Chapter 1: 0 - monochrome
quiet apologies and silent goodbyes were coming from his mouth, but something about them seems so empty.
no, something about the world seemed empty, and he couldn't figure out what.
warning for blood! this is just a prologue, so if you can just skip to the next chapter if your sensitive.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There was only one day where Matsuno Choromatsu sincerely thought the world was empty of its color.
That day was when his father had his funeral.
It was a cloudy day where he could hear nothing but the sound of downpour and the sobs of their mother. From the corner of his eye, he could see Osomatsu comforting his wailng mother silently, hugging her with all his might. Karamatsu held Todomatsu beside them, the youngest tears a constant waterfall. Ichimatsu and Jyshimatsu sat behind him, The fifth brother's long sleeves covering his face as if to hide his sadness. The fourth youngest was dried faced, his eyes gazing somewhere far off.
As insincere as it was, he couldn't focus on his grieving mother or brothers. His eyes always shift to the big picture of his father smiling adjoining his seemingly empty casket. No matter how many times he hears the words or hears the cries, he couldn't believe that their father was dead. Choro doesn't understand, he couldn't possibly be dead. He worked harder than this before, so why is he here?
It's his fault.
If Choro just worked harder to get a job, then Matsuzo wouldn't be dead. If he just saved his money for taxes instead of spending it on idol magazine and figurines, he wouldn't be here. He was supposed to be the responsible brother, why couldn't take that one step away from NEEThood? Why did he miss being a useless piece of society?
"I'm sorry, dad," he whispers, crumbling onto himself. "I'm so sorry."
It's not like his pleading will make Matsuzo come back. It's not like it will do anything but to assure him that somewhere, somehow, he'll forgive him.
A hand on his shoulder made him look up to see the fourth brother looking at him. His face seemed expressionless as normal, but he could see the worry in his eyes.
"I'm fine, " Choro mouths, flushing slightly. It was embarrassing that he had heard his apologies. It wasn't like the two didn't go along, but the air was often awkward between them. He also didn't want anyone to pity him for his mistakes. He knows it's his own fault, he knows the consequences.
The funeral went by fast for the third eldest. Their mother and Osomatsu had gone to get his body cremated. The others were offered but didn't go. They didn't want to see their father in that state.
The home seemed empty as each brother went their separate ways. There was no noise in the usually chaotic Matsuno house but Choromatsu's thoughts had gotten louder. Guilt ran through his body like blood and he couldn't take it anymore.
Rummaging through the closet, he found an idle box cutter lying on the floor. After a moment's hesitation, he picks it up. He needs to atone from his mistakes, his failures.
Slowly, his world became red. His heart raced, eyes darting if anyone could see his fragile state. Oh God, oh God no. They're piling up. He needs it. He needs release.
Quickly slipping into the bathroom and locking the door, he rolled up his sleeves. He hesitated, biting his lip until he could taste crimson.
No, Choromatsu, you need to do this. You killed your father. This is your punishment.
Not thinking twice, he slides the box cutter across his wrist, making a small cut. He jumps, tears forming in his eyes. It hurt like hell.
But as the droplets of blood dripped from the wound, he felt better. He had atoned from a mistake and was free from its clutches. The guilt he had been fighting off falters.
It wasn't enough.
He drew blood again. Again. Again. Every job interview he failed. Every workplace he got turned down from. Every time he was told he 'wasn't the right fit'. Every time he was useless.
He did it until his left arm was covered with his own claret.
It was only when he dropped the box cutter and looked at what he'd done. The lines sickly with blood and regret stared at him unforgivingly.
What was he doing to himself?
Today was the first time since Matsuzo died in the hospital that he cried. Sobs racked his body as he sank to the floor. His father just died and this is what he's doing? The all so responsible child, self harming!?
And as the this monochromatic world fades from red, Choromatsu wonders if the earth will ever regain its colors.
oso gives the best bear hugs, fight me
Chapter 2: 1 - black
the boy was too tired to learn, to care. he didn't mind the emptiness in his heart.
it'll go away, he says.
it'll go away, he lies.
Choromatsu doesn't like darkness.
He doesn't like the way he chokes from it's strangling. He doesn't like the way it looms over his shoulders, an invisible but painful weight. He doesn't like the way it blinds him from the rest of the colors like dark-tinted sunglasses. He despises darkness, he hates it, but he's too tired to chase it away.
Hell, how is he supposed to, anyway? His father just died.
It's been weeks since his father's funeral. He doesn't know how many, nor does he cares. He only notes the out of body feeling he feels during those weeks. It was like when Matzuno died, a piece of him died right alongside him. He only had mild awareness of the world as a whole.
It wasn't like he needed any awareness. His schedule now was shorter and more pitiful than it previously had been. Wake up, fight the lack of motivation to get out of bed, lament his failures till he couldn't take it anymore, release his woes in the form of a boxcutter to escape the monochromatic red world, avoid the overwhelming guilt with light novels and idol magazines, try and miserably fail to fall asleep, the cycle repeats. And even if something significant happened, he'll vaguely remember it. Like that one time, he finally got a job that was close to home. Instead of being excited he just accepted it. It wasn't like him and everyone noticed. Mainly Osomatsu or Karamatsu talked to him, though the youngest two share their concerns from time to time too.
Ichimatsu was often gone, assumingly feeding cats in an alleyway.
The conversations always finished with him insisting he was fine. "It was just the mourning process," he lies. "It'll pass soon." In reality, he doesn't know if he would get better.
Oh, speaking of his job, was his first job tomorrow?
Ah, yes it was. Wait, did Choro forget his job?! Is he that scum?! He silently sighs, knowing the fury of self-hatred he had coming his way. Though, the resentment never came. The anxiety did.
He found himself thinking about his boss? Were they nice? Will them let him off with little mistakes? It's not like he lets himself off with them, so why would his higher up? What about his colleagues? Will he be able to make friends with them? Will he be miserable, missing the NEET lifestyle like last time. The letter immediately comes to mind and he as quickly dismissed it. No, it wouldn't be like that. He wouldn't let it become like that, he swears.
But, the anxiety won't bubble down. And as each question, each damn problem made its way to his conscience, the itch in his arms flared. He forced his eyes closed, surrounded by the blackness he hated. But the dark was a saint compared to red. Red was worse, oh so fucking worse. He loathed it, but he was dependent on crimson like a drug.
So Choro laid with his eyes closed, waiting for red to go the fuck away when he finally wonders if being in this gray monochrome is better then being in the red one. Black and white are cool, calm colors. They're closed, quiet, safe shades. Sure, they're dull and suffocating at times, but they're better than red. They're better than vibrant and chaotic and overwhelming and hurt.
Finally welcoming the easiness of sleep on his mind, he drifts off to the night with that final thought.
"Oi, Fappymatsu. Wake up so I can put the futon away."
Choro eyes opened slowly to first gaze up to the bare ceiling, then to the window to his right bright as day, then finally to Ichimatsu waiting to roll up the futon to his left. He blinked before realizing that he had something to do today too, excepting lazing around at home.
He yawned, sitting up before facing the fourth brother. "Aha, sorry about that. What's the time again?"
"7:30," he said, the usual tired expression on his face. Choro jumps in surprise, the tiredness evaporating from his body.
"Eh?! Really? Why didn't you wake me up sooner!" He jumps out of the futon, rummaging through the closet to find something decent enough to wear on his first day. Ichimatsu rolls his eyes in response.
"I dunno, wake up yourself," he tsks. "Anyways you better hurry up, or else the others will eat your food. You know how they get. I'll be leaving now, probably come home late too."
Choro stops in his haste to desperately pull off his pajamas. "Hey! Wait, Wait! That means I'll have to roll up the--!"
The door closed. Choro looked at the closed door in worry before sighing.
Why would Ichimatsu come to roll up the futon if he was going to make him do it anyway? Weird.
Choro resumed putting on his clothes and rolling up the futon. He almost slipped down the stairs in his haste. Though, he made it down safely only to realize downstairs was a mess.
Todomatsu and Ichimatsu were already gone, while Jyshimatsu was preparing to leave, lifting his bat to his shoulders. Jyshimatsu had landed a job of tutoring children about baseball in a school dedicated to it. He doesn't know how he had it or why it even existed in this part of town, but he had a job.
Jyshimatsu was the first one to notice the third brother, his brown eyes sparkling with delight. "Choromatsu-niisan!"
Choro smiled awkwardly as the energetic brother ran up to him. He still wasn't fully awake yet, and the voice of the fifth brother was always particularly loud.
"You're going to earn a home run today, Nii-san! Hustle Hulse, Muscle Muscle!"
Jyshimatsu didn't usually do this either. What was going on?...
Wait, ah, were they worried?
Of course, they were, Choro! Didn't you listen to their worries?
Guilt swirled in his heart. He made another mistake again. He didn't mean to, he reasons within himself. He's sorry! But the red doesn't forgive, oh no no nO NO NO, not here, not in front of Jyshimatsu.
"Nii-san?" Jyshi was staring at him. His mouth was closed, but he was still smiling.
He's still smiling, it still counts.
Choro realized he was staring at the floor this whole time, and looked back up at the fifth brother in embarrassment, scarlet flushing his cheeks. He hated it.
"Ah, sorry about that! I guess I'm still a bit tired," he lied. Jyshimatsu innocently believed in him.
"Really? Do you want to sleep in today?"
Choro snorted. "I have work I can't exactly sleep in."
"Oh," he laughed. "I forgot!" Choro forced a chuckle it's way out of his throat also. "You can nap when you get home though. I could get all the blankets so you won't be cold and I could even be there so you won't get lonely! It'll be fun!"
Choro seemed to consider this. "I'll think about it."
"Jyshi," their mother suddenly yelled from the kitchen. "You're going to be late!"
"Oh, you're right! Gotta hustle hustle!" Studying Choro one last time, he ran out of the house, chanting his signature catchphrase the entire way.
He sighs before walking over to the table, scooting next to Osomatsu and Karamatsu. The former was agitated which wasn't all that uncommon anymore. He hates his job, no, he hates having a job, but the only reason why he still has it because they have to help their mother.
In contrast, Karamatsu was in high spirits. "Hello brother! How are you on this astonishing daybreak?"
"Fine, fine," he mutters, ignoring the wave of cringe going down his spine. He has better things to focus on, like the fact if he doesn't scoff down his food in two seconds he'll be late on his first day. Kara seemed to get the point, smiling politely before turning to Osomatsu.
"Did you forget we also have work? I applaud Choro's diligently to be able to get at least a little bit of breakfast before facing the unforgiving drag of work hours. He must have endurance and spirit to claw his way through of this eight-hour hell. I believe you too must practice his skill of--!"
"What are you, a mother hen?" Osomatsu jokingly questioned. Despite Kara's painfulness, Choro gets why he was worried. He had dark gray bags underneath his normally mischevious eyes. Much like Ichimatsu's, his hair was scruffy and untidy. The eldest was tired, they all could see, but he continued. "Should we start calling you Mothermatsu from now on?"
Kara immediately paled, waving his hands. "No thanks, brother. I would leave the nicknaming to Choromatsu only."
"Why only me?!"
Oso chuckled, laughing at Choro's pain. From the corner of his eye, he could see Kara's smile turn from awkward to genuine as he laughed along with the eldest. Seeing it made Choro smile despite himself, his mood lifting a tiny bit.
It plummeted again seeing the clock.
He instantly pushed himself from the table, scrambling to stand up. He saw the two elders eye each other, but they kept silent about whatever they were thinking. Rushing, Choro couldn't give a damn.
"Leaving Choromatsu?" Matsuyo's voice rang from the kitchen. He stopped in the room muttering positive confirmation he planted a haste kiss on his mother's cheek. She frowned upon seeing him. "You sure you're okay to work? You can take the day off if you're still mourning."
Choro stopped in his tracks. What gave him off? Was it the bags hanging on his eyes despite his thorough washing? Or was it his overall mood? He knows he wasn't ready, but that wasn't anyone's problem but his. He's supposed to be the responsible brother among the sextuplets, of course, he can handle one day not feeling the greatest.
"I'm fine," he forced out of pursed lips and a heavy heart. His mother sighed.
'Very well, I can't force you. Please don't overwork yourself."
Resuming his brisk running, he got his jacket and opened the door. He gazed at his house, his old life, one last time. Maybe, this time, he'll finally get things right.
Locking the door behind him, he ran.
Work was uneventful for the most part. His boss and co-workers were all nice to him which fortunately lifted his anxieties. Unfortunately, spending almost the entire day exhausting that anxiety only to have it lifted made him drained.
Lifting himself off the sidewalk, he looked around the neighborhood. He didn't recognize any of it. The town was somewhat familiar to him. He barley recognizes that this is the town that Karamatsu and Todomatsu drags him here to fish sometimes. Though he never ventured further that spot. The houses and storefronts were strangers to him.
He panicked. Checking the street name only further worried him. He was super far from the bus stop! He guessed he missed his station while walking and wandered until he was here. God, and it didn't help that he doesn't have a phone either. What was he going to do? What was he going to do!?
No the answer is simple! He reassured himself, wiping the fresh sweat pricking on his forehead. He only has to retrace his steps! That almost always works! Deep breaths, Choro, you'll be back home in no time. Turning, he walked the exact way he came.
