide his blushes.

“You’re bored out of your mind aren’t you?” Akihiko laughed while patting the other teen’s shoulder.

“…Yeah…”

“Thought so, you never really were the kind of a guy for festivities other than competitions.”

“But how do you know all this?” the dark haired teen’s got confused “We’ve barely talked.”

“Oh, but when we did, I got to know you enough.” Akihiko playfully fixed Alito’s lock off his blushing cheeks “I’ve missed you, you know.”

 

Alito was practically in trance seeing the senior student so close to him and actually touching him. How was this happening? There was no way Akihiko was actually interested in him. No, his grades were barely average, his social skills were questionable and despite being a captain of kendo club, his athletic skills weren’t enough to impress someone like Akihiko. No, Alito wouldn’t be good enough for him, his senpai deserved only the best.

 

“And why would you think like that?”

 

Alito quickly shut his mouth, not even being aware that he was mumbling. Darn, was he really mumbling now as well? Great, perfect just perfect. His crush finally got where he wanted him to be and he was going through one nonsense after another. Come on, focus you manly bastard, Alito screamed at himself from the inside.

 

“Why me?” the dark haired teen looked up “There are so many better options than me.”

“Oh, I bet they are.” Akihiko gently ruffled Alito’s locks “But they are not you. They are not even close to the almighty gladiator champion.”

“Wait… YOU ACTUALLY SAW THAT?!” Alito nearly dropped everything, hoping at least something went according to the plan.

“You bet I did. You’re not captain of kendo club for nothing.” his senpai grinned, even digging his phone out to show him all the photos he took of him during the VR sword battle “I wanted to congratulate you, but just then a classmate of mine called me for something important and by the time we were done talking, you were gone.”

At this point, Alito couldn’t believe it, slipping down on the nearest bench and trying to sort his thoughts out. He couldn’t even hold all the merch anymore and just set it aside so he could cover up his terribly blushing face. However, Akihiko being his princely self, took a seat next to him and patiently waited until his kohai calmed down.

 

“All those years… you really thought of me this way?” Alito uttered, to which the other teen only gently wrapped his arm around his shoulder.

“Well, yeah. Tried telling you that for a while, but you always got away in some way or another.”

“T-that’s b-because I-I didn’t want to ruin your reputation!” the dark haired teen uttered, too embarrassed of his memories “You were perfect in any way possible… I was just a blockhead who got in trouble on a daily basis.”

“A handsome blockhead that is.” Akihiko slowly got on Alito’s level, his eyes meeting with the ones of the other teen “Alito… you are so much more than you think. You’re honest, loyal and you’re so free-spirited. Not many are capable of such positive traits and you live by them every single day. Believe me, I know. Girag made sure to inform me.”

“Girag?”

“Yeah, you gotta give it to your friend. Before I switched schools, I never got to ask you for your phone number so I was looking for other ways to contact you. By coincidence I met your friend at animal sanctuary where I volunteered when he came to help with orphaned tanukis. He was reluctant to tell me about you at first, but eventually he told me more about you.”

 

Well that would explain all the hints Girag was giving him for the last few weeks. And like Akihiko wasn’t perfect enough, he was also volunteering at animal sanctuary? Was there anything this guy wasn’t capable of?!

 

“If it makes you feel better, I suck at playing harmonica.” the older teen chuckled as a response to another set of mumbling.

“But still, I’m not good enough for you… I’ll ruin it before-“

“Alito.” Akihiko suddenly cupped his face, the lips only inches away from his own “It’s alright.”

“I-I don’t think we should… what about…”

“I don’t care what others think, you are the one I love.”

“B-but… what if you lose your student council president title? What if they kick you out of your teams? What if you lose scholarship for that university? What if I’ll ruin your image? What if-“

 

Akihiko gently placed a finger on his mouth, instantly making him shut up.

 

“Even if I do, I don’t care. It just means I’ll have to work that much harder to change the world we live in.” the older teen gently caressed Alito’s rough lips “And the only world I want is where I can be with you.”

 

Alito couldn’t prepare himself for the moment when Akihiko’s soft lips touched his own, sending him in utter bliss. No fantasy came even close to what he was feeling right then and there. He never got kissed before, but he witnessed many couples kissing and he could only imagine how it must’ve felt. What it actually was didn’t come even close.

 

Akihiko’s hand gently stroke Alito’s messy curls as the other one kept him in a warm embrace. He really did love his little gladiator and this time he wanted to really prove to him that he cared about him and that he was ready for commitment Alito was so afraid of.

