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twenty-two sundays

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“he moved slightly away and started talking to the boy next to him.

and here my baby came indeed, through all that sunlight,

his face flushed and his hair flying, his eyes, unbelievably,

like morning stars.”

 

 

“What happens after football?” Chigiri mumbles around a mouthful of snow peas, sparing Kunigami a curious glance. 

He takes in too-strong features, a hard jawline and lips prone to quirking up in tight-lipped smiles. There’s a little scar on his jaw. Shaving accident? A nasty foul during a game? Chigiri files it away for future reference.

“After football?” Kunigami replies absentmindedly around a mouthful of curry, mind still stuck on the stinging loss a few hours ago. Practice was on pause as they ate lunch — one of the rare moments the team had to themselves.

“There’s nothing after it. I’m going to win. I’ll come out on top, and join the U-20 team,” Kunigami shrugs, like it’s obvious.

It’s a little ridiculous, the way Kunigami says it — his shoulders are squared, and there’s not even a hint of arrogance in his demeanor despite the clear overconfidence in his words. The words would have sounded haughty from anyone else in Blue Lock, but they just sound like the truth from him. Chigiri manages a breathy laugh. The hubris of heroism.

“What’s so funny?” Eyebrow twitching a little dangerously, Kunigami spoons a mouthful of curry into his mouth. A piece of potato attaches itself to his lower lip, and slyly remains there.

Chigiri just smiles wider, moving to placate him. “It’s just cool that you believe in yourself like that, I guess. Personally, after…” He gestures helplessly at his right knee. “It’s been hard for me to be confident in my own weapon. I’ve been overthinking a lot, I guess,” He picks thoughtfully at his vegetables, only looking up when he feels a certain gaze burning into his face. 

“You, of all people, have no reason to be hesitant in your skill. You clearly have a weapon... now Isagi, on the other hand…” Kunigami smirks, jerking his chin in the direction of the boy sitting on the other side of the cafeteria. Chigiri doesn’t even crack a smile at the attempt at humor. Instead, his face falls, concerned.

“Yeah, I have a weapon… a broken one with a shelf life. I have so much to lose, and my leg is a ticking time bomb. I-I don’t know, sometimes I scare myself with the knowledge that my knee could just give out again — it’d be over for good—” A chipped laugh bubbles up from somewhere deep in his throat. His tongue is too heavy in his mouth; and he feels woozy, irate. 

A hot, dry hand on his neck and a familiar voice brings him back to reality.

“Chigiri. Didn’t you promise to play your best until your leg gave out?” Kunigami's stare is so intense, it’s almost frightening. It sends licks of electricity down his spine. It’s a little distracting.

“Don’t tell yourself it’s over before it is. It’s unfortunate what’s happened… sorry, that’s an understatement — but an injury is not a death sentence. You’re still here, and that means you need to do your best. For us, and for yourself. Didn’t we promise to make it to the end together?” A secretive smile graces Kunigami’s lips, and his hand begins to trace tiny shapes on the exposed nape of Chigiri’s neck. It should be a lighthearted moment, but the motion is unbearably intimate. Chigiri shivers a little. The tension is strange. He wants to diffuse it.

“The fear, it’ll all pass. I can’t say that I know what the apprehension of an injury feels like. But I know you feel what I feel on the field. The energy when our passes connect, and the euphoria that comes from the ball hitting home. I know you want all that.” Chigiri nods, steadfast. He understands, of course, but he’s a little preoccupied by the flush that rises in his own cheeks.

Kunigami’s fingers are still tracing smoldering circles on his nape. “Promise me that you’ll run, and never look back.” I’ll be with you to be sure that you make good on that promise, is left unsaid. But the implication hangs in the air.

“I promise,” Chigiri nods seriously, linking his pinky with Kunigami’s. The light press of skin against skin is childish, but it feels right; a confidential seal for the deal. Chigiri realizes he’s been holding Kunigami’s hand for much too long. He jerks his fingers away. The moment is broken.

He tugs Kunigami’s hand off his neck, ignoring the irrational twinge of protest that comes from within at the loss of contact. What good would it do to form useless attachments with his competitors? They are rivals — or maybe the cruelty of Blue Lock has seeped into his veins, become a part of him now that he can’t shake. Even if the competition (read: Kunigami) was uselessly caring and made his heart do laps with nothing but a laugh and a brush of his knuckles, he had to remember that even teammates are the enemy here. 

Chigiri promises halfheartedly to devour Kunigami Rensuke.

 

 

bleeding heart (dicentra spectabilis)

  • a perennial flower that got its name from its peculiar appearance. the petals are shaped like hearts with a blood-like teardrop shape at the bottom. cultivated for centuries in China, Japan, and Korea, the flower is Oriental in origin.

possible meanings:

  1. unrequited affection
  2. rejection
  3. compassion
  4. unconditional love

 

Some heroes rise to the occasion. Others fall when it is most important.