Twenty minutes came and went with no realization of where he was. He groans, pulling his hair. He must've turned somewhere! Now he was more lost than before. God dammit Choro!
Giving up, he silently put his hands on his face. He was going to die here! Goodbye the joy of Nyaa-Chan concerts and light novels. So long the hopes of being the reliable brother. Damn it Choro, damn it! Why--!
He looks from his hands to see a woman staring at him worryingly. The girl had light brown hair tied up in a simple crown twist braid. She wore navy overalls despite the cold weather, but he assumed she was only coming outside temporarily hinted by the open door. He felt like he had saw her somewhere before. Or was it that he met her sister before, cousin perhaps? Though he didn't have time to ponder on that fact as his face flushed heavily. The woman was older than him, but that doesn't change the fact that he sputtered for an answer. The lady didn't wait for one.
"Hey, you look tired. May I treat you for some tea?"
Choro blanked, the flush from earlier steadily creeping on his face. He didn't want to embarrass himself, but he knew he was going to lose his mind walking in the cold. He honestly didn't know how Ichimatsu does it hours at a time.
"U-Uhm... sure. T-Thank you."
It was going to be only for a few moments. Choro was only getting a drink, find directions, and leave. That was all.
That was all.
"Really. You didn't have to do this," Choromatsu says sipping his drink. The tea immediately warmed his body and relieved his anxious thoughts, making him sigh deeply. Opening his eyes from relishing his drink, he bows slightly to her. "Thank you so much. I don't know how to repay you."
The woman sat across the table from him, also enjoying her tea. The two were drinking in her seemingly empty living room, excepting some posters and supplies lying around. She cleaned them up herself, rejecting Choro's help, saying she didn't expect visitors today.
"You don't have to repay me," the nice lady said. "I needed a break anyway."
Choro remembered the posters and other supplies in the living room earlier. He notices they were promoting a class of some sort. Does she work in advertising herself? But that doesn't explain her storefront...
"Um, what do you do?" He asked, fidgeting. Luckily, the woman didn't take any offense for the question, her eyes lighting up.
"I'm glad you asked! I just recently brought this storefront to start up teaching painting classes. I was posting posters around town this week to advertise!" She pulls out a flyer from her pocket and hands it to him. He reads it after taking a sip of his tea.
It was a colorful poster with a piece of brief information on what the classes are and the three stages she taught. The courses- a beginner, intermediate, and advanced- are held on different days, and each program held two days per week.
He looks at the price and frowns. He can feel the business expert of him egg him on. He means, how could it not? One, there was only one price for each class, and second, it was so low. It was to the point in which Choro blinked to see if it was real. He looks back up to the woman, concerned, but she laughs it off.
"I have another job if you're worried about the price," she says, waving him off. "It's a high paying job, so I don't need to worry about income from this one. Japan hardly has jobs for artists like me available, so it isn't this strange seeing low prices for pieces or classes like these."
"I-I see." He puts down the flyer, his fight dying in thin air. Though, her response raised some questions. "Why even do classes then?"
It seemed like an ingenuine question, at least in Choro's head. But he couldn't stop himself from asking. If he had a stable job he liked that could pay the bills, he wouldn't set out to do another one. He would probably go to cafes, help his mother, or even hang out with his idiot brothers a little bit more. But, to do it again right after the first one, dealing with the exhaustion and the stress, he couldn't do it.
Probably because he's a NEET, but even he saw his parents complaining about their jobs from time to time.
He saw his father complaining about his job from time to time.
Glancing up and seeing her silent, he gets ready to apologize profusely. Though, he stops when he sees her smile.
"I want to make people happy," she says, her voice quieter. "I remember being young and learning art for the first time, that euphoria. Now that I'm older with more free time, I can share that feeling with others. And, maybe, I could feel that same euphoria again too."
The room fell quiet once more as the only sounds heard was the wind gently blowing from outside. Choro never thought of it like that before. He had hobbies like idols and reading light novels, but they were nothing he could share to make people happy.
His eyes gazed at the abandoned flyer before the woman spoke again.
"What about you? Do you have a job?"
"It's my first day at one, actually," he says, awkwardly pulling at his tie. "An office job."
"Ah, office jobs are always exhausting at first. Your situation suddenly makes more sense."
Choro groans, his fatigue running him over at its mention. "Is it always like this?"
The woman laughs. "Mostly, but you'll get used to it."
He stayed for a while longer, sipping tea and talking about themselves. Choro learned that the lady was a mother of two, her children thirteen and nine. He quickly realized they were the cutest things ever seeing her photo album while she happily agreed.
This led to Choro sharing that he was a sextuplet much to his distaste. She was, unsurprisingly, shocked. She never thought there would be something as astonishing as sextuplets in this part of Tokyo. She wants to meet them all someday which Choro tried his hardest not to laugh at. Honestly, meeting them all is like meeting with the fucking devil.
It was when his teacup was empty and the sun had started gone down when he got up to leave. He knows how Osomatsu is, and surely his protectiveness had gone up after the ...well he knows. The woman mimics his actions, getting up and gathering the cups.
"I didn't believe we'll talk this long," she sighs, stretching. "I hope the walk home tonight won't bother you."
"No, it's okay! I'm sure I'll find my way."
"Oh, did you mention being lost? I think I have a map somewhere."
After putting the teacups in the kitchen, she rummaged through her closet and came out victorious with a map. It showed the different streets and places of this part of town, and Choro found his bus stop easily. It was luckily not far from here, but he couldn't have found it without it.
"Thank you so much..."
"Fujita Haichia, but you can just call me Haicha. Again, it isn't a problem. I enjoyed myself."
"Matsuno Choromatsu. You can call me Choro as well. I enjoyed myself too! I hope we meet again."
"I'm pretty sure we will, Choro-san," she says with a mischievous smile, handing him the map. "I hope you have a good night!"
"I hope you do too, Haicha-san!"
As they parted ways, Choromatsu wondered what she could've meant about meeting again. Though, before he could've made any guesses, he noticed a flyer underneath the map he was holding.
A smile tugged at his lips as he looked at it, a smile he hadn't worn in god knows how long.
Maybe things are already fixing themselves.
Chapter 3: 2 - gray
though change is always moving. constantly shifting, adapting. he didn't know when it started to affect him until he ran from safety and into uncertainty.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
He's making a mistake. He knows he is making one. Just by the anxious thoughts racing, he knows. And yet he has no reasons to stay.
Its close, doesn't cost much, and doesn't interfere with his job. His brothers probably won't care either. If they do whine, he'll use that same lousy excuse he uses when he goes to idol concerts. It's fine. He's fine. All that can drag him down now is the anxious thoughts and red.
...Both had been exceptionally loud today, but he could get through it, right?
He was about to give up when Osomatsu abruptly enters the room. Choro quickly hides Hachia's flyer he had been holding. No need to get ridiculed for yet another hobby.
"Hey hey, Chorofappyski," Osomatsu calls, a mischevious smile on his face. "You're going to be late to the bathhouse if you don't hurry up!"
"Oh, I'm not going," he replies without a second thought.
The two sat in stunned silence as they processed what he said. He's not going to the bathhouse. There's no coming back from this.
"Really?" Osomatsu pouts, whining. "I wanted you to buy milk tea for us this time."
"Well, I'm not your piggy bank. Go ask someone else."
Oso groans while Choro rolls his eyes, not buying the eldest's annoying behavior. He still looks tired, the dark circles from beneath his eyes had darkened from a few weeks ago. He wishes he could talk to him, but he knows how stubborn the eldest is. Not to mention how hypocritical it is to want to help someone if he can't even help himself.
Osomatsu's dark eyes grew curious as he lights up. "Where are you going?"
"Just drinking with co-workers, nothing else," he lies.
"You drinking? Are you sure? We both know how much a light-weight you are."
"For the last time, I'm not a lightweight! I can hold my beer just fine."
"So ruling drinking with anyone other than us out of the way-!"
"It's not that bad!"
"-where are you going? You shouldn't lie to Onii-chan."
Choromatsu stiffens. Is he that bad of a lier that even Osomatsu could call him out? Is it that sextuplet sixth sense thing everyone rumored they had for a while?
"Ah," Osomatsu brightens, snapping Choro from his thoughts. "Is it with a girl! Is my Choro-chan finally graduating from virginhood?!" He pauses, his excited expression darkening. "Wait... is my Choro-chan finally graduating from virginhood?"
Yeah no, he's fine.
Choro immediately flushes, stumbling over his words. "N-No! W-Why would I do that! I-I can't even talk to g-girls why w-would I take them out!?"
"Ah, your right!" Osomatsu's jealous mood lifted instantly. "I was so worried!"
"You didn't look worried," Choro suspected.
"No one can get laid before me! I'm the eldest, after all."
"That not how it works!"
"Yeah yeah, and the sky's green. Anyways, you need to get your self-awareness in control. It'll blind everyone again."
"I'll work on it," Choro mutters, gazing at the soft, green light now glistening from their bedroom window. To this day, he has no idea how it manages to get that high.
The eldest brother only gave a cocky thumbs up before leaving Choromatsu in silence. Sighing, he pulled out the flyer from behind him, gazing at it.
Maybe it would be worth it to try.
Seeing the tiny storefront filled him with relief. He had been using the map Hachia gave him, but he wasn't entirely used to it. He'd made some wrong turns on the way, but in the end, he made it! He didn't want to think about getting lost and had another less friendly stranger approach him.
To his surprise, Hachia's class has gained a decent amount of students. Choro could see the room inside almost packed in the distance. Some people were coming up to the store like he was too. The older woman was standing near the doorframe, greeting every student who walked inside. She had on a brown painter's smock, and her hair was in an untidy bun rather than the crown earlier. Seeing her gave Choro the feeling he'd seen someone that looks similar to her again, though he still couldn't place who. Weird.
Recognizing Choro, she waved, a polite smile appearing on her lips.
"Hey, Choro-san! I knew you would come back!"
He walked to her, a bit faster than he admits. "I noticed right away, though I guess it worked considering I came."
"Really? Well, I was always not good at being sly."
"I can't be sly either, so I really can't judge you."
They both laughed at that. Choromatsu felt his worries releasing peacefully, without the help of red. The feeling he didn't realize he needed for a very long time.
"So, are you joining, or are you just here to see me?" She joked, smiling. "I'm fabulous, I know, but..."
"I-I mean," Choro studdered, flushing slightly. "I-I'm happy to see you, but I want to expand on my painting skills too. The last time I held a paintbrush was in elementary school for an art project."
"I'll change that real quick! That's what a class is for, isn't it?"
"Mmm, but I might be especially bad. I joined this class on a whim."
She laughs. "That might be true, but who cares! Everyone in that room is a beginner. Some might've only dabbled in paints once or twice. Others might've only watched it on tv one time. But, everyone here was inspired and wants to learn, to grow. So I don't care how you start, I care on how you improve."
Despite Hachia's comforting words, anxiety started to seize him. What if they judge? What if he's not good enough? What if he's embarrassing himself by showing up in the first place?!
Seeing him frown, Hachia pats his shoulder, her smile softening. "The only thing that matters is that you're good enough for you."
They stood in comfortable silence before Hachia checks the time on her watch, exclaiming it was time to kick this thing off. Choro followed her, amused by her excitement. He silently admits he might be a little excited himself, too.
"Hello, everyone! My name is Fujita Hachia, but you can call me Hachia Sensei for our time together. Welcome to the first meeting!"
Choro stood in her living room, an artist's easel in front of him. The table, posters, and supplies were all gone, replaced by lines of easels. They parted for space in the middle, making Hachia Sensei easier to see and for easier accessibility. Sensei was in the front of the rows. Beside her was her personal easel, painted in black and stuck with faded stickers Choro could only imagine was from her children.
"So, the bad news is that we won't get to paint today," Sensei moped. "Yeah, yeah, what a disappointment."
He heard some half-hearted groans in the audience, along with some laughter.
"Hey, don't be like that! I still need to give some information about the class! You guys are so quick to judge!"
Choro noticed how carefree Sensei is to the class. Weird, he had expected her to be mature in a group of strangers. However, when he heard the others laughing with her, he remembers her goal. She wants to make people happy.
It was then that Choro realized he needed, no, wanted to calm down to make this work. It's fine. He's fine. It's just a painter's class! He could relax here.
"So this is the beginner class I'll be teaching. The prompts I'll be explaining will go over basic techniques like linework and blending. My prompts are also very freeform and require a lot of imagination, but I ask of you to please experiment with yourselves. I want everyone here to grow, and the only way is to push yourselves!"
As Hachia Sensei continued with her introduction speech, Choro felt himself get interested. He wasn't an artist in any means, but he felt something tug on his heart. ...He wants to have fun here.
"Now with that out of the way, let's move on to introductions!"
Well, that feeling withered and died. Way to go Sensei.
"We'll go around the room introducing ourselves with our name and why we'd gathered here, okay? That way it's simple and to the point!"
Feeling his anxiousness begin to rise in his throat, he forced himself to swallow it down. He'll make it through this without ridicule, somehow!
Ugh! But why does he have such a stupid reason! Saying it will be super embarrassing!
However, despite Choromatsu's internal pleads, introductions began. It started with the first two rows in the front. Choro is happy he has at least a shred of luck.