 

Once the kissing stopped, Alito couldn’t help but dig his face in Akihiko’s shirt, tears streaming down his face. He remembered all about the first year he transferred to that school in Heartland. Like the fact that he was new was not enough, he was the only kid besides Girag whose skin was tanned since he was originally from Spartan City that was located far south. Luckily Girag took him under his wing, introducing him to Kaito and Mizael who didn’t care about his appearance and the four of them ignored the judging looks with their love for track. But then he met Akihiko, the true prince of that school. The moment he saw him, he knew he was in love, but unlike the number of fangirls that would follow Akihiko literally anywhere, Alito knew he had to express it properly.

 

So he left small hints and messages, wanting to make it as unique as possible. It had to look genuine, not copy-pasted from the internet. Girag tried to get him to talk with Akihiko, Alito however insisted that he has to make a good impression on him first and that’s exactly what he did. He joined more sports, breaking records and taking part in contests. He could see Akihiko was impressed when watching him, so he kept going. As long as he could see those brilliant blue eyes watching him, it was enough for Alito. He knew well he was far below his level and he couldn’t possibly ever be with him. This was made clearer when Alito started seeing his things going missing or getting mysteriously damaged. All of his friends insisted that he should report it, but Alito brushed it off as not much of a big deal.

 

And yet deep down, he knew. He knew almost entire school despised him for trying to get noticed by Akihiko. The girls were jealous while the guys didn’t want him to outshine the prince of the school. Alito tried to ignore it, but every year it was harder since the bullies dared more until they finally snapped. It was one thing for some nobody from Spartan City to break a few school records and participate in competitions, but him being picked as the captain of kendo club instead of the perfect Akihiko? And Akihiko being fine with it and even personally passing him that title? Now that was going too far!

 

Alito didn’t know how serious it was until a group of unknown teens surrounded him on his way home from school and beat him up until he passed out. Fortunately, Girag found him and took him to hospital for numerous fractures, broken ribs and heavy bruising. Alito couldn’t see their faces, so he didn’t report it, but once he got back to school and found his locker literally overflowing with papers, he knew exactly who did it.

 

Go back to Spartan City!

 

We don’t want you here!

 

Stay the hell away from him, you f*t!

 

The only reason Alito remained the captain of the kendo club was because the majority of members were relatively young and didn’t care about who he was. And the fact that Akihiko switched schools for family reasons soon after the incident. Alito would still get hate, but there was less of it each passing day. Girag urged him to report it to principal, to school board, to anyone who could put those guys in their place. But Alito didn’t since he knew well all the guys were either members of important sports teams or had parents on high places. He just let it be and gradually he stopped thinking about Akihiko. He didn’t bother to try to find out to which school he went, find him on social media or get his number. Well, that is until Girag told him he went to Maiami Middle School before dragging him to school festival.

 

Alito didn’t care of Akihiko would return his feelings or not, he just wanted him to watch one more time.

 

And that he did.

 

The fact that he was in his arms, bawling his eyes out like the biggest baby while Akihiko patiently rubbed his back was still so unreal to him.

 

“It’s alright, it’s alright. No one is here now.” Akihiko’s voice sounded so heavenly, just like an angel “No one can hurt you now.”

“Y-you… knew?” Alito sobbed.

“I did, but I couldn’t do much. School board just didn’t care.” the older teen gripped his fists “Others did even less and I knew the only way for them to leave you alone was to get away from there.”

“You didn’t….” the younger teen gulped down at the realization “You switched schools because of me?!”

“And I don’t regret it one bit.” Akihiko embraced him even tighter just to prove his point “That school had way too many issues anyway. I just didn’t want you to give up on it.”

“But what about you?”

“I’ve gathered enough credits to be enrolled in any high school I want the next year. It doesn’t matter where I study as long as you’re safe.”

 

Alito couldn’t help but bury his face in Akihiko’s shirt again. All he ever wanted was for his senpai to just notice him and not only he got noticed, he got embraced by his wings of protection.

 

Now he was definitely convinced that coming here was not a waste of time and once his tears finally dried, he got the courage to give his angelic prince a return kiss.

 

 

….

 

 

“I’m sure it was here…” Yuma looked around in confusion, trying hard to convince himself that he wasn’t lost.