Kunigami tries not to be resentful, he really does (because it’s not like him to hold grudges, he’s a little naïve and so he forgives and forgets and grows — but God, this is different, this hurts in ways he couldn’t have imagined). The loss stings a hundred times more than the cold sweat that falls into his eyes as he walks off the field. 

He is numb as he packs his bags. He watches Isagi and Bachira struggle to school dazzling smiles and dizzying happiness into something more appropriate for the desolate situation of the eliminated. Kunigami nods numbly through the empty condolences, says something about it having been a pleasure to play with them. He mumbles words of thanks to every player that has been on his team, offering cursory fist bumps. He fakes a fierce grin and makes hollow promises; that he would see them on the field in one way or another. He’s not sure exactly what words spill out of his mouth while his head fills with the soft buzzing sound of LED lights and plaguing thoughts of what now, what comes next, what do I do ?

The false flame of hope fizzles out. From its ashes, an ugly mass of envy germinates; burying razor-sharp claws into the softness of his heart until it squeezes in physical protest. 

The top 11 exit, without so much as a glance behind them. Tears came, and fell.

What remained was the empty feeling that has trailed him since the second eliminations. It continues to drag its pallid fingers over his conscience, reminding him of the fantasies of heroism he’d lost. His morals, his center, what had driven him in the first place. All laying discarded on the floor, like garbage. 

At the same time, the knowledge that it’s finally over, makes a sick sense of relief plague his body. 

Kunigami is cold. Distant, bitter at the victors, and maybe a little tempted to sue the JFA for wasting his time; for eliminating his chances at a career in the sport that he loved so much. Football had been his only conviction for years. He had only kept his head held high because he had been able to believe in his ability in the sport.

He recalls the people he had pestered into practicing with him, the family he was letting down at home, the antagonistic neighbors he would have to face again — everyone he had ever let down flashes through his mind, like a fucked up Facebook friends list. He desperately fights back memories of the time spent on perfecting that shot — the days spent working his body until he couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe anymore — it all blurs together as familiar dampness creeps its way into his eyes.

But as night settled, deep into his bones, he knew there was nothing he could do. This was what the stars had intended.

The silence laps at him in waves, and he grips his bags tighter in the palm of his hand (the cloth of the straps are scratchy and they prod into the rough skin of his palms, they a reminder that he is still grounded, that he still has a place in the universe even if he has lost what makes him him). He thinks of every promise that he’s broken, and he swears to make something of himself despite losing near-everything.

The love of his life, football. And the up-and-coming rival for its affection, Chigiri Hyoma. 

His stomach turns as he considers the flash of Ryuusei’s eyes, the snap! that resounded through the field like late night thunder — forecasted, expected even, but still sickening to witness. A loathsome crunch, silence, and not even a yelp of pain from Chigiri. All he could do was rub a knuckle over Chigiri’s hands while the other boy was gritting his teeth, willing away the tears and the world of hurt that was to come. The paramedics and the stretchers came in quickly and quietly, and that was it for him. 

He had not seen him since. 

It had been the last game. So close to the finish line, Chigiri had been cruelly outlawed from the sport for life. That tantalizing almost might be more frustrating than Kunigami’s early finish. A pang of empathy courses through him.

He blinks the hope out of his eyes as he keeps his head down against the tide of the train station, tuning out the lonely thoughts with the toneless din of the train tracks.

Kunigami takes an empty seat by the window. He doesn’t sit with a slight slouch, like most people do. He sits up ramrod straight, posture picture-perfect. Apparently, sitting up straight helps ease oxygen into the lungs, deepening breaths and opening up the ribcage. But his bearing doesn’t help him catch his breath when he remembers the invigorating gleam of determination in Chigiri’s eyes, dancing dark and dangerous under the sweep of his eyelashes. Gulping for air, he fights down the urge to hold Chigiri and never let go.

 

 

sweet-brier (rosa rubiginosa)

  • a species of rose native to Europe and Western Asia. the foliage has a strong apple-like scent. also known as eglantine rose.

possible meanings:

  1. a wound to heal
  2. simplicity
  3. let us forget
  4. falling out of love

 

The process of becoming an athlete is long and disgusting. It begins from birth, when the most ambitious of parents scrabble to give their child a foothold in this cruel sphere of the world. You devote your life, or at least a third or a half or a quarter of it, to the sport, until it becomes part of you and you become hollow and addled with anxiety and fear of uselessness without it. It chains aspiring athletes to a specific kind of life, just as the Chinese practice of foot binding did to young girls in an attempt to extort what beauty they could from the ordinary. The side effects were nasty — athleticism certainly was not as glamorous as advertised. Bound feet meant excruciating pain every day of your life, and an inability to run away from your absolute dumpster fire of a life. What could you do except sit and look pretty if your feet were bound into pretty little crescent moons?