"I want to get better at paints," a lady in the front row chirped excitedly.
"I want to revisit an old hobby," says the man beside her.
"I want to hang out with some friends," cheers a boy in the row behind him, pulling the people by him closer. They laugh, one ruffing the boy's hair.
"I-I want to try something new," a girl near them whispers, pulling on her beanie to cover her eyes.
The chorus of names and "I wants" continued throughout the rows. Choro felt himself get a little comfortable, seeing everyone else was sharing their reasons too.
Still, his turn came way too quickly, and he had to let out a breath he had been holding before he began.
"M-My name is Matsuno Choromatsu," he states, his eyes fixated on the ground. "I want to regain peace, even if it's only for two hours."
He reluctantly lifted his gaze only to see his classmates smiling at him. He felt his cheeks scarlet at the warm feeling budding in his heart.
...Oh wow! They liked it. They genuinely liked my reasoning! That was ...unexpected.
As soon as his turn began, it ended as the next person in his row started to say their name. However, the feeling in his chest never stopped radiating as a smile etched at his face.
He thinks he'll like it here.
hopefully how pure this chapter this is makes up for how short it is!
Chapter 4: 3 - coral
the boy ran until he regretted. he regretted his decisions, his actions. he wanted to run back to safety, but it was too far away. he couldn't see.
he called the feeling Red because he couldn't call it anything else.
warning for blood three fourths into this chapter! you'll know when it's coming, trust me.
also, we're out of the prologue arc so things might get a little more complicated! yay, angst!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Choromatsu pulled out his shopping list one more time. He already looked at it seven other times, but he needed to make sure everything's on it. It never hurts to check it again and again and again.
And like the seven other times he looked, the list never changed. The same five supplies he needed were still written. And no matter how hard he racked his brain for something he could be missing, nothing comes to mind. He sighed, putting the list back in his back pocket.
Hachia only requested five items from everyone, but he finds himself worrying. What if he got a wrong item and everyone ridicules him? He thinks back to the other day, how everyone accepted him. There's a low chance of that scenario his twisted mind came up with happening.
Still, his fear was a possibility. And it was because it was a possibility that he found himself checking a ninth time.
Canvas? Check! Ink pens? Check! Paints? Check! Paintbrushes? Check! Pencils? Check!
What am I missing? There has to be something missing!
Despite his mind pestering him to check for the tenth time, he puts the list away. He wants to leave a little earlier than last time to buy his supplies. He couldn't buy and leave them here! Who knows what'll happen if his nosy brothers get their hands on them!
As he was about to leave a voice behind him made him jump.
"You're leaving again?"
Osomatsu was standing on the stairs, frowning at Choromatsu. His frown deepened the dark circles hanging from his eyes to the point that Choro looked away, his guilt swelling uncontrollably. "This is the second time this week," he whines. "Where are you going? You came back at twelve in the morning last time!"
Choro felt his breath get caught in his throat. Fuck. How did he know?!
"It's nothing," he snapped. "I'm going drinking with co-workers ...again."
"Stop lying to me Choromatsu."
Choro turned to him, glaring daggers. "How-!"
"You weren't drunk in the slightest when you came home the other day," Osomatsu explains, his voice unusually serious. I see you drunk a lot, Choromatsu. You can't lie to me about this." Choro felt his defensiveness peak. Why does he needs to know where I'm going? I can fend for myself! I don't need him to come and say his big brotherly bullshit like he always does! We're the same age for god's sake!
"I'm not stopping you leaving or anything! Just tell me where are you going, Choro!"
Maybe it was the stress at work today. Or maybe it was the anxiety from earlier bubbling. It didn't matter. Choro's anger overflowed to the point where he didn't care anymore. He didn't know why he was angry at his brother in the first place!
"Why do you care?!" Choromatsu seethed, his face turning bright red. Osomatsu steps back instinctively, surprised at his loud outburst.
"Why do care where I'm going? It's my business, and I don't need you to get all nosy about it!"
Osomatsu pauses, gathering his thoughts. Hurt seemed to flash on his features, but it left as soon as it came.
"This is different. You leaving at night and returning at twelve is worrying, especially because you won't tell me what's up! You might be-!" The eldest hesitates, eyes flickering for a synonym, a buffer for the truth. "...doing something harsh out there!"
Despite Osomatsu's vague clue, Choro knew what he meant. It only made him fuming.
"Are you assuming that I'll snoop that low?!"
"I'm not! I just-!"
"Then what do you mean, Osomatsu? Why don't you clarify your words so I can clearly understand?"
Oso looks away from Choro's hardening gaze, the tense silence answering Choro's question instantly. Choro felt his breath stop as he falters, surprised that Osomatsu would think something like that. His gaze softens despite how angry he feels.
"Don't you have faith in me?" His voice was wavering despite himself. He tries to steady it, make it more confident, firm. But it only staggers in more hurt. "Is that what you really think I'll be going out for, despite all my hard work to better myself? Do you really think that was all an act?"
"No, Choromatsu. I was so angry and worried... I just said the first thing I thought of, I'm sorry." Osomatsu gazes at the floorboards, unable to meet Choro's pained glare.
Choro didn't respond as he exhaled a shaky breath. He didn't want to talk to the eldest anymore. He was fed up with his petty excuses and apologies. If he didn't believe in him, then he should tell him to his face. That's one less person lying to him for once!
But, they lied to him for a valid reason. He thought back to Ichi who woke him up knowing he won't be able to in time himself, and Jyshi who told him he'll have a great day. He thought back to the others who comforted him during his times of grief. He thought back to them saying he'll get better, he remembers their lies.
They were worried.
He was worried.
Choromatsu sighed, averting his gaze from Osomatsu. I don't want to be worried about! I'm not a baby anymore!
He turned, realizing that he won't be able to get his supplies if he stayed here any longer. He heard Osomatsu's breath hitch by the movement, but a sharp gaze kept him still.
"I'm going out," he spat, his back facing his eldest brother. His eyes fixated on the door as he unlocks it, praying to Akatsuka he won't try to stop him again. "I'll be back soon, don't worry." He says the last words mockingly, despite the sadness underlining his tone.
He didn't get to see Oso's reaction before he shut the door behind him and stormed off.
"Okay, everyone!" Hachia Sensei claps her hands from her spot in front of the room, getting everyone's attention. It doesn't take a lot of time for the class to quiet down. "The first prompt in this class is roses! I'll hand you each a rose for reference, but you're responsible for your own next time."
She holds up a rose for an example from the pile in her basket. Seeing some of her students' hesitant gazes, she laughs, pressing a delicate finger on a thorn.
"They're fake, by the way. I'm not dramatic enough to bring real roses here."
Choromatsu could name one person who would, but he pushes the name back in his mind. He didn't want to think about his family now, he has more important things to ponder on. Like, the prompt for today, roses. That's fun, right?
He never saw one ever since...
"Hey, look! A rose! I thought Karamatsu plucked them all!"
"Don't touch the flower, idiot."
The two were walking home from the job center. Choromatsu had to drag Osomatsu to get an interview, but he was convinced that they'd got the jobs. Fresh from high school, Choromatsu had lots of potential to be a worthy person in society. Soon enough, he'd be a leading manager for some big shot company! He'll be married when he's twenty-five, no twenty for sure! And finally, he would have the pleasant, ordinary, productive life he always dreamed of! Ah, being an adult is so co-!
A yell snapped Choro out of his fantasies. He stared at his older brother in disappointment as he plucked his finger on the rose, quickly retracting and sucking on it.
Yeah, maybe he'll go alone next time.
Her voice bringing Choro out of his daydream, he blinked and saw Hachia Sensei in front of him. His face suddenly crimsons despite how much he hates it.
"Ah, Sensei, sorry!" He reaches for three flowers, passing two of them down the row he was in. "Stuff is just on my mind, that's all."
Hachia waves her hand, a sign that she wasn't that angry with him.
"It's okay! Happens to the best of us," she replies before walking over to the next row. He sighs in silent relief. He'd hadn't fucked up his time here by spacing out! She forgives him! It's a miracle!
After he stopped thanking Akatsuka for his second chance, he stared at his flower. All he has to do is to draw this rose? That's... surprisingly simple.
But as he held up his pencil, his mind drew blanks. Where should he start? How much detail should he make? When could his drawing be enough?
He bit his lip at all his pending questions. It doesn't matter. Just draw, Choro.
Holding his pencil on the canvas, he made his first mark.
"What did I tell you about touching it?"
Osomatsu looks up at the third brother's disappointed gaze and shrugs.
"I wanted to pluck it," he replies somewhat coherently, his finger still in his mouth. "To show off to Karamatsu, yeah?"
"You're a disappointment of an older brother."
"Hey, that's mean! I have you know that I'm the best Onii-Chan on the planet!"
Choromatsu recoiled in disgust. "You're calling yourself Onii-Chan now?"
"Yep! Cute, right?" He laughed at Choro's blunt disagreement, rubbing his nose before attempting to try again.
"Hey! Didn't you poke yourself before?!"
He swatted his hand away, kneeling down and plucking the rose himself before Osomatsu could stop him.
"Don't pluck yourself too!"
"I'm not," Choro says, showing thumb and index fingers away from sharp thistles. "It's called actually seeing where the thorns are."
Oso huffed, frowning in both stubbornness and embarrassment. "Well, don't do it so suddenly. You might hurt yourself."
"You've just hurt yourself, Osomatsu!"
"Ah, I know. It stings a lot, but I wouldn't want you to go through it yourself." Oso looked at his finger. The wound had stopped bleeding a long time ago, all that's left is a red spot that could barely be seen. They both have been through their fair shares of injuries from flowers over the years to know that same red spot could cause so much pain, but Osomatsu grinned through it. "I think you getting plucked will hurt more than doing it myself."
Choro eyed Oso before looking at the rose in his hands, it's crimson petals swaying slightly in the wind. "Don't worry so much. We don't need your protection all the time," he started, frowning in irritation before his gaze softens.
"But thank you for trying anyway."
Choro sets his pencil down, his gaze on his sketch before it lowers to the fake rose in his hands. Its red petals are duller than real roses, but the color still evoked a memory in him. How could this same crimson represent the red he hated and the brother he loved?
He presses a finger on a thorn while biting his lip, relishing in a feeling that could only be described as bittersweet.
A little while later, Haicha Sensei walks to his row, a gentle smile on her face. It only widens after seeing Choromatsu's unfinished piece.
"Your sketch looks great, Choro-san!"
"Really?" Choro asks, uncertainty seeping in his voice. His sketch wasn't perfect. His thin, light pencil marks were a frenzy on paper as unsteady lines pile on top of each other to try and resemble a rose. Eraser shavings danced on the canvas. To Choro, the design was horrid, but at Sensei's words, he couldn't help but feel the small amount of bright pride swelling amongst the darkness. Still, it wasn't enough to not be dimmed by his guilty conscience.
"Mhm! I bet it'll look great once you finalize the sketch."
"I think it will," he agreed with a slight smile, ignoring the guilt from past events blistering in his chest.
As she went on about different painting techniques he should use after, the darkness never stopped expanding in his body, eventually poisoning every limb with a gaping emptiness. And yet, the small amount of pride of he had was still there, although dimming by the second. But if he could reach far enough, he could grab it. He could grab the I did fines and the I can tries and the I'm worthies.
Choromatsu didn't deserve pride. He made so many mistakes today alone! He fought with his brother, one of the only people who genuinely care about him, for a stupid ass reason like telling where he was going! He doesn't deserve him. He doesn't deserve it.
It was when he was on the train he felt the cold, iron grip of red on skin, inching it's way down his spine. His breath hitched as his world stopped momentarily at the eerie sensation before the colors started to change.
He tried to calm himself down. To stop his racing thoughts, the trembling, the colors, the red. He tried.
But his heart won't stop beating like a drum. The momentum of his thoughts won't slow. The red won't evaporate into thin air, instead slowly inflaming each and every scar on his arms. His shivers were uncontrollable. His breath was shortening. His pride was dimming.
He just couldn't take it.
Before his mind could reel back from focusing on the pain he was in, the familiar scent of home recognized itself in his system. Rather than fill him the familiar feeling of safety and secureness, it filled him with more anxiety as he realized who would be there.
He slipped off his shoes and sprinted to the bathroom, heart plummeting when he heard additional footsteps behind him. He slammed the door just in time to see a blur of red, his red. He dropped his bag, hands scraping at his chest to catch his breath, stepping back from the door.
"Hey hey, Choro," a voice behind the door softly began like a familiar lullaby. However, this lullaby constricts his lungs at its melody. This voice was warm and intimate. Was it... Osomatsu's?
"Did something happen when you were out? Was it the fight?"
Ignoring the voice, he scrambled to open the cabinet, pricking a finger on the boxcutter before his mind had the chance to think. He gets on his knees, cradling the boxcutter in one hand while sucking on the finger pathetically on the other. His sobs bubble up in his throat from making yet another mistake.
The soft knock on the door made Choro whimper, the grip in his chest tightening. But it felt like it ruptured when the voice, Osomatsu, spoke. His voice filled with so much fear and desperation.
"Please don't harm yourself anymore, Choromatsu."
And he couldn't take it.