 

After excusing himself to Michael, assuring him he will give him a call as soon as he will be done with checking a particular stand, Yuma ventured through practically empty school yard since the majority of visitors were either at the concert or were already heading home. It was like a ghost town and despite feeling anxious in the crowd, the complete isolation wasn’t that much better. The black haired nearly reached for the phone to call Michael when he accidently bumped into someone.

 

“Hey careful!” the teen around his age struggled to keep the balance while carrying three boxes on top of each other.

“I’m sorry!” Yuma quickly apologized “I was sorta lost.”

“Yeah, you kinda looked like it.” the teen’s head peeked from behind the boxes, giving him a goofy smile.

“It’s you!” the younger teen exclaimed when recognizing the face “Actually no, Yuya was still at the concert when I left… Yuto right? Eh no, Yuri?”

 

The blue haired teen was obviously annoyed by the last name, but kept his piling rage in check.

 

“Yugo.”

“Fus-?”

“Don’t you dare say it!” Yugo seemed like he was about to shout, though he muffled it out in the last second so it just sounded like gibbered noise

“Okay…” Yuma winced, not sure what say.

“Anyway, what are you looking for?”

“Oh, you see…”

 

Five minutes later they were at the stand Yuma visited with Michael previously. It looked like it was partially closed due to lack of people, but the part he needed still seemed to be open. Yugo was actually headed there as well, though only to drop a few things before getting back to his own stand. From what he’s seen, a vast majority of people at the stands took a short lunch break and Yuma surely hoped he won’t be interrupting anything.

 

Much to his luck, he found the person at the separate desk, munching on honey covered crackers while talking to someone on the phone.

 

“Eh… e-excuse me…” Yuma said rather quietly as he wasn’t sure if it was the right time.

 

Contrary to his believe the person responded immediately, turning to Yuma right then and there.

 

“Sorry, dad I gotta go, I have a costumer. Say hi to Johan.” the teen with a beanie stuffed the rest of the cracker in his mouth before turning to Yuma “Hello, how can I help you?”

“For custom Duel Monsters cards… how does it work?” the younger teen asked shyly.

“Just come over here.”

 

Yuma gave the older teen a confused look that quickly turned into a surprised one when he saw the biggest tablet ever. His sister got quite a lot of monitors for her job, but this tablet was at least twice the size of his sister’s average monitor.

 

“Here this is how it works.” the teen smiled as he turned it on, huge white canvas showing up along with drawing tools “You can choose pre-existing monsters, classic bases or just tell me what you have in mind and I will do my best to sketch it for you.”

 

For the next ten minutes Yuma’s eyes were glued to the swift movements of stylus pen held by a teen who introduce himself as Olmi Yuuki. When he and Michael visited the stand before Smile Universe, he couldn’t remember where he heard Yuuki Designs. Now seeing some exhibited works it finally clicked. The company wasn’t only in charge of Duel Monsters and many other card based games and graphic designs in general, but also produced a lot of superhero comics. In fact he owned an entire collection of ESPer Robin comic books which was also created by someone whose surname ended with Yuuki, though unlike Elemental Heroes, Neo Space Squad and Gem Beast Knight, it wasn’t by Judai Yuuki but… this guy apparently.

 

“Did you create ESPer Robin?” Yuma blurted out, too curious to care.

“Yeah…” Olmi slightly blushed “I kinda wanted to follow my dad’s footsteps.”

“Wait…. your dad?! As in Judai Yuuki?!” the younger teen’s jaw nearly hit the floor “Wow… I didn’t know…”

“I was adopted actually.” Olmi smiled as he continued to sketch out Yuma’s commission “But he is my dad regardless.”

 

The mention of the word dad brought Yuma more memories of times he spent with his own father, especially when playing Duel Monsters. He was never really good at it, but his father urged him to never give up and the fact that he actually stopped playing the game kinda felt like he broke that promise. Still, he was trying to change now and he’ll go back to the game with brand new personalised deck.

 

“Is this okay?” Olmi brought Yuma back from his thoughts when showing him all the sketches.

 

Yuma was rather impressed that Olmi was done so fast and with not only one but several sketches. He went off to choose the stats, archetypes, colours and all other technical stuff, until he noticed the time and realized he has been away for nearly an hour. A single look at his phone let him know that Michael tried calling him at least five times and sent him a dozen texts. Yuma quickly filled out the form for where the cards should be sent once they will be done and paid before rushing back towards the concert area. About halfway there he regretted not asking Olmi for an autograph though he was sure there will be another chance and letting Michael know that he was okay was the priority right now.