Chigiri Hyoma’s feet are bound. And he has no idea where he’s going.

He reads an article one night about how according to the Mayan calendar, the world is ending in a little less than 12 hours and the whole planet will embark on a glorious one-way journey to hell, and then lies in bed for three hours wondering if it was ever worth spending years of his life devoted to something so fragile as professional athletics. He flips through greek tragedies just to indulge in his own melancholy for a while and scolds his cat when she knocks his hairbrush off the nightstand for the fifteenth time. He contemplates college and scholarships and tuition and housing and the future that he’d taken for granted before his leg had twisted into something unusable.

Sometimes he considers going back to football, just to run one more time until he’s really injured to the point of no return. The idea appeals to him the way students always contemplate dropping out of school the night before a horrible exam. In a similar vein, he understands with a sober touch of sadness that he cannot actually do that. Although he would like to.

A few weeks ago, Chigiri had decided that he would only truly give up on football when his leg finally gave up on him. That was a snap decision in the moment. But what comes after this? Now that he is here, he stews in the possibilities and the all-encompassing fear of failure.

To be honest, it is a miracle that Chigiri’s knee is in one piece at all. It has made it through hell and back. He leaves the mantle of adolescence behind with a loss of his dreams, a love for black cats and literature, and a semi-functional leg. His first physiotherapist says he can start living “normally” again somewhere between six to twelve months.

What does normal mean? Is he abnormal now that his knee just doesn’t bend the same ways that it used to? He seethes.

For all his anger, maybe Chigiri is a little thankful for the time to mourn what he had chosen as his defining characteristic for most of his life. Six months is enough time to reflect and regret selling his soul to football and all things cruel and evil. There’s no point in regret. But how do you choose not to regret when that is all you have left? 

His second physiotherapist recommends that he sees a counselor to deal with the grief. Chigiri refuses. He will not dwell on his past. The doctor insists. He says no again. The doctor gets angry and calls his mother. His mother makes the decision, and she respects Chigiri’s choice. There is no counselor, in the end. 

The embittered despondence that comes from Blue Lock goes untreated, crawling under his skin. One day it will explode in his face, but Chigiri chooses not to worry about it until that day comes.

The medication is just okay. He is lucky in that aspect; he doesn’t develop the terrifying dependences that he’s heard of. The antibiotics are first. Then he takes the painkillers. Third are the nameless pills, which are nothing more than a last ditch attempt at saving his knee in the case of a miracle. Chigiri doesn’t believe in miracles. He believes in the hunger that had driven him so far. He believes in his promises to Kunigami, to Isagi, and above all, to himself — the promise he would do something worthwhile with what made him special.

Chigiri Hyoma is too young to be someone that has lost faith in miracles and the supernatural. But it's too easy to be a nonbeliever with the knowledge that he will not heal perfectly. He will never be able to outrace anyone worth his time on the field ever again. Despite his despair over it, that is the truth of the world, and his body is tired of defying the heavens in an immature act of rebellion. There is not much left for him, save for the small delights that had served as his distractions before football had taken over. 

Where does he go from here? This is no hero’s journey. There is no linear path, and he wishes desperately that he were in a novel so that he would know which gorgon to battle next, which chimera dwelled on his path to slay.

Technically, he knows where to go. Chigiri is already committed to a college with a flourishing literature program in Akita, hundreds of miles away from his hometown. But to be frank, he has no idea where he’s headed; especially on late nights when he can’t go back to sleep because of the pain, when he sits atop the hospital bed with his knee stretched uselessly in front of him. He is endlessly sad but refuses to cry, hands clutching at the bedsheets as he prays for his life back. 

This is the part where it gets better.

 

 

baby’s breath (gypsophila)

  • a flower in the carnation family, native to Eurasia, Africa, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. often used in wedding bouquets for its white, spray-like appearance. a hardy plant with small blossoms that is almost never the main attraction in a bouquet. 

possible meanings:

  1. purity
  2. innocence
  3. reconnection
  4. long-lasting love

 

On Sundays, Kunigami helps out at the flower shop. It has been twenty-two Sundays since Blue Lock has officially ended.

The family business is lively for a local trade, and the vivid blossoms kept him distracted while he tried his best not to think of the way Ego Jinpachi and the JFA had crushed his dream under their boots. He’s not used to the slant of morning light, forgiving and sweet on his face, or the soft pushback of his family home’s carpet under his bruised feet, a sharp contrast to the hard concrete and faux grass he had grown accustomed to. The steady lap of his dog’s tongue on his palm, the excited chirp of his younger sister’s voice in his ear, dinnertime tea and bike rides with his older sister: this is home.