Choro fell into darkness before the familiar surge of pain pulled him back into the world, the splattering of red on his forearm following. He heard himself sobbing, Osomatsu's futile begging, the rushing of blood from his skin. He felt his trembling grip of the boxcutter, the cold floor beneath him, his chest heaving for air.
Taking a deep breath, he steadied his grip. His bloodshot eyes devoid of life despite the tears streaming down his cheeks. Holding the boxcutter on its canvas, he made the second mark.
He made marks. He made marks until the pain in his chest was satisfied, the red was satisfied. He made marks until his grip swayed and he blinked as if to wake up to see his own crimson splattered onto the white floor like paint to a canvas. Why was he doing this to himself again? He was better than this... He thought... He...
The boxcutter lifelessly fell to the floor as he put his hands to his face, wincing at the sting his new cuts gave. He sobbed harder when he realized Osomatsu's voice wasn't in the background anymore.
He is disappointed in me. I still gave in despite his pleas. He probably grew tired of me and left. I don't blame him! Who goes this low to make themselves feel okay?! I'm a freak!
Despite expecting this, it still hurts that his partner in crime left him. It hurts a lot.
After he was reduced to a pile of pathetic sniffles and whimpers, he got up to cleaned the mess he made. He scrubbed the floor spotless, making sure no one would know what'd happen in this bathroom. He washed his boxcutter and wounds next before putting the boxcutter away and rolling his sleeves down, cringing at how they itched over the clothing. He'll get used to it, he puts himself up to this mess anyway.
He was tired. He didn't feel like going to the futon, sleeping restlessly with four other oblivious faces. He much rather sleep on the floor, cold, alone. But that'll make him feel worse than he is now and raise annoying questions in the morning. Reluctantly, he gently opened the door.
His heart stopped when he saw who was sitting near the doorframe.
i'm a sucker for cliffhangers what can i say?
Chapter 5: 4 - watermelon
softness eventually came unto the boy. it was warm, comforting, and gave him the energy to move forward in this unknown world.
he named the softness Bittersweet, as it came from the same Red he hated so much.
warning for blood in the beginning!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
His heart stopped when he saw who was sitting near the doorframe.
Osomatsu was sitting next to the doorway, fiddling with a first aid kit in his hands. He looks up at Choromatsu when he heard his name called, his smile uneasy and worried.
"Let's fix you up, Choro." His voice was hoarse from pleading and uncharacteristic quiet than normal, but it still spoke with that same warmth Choromatsu wished it didn't have.
The third brother steps back from the door cautiously, scratching at the itch his arms made unconsciously. His face began to flush as his eyes darted everywhere to avoid the sympathetic gaze of the eldest.
"We don't have to talk for now. I'll just bandage you."
He bit his lip, averting his gaze. He didn't want to expose his cuts to another person, especially his fresh wounds. But, the new cuts are itching so badly underneath his thick clothing, and he's too tired to argue with the eldest again.
"...Fine," he whispers, the dread of Osomatsu seeing his cuts setting in. He hugs himself as an attempt to calm down.
The eldest stood up as something in his dark eyes sparkled.
The two went in the bathroom together, silence pervading the air. Choromatsu sat on the rim of the bathtub, his focus attended to the twiddling of his thumbs. Osomatsu didn't seem to mind as he wordlessly opened the first aid kit.
The silence quickly grew uncomfortable, both not knowing what to say, to do. It seemed to drag on for hours before the eldest brought it upon himself to chuckle awkwardly.
"Uhm... Do you want to roll up your sleeves, Choromatsu?"
Choro's gaze flickered to the eldest for a fraction of a second before finding its way to the floor, his already carmine flush darkening. He fidgets in his seat silently, dreading his decisions once more.
It's okay! It's fine! This will be over soon. I will be okay. I just have to suck it up till then.
He pulled on his green sweater sleeves in hesitation before slowly lifting the clothing up. With every cut revealed, a pit of guilt grew in Choromatsu's heart. Osomatsu didn't deserve this. He didn't deserve to see his scars right after everything he'd done for... Matzuno's funeral. He was supposed to be happily unaware like everyone else. Why was everything becoming so unfair?
His newer slits had started to bleed again, small amounts of red trickling down his forearm. Some older ones had started to get irritated over the clothing and blossomed into a bright, angry ruby that threatened to tear back open at any second. But the ones that disgusted Choro the most, the ones that he hated himself over, were the dull, lifeless cuts.
Because those were the cuts that were undeniable proof that he'd been doing this a lot longer than he'll admit.
Because those were the cuts Osomatsu stared at the most.
And how his skin crawled at his blank stare. It crawled at the endless possibilities of what his older brother was thinking. Choro tried to see any emotion in his stare, but none was leaking whatsoever. It was then he just wanted to crawl in a small hole and die. Then, he wouldn't have to deal with this stress and anxiety and his slits and Osomatsu's eyes that still bore themselves into his deepest secrets and these shitty feelings his father left behind for him to figure out alone.
Maybe everyone else would agree. But then again that'll be wistful thinking.
Osomatsu eventually stood, that lazy, fake grin Choromatsu desperately wanted to slap off adjoining his face. He got paper towels from the cabinet and began to start wiping the crimson off his arms without the expected questions or scolding. Choromatsu hated how gentle he was.
The rigid stillness between the two brothers began to blossom again. From the corner of his eye, Choromatsu saw the eldest's smile had disappeared (finally) as he worked diligently on the third brother's wounds. Questions began to voice themselves in his head, mysteries that couldn't be answered yet had to be heard.
He had drowned in them, the endless probabilities and consequences buzzing in his head like cicadas hidden amongst the humid summer nights until a sting brought him back to reality. He silently hissed at the sudden pain. The careful hands that handled him stopped momentarily.
"Does it hurt?" Osomatsu asks, worry painting his features. "I told you it'll sting a bit, but it shouldn't hurt that much..." By his side was a bottle of saline solution. Oh.
"It's fine," he murmurs, realizing his voice was also dry from crying earlier. Osomatsu seemed satisfied with his short answer and continued cleaning his wounds. It stung like a bitch, but Choro kept quiet. At least it kept his pestering thoughts at bay for a while.
When that was over he'd put the gauze pads on. Ridding the bleeding and disinfecting the wounds make him feel... clean for the first time in a long time. And now with the bandages, they won't open unexpectedly anymore. He really didn't deserve it, but he needed it. He doesn't want Osomatsu to help him but his heart begged him to. He frowned at the conflicting ideas in his head.
Why was Osomatsu such a good big brother to him? Why did he care so much?
And despite conflicting with himself, he knows that deep down, he's grateful.
"And done!" Osomatsu had finished layering the gauze on his arm, looking proudly at his work. His gaze slowly slid down at Choro's pricked finger, and before he could retract it, he'd already wrapped a bandaid around it.
"No infections in this body!"
Choro could only sigh, rolling his eyes while he pulled down his sleeves. The familiar feeling of family and warmth had blanketed him from the world, but it felt as soon as it came. Oso stood again, putting the paper towels he used away. Right before he could unlock the door to put the first aid kit away, Choro pulled on his pajama shirt.
"Please don't tell mom about this," he pleas. "She doesn't need to know."
The eldest was silent, thinking before a small smile tugged on his face. "...Sure, for now."
The "for now" made Choro's stomach churn, but he accepts it. "For now" isn't until tomorrow or until next week or until next month. "For now" is "for now" and he thinks he could live with that.
"Though," the eldest continued, causing the third brother's heart sink. "Tell me when you have an urge next time, okay?"
Choromatsu couldn't breathe. Fuck! Why couldn't it be anything but that? I can't! I couldn't possibly...!
But what'll happen if mom finds out? He pictures her worried face, her pleading for him to get help. He imagines her slaving for him despite all the grieving she had done. That'll be way worse.
"Fine," he mutters, letting the eldest's shirt go. The elder's face lightens up.
"Great, consider that a promise!"
Choromatsu frowns as Osomatsu leaves. He doesn't want to be promised something that's so hard. He'll be bound to break it as soon as possible.
Hopeless. The feeling of hopelessness stills Choromatsu in that one spot, unmoving. Why can't he drown in the empty feeling by himself? Maybe only then, after the funeral and after the hurt and after the vivid nightmares they relive at night, everyone will be happy. Surely helping him will delay the process of waking up and moving on for everyone else. With a tinge of guilt, he admits that he wasn't the most responsible brother during the past few weeks. He's been reduced to a baby, screaming, kicking, crying until the thing he wants returns.
But that will never happen. Ever.
An empty smile plagues Choromatsu's lips, a grin similar to Osomatsu's fake ones. He hated it on his face, he hated the memories of increasing bags or empty jokes it brings, but it never really went away.
Choromatsu looked up from his light novel to see Jyshimatsu looking at him with wide eyes. Him, Jyshi, and Totty have been in the bedroom, each to their own activities. It was the weekend, and almost everyone was at home relaxing from the long week. It was weird that most of them were lazing at home seeming that their jobs left them slightly more separated than they once were, but Choro welcomed the feeling of familiarity with open arms. Choromatsu was reading a light novel he had recently found interest in, an adventure novel. He usually reads romance or dramas, but this one seemed to catch his eye.
"Did you and Osomatsu-niisan got into a fight?"
That was too blunt! Choromatsu's breath hitched, quickly closing the novel he was reading. Did they know? He doesn't need other people worrying right now. Osomatsu knowing is plenty enough people.
Totty looks up from his phone, immediately sensing the discomfort of his older brother. He scoots next to Jyshimatsu, his phone held carefully in his lap.
"We heard fighting downstairs the other day," he explains, absentmindedly dragging his finger on the case. "Now you're ignoring each other. It's weird."
Jyshimatsu hums a sweet hum of agreement, nodding his head aggressively.
"We're fine," he says, filled with the refreshing feeling of relief. It was true that they have been ignoring each other since the incident. He never had enough confidence to go up to him after he saw everything. "We just had a little fight, that's all."
"Not to be rude," Totty remarks, fully intending to be rude. "But Osomatsu-niisan is too dumb to hold grudges like this. Plus you've lowered your expectations of Osomatsu so much you don't even get that angry anymore. They're lower than ever before this year!"
Choro swears he felt freezing air pass through the room right then. He assumed Jyshi felt it too as he huddled with himself for warmth. The boy in pink doesn't notice, continuing his rant.
"Anyways you and Osomatsu get into annoying fights all the time, I can't see how you can't resolve this one. Unless it was something actually serious this time. But then again, that's as rare as a blue moon!"
He laughed as the second gust of stronger wind blew into the room from out of nowhere, leaving him huddled to himself and Jyshimatsu's teeth clattering. He's happy that he's oblivious as ever, but goddamn that was cold.
"Actually, it was something important for once," he says after Totty's gusts of wind passed over. Averting his eyes, he itched at the bandaid beneath his sleeves, trying to ebb away the stress that constantly increased. The two youngest sat up straighter, unaware that this would get serious.
"Nii-san? Are you okay?"
"Did Osomatsu-niisan did anything?"
Choromatsu waved his hands, dissolving their worries. "No! No! It's nothing like that! I just got angry at Osomatsu and ditched. ...It's been too awkward to apologize since." Not quite the truth, but he wasn't lying to them either. They don't need to know everything that has been going on behind the scenes right now.
"Do you want to-!"
"No, it's fine. I'm fine, it's just.." Choromatsu sighs as he trails off, no excuses coming to mind. They don't need to know. They don't need to know. They don't- "I just don't want to talk about it."
The two shared a worried look from the corner of his eye, but otherwise, silenced their concerns.
"...You should apologize soon, Choromatsu-niisan, "Jyshimatsu says at last, slightly shyer than usual. His bright agape smile was the smaller than normal, even if it was just for a little bit. "If you don't, a big big big wall will come between you sooner or later! Nobody would want that."
"And you have to remember that this, whatever this is, isn't fully your fault," Todomatsu pipes up. "Osomatsu-niisan needs to apologize too."
"It was my fault! It was my fault entirely!"
...Is what he wanted to say. But that would be too much to explain and will only worry them more. The last thing he wants to do is to worry someone who doesn't deserve it.
"Thank you," he says, hoping the uncertainty wouldn't be in his voice. Apologizing, especially for this, is hard on the third brother. "That made me feel a bit better about everything."
The two youngest shared a knowing look between each other as they smiled.
Later, the eldest abruptly came into the room, asking if anyone wanted to play pachinko with him. Everyone refused, seeing that it's still the middle of the goddamn day.
"Though we could go to the convenience store together if you want," Choromatsu suggested, still feeling a bit shy. Oso's eyes lit up.
"And then when we're done we can go straight over to-!"
"No. This is my paycheck, Osomatsu."
"Osomatsu has a gambling problem!" Jyshi shouted aloud, bouncing his oversized sleeves around as his excitement rose. "He's going to take our money and make us broke!" The boy in question pouts.
"It's not even that bad-"
"It's that bad," the three sung, monotone.
"-I can stop whenever I want!" He huffed, pointing at the three brothers like traitors. "You guys are just meanies."
"And you're just in denial," Totty shots back, not even looking up from his phone. An unexpected third gust of wind hits them all.
Osomatsu puts a hand over his heart, feigning hurt. "So cold!"
"Anyways, get me a pink lemonade? I'm thirsty. "
"Chocolate milk! Chocolate milk!"
"Did you guys heard what I just said? This is my paycheck!"