 

At last he finally got back to the concert area from which the music was still heard.

 

And right there was Michael running towards him the second he saw him. The pink haired teen looked drained and out of breath as his hand was gripping his cell phone. But the moment he got to Yuma he threw his arms around him, pressing him close to his chest.

 

“I know you said you’ll be okay, but when you didn’t pick up I just got so worried…”

 

Yuma honestly found Michael’s mother-hen mannerism comforting so he let him be kept in his arms for a while. Only his mom would give him such hugs, the ones where he felt like the most protected being on the planet. The music coming from the concert might’ve been loud, but through all of it he still heard Michael’s heartbeat. A simple bumping sound that was like a lullaby.

 

“Yuma… are you alright?” Michael gently stroke the back of Yuma’s head. His friend looked both tired and relaxed at the same time so he couldn’t really tell what was going on.

“Yeah… just a bit dizzy.” Yuma smiled as he nuzzled against his friend’s jacket “Say… could we go eat something? Or drink? Or just sit down somewhere? I don’t feel like going to the concert…”

“Of course we can.”

 

It didn’t take them long before they found a small crepe stand and a bench next to the vending machine. Yuma apologized for all the trouble, saying how he got lost and then got distracted though Michael didn’t really care as long as he was safe and sound. The two of them eagerly wolfed down ice cream covered crepes along with bottled ice tea from the vending machine until they got approached by drama club who again thanked them for checking their show and said goodbye as they needed get back to their stand. Yuma and Yuya also exchanged social media info since Yuma was eager to see another Smile Universe.

 

With more people gradually coming from the concert, the duo decided to check some more stands before it would get crowded again. Though the more stands they checked, more tired Yuma was feeling. He wasn’t sure why he was so tired as he would usually be either too excited or too anxious at such events and he hardly walked by the time they found Kaito’s stand again.

 

Luckily, Kaito had enough chairs for them for which Yuma was grateful and the second he got one, he curled up and took a nap, putting his head on Michaels’s lap next to him. The pink haired teen was a bit surprised when he found Yuma sleeping so peacefully out in the open and yet he treasured it since he got to be with the black haired teen this close. Kaito was busy explaining something about his stand to visitors while Haruto was teaching Mizael how to make origami dragon. Other than that not much was going on and if it were just for the two of them, Michael would call it a successful date.

 

True there was no confessing or kissing and by now Michael knew it didn’t matter as much as he thought it would. There was no rush and certainly no need to force it, especially with how much calmer he felt around Yuma now. The whole romantic thing could freely wait because the sheer feeling of it was just right.

 

Michael would take a nap himself if the vibrations of his phone wouldn’t keep him in the world of living. It was Yuma’s sister, letting them know she was done with the seminar and she can come to pick them up soon unless they wish to stay longer. With the two of them literally camping out on chairs, Michael could confirm they both had enough for the day, so he said goodbye to Kaito, Haruto and another friend by the name of Mizael who gave him a goodbye nod. Waking up Yuma turned out to be mission impossible so the only option left was to carry him. It wasn’t much of a big deal since despite all the food he would eat, Yuma was surprisingly slim and light to carry on his back.

 

Akari wasn’t that dazzled when Michael showed up with sleeping Yuma and just helped him get in the car, gently setting the safely belt around his body. The pink haired teen politely asked how the journalist seminar went to make a small talk during the drive home. The older Tsukumo sibling grumbled something about half of journalists not being journalists but just Jack Atlas fans in disguise since the person who hosted the seminar was his wife. Other than that she enjoyed it and even considered getting camera to add some of her own photos to the articles. Michael again thanked her for the ride before falling asleep as well.

 

Akari couldn’t help but keep glancing at the rear-view mirror, seeing her little brother’s head resting on Michael’s shoulder. She could remember the times when Yuma was younger and he was always peacefully sleeping on the long rides, but only if his mother was next to him. Many times she was annoyed how cuddled Yuma was and was convinced he would never learn how to handle being without his parents. But ever since this sweet Michael kid started coming to their house, it was like Yuma’s own guardian descended from heavens. Yuma no longer lurked in his attic room, he got back to eating normally and he even improved his grades. This way Akari could focus on her work, providing for her remaining family without a worry.  

 

She couldn’t stop thanking him in her heart and deep down she also knew.

 

Knew that their bond was much more than just friends.