It’s a growing process, and he has only just started working through this particular segment of his life, but he thinks he can let himself have this. He has never been an idealist, but fuck if he won’t make the best of what he has now. He’ll be the best damn florist there ever was. He’ll coach football for the neighborhood team, look for any opportunity he can to climb out of the abyss. He’ll coax this stupidly stubborn wildflower out of some asscrack in the floorboards like he’s a goddamn Ghibli character if that’s what it’ll take him to prove to the world, to himself, that he will make something of himself. A disgraced hero is the very last thing he wants to be.

He sighs, a little miffed as he wraps the floral arrangement with twine and tulle. He tugs at the ribbon a little, smoothing out the wrinkles in the cloth. A satisfied smile plays at his lips. A job well done. These were the little things that he had left behind when he had lived in the future, when he had focused so much (maybe too much, he considers) on the endgame.

“I miss you. Can we start over?” reads the note attached to the bouquet. The words are simple, cut and dry. Kunigami recalls the familiar customer’s request.

A boy in a red scarf faltered at the doorway, probably surprised to see someone of Kunigami’s stature working in the snug flower shop tucked away on the pretty corner of the street. Kunigami just waved a hand, fixing his gaze ahead stoically (as he usually does) until he realized who exactly the customer was.

“Isagi! Man, it’s been too long,” Kunigami broke into a broad grin, and greeted the boy with a friendly thump on the back. He misses the way Isagi visibly winces as Kunigami’s fist makes contact with his shoulderblade. 

“Wow. What are the odds? I just popped into a random flower shop, but this is the one, huh. The famous Kunigami family business!” Isagi grinned a little awkwardly, rubbing his neck.

“Yeah. It’s really good to see you,” Kunigami smiled genuinely for the first time in a long time. “So… what brings you here?”

“What kind of flowers do you give someone that you’ve left behind?” Isagi blurts. At Kunigami’s inquisitive look, Isagi deflects. “It’s a long story. What I want to say to him — er, the recipient, that is — is that I’m sorry for everything.” 

“And that I miss him,” he tacked on, pulling out his wallet. His feet shuffled nervously on the hardwood floor. “Any price should be okay,” 

Kunigami hums, unable to keep the bitter pricks of ill will at bay. Of course price would be no issue to a member of Japan’s U-20 team. Still, he considers at the oddly specific request, casting a glance back at his mother. “A little help here?” He hisses under his breath, bumping her hip with his own. It had been so long (too long) since he’d been at the store, what with wasting away half his life playing football. The days where Kunigami had been able to rattle off every perennial and annual flower’s primary and secondary meaning were long gone (though it was true that the flower names had stuck in his head much easier than schoolwork). His memory of flower talk was rough around the edges at best. 

Mama just waves him away, concentrating on a vivid arrangement of anemones. Rolling his eyes, Kunigami racks his brain for options. Well. 

“That’s… a very particular order? I’d suggest a combination of flowers of apology with flowers that represent love.” Kunigami paused to turn back, because he’d nearly forgotten the most important question. Mama had always said to check whether bouquets were for acquaintances or lovers — changing the meaning of a gift of flowers could be disastrous for the shop.

“Is this for a friend? Or, uh. Someone who’s more than a friend?” 

“About that,” Isagi sighs.

“I’m not sure. As far as I know, we’re just friends,” Kunigami wasn’t looking at Isagi’s face, but he could hear the pensive frown in his voice. “I don’t know. That’s how we ended off, but I haven’t seen him in a while now. He, ah. Moved to another country. So that he could really pursue football, you know? I let him go, because I want him to achieve his dreams. I can’t control that, I guess.” The boy pauses to bite his lip, pensive.

“But I finally got the guts to start talking to him again. It’s just that I’ve admired him for a while, and now that I have the chance to see him again that I’ve been dreaming of, I really want to make an impression. Even if he doesn’t feel the same, I think I just need him to know that I’ve been thinking of him all this time. I’ll hope that he feels the same way.” The boy flushes red. “S-sorry? That was probably too personal.”

Kunigami stifles a laugh. Isagi is trying his best to conceal the identity of this guy, but he’s pretty sure he’s knows who he’s talking about (yellow eyes and bubbly gaiety come to mind). Kunigami deliberates over his choices. There were a number of appropriate blooms for this particular arrangement: daisies signified new beginnings and loyalty, and blue hyacinths represented peace-making. Gladiolus blossoms meant strength and integrity, while baby’s breath denoted innocence and reconnection with lost loves. 

He plucks out examples of each flower as he explains his choices, and Isagi helps pick out the colors he think would look best. Kunigami takes his order quietly, awash in the orange and blue and purple of a lazy afternoon sunset. A subdued moment with a boy from back then. The parallels have Kunigami reminiscing too vividly, too intensely, until he chokes, burying himself neck-deep in his own nostalgia.

His hands stop over the baby’s breath resting in the parcel Isagi had ordered. Long-lasting love, and reconnection.  