The two ignore the third brother, all three of them knowing he'll do it anyway. He sighs, they all owe him a drink.
Choromatsu stands, putting his light novel away. Ignoring the anxiousness radiating in his body, he joins Osomatsu in the hall and prepares for the long trip.
"We'll be back soon!"
"Seriously, how did you forget your wallet again?! We were going to a convenience store!"
"I've told you already, I thought I had it with me earlier."
"I call bullshit."
The two were walking back from the convenience store, bags in hand full, and Choro's wallet slightly lighter than it should've. His eldest brother whined that it would be no fair to give nothing to Karamatsu and so an extra drink and a couple more yen later Choro was agitated. He grumbles as the autumn wind casually envelops them its embrace, making the slowly air colder. The trees around them started to release their leaves, the copper-colored sheets covering the pavement like a rug.
"I told you I'll give you half of the bill later! Isn't the problem already solved?"
The third brother gave the eldest a deadpan look. They both know that, despite having a job to help their mother pay the bills, still is very unreliable with money. Primarily if that money (rightfully) belonged to a brother.
"I call bullshit."
Osomatsu smirked amused, brushing a finger underneath his nose. "Sure you do, Chorofappyski."
Choromatsu glares daggers at him. What was that supposed to mean?
Osomatsu laughs, slinging a shoulder over the grumpy third eldest. He flashes him a mischievous smile.
"I don't feel like going back home. Let's go somewhere else for now, yeah?"
Choromatsu blinks, remembering why he asked the oldest to help anyway. The blanket of familiar warmth had stopped draping over his eyes, disappearing into thin air once again.
Osomatsu drags him to the riverbank underneath the bridge. The trees there were also in the middle of shedding their leaves for the upcoming cold season. The hazy copper blended with the sky, muddling with its shades of dark orange and bright yellow. The colors almost made the sky look calm, still on this quiet autumn day. Even the river was tranquil, lacking the usual volume of its ripples crashing upon the walls.
Iyami wasn't there for some reason, making the secrets that were about to be broken be between only the two of them. He hasn't seen Iyami in a long time... or Chibita... or any of his friends. He stayed at home moping all the time and now life's been busier than ever since he had a job.
God, he misses them.
Choromatsu sits and stares at the shimmering water in front of him. His older brother gazes at him, a soft smile on his face compared to the devious smirk he had earlier.
"You're more complicated then I thought," he says, his voice softer.
Choromatsu kept his gaze trained on the water, fearing the moment he looks up, he'll lose his composure. "What does that mean?"
"I can't tell if you're angry at me or not. We used to be so close, Choro-chan. We used to be so close that we could know what the other was thinking right away." He laughs softly, shaking his head. "What happened to us?"
"We grew up," Choromatsu said simply. It was true that he missed his relationship with Osomatsu. Their childish shenanigans and innocent laughter always played like a music box in Choro's head. But they can't stay children forever, especially after this. They need to be mature, whether they like it or not. He said them simply, but the words left a bittersweet taste in his mouth. "Change is inevitable, Osomatsu."
"I know, I know. But sometimes I find myself thinking how great it would be if we turned back to children. Maybe, things won't go to shit that much."
Choro's eyes flickered to the sky. "Maybe."
He noticed there were no clouds that day.
There was a long, comfortable silence between them until Osomatsu got tired of standing. He pulls his knees up to his chest, gazing at that same sky Choro stared at.
"You don't need to apologize."
The eldest frowned, eyeing the third brother.
"You don't." Choromatsu finally tore his gaze away from the sky to look at his eldest brother. His gaze was entirely serious. "I'm guilty of everything that happened that night. You know that."
"I don't, and you're stupid for thinking that. You don't blame yourself for everything, right?"
"Tell me one thing you did that requires you to apologize to me."
"Well, I pushed you into fighting," Osomatsu lists, counting his fingers. "I was nosy about your business, assumed you were doing something I know for certain you won't and-! Woah! We're already at three!"
Choro frowns, averting his gaze. He couldn't lie and say those things didn't hurt him at all.
"So, I'm sorry," Osomatsu continued. "Even if I was worried, I shouldn't have done the things I did."
"I'll forgive you," he says, almost as if it was a fact. "...But let me apologize as well. Snapping at you that night wasn't right, and letting you hear me s-self-harm..." He trails off, his voice breaking at the last word. He composes himself, taking a deep breath.
"It was wrong of me," he says after a silence his voice quieter. "It was wrong of me to let you see me like that. Please forgive me."
"It's fine, Choromatsu. As long as you follow our promise, I don't mind."
The idea of the promise makes him tense again as he began to itch at his bandages. Oso saw his discomfort and sighed.
"You know, I'm not stopping you from self-harming."
Choromatsu blinked, surprised. "What?"
"I'm not stopping you. Sure, I really, really hate imagining you that low, but I think I understand why you have to. Without it, what else you do?"
Choromatsu stares at his older brother in shock before averting his eyes, blinking out the tears that threaten to spill. That makes things so much easier. A mountain of stress left him at once, leaving only his trembling shoulders.
And yet, a question still remains.
"Aren't you tired?"
The question caught Osomatsu off guard, the oldest turning to face him. "Hm?"
"Aren't you tired at all, Osomatsu? You've haven't had any time to grieve. You first organized the wake and funeral, and now you're trying to make us all happy. Why did you make that promise with me when you're getting nothing in return?"
A light smile graces his lips. "I'll sleep when I'm dead. You guys are my main priority."
Choro lets out an emotionless laugh. "I really don't deserve you, Osomatsu-niisan." Another chuckle, hollower. "You're burdened with so much... and I... a-and I..." A sob that he had been holding escapes. He tries hides his flushing face from the eldest, though he was soon enveloped in a hug full of warm and hadn't thought twice when he melted into it.
Karamatsu was the crybaby in the family, while Osomatsu and Jyshimatsu never cry. Totty and Ichi have always been closer to Oso and Jyshi, but they get upset sometimes too. But Choromatsu never saw a firm position for himself.
Of course, he cries. He cries about light novels and idols and job rejections. He cries for things he cares about, even if his brothers will tease him about it later. But when he has to stay brave for his brothers, he does. And despite how much it hurts to keep it inside, he'll cage it inside his wounded heart. For them, he'll tell himself. It's all for them.
But the cage in his heart had collapsed. Those emotions he kept hidden from even himself had come out in the form of ugly sobbing and whimpers and snot and pain. Did finally breaking in front of someone made him weak? Did it make him a crybaby like Karamatsu? Or, maybe, did it finally lift the feelings he fought at for so long away?
He didn't have time to think as he wailed, letting out his secrets. He let out his frustration and his anger and his sadness and why did everything turn to such shit and why do they have to grow up and how he just wants to fall into a long sleep until he feels okay again and when will he feel okay again?
Osomatsu rubbed circles on his back, muttering words of comfort until he'd stopped sobbing. Choromatsu separates from Osomatsu, wiping his misty eyes on his sleeves and sniffling pathetically. He turns to the eldest with red, puffy eyes as he feels him squeeze his hand.
"You're not a burden to me," Osomatsu whispers, his voice so quiet only the two of them could hear. Choro nods weakly, a small, sad smile on his face.
"Don't you believe me?"
Choro turns to the water again, staring at its crashing waves. The squeezing intensifies, but it doesn't hurt. It's more than comforting, the third brother admits.
The oldest frowns, disappointed, before grins mischievously, moving his hands to his face. He pinched his tearstreaked dimples softly, making Choro blink, confused.
"What are you doing?"
"Tell me your not a burden."
"What-! Ow, Osomatsu! Stop pinching me, you stupid eldest brother! That hurts!"
The other had started to squeeze harder. The third brother had started to push the other away from him, but Oso's grip stayed firm. "Say it!"
"I'm not saying something so embarrass-! Osomatsu!"
The other chuckled at Choromatsu's obvious discomfort. "Come on, Choro! It's only four words!"
"But-! Ouch! Okay! Fine, you win! I'm not a burden."
Oso's grip lessens but didn't falter. "And you deserve..?"
"I deserve happiness."
"Love." Choro's cheeks had become red from something other than Oso's pinching. He rolled his eyes, more than eager to get this over with.
Oso finally pulls away, satisfied. Choro rubs a stinging cheek, glaring daggers at the eldest. He merely laughs.
"How do you feel?"
Like shit, he was about to say before he thought deeper. To be honest, he felt a little lighter than earlier. Even if his cheeks stung like hell.
"Better," he concluded. "Though I'm totally getting you back for that."
Osomatsu only grinned wider.
Todomatsu looks up to the doorway and sighs. "Took you long enough. We're in the living room."
The two brothers slipped off their shoes and went to their other brothers, Choro dropping off his bag. The others look through it eagerly.
"Woah you actually got us something," Totty says, surprised. "Based on the time you were gone, I thought you had ditched us."
Jyshimatsu almost rips the bag open in glee. "Chocolate milk!"
Choro sits down, a small smile on his face. "Osomatsu was stupid and we got held up," Choro lied. He knew everyone saw through his lie, but he didn't want to spoil the mood.
"Eh? Is that why your cheeks look busted?"
Choro once again glares at the eldest, rubbing a (still sore by the way) cheek. "He's an idiot."
Osomatsu laughs sheepishly before looking around the room. "Has anyone seen Karamatsu and Ichimatsu?"
"Karamatsu-niisan is on the roof," Jyshimatsu replies enthusiastically before his smile wavers, the light in his eyes dimming. "...And Ichimatsu-niisan never came home today."
There was a beat of silence before the oldest ruffles Jyshi's hair in an attempt to cheer him up. "Ichimatsu will come home as soon as you know it! He doesn't stay away for that long."
"I hope so! Batting practice without Ichimatsu-niisan isn't the same!" Osomatsu hums in silent agreement.
"Anyways, I might as well give Karappi his drink. I'll be right back!" He flashed a grin, grabbing the bag and leaving. As soon as he left, the two youngest worryingly gazed at Choro, though their worried gazes turned relieved soon enough.
Choro said nothing as he held a thumbs up, his cheeks set ablaze yet again.
hello there everyone! no time no see! i've been dealing with the torments and struggles of the demon called writer's block, so this chapter wasn't produced as quickly as i liked. sorry about that, probably will happen again, but i'll fight it off eventually
also! i've done some research on funerals in japan to see that the oldest brother in the family organizes it all, which means more angst for poor osomatsu! yay, pain!
also also! there's a song called girl a by powapowap that really goes along with the Red arc. i really recommend it (especially sou's version)!
i think that's it for this chapter! i hope you have a good day!
Chapter 6: 5 - bittersweet
eventually, he found out he will be okay without the monochrome. he wasn't fine yet, but he'll be okay someday.
before i forget like last chapter, thank you for over 100 hits and 10 kudos! it means alot!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Choromatsu stared at his paint set for a few moments before his gaze lifted up to Hachia Sensei, who had been trying to hide an amused smile. He snaps his fingers as his gaze returns to his newly brought pallet, finally getting Sensei's point.
"Okay," he says slowly. "I think I get it. So you're saying that there are different types of paint and I brought watercolors?"
Her amused grin brightens. "Yep!"
"And watercolors need water to work unlike other types of paint."
Sensei nods brightly once again. Choro, on the other hand, frowns in a familiar V shape.
"So, I may have wasted my money."
"Ye-! Wait, no! Choro-san!"
After an embarrassing explanation about where he was going, Osomatsu had let Choromatsu go to Sensei's classes without much problem. He was relieved for a short time, being there really helps calms his nerves, but now he wishes he'd stayed home to avoid this embarrassment.
Apparently, he bought the wrong type of paints. Or, not necessarily the wrong type, but an unexpected one. Hachia explained that the watercolors may perform differently from others, though it is still something he should paint with.
"It's actually great for beginners," she explains. "It's easier to clean off than other paints like oil or tempera."
"So I can still use it?"
"Of course! I'm excited that you accidentally brought watercolors. It expands your view on different media."
Choro sighs in relief, the stress lifting off his shoulders. Buying paint is surprisingly expensive, and seeing how his wallet is at an all-time low from the other day, he doesn't want to buy another pallet just because he was being stupid.
"I'll get you some water so you can test it out."
"Ah, thank you Sensei."
Hachia Sensei giggles before leaving, murmuring something about having a long way to go. Was art always this complicated? He thought all he had to do is just draw some lines and curves that turn into a shape. What else does he have to learn?
He opens the pallet, a variety of vibrant colors staring up at him. He picks up the small brush that accompanied them, twirling it around in his hand. What does he know? Maybe he only has one toe in the sea that is the art world. He's in a beginner's class, after all.
The twirling stopped as the realization of her being right appears in his head. If that's the case, then what else does he have to learn?
The thought both fascinates and scares him.
Sensei eventually comes back with a small glass of water. She explains the basics of watercolors before another student had called her over. Choromatsu reassured her that he knew everything he has to do before she left, though he hesitates to dip the paintbrush into the water. He admits that he likes his sketch with the little bit of pride he had. He didn't want to mess it up despite knowing it'll look better with color.
It's his first time painting, of course he'll mess it up. But that's the point of this class, to try again and again until you make it.
He twirls the paintbrush in water before dipping it in rich crimson. He was slightly surprised that the paint was more transparent than the paint others were using. Maybe that's the point of it being watercolors, but he had to admit that he liked the effect of it on paper.