Reconnection. Something his subconscious had been ignoring. His clumsy fingers come to a halt. He had chosen to forget about the person he’d missed most for a while, because with the memories came the sadness, and with the sadness came the guilt. Then a slideshow of all his regrets from their time at Blue Lock would follow suit. It was like some kind of fucked-up game of dominoes. The memories surged back, tidal and lead-heavy. 

The desire to do something, to do anything, to reach out — it sits square on the middle of his chest the way important things do, caught between trepidation and reminiscence.

His hands flutter over the bouquet, soft. Baby’s breath, daisies, hyacinths, gladiolus, and aster. Reconnection, new beginnings, peace, love, forgiveness. 

Should he?

With a fistful of flowers and his heart on his sleeve, Kunigami walks tentatively out of the shop. Maybe the customer’s bouquet could wait.

 

 

It has been one month since Chigiri has last cried from the pain.

It has been 5 months since he has last seen Kunigami Rensuke. The last time they had seen each other, Kunigami held his hand while he grieved the loss of his career. 

Then he sees it. The mind boggles. 

“You idiot. It’s not even visiting hours,” Chigiri gapes at Kunigami, who’s hovering somewhere in between the doorframe and the hall. He takes the first step in, and when Chigiri doesn’t protest, he stalks forward, dropping the haphazard arrangement of flowers carefully on the bedside table. 

He folds Chigiri into the lightest hug. There’s still an inch of space between them. 

The tension liquidates. Chigiri goes soft without the inexorable pressure of the world on his shoulders, Atlas-heavy.

He’s cautious, fingertips just barely making contact around Chigiri’s back. He holds him the way he used to hold his mother’s thorny hundred-leaved roses, the way you hold something pretty and maybe a little dangerous, the way you hold something you’re not quite sure how to handle yet. His hands are gentle. Chigiri isn’t sure that he wants this distant gentility, considering that everyone else is tip-toeing around him like he’s bound to explode if they so much as look at him wrong. But the concern he can feel from Kunigami makes him hide a smile. Ever the chivalrous hero.

(He didn’t forget me, he didn’t forget me, he didn’t forget me , chants the voice in the back of Chigiri’s head victoriously, punctuated with bursts of elation and frantic energy.)

Chigiri smells like clean soap and the hospital. It breaks Kunigami a little.

He paws gently at Kunigami’s grip. “Hello to you too,” he mutters. The air is charged with a strange undercurrent of awkwardness. 

“What brings you here? It’s been a while,” Chigiri pulls back from Kunigami reluctantly. There must be a reason.

“It’s just been a while,” Kunigami mutters sheepishly, face turning a brilliant shade of pink. “Thought I should catch up with the Blue Lock boys, yeah?” 

An unconvinced Chigiri nods, seeing an opportunity. “Uh-huh. And that’s why you came to my personal ward, where I'm currently residing alone. With flowers, just for me?” At the way Kunigami reddens, he snickers impishly. “Kidding, kidding. I missed you too, hero. It’s been too long.”

Kunigami just nods stiffly. His mind races at the way Chigiri draws out the syllables. The silence in between feels like eternity.

In an attempt to make conversation, Chigiri folds the quiet away, tucking it into his pocket for safekeeping. “So, flower boy. What are these for?” His eyes follow the slapdash bouquet resting on the bare nightstand.

Kunigami coughs. “Just my well-wishes for your full recovery. I know you’re almost fully healed by now, but I just thought it would be nice…” his voice trails off toward the end, embarrassed. He rubs a frustrated hand across his face. God, he’s usually good with honesty. But this is an avenue where he’s not exactly experienced — when it comes to these delicate moments, he is coltish, walking on wobbly newborn legs. Conversation was not easy to figure out when you’ve devoted your life to training for one athletic goal.

“Kunigami,” Chigiri tugs at Kunigami’s wrist, voice little more than a whisper. Kunigami looks at him, questioning.

Chigiri (and/or God) must have taken pity on him. He makes the first move.

“Let’s stay in touch.” The words themselves are a dime-a-dozen, but the implications freeze Kunigami in his tracks. I miss you, we should talk more, what else could we be, can we be more than what we are now? Chigiri hands the unexpected visitor his phone with a smile that burns like stars in the blurry facets of night. Kunigami punches in his digits. He triple-checks for typos, and hands the device back.

“I’m set to be discharged next week. I’ll call you then,” Chigiri places the phone gently on the bedside, right by the flowers.

“Will I see you soon?” The words are loaded.

“I hope so. But you came outside of visiting hours. You should go, before you get caught,” his eyes soften.

“Well, I didn’t sneak in. I… told the receptionist that you were family.” Kunigami at least has the decency to look ashamed.

Chigiri can’t muffle his laughter at that. How long has it been since he’s laughed (really laughed, not just a tepid titter meant to appease a doctor with lame jokes)? 

“Family, huh. Wonder how you got away with that.” 

The quiet returns, but it’s more comfortable this time, a blanket of ease and reinstated familiarity. 

“I should get going,” Kunigami shoots up with a start as his phone buzzes, shattering the calm. He has a football team to coach.

“I’ll see you later. And… thank you,” He calls out after Kunigami’s retreating figure, and hopes that Kunigami understands what he means. The gratitude takes shape in three meanings: 

 

  • thank you for the flowers
  • thank you for being kind
  • thank you for not leaving me behind.

 

 

Kunigami loses himself to nostalgia on the train ride back home. Again.

He pays homage to the way his heart would pump, not just from the sympathetic adrenaline that would roar in his ears whenever he watched Chigiri streak across the field in an astounding blur of rosy pink. His heart would also go into overdrive when Chigiri would exit the baths, hair clinging to him like a drowned cat but still looking so beautiful, the water clinging to him like a second skin, the white towel around his head nothing less than a halo of light. The way his heart would do the same when Chigiri would flip open a Haruki Murakami novel (the ones where every character and scene serves an express purpose, for good or for bad. He briefly wonders if he would be counted as a good or bad force in Chigiri's story) and dissect it in front of him, word by word and letter by letter. The way his heart had beat out of his chest when Chigiri had given him the most ferocious smile he’s ever had the pleasure of witnessing on the field, and even that didn’t contort his face into anything undesirable. 

He wonders why he had never considered this, and this, and this. To be fair, a love story was the last thing on everyone’s mind at Blue Lock.

This is his slow, kind revelation. Kunigami is not a hopeless romantic, nor is he one to rush. He unearths the affection too late, because layers of hurt and self-serving ambition and hate (typical considering the nature of Blue Lock) had been stacked atop it. Now that was gone, and nothing remained to hide the glaringly obvious truth.

And even if they’ve lost their original link (the sport that made their blood boil, hotter than the sun, the sport they still consider the most exhilarating thing in the world), their lives were destined to be irrevocably intertwined. They made a promise. There were no take-backs.

 

 

It takes roughly an hour for the train to screech to a stop, the city a vibrant blur behind it. Chigiri gets off at his station, just a few blocks away from home. He’s trying to ease back into walking longer distances — he doesn’t want to disrupt the healing process, but it’s so frustrating to be locked away at home. A little promenade by train is the least he can do for himself.

It’s not until then that he remembers the steadily growing collection of voicemail in his inbox that he’s been collecting. He reluctantly flips his phone open.

“So, you’re not dead. I was waiting for a call,” a familiar voice rumbles through the speakerphone. There’s a hint of laughter somewhere in there, and for all the self-pity he’s been wallowing in lately, Chigiri can’t help but smirk. “Sorry. Stuff came up,” he chuckles, a little stilted. 

“Say, are you free this Saturday? I have something I want to show you.” Kunigami waits for a response. Chigiri gives himself fifteen seconds to collect his bearings.

Chigiri contemplates his empty, empty schedule. Besides the last obligatory medical checkups (he was off his medications now) and unhealthily long reading sessions, there was near nothing taking up his time. “Free as ever. Until university starts up, at least.”

“How does 5 in the evening sound?”

“Okay. When and where?”

“The park by the hospital. Dress casually, and don’t be late. I know that’s your specialty,” Chigiri hears Kunigami’s glare through the screen, but chooses to shrug off the jab with a lighthearted giggle. He missed this, the back-and-forth with one of the people who actually made him feel like the world wasn’t over. Even if his career was.

“I’ll be there. See you then,” He hangs up. With the resounding click of an ending call, Chigiri’s heart soars, unchained. He’s not quite sure why.

 

 

High on the list of things Chigiri never expected to see, was this.

This is what Kunigami was going to show him. This is Kunigami, hunched over three kittens like a protective mother. He squats awkwardly in front of a bush near the deserted outskirts of the park, leaves rustling in his hair as he hands each cat a tiny piece of specially made kitten formula. Kunigami is seventeen years old, built like a brick house, tall enough to make traffic lights swoon, and he is smiling proudly over three kittens like he’s birthed them himself.

He looks ridiculous. It’s utterly charming.

“They don’t have a mother,” said Kunigami. “But my mom is allergic to cats, so I can’t bring them home. I come down every night to feed them, because no one else will do it if I don’t.”

Of course. It’s exactly the kind of absurdly altruistic thing that he would do. A ridiculous wave of affection rolls down Chigiri’s consciousness. As far as he remembers, Kunigami doesn’t even like cats, but he comes down to the park every day to feed abandoned kittens. He is so good that it makes Chigiri a little sick.

“Can I pet them?” Chigiri asks, in awe.

He offers his hand to sniff, but the kittens shy away at his outstretched hand, and Chigiri wills away his disappointment. 

Kunigami gasps incredulously. “Oh my god. Animals don’t like you.”