He had felt the warm feeling of pride glimmer and realized it been there long before he picked his paintbrush. And he hopes it'll stay this time, strong enough to not become snuffed by the darkness and Red that crash along the coast sometimes. And even if it dissipates, he'll light his lighter, again and again, until it could stand on its own once more.
He's strong enough to try again, right?
Choromatsu was an anxiety-filled mess. No amount of words could describe the amount of fear he felt each time he checked the clock while packing up.
Why? He lost time while being engrossed in painting, leaving him late into cleaning up. Not to mention the bus ride from here is forty-five minutes from home, meaning he'll totally be interrogated by Osomatsu.
In short, he's an idiot.
He currently was putting his work in Hachia's closet, a place she offered him because he couldn't put his art in his own house since five demons he calls brothers would rip them into shreds. He already thanked her profusely then, he doesn't know what he would do without her.
"Again, I'm sorry I wasted your time, Sen-!"
He stopped as he fully registered the scene before him, his eyes widening and already rosy cheeks flushing intensely. Before he could regain his senses from the extreme shock, a curse slipped out of his grasp.
"What the fuck?!"
Osomatsu only laughed.
Now, he gets that he was going to be late coming home, and he fully knows Osomatsu was going to be at least a bit upset, but that doesn't justify this! He thought he apologized the other day, why did he deserve this punishment? Are the gods against him?
And as he stares at his Sensei and his brother in the same building, having an actual conversation with each other, he wishes he never came to this fucking cursed place today.
"Why are you here!?" Choromatsu finally asked, his face redder than a tomato.
Osomatsu turned to him, rubbing his index finger underneath his nose.
"Well, you were late, and I wanted to come," he says simply, shrugging. "What's wrong with Onii-Chan picking you up sometimes?" Choromatsu's face somehow got even brighter while Hachia's giggled.
"You-! Don't call yourself Onii-Chan! We're the same age, for god sake!" Suddenly remembering how his legs work, he ran over and pushed him aside, immediately apologizing to Hachia Sensei. Unfortunately for him, Osomatu slung an arm around him.
"Aw, don't be mean! You call me niisan all the time, don't you?"
"He totally does." As Osomatsu began to ruffle his hair Choromatsu, thoroughly embarrassed and drained, gives up. He sighs, pushing his bangs from his eyes.
"I'm sorry for him, Sensei," he grumbles, flustered. "He must be annoying, I know."
Unexpectedly, Sensei only smiles, waving off his concerns. "I don't mind. I find it special that you're this close to your siblings."
Choromatsu stares at her incredulously before a realization hits him square in the face.
Sensei's an only child.
That... makes a lot of sense, actually. I supposed it couldn't be helped. Maybe her being innocent to the struggles of siblinghood is for the best.
Pulling on the hand that still tousled his curls, he slowly made his way to the door. "Come on, we're going home before you make more of a fool of yourself."
Reluctantly, Osomatsu allowed himself to be dragged, muttering something about not being that much of a fool. He awkwardly waved to Hachia with his free hand, fumbling to keep his bag of supplies on his shoulder. Hachia waved back kindly.
"Bye, Choro-san! I'll see you at our next class! I welcome your brothers to visit at any time!"
Choromatsu inwardly cringed at how innocently only child her voice sounded but kept his awkward smile regardless. She didn't mean any harm by it despite how disastrous it seemed.
Soon enough, the two were walking beneath the bright stars. The dark night seemed to swallow up all the houses and streets, leaving only the two brothers. The only reason why he knew where was going was the occasional streetlight shining on street names.
Osomatsu had started walking on his own, oddly silent as he stared off into the night. Choro couldn't care less as he grumbled aimlessly to himself, still embarrassed from what happened at Hachia's. His rambles were interrupted as he shivers slightly, the cold lightly settling in his hoodie.
He knows Osomatsu noticed because that how Osomatsu is. Osomatsu who sees useless things like a shiver or a cry instead of anything relevant. Osomatsu who, when not blinded his own selfish gain (which isn't that much), uses these utterly useless things to take care of his brothers and, somehow, it always works.
"Hey look, a vending machine! Wanna grab something?"
He should be able to take care of himself. Ever since the apology, no, ever since the fight, he wants to be able to take care of himself. He'd allowed himself a moment of hurt, a moment of weakness, but it's time to move on.
Because that is what adults do.
Osomatsu won't let him go.
Osomatsu won't let him go because that is how Osomatsu is.
"I hope you know you're paying."
"Of course! Of course! I'm not that low to ask for money when everyone knows you're broke."
Osomatsu who, ever since the incident, continually made sure they were okay, fearing that they'll have the same fate as their father.
Osomatsu snorts, rubbing his index finger underneath his nose. "We all know it's true, Choro~!"
Osomatsu who's smile slowly became feign until it became only a crowd-pleaser to them. A pitiful act to mask that he wasn't up all night worrying about them, worrying about mom, worrying about the future.
Choro huffed, cheeks already red from lingering embarrassment. "Well," he remarks, smugness rising from his tone. "We also all know who has the highest paycheck."
Osomatsu laughed, masking the hidden disappointment of losing a couple yen. "You don't mind sharing, Choro-chan?" He asked as he fished for forgotten coins in his pocket. "You can't spend all that money yourself!"
"Who says I was spending it?"
Osomatsu who, despite Choromatsu's pleading, always will be worried for him.
"Don't worry so much. We don't need your protection all the time... But thank you for trying anyway."
His words from the far off memory echoed in his brain, the only sound in the darkness. Osomatsu will end up worrying, again and again, no matter how "adult" he'll become.
He wonders if worrying about them will take up space for worrying about himself.
No, that was a stupid question. Of course, it does.
"Choromatsu, you okay?"
Choromatsu blinked, reeling from his thoughts. Osomatsu already had his drink (a beer, unsurprisingly) and was looking at him expectedly. He sighed, knowing he caused the very thing he hated.
But it was inevitable, it was so inevitable that he sighed and accepted it, knowing it'll happen eventually.
He ignored Osomatsu's concerned look and decided on a green tea for himself, feeling a little smug on having Osomatsu pay the slightly higher price for it.
The two sat at a nearby bench, the streetlight above washing them in artificial light. Forgotten roses are huddled together on the sides, it's familiar crimson dusted in lively gold. Choro takes a sip of his tea, filling him with the warmth he craved for so long. He hums in relief that he won't have to face the cold for a little bit.
He redirects his attention to his older brother, who was gazing at the stars, taking a long sip from his beer. Though, his gaze was distant, like was he was staring at something far far away. Faraway from the stars, the moon, and even the planets.
Choro understood because he has seen those far off places too, those places called their memories.
But, someone has to pull him back into reality.
"Are you okay, Osomatsu?"
Osomatsu blinked twice, once at the stars and the once at Choromatsu, before a smirk adjoins his face. He raised an eyebrow at the suspecting brother.
"Eh, why wouldn't I be?"
"Don't you look at yourself?" he frowned, an eyebrow raised in questioning. "You look like your falling apart at the seams. I'm surprised you've haven't already."
Oso chuckled, taking another sip of his beer. "Ah? And I thought I was being discreet too!"
Choro's frown stayed unamused and Oso's smile falls, knowing he'll have to be sober to get through to him. He sighs, gazing at the night sky.
"You know, it's been a month and dad's photo is still on the butsudan."
That's all he needed to say.
The realizations came at him at once. The fact that he wasn't back at home or was at work was crushing. But the sudden realization that he neglected that fact for a couple days physically suffocated him. He wanted to bang his head on the wall for letting himself forget the man who raised him, even if it was for two days. He didn't let that show though, taking a long sip of his lukewarm tea and wishing it was hard vodka instead.
"Has it really been that long?" he says, strained. "I... I had no idea."
He thought it had been two.
Osomatsu had hummed, silently agreeing. "Its been so long. Nothing and everything changed. We all stopped being NEETs and gotten jobs and started doing productive things like this. And yet..."
He trailed off, swirling the remains of his beer in his can aimlessly. The swirling went faster and faster until it abruptly stopped.
Choromatsu puts a steady hand on his shoulder, stopping the spinning of the can. All other words leaving his mouth, all he could say was his name.
"It's just... everyone's still so fucking sad!"
His eyes widen slightly, not expecting the response.
"It's been a month, and everyone's still is grieving," he continues. "Todomatsu's silent, Jyshimatsu's smiles vanished, Ichimatsu had been gone for a week now, Karamatsu is way less painful, and you."
The two shared eye contact, a brief reminder of the secrets blossoming beneath his sweater before Choromatsu had to look away from his guilt.
"It's been a month," he repeats, quieter. "It's been a month, and now I'm beginning to think it's my fault they're not happier. I mean, I did everything I could, but nothing's changed." Osomatsu grips the beer can harder, causing the can to crinkle. His voice breaks, leaving him sounding desperate and grieving.
"What else could I possibly do?"
The darkness is suffocating and quiet, taunting how he couldn't find the words to comfort Osomatsu quicker, his mind still reeling from the fact that it's been a month before he finds the words he's been blindly grasping at.
And for a moment he feels if the darkness swallowed his whole existence, erasing himself from this world just to taunt him on letting Osomatsu carry this burden for so long, that'll be okay.
But, that'll be giving up, and he didn't want to give up just yet.
"I'm... I'm not sure if everything will go back to normal after all this," he says honestly. "Maybe everyone will still grieve months from now, but it's not your fault. It was never your fault."
He finally gained enough confidence to have eye contact with his oldest brother, staring with such determined eyes.
Determined to try and live again.
Osomatsu was right. Everything and nothing had changed. He was still grieving, but he wasn't stuck in that constant cycle of waking up, self-harming, sleeping, and repeating.
"You're stupid, oblivious, money-hungry, an alcoholic, and might possibly have a gambling problem, and yet, you're the best niisan we could have because you're you. You don't need to change, I'm sure the others come around someday."
The darkness was a little less suffocating than it once was, the streetlight and the stars fighting off its constrictive hold. The third brother sighed, thankful he finally has room to breathe.
"You shouldn't lose sleep over stupid things like that Osomatsu-niisan," Choromatsu murmurs, cradling the now cooled over tea in his hands.
He didn't expect to hear a laugh next to him, a more honest, tired one.
"You're the second person to tell me off for that."
"Who was the first?"
Osomatsu presses a finger on his mouth, immediately making Choro roll his eyes. "It's a secret. I promised!"
Choromatsu blinked. Didn't he promise him, too? "Eh?"
"I've promised someone that I'll better myself for their happiness," he puts matter-of-factly, despite it being vague. It sounded stupid, but for the confident, real smile he had, he found himself believing him.
He guessed noticing his eye bags were slowly disappearing helped also.
That was all he could see, all there was ever was.
He raises his arm to try to touch the sky, to reach the innocent clouds above. He couldn't, of course, and he lets his arm dangle as he frowns. How disappointing.
It was then that he was realized stems were entangled on his arm, small gray flowers blossoming ontop.
The stems were tangled on his whole body, the various thorns poking into his fragile skin. The stems circled his body until they were stopped by a rose blossoming in place of his left eye. He touched it but otherwise didn't care. He was too tired to care.
He was too tired to move, to go forward in the unknown blankness of the future. He squints, trying to see something, anything secured for him, but all there was white.
So he sits on this fallen pillar, tangled in the same flowers he had, waiting.
Waiting for what?
When will it come?
When will I stop waiting?
Will the thorns stop hurting?
Will I fly to the clouds?
Will it even come?
A sound interrupts Choromatsu's thoughts, the crashing of waves. He looks below to see an ocean of murky, black water below him, crashing onto itself. It beckons Choromatsu to plunge in its deadly tides, and Choro gazes at it longingly before looking at the sky.
He really didn't care anymore.
He's tired and the thorns pricking his skin hurt and he doesn't want to be teased by the clouds and the sky being so far away and he didn't want to be gray anymore. The monochrome was slowly killing him, so why not complete the deed himself? The darkness couldn't be as bad as this, it couldn't.
This is only a dream anyway. Once Choromatsu is back, he could try and try again as many times as he wants.
He takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, and counts.
Three, two, one!
He pushes himself off the fallen pillar, allowing himself to fall.
The feeling of weightlessness, of nothingness, before he crashed into the inky waves was the best thing he ever felt in forever.
He didn't open his eyes as his chest heaved for air.
He didn't open his eyes as his lungs begged for oxygen.
He didn't open his eyes as his body seized or throat closed up.
But he opened his eyes at the sound of a muted laugh. A soft, quiet, sad laugh.
His eyes widened at the figure in the water despite his vision already caving in. A person he couldn't reach, but he could see clearly, despite the murky sea between them. A person that looks exactly like him, but their flowers were burned, charred with ash.
He could recognize that messy hair anywhere.
He could barely speak with the amount of water in his lungs, but he managed a meek whisper hidden underneath the roaring waves engulfing them. A question, a why, a how, a regret, a sorry, all wrapped up in a name, his name, as his eyes unwillingly fluttered shut.
He smiled as the world went dark.
And the ceiling. The moonlight. The familiar snores of two brothers between him. Silent whispers from the balcony. And the colors, dim, but still there.
He sighs shakily before staring at the ceiling, worry for Ichimatsu on is mind. Ichimatsu slowly dying with him in the sea. Ichimatsu charred flowers tattered against his fragile body. Ichimatsu's sad smile as they both sank. His knowing eyes as if he knew it would happen for both of them. Why was Ichimatsu there in the first place?
Where was Ichimatsu now?
He shakes his head. Ichimatsu being there was only a rare circumstance. He was just thinking about Ichimatsu a lot before. Ichimatsu was probably somewhere safe and there was no need for him for worry.
Heh... Is worrying in this house inevitable?
So he tried to think of something else other than the missing brother because worrying over something so dumb was stupid. He has work tomorrow too! He wasn't going to sleep on the job just because of a little pesky thought. Who did he think he was, Osomatsu?
Thinking about the eldest made him notice his voice outside. He turned to see the two oldest out on the balcony, talking about something out of earshot. Osomatsu had wiped his eyes on his sleeve, faintly laughing to something Karamatsu had said.
Ah, so that was who Osomatsu made a promise to.
It was relieving that someone other than him knows how unhealthy Osomatsu is to himself. His bags slowly disappearing, his smile becoming genuine, those are some of the only things that make Choromatsu's heart swell with pure joy nowadays. It makes him feel like he's doing something right for once.
But still, when thinking about that, he couldn't fall asleep. Even when the two settled back to bed again, their breathing gradually becoming in rhythm with the rest, he couldn't slip back into the darkness. He finally figured it was useless trying when he heard the two eldest snore and slipped out of bed.
He flicked on the kitchen lights, getting a small glass of water to calm his nerves. He sipped it as he eyed the living room, an unrecognizable urge washing over him. He turned on the living room lights as soon as he finished, immediately spotting the altar in the corner.
He sighed, gazing at Matzuno's photo. Maybe he just wanted to see his face again. Maybe he just wanted to talk to him.
We miss you, dad. Don't you see how miserable our lives are without you?
He sat at the altar, looking at the photo and the two urns beside it, a gentle reminder that he isn't at work and he isn't at home and he isn't upstairs and he isn't here and he could only be seen at the far off places called his memories even though he wants him to be here now. He wants advice on his job and his worry about Ichimatsu and the complex feelings of wanting to die even though he doesn't want to die but it seems so tempting sometimes and-!
Why did you have to give up so soon?
It's been over a month since you died.
It's been over a month since we moved on.
He smiles as he wipes the budding tears in his eyes, relishing in a feeling that could only be described as bittersweet.
Hearing the sound of footsteps, he turned to see Matsuyo on the stairway.
"Choromatsu? I didn't realize you were awake yet. I'll wait-!"
"It's fine, mom," he reassures. "I'm fine."
Her eyes softened as she frowns, not pleased with his reasoning, but accepting anyway. "You know, I'm here with you in this. You can always lean on me."
Choromatsu laughed softly as his blush burns on his cheeks, averting his eyes. "I know."
She sat next to him, caressing his cheek softly, a contrast to Osomatsu pinching him the other day. "I'm not saying this because I don't believe in you," she whispers sternly. "You're strong, Choromatsu. I'm so proud of the changing you did in the last two weeks. I just don't want you to overwork yourself."
Choromatsu looked at her in disbelief, his subtle blush growing. "Mom, I don't deserve praise. You did so much in the past month. I wish I could just have half of the strength you have.
Look at me. I fought with Osomatsu out of grief. I harm myself out of stress. I break down when I can't take it anymore. Is that anything worthy of praise?!
Matsuyo only smiled. "You flatter me, but don't talk down to yourself. You did so much this month, just by living. And that's worth all of my praise in the world, just because you're here."
Choromatsu rapidly blinks the tears out of his eyes, looking down. "I'm sorry," he stampers out of in embarrassment, guilt. Matsuyo sighed, lifting his head for him to meet her eyes.
"Don't be sorry, we're all trying our best here."
Choromatsu could only stare before he smiled, the tears in his eyes budding again.
"Then I'll try harder for you. I'll make you proud!"
Matsuyo looked surprised as a light flush suddenly glowed on her cheeks, but she laughs it off.
"You already are."
1. for those who don't know, a butsudan is a shrine that is typically located in japanese buddhist homes and temples. in this case, it's for paying respects to a loved one, and when a photo of a person is on the butsudan, it means the family is still grieving that loved one.
2. who knew that Bittersweet is an actual name for Red. look it up, it's a dark crimson and it's g r e a t. in fact, all of the chapter titles are names of colors, so, you know, aesthetic
3. matsuyo needs more love, honestly. i love her but she needs a break. rasing six shitty sons is hard, i bet
4. also, ive made fanart of this chapter, feel free to check it out!
Chapter 7: 6 - sky
the boy walked in this world for some time now. it felt useless, almost everything that wasn't Bittersweet was gray.
he felt empty. he labeled the feeling Blue.
sooooo my computer is acting up and i cant write at the moment. unfortunately i have to pause this, and all other fanfics of mine, for a temporary hiatus until i know what the heckle is going on. lucky for you i always have a extra chapter for accidents like this!! i hope you enjoy and ill try to update you soon!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Painting doesn't take up that much time, he realizes.
Choromatsu already finished most of the project in the last class, so he was finishing up the touch-ups Hachia sometimes taught the class while they work like blending and highlights. He supposed that roses are only 4-inch flowers that don't take a lot of time to paint, but he didn't realize he was going to finish this soon.
Clapping from the front immediately caught his attention as he looked up to see Hachia Sensei. The room quiets down from its usual chatter to listen to her direction, seeing it must be significant enough she had to interrupt the class period for. She'd stopped clapping when she got the attention of everyone, smiling nervously.
"Sorry for interrupting," she starts, rolling her eyes at the joking groans in the crowd. "I swear this is important. Are you guys almost finished with the rose prompt?"
There was a sluggish reaction from the class and Sensei frowned at the lack of enthusiasm.
"Come on, I know I've dragged you guys out of your homes late but at least give me a decent answer!" She sighs, huffing in childish annoyance before continuing. "Anyways, seeming like most of you are finishing up, I'm going to introduce the new theme, sky! It can be literally anything about it, I really don't care. Just remember how vast and full it is. More can meet the eye than only some blues and whites."
Sensei gave a challenging smile, her brown eyes washing over every student. "I want everyone here to get out of their comfort zone, understand? Don't let something as vast as the sky scare you. There are infinite ideas just lying among the stars. All you have to do is take one."
There was a long silence of admiration and awe in the class. Choromatsu learned pretty early on that Hachia Sensei isn't one to be serious. Though her dedication and pride to her art can be shown through her words, sparking inspiration into everyone there.
The moment of silence was interrupted by a laugh from someone in the lower rows. "How are we exactly going to get inspiration when we can't even see outside!"
Hachia Sensei sighed, pinching her nose. "Go get your own references! I'm your art teacher, not your reference guide!"
It was near the end of the class when Hachia approached him again, smiling at his finished work. He didn't notice her at first, focusing on packing up so he didn't have another encounter with Osomatsu.
"You did really well with roses, Choro-san! I'm excited for your work for the sky prompt!"
Choro stopped what he was doing and flushed lightly, not expecting praise. It was a rose, only a rose. The shading got a little messy but and he went over the lines a little bit, but it was his rose that he'd painted himself. "Ah, thank you, Sensei. I am actually a bit proud of it myself."
"Mhm, you should be!"
Choro smiled before looking at the ground timidly.
"Also," he started, quieter. "Uhm, is it still okay that I use your closet?"
"Don't you want to show your family?" Sensei frowned. He sighed. Despite being proud of it, the thought of anyone outside here looking at his work was scary. He's a beginner, and beginners are supposed to be awful at first, and he doesn't want to burden people with something he could readily grow from. Besides, his brothers would probably tear it to pieces and his parents-!
...And his mother would dismiss him. But it's okay for him and for him to see alone.
"Not yet," he finally decides. Her gaze softens.
"I see," she murmurs, understanding. Choro was grateful that she wasn't pushing him. He wasn't sure what he'll do if she did. "Well, my closet's free anytime! I'll keep them safe for you."
"Thank you again," he sighs, a relieved smile on his lips. "You're really saving me here."
Hachia Sensei shrugs, grinning. "It's just a closet, isn't it?"
They both knew it wasn't.
He finished packing up quickly and waved Sensei goodbye, walking home quietly. To be honest, he just wanted to shower and go to bed, but with the long bus ride ahead of him, he has to focus on other thoughts.
At least Osomatsu visiting was a one-time thing-!
He stops at the bench they sat at last time, his eyes widening once more. He sighs, his eyebrow twitching in irritation.
"Are you kidding me?!"
Osomatsu looks up from the vending machine, shooting Choro a mischievous grin.
"Oh hey Choro-chan," he greets casually as if nothing was wrong with the situation. "You're early."
"No shit," he spat, a dangerous aura looming from him. "Didn't I tell you to not come here when I left?"
Oso raises an eyebrow, curious to see how this goes. "Yea."
"And what did you said after that?"
"So why are you here?!"
Osomatsu shrugged, turning his attention to the vending machine. The sound of a can clunking to the floor came shortly after. "I lied?"
Choro sighed deeply, not letting the immense amount of disappointment and anger take over him. The audacity! Why am I paired up with this disappointment of a human being!
"Are you kidding me," Choro repeated, fuming. "Two times in a row? Is three times the charm for you to finally fuck off?"
"Probably not," Osomatsu replies before opening his can and taking a sip. "Want one?"
"It's supposed to be a rhetorical question, you dumbass!"
Pinching his nose, he tries to realize the good in this. Sensei and his classmates didn't see Osomatsu, which relieved him to no end.
Yeah, that was pretty much it.
But that was enough for him to calm down from his initial rage to look the eldest in the eye, daring for him to try him.
"Why are you here... again?"
"What's wrong with Onii-Chan picking you up sometimes?"
Choro sighed for the third time today. "This better not be a regular thing."
"I wouldn't hope on that, Choro-chan."
Reluctantly, Choromatsu lets Osomatsu walk with him, warning him he won't do the same thing a third time. The elder seemed to shrug off his threats, causing him to give up. At least no one had seen him for now.
"Hey, how is that Pinterest painting class doing anyway?" Osomatsu asked suddenly. Choromatsu scowled.
"Don't compare it to Pinterest. It's different," he frowns, before raising an eyebrow. "Why do you ask?"
"Well if you like it enough to kick out your favorite brother-"
"I don't have favorites."
"-then it must be something special."
Choromatsu lets the statement hang in the air before shrugging. "It really isn't. I joined it on a whim."
"Mhm. I saw a poster and wanted to try it. I wanted to get out of the house more since... you know, and that seemed to be the easiest option. I never thought I would stay this long."
Osomatsu quickly changed the topic, knowing where this was heading. "Is it fun?"
Choromatsu looks at him before gazing at the sky in thought.
"It's interesting," he finally concluded, gathering his thoughts. "We got introduced to a sky prompt today. That was something."
"A sky prompt?" Osomatsu asked, squinting at the starry night sky. "What's so special about the sky?"
"Well, it is an easy thing to paint," he listed, counting off his fingers. "Easy inspiration when nothing else works, uses a lot of colors, blending technique practice. You know, those sorts of things."
Osomatsu continues to squint his eyes before he ultimately gives up, sighing.
"Ugh, I don't get it!"
"Of course you don't, you shitty eldest."
"I don't know why you're talking to me about this! Karamatsu's better, always being up on the roof and all that."
Choro was about to say that he was the one who wanted to know in the first place before he stopped in his tracks, fully comprehending Osomatsu's words. Wait, could it be? Yes, he could try that!
The roof, of course!
The eldest had turned when Choro ran at him, placing both hands on his shoulders.
"Osomatsu, you genius!"
Though, the excitement of finding inspiration died off as he realized that he was getting inspiration from Osomatsu of all people, and he frowned, questioning the idea.
"Osomatsu, you genius?"
A day later and Choromatsu still couldn't find any significant flaws in the idea, surprisingly.
He picks up a stray empty notebook, cringing at the huge white star in the middle of the blue shimmery sequins on the cover. Karamatsu has lots of shiny blue notebooks laying around, most of them empty. Choro figured he only collects them to complete his... aesthetic. To make things worse, they were reverse sequins, and instead of getting another color, you get his face with "cool" in bold, English letters. He swears his heart stops out of pure horror every time he sees it.
Though this one was one of the tamer ones in the second eldest's collection and he didn't have a sketchbook of his own, so this would have to do. Getting a pencil from out his bag, he climbs to the roof.
"Hey, can I used this," he asks, holding up the teal abomination in question. "It's empty."
Karamatsu had a far-away look in his eyes, holding his guitar to his chest before he was made aware of Choro's presence. He jumped and turned to the third-born before softly smiling as he realized his request.
"Sure, my brother."
He hummed and sat next to his immediate older brother, flipping open a page. Karamatsu's notebook had lines in it, but he didn't mind much as he started doodling. There was a long silence between the two, but neither seemed to mind. The bustling of the busy street below them was enough for them.
Except it wasn't.
It was hard to explain, but Choro loved the silence. He got to focus more on his sketch that way. But this is Karamatsu he's talking about. You know, the one regularly monologuing to the point he drones on with the wind. He would ordinarily be monologuing about the sky because he admits, it looks pretty, but he doesn't need an essay about it looking pretty except he does because Karamatsu wasn't talking at all and that's what bugs him.