“Well — I don’t know, why do they like you so much? What did I ever do to them?” Chigiri crosses his arms defensively. “I am a great person, and I think these cats just have no taste whatsoever.” 

Kunigami just guffaws. “Sure, keep telling yourself that.” He dodges the playful slap Chigiri aims at his arm. “Hyoma! Don’t be like that!” Kunigami’s laughing, and now Chigiri’s laughing too as he fake-hits him again, scandalized by the usage of his first name.

“That’s enough! I want to hold the kitten.” No, scratch that. He would take the forceful approach. “I will hold the kitten.” He glares, nose held high.

“Fine. Here, hold out your hands — no, not like that. Don’t you have a cat at home? Why do you suck at this?” Chigiri gasps in mock offense at the insult, but that quickly morphs into a suspiciously high-pitched coo as Kunigami guides a tiny black kitten into his hands. “This one’s a little girl. I call her Kuro.”

“Very creative,” remarks Chigiri. Kunigami just grins and elbows him, careful not to jostle the baby.

She’s by far the cutest thing he’s ever seen (he’s not sorry to his cat at home, the devil). He rubs a finger between her ears, and she begins to purr, a continuous thing that reverberates between their bodies. 

Kunigami watches Chigiri’s eyes glimmer with unadulterated adoration. He thinks, then and there, that bringing Chigiri here is the best decision he has ever made.

They amuse the cats until the sun dips below the trees and clouds, threatening to disappear. Under the burnt golden light of the sun, they make their way back to the city in comfortable silence. They pray for seconds to stretch into hours.

“Actually, Kunigami, do you have more time? There’s somewhere I need to swing by before I head home.” Chigiri looks expectantly at Kunigami. 

The sun sets in the west, and just before it vanishes for the night, it casts final light on Chigiri’s face. Kunigami’s heart clenches physically at the shadows of his eyelashes on his cheeks, the little freckle under his lip, the unreal gleam of his pink hair as it falls over his shoulder. 

How could he refuse?

With just a question, the night grows a little longer.

 

 

sage (salvia officinalis)

  • also known as common sage, or garden sage. an aromatic herb with aromatic leaves, often used for its culinary purposes.

possible meanings:

  1. health
  2. wisdom
  3. respect
  4. thoughtfulness

 

“What is that.” Kunigami wrinkles his nose in disgust. It’s more of an expression of disgust than a question. 

“It’s a book…?” Chigiri holds his anthology of Hesiod and Homer tight to his chest, fixing Kunigami with a laconic glare. “We’re at a bookstore, Kunigami. Why are you surprised?”

“Because reading that looks agonizing. Genuinely painful. I’d rather stick my head in the laundry machine while it's on than read that whole thing.” Kunigami's face is twisted into a familiar grimace.

“Not into reading, huh?” Chigiri hums. He closes his eyes and nods sagely, because he’s feeling generous today. “That’s okay! I’ll ease you into it. Tell you what— ” By the time he looks back, Kunigami is already gone. Chigiri swears mentally. Was he seriously running away from the opportunity to enrich his intellectual life?

Chigiri storms away in a huff to search for him, but any previous displeasure melts away as he spots Kunigami sitting on one of the benches scattered throughout the bookstore, cradling a very familiar book in his hands.

“Kunigami…”

The taller boy blinks slowly up at him. “Oh. Chigiri? I’m uh — busy reading.”

“Is that an I Spy book?” Chigiri raises an eyebrow.

Kunigami turns an incredible shade of crimson. He snaps the book shut so loudly that everyone in the shop turns to stare at them. Kunigami then proceeds to do the impossible: he turns even redder.

They have a whisper-fight about whether I Spy is considered “real literature” or not, and Chigiri develops a genuine headache.

This is how Chigiri discovers Kunigami’s distaste for classic literature. He joins Kunigami on the bench. They’re still holding their respective books. Somehow, he ropes Kunigami into reading a few lines of Homer. Kunigami has a clear distaste for unclear metaphors and a lack of rhyming scheme.

“Isn’t this guy supposed to be a poet?” He scratches at his neck, bafflement obvious on his face.

“Yes, Kunigami. Homer was one of the greatest poets known to man,” Chigiri explains patiently.

“Then why doesn’t it rhyme? It doesn’t make sense!” Kunigami groans, and Chigiri sighs, long-suffering. “This is why you failed classics in school,” he teases, poking playfully at Kunigami’s cheek. Kunigami just rolls his eyes. “Sure, sure. I still don’t get it.”

He decides it would be better to expand upon the issue at hand. “Let me nerd out for a bit, okay?” Kunigami acquiesces dramatically. “Full permission to nerd out granted, your majesty.” 