Osomatsu was right, Karamatsu wasn't being painful as much, and he was ashamed to say he missed it. And that is saying a lot.
Karamatsu finally said something when Choromatsu was halfway finished in his sketch. It wasn't lines of random prose or English words with a terrible, terrible accent, but rather a simple question.
"Are you doing okay?"
His pencil stopped mid-stroke as he stared at his immediate older brother incredulously.
"I wanted to know if you're doing okay," he says timidly, devoid the usual confidence and spirit. "The incident left us all in such a bad state, but I know ever since you've gotten a job you have gotten better, but I wanted to make sure."
Why arent you asking yourself that he thought, but he bit his tongue at the last second. "I'm fine," he answered instead. "Everything's fine."
He knew it wasn't.
The Red slowly creeps upon his unexpected form, creeping onto his arms.
They both knew it wasn't.
It tightens itself onto his arms, causing the scars already lying there to call for help. Wanting to bleed, wanting to release.
No one said a word.
It hurts to hear them scream.
"Won't you play, Niisan?" He asked, distracting himself from the Red slowly clouding his vision. His fingers were tightly clasped on his pencil, trying not to stray to scratch his bandages. It wasn't working.
The second-born looked at his guitar and sighed. "I can't. I've been in some sort of rut recently. I can't think of ideas for the life of me."
He laughs emptily. It pains both of them.
His hands were shaking as he tries to focus back on his sketch, trying to ignore the Red binding him, trying to ignore the silence suffocating him, trying to ignore Karamatsu's quietness annoying him. But he can't. He can't because it's too quiet and too out of character for both of them and he wants to be back to normal already but he can't because of stuff he can't begin to understand at the moment. His shoulders shake as his strokes become more forced and shaky but he keeps on pressing on the paper to regain his focus from the silence and the hurt and the Red but he can't and he won't and he's sorry.
He's so sorry.
The pencil breaks, sending the lead flying.
But it's not too late to make it up to him.
"Are you okay, Choromatsu? I think I have another pencil somewhere. I-"
Choromatsu looks up from the notebook for the first time since the pencil broke, glaring up at his immediate older brother.
"We're going to Chibita's tonight. Alone."
cliffhangers are my lifeblood i swear
my sneaky bois are being sly sneaky snakes tonight!
Chapter 8: 7 - maya
a laugh, proud words of encouragement, his weary smile. memories became to flood him of a person he once looked up too, a person he admired.
he trudged forward for him. he trudged forward for both of them.
It wasn't until they were halfway there it occurred to him it was cold.
They were underneath a fury of purple and pink swirls, stars already starting to dot the sky. The sun was setting behind them as the frost began to build up. The wind bristles through their hoodies as Choro sighed, regretting their choice to abandon their jackets. Karamatsu's was in the closet and he'd run the risk of being seen if he'd fetched it.
He turned to his immediate older brother who was staring at the water from the bridge they were on. His eyes were glazed off, just like earlier. Sighing, he pulls him harder.
"M-My sweet Choromatsu, are you sure this is a good idea?" Karamatsu stumbles as Chibita's cart gets more into sight. "Our brothers will certainly murder us if they found out."
"It's fine," he says absentmindedly. "This is worth it."
"What is possibly worth being penetrated into oblivion?"
You, you dumbass!
He bit his tongue, seeing that they were not drunk enough yet.
When Chibita caught eyes with the two sextuplets he grinned, waving his ladle wildly.
"Hey, it's you idjits! Long-time no see!"
The two sextuplets shuffled into the oden cart, waving respectively. "It's been a busy couple of weeks with our new jobs," Karamatsu says with a sparkle. "But we could never go so long without seeing our old friend."
Chibita almost stumbles off his stool in shock. "W-Wait, jobs . Yall have jobs now?! What kind of cruel dream is this?!"
Choromatsu rolled his eyes, not surprised at the outburst. "It's real, Chibita. I almost couldn't believe it either."
Despite Choro's reassurance, Chibita squinted at them. "Sure, I'm not surprised by you finally landing a job, Karaboy isn't that surprising either, but that idjit Osomatsu?"
They both nodded seriously. "I had to beg for them to hire both of us, I believe."
Chibita stared at him incredulously. "And they did?"
Karamatsu coughed. "Not without a ten percent pay cut."
This time it was Choromatsu's turn to almost fall out of his seat. "Wait, what-"
"Ah, makes sense." The chef shrugs and turns to grab two bowls. "Things are on the house, for now. I expect payment the next time you see me, ya hear me?! The fact that you're lazy NEETs isn't an excuse anymore."
"Isn't anyone going to talk about his pay cut-"
"Thank you, Chibita. You're always so nice to us."
The chef in question flushes but did nothing to accept or deny the compliment as he pushes them their food.
"So what happened to the other idjits? All you usually flock here together."
Karamatsu eyed the third brother, wanting an explanation too. To be fair, he dragged him out with little information or reason, so that's to be expected.
"We snuck out," Choro replied simply. "I wanted to come here and dragged Karamatsu with me. The house... it's different now, right Karamatsu-niisan?"
Karamatsu jumps, not expecting his sudden change of tone. "Y-Yeah," he agrees, silently sipping his beer. "It is."
Chibita glances the two warily, also knowing what he meant. After all, after years of running his stand, he closed it for the couple days following their dad 's funeral. Matzuno always treated him like he was one of his sons too.
A heavy silence was cast over the stand, the only noise is the boiling of broth and the crickets near the river. The third brother downed his beer dangerously fast, already asking for another. The chef muttered a warning but otherwise obliged.
Karamatsu didn't do much, staring at the night with that same faraway look he grew to hate.
"You're annoying," Choromatsu pipes up halfway through his second, already feeling burning on his cheeks.
"I'm sorry that I'm an inconvenience for you," he responds distractedly. Choromatsu's eyebrow twitches in annoyance.
"Hey! Don't put me off like that! You would've given me a whole speech if I was Ichimatsu."
The second born's shoulders went rigid at the fourth brother's name. "You know he's not here right now."
"And I am."
Silence returned once again before Karamatsu took a heavy sip of his beer, turning around.
"What do you want me to do then, my Choromatsu?"
"I want you to talk, goddamn it!"
Choromatsu frowns as Karamatsu falters, muttering a quick apology.
"But, I was talking?" Karamatsu naively questions. The third brother painfully suppresses the will to facepalm.
"You're silent," Choromatsu pushes. "You haven't said anything remotely painful today and been spacing out for god knows how long."
Karamatsu had flushed at his findings but otherwise stayed silent. The third-born groans.
"This is what I mean, Karamatsu! No painful remarks? No random English? No anything ? Chibita, you have to agree with me. Isn't he acting weird?"
Chibita clicks his tongue in thought. "...He isn't himself, but I think it's best to let the boy be. Karaboy had been through a lot in the past month."
" I know that ! Don't you think I don't know that? He was my dad too!"
The cart got suddenly silent at the mention of Matzuno. The third-born quiets down, silently helping himself to another beer.
"L-Listen Choro," Chibita stampers. "I-I didn't m-mean it that way. I-I know ya both had it hard-"
"I know you didn't mean it like that, Chibita. It's just..." He leans on the seat, looking at the sky. The sun had finished setting, leaving the three beneath a beautiful dark navy blue. More glowing dots scatter through the air.
"Fuck! This sucks!"
Maybe that was when Choromatsu finally realized that he wasn't completely okay himself. That grief can't just up and leave after a short time. That this hole in their heart will be gaping there forever. That they will never be entirely normal themselves.
And maybe, that scared him.
The word taunted him. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. He wanted to stop questioning.
He finished his second beer and swigged his third. The world started to swirl as he sipped on his fourth, the warning from Chibita completely forgotten.
"Do you think we'll lose ourselves forever?" Choromatsu slurs. Chibita frowned at him.
"I don't think so."
Karamatsu finally speaks and all eyes turned to him. He finished his food and two beers in the time Choro had taken to finish four. "We'll be okay."
"But it hurts so much."
"I know it hurts. It always hurts, but we can pull through this."
Choromatsu looked at him, anticipation and hope dancing in his eyes. He tries to shield them from view.
"Niisan. Please don't lie to me. You've been silent for a month now and that's too long. What if your silent for two months? F-Four months? W-What if you're not yourself f-forever? F-Fuck, why a-am I crying?"
And despite himself, fat tears rolled down his unexpecting face. Chibita and Karamatsu gazed at him worriedly. His brother scoots over to him.
"Oh no ," he slurs, scooting away. "Fuck you! Fuck off! I don't need your reassurance! I don't-"
He gets cuts off by his brother wrapping him in a tight embrace. He was about to protest even more until Karamatsu whispers in his ear.
"Do you want to die, Choromatsu?"
His body freezes as he processes the response. He doesn't. He really doesn't. But the thoughts of resolve wasn't helping his case despite him saying it wasn't a good idea it wasn't-
"I don't know," he says finally. Karamatsu stayed silent above him. A pause.
"Well," he started, taking in a shaky breath. "I also wanted to."
The world seemed to stop moving at that very second. The crickets quieted, the stars dimmed, and his heart stopped as his thoughts seemed to focus on one thing.
Karamatsu wanted to kill himself and he didn't even know it.
Suddenly, the urge to vomit was at its peak as he pushed himself away and barfed on the side of the cart.
"Oi! Not near the cart, damn it!" Chibita yelled. Choromatsu couldn't care less as he dry-heaved.
"You wanted to die, Niisan?!" He exclaimed he lifted himself up, wiping his mouth. Karamatsu immediately went red.
"No! I mean... yes? I used to! Don't say it so loud like that!"
The short chef eyed the second born, pinching his nose. "Are we seriously talking about this now?"
"Chibita you knew ?!"
"I told him recently when I wasn't feeling that well," Karamatsu said sincerely. "But Chibita and Osomatsu can't be the only ones who know anymore. I need to reveal the truth to the rest of my family."
"Yeah, yeah," Chibita applauded. "Great job and all that. But maybe do it when your little brother isn't bursting from the seams?"
Karamatsu blinked. "Ah, that might be an issue."
Chibita lightly hits him with his ladle. "You're such an airhead, Karaboy." Karamatsu chuckles lightly before getting back to the subject at hand.
"Choromatsu, I'm not saying this to make you feel bad. I just want you to know that I can help you with this. That things will get better. I went through it myself, anyway."
The third brother looks at his brother through uncertain glassy eyes and a quivering frown. His thoughts were swirling overwhelmingly but he couldn't take his eyes off his immediate older brother. The brother that shared the same inner turmoil with him. The brother who the family bullies relentlessly. The brother that he almost lost unknowingly.
"Fuck you, Shittymatsu!"
Karamstu frowned, eying Choromatsu worryingly. "Choromatsu, please..."
"No! I don't want to hear anymore! Fuck your selfless, naive, generous ass! I hate you, Kusomatsu, Shittymatsu, n-niisan..!"
Choromatsu heaved, trying to keep from crying again. His hazy mind was spinning and he didn't know what he was saying and he couldn't stop wait why couldn't he stop and everything was just so overwhelming.
"I did this all for you," he murmurs, looking down at the clenched hand in his lap. "I figured that some oden and beers by ourselves will make you feel better, and now you tell me this- "
He gets stopped by the sob caught in his throat, his shoulders trembling. Giving up, he raises his arm to cover the tears pooling down his cheeks.
"I-I... I just don't want to lose my n-niisan!"
And suddenly he's sobbing and hyperventilating since he's rapidly losing air and oh god Karamatsu's going to die and it'll be all his fault again and he didn't want to be alone he can't be alone he won't -
He feels Karamatsu gentle hold his shoulders, slowly massaging small circles. "Breathe," Karamatsu says so calmly and careful so he did but it came out all wrong and suddenly he's losing air worse than before but Karamatsu told him to try again try again and he did and he did and it turns out that he's alive and words couldn't describe how much relief passed through him. The third brother wasn't sure how long they stayed like that, taking turns breathing, but by the time he looks up at the stars he sees that they're all in their places.
"I don't know if I can survive another loss," Choromatsu croaks out honestly. The world is silent for once.
Karamatsu's grip on his shoulders got tighter as he swiftly pulls him into another hug. The overly strong scent of manly cologne fills the air, but Choromatsu finds himself leaning in the embrace.
"I'll never leave your side, my sweet Choromatsu," he hums. "Those thoughts are nothing but figments of the past."
"They're not," he correctly sharply. Both of them both know the thoughts they shared were as new as day. Karamatsu gasps, beginning to protest, but no actual words came out.
"...You're right," he says after a while, chuckling emptily. "Most of them still plague me to this day. But I won't feed into them. I won't die on you Choromatsu."
And Choromatsu who's dark eyes blossomed with a dangerous scarlet and slowly grew puffy, shimmering with the leftovers of his tears and innocence he hadn't let himself had in a long, long time. Choromatsu who cheeks glittered a vibrant crimson blush from how drunk and embarrassed he was, his face glossy from glistening tear stains. Choromatsu who lips tightens into a tight frown, not willing to spill more hidden secrets tonight.
He pulled away and stared his brother down, his eyes swimming with sincerity and trust and love, and said: "I'll trust you, niisan."
And that was finally enough for them both.