Chigiri snickers. “Yeah, yeah. First of all, Homer originally wrote in Greek. I have no idea what the rhyming scheme is like in the original language. For our purposes, the Japanese translation uses dactylic hexameter, with no rhyming scheme. But beyond that, poetry isn’t defined by rhyming. I guess it is a hard concept to define in the first place, but when it comes down to it, it’s simple. Prose becomes poetry when you express yourself with words that have distinctive style and rhythm. I mean, in Homer’s case, could you imagine having to rhyme coherently for almost 16,000 lines straight? It’d be insane, and Homer had to get the Odyssey written somehow. That’s the formal reasoning, at least.” 

He looks up. Kunigami looks lost, but he’s actually listening, gaze intent on Chigiri’s face. Chigiri doesn’t miss the way his eyes lose focus at “dactylic hexameter,” but Chigiri doesn’t give up hope. Maybe he was finally getting through to him? Spurred on by what seemed like approval, Chigiri continued. “Well, that’s the academic explanation anyway. My personal theory is that there’s beauty in breaking conventions. There’s beauty in the absence of a constant that everyone expects. A strange shock value exists in truancy and broken expectation. It’s why I love freeform.”

He expects a dismissive response. The tips of his ears blooming a blushing pink, he cuts himself off. “So, yeah,” he finishes lamely.

But Kunigami looks enraptured. “You know, that never made sense to me before. But I think I get it, when you’re the one explaining.” 

Chigiri just beams. He is radiant, and Kunigami almost has to look away. 

Kunigami ends up buying a copy of The Iliad

The north star is pressed against the bookstore’s window, palms against the glass, rubbing its light insistently upon them, trapped in the late-night haze. They exit the bookstore, shoulders brushing. “I can’t believe I came for a good time, and ended up getting a lesson in poetry from you,” Kunigami says with a hint of petulance. Chigiri shrugs. “Sorry. It’s the price you pay for hanging out with me.” It’s funny, because he’s clearly not sorry. 

He swings the bag of new novels between them, as the moon climbs higher and higher in the sky. 

 

 

arctic rose (rosa acicularis)

  • also known as the prickly wild rose, the bristly rose, and the wild rose. can be found in Asia, Europe, and North America. the flower is pink, and the flower carries notably and dense sharp thorns.

possible meanings:

  1. pleasure and pain
  2. joy
  3. wild love
  4. carrier of secrets

 

They meet again, because of course they do.

Chigiri laughs at him for something like the seventh time this evening, because according to Chigiri laughing at Kunigami is one of his favorite things to do. Chigiri has a lot of favorite things. He likes strawberry-flavored pastries and black cats and cold, dry days (the humidity makes his hair frizzy, he says with a pout), and fussing over Kunigami’s shin guards when he goes to coach the neighborhood kids’ football team. He likes books written in near-indecipherable flowery language and using pretty bookmarks instead of folding pages to mark his place while he reads. Kunigami suspects that one of Chigiri’s favorite things must include talking to Kunigami at this point, because they do a lot of that. Talking to each other, he means.

Kunigami also has lots of favorite things, but he thinks the way Chigiri puffs out his cheeks before he laughs at particularly good wordplay is one of the best among them. He is also partial to the way Chigiri’s eyes light up when he sees an anthology of myths with a pretty cover in the bookstore. Kunigami hates classics, never having been one for literature. But he could listen to Chigiri babble about the symbolism of Sappho for hours.

Chigiri finally finishes rattling off his analysis of why the fragmentation of Sappho’s works makes her writing all the more powerful. It’s not like Kunigami wasn’t listening, but most of the time, he’d like the conversation to be something he could contribute to as well.

They’re eating at Chigiri’s favorite cafe, near the bookstore they’ve begun to frequent. “I thought you’d be more upset,” Chigiri chews thoughtfully on his strawberry shortcake. Kunigami grimaces around his own mouthful of sugarfloss and fruit. He doesn’t like sweets. He’d just gotten the same order as Chigiri out of convenience. “I’m just curious to know what you think. About, you know. Eliminated life,” Chigiri flushes at Kunigami’s questioning glance, waving his hand. 

Kunigami needs a moment. They're really going to talk about this. 

“Chigiri, of course I was upset. I’m still upset. I don’t know if I’ll ever really get over losing everything. In the past, it was more like I was incredibly pissed at Ego for coming up with the whole system in the first place. But I think I was even angrier at myself for blowing it. I was so close to the top, you know? That wild card bracket was tough, but at the time, I really thought I could make it. You know, live my dream.” Kunigami meets Chigiri’s eyes as he pushes his cake around the plate. He’s satisfied to see not even a single trace of pity. Just fierce determination and complete understanding.

“I think it just came to the point where I knew there was nothing I could do. It’s like the theme of fate in those Greek tragedies you like so much. Yes, my training wouldn’t ever be used to its full extent. But I can try to turn everything around. I’ll work with the kids’ team, and I’ll be the best damn florist this town has ever seen. I changed the way I look at things, I guess. I moved on from the past, and now I live for the present and the little things that make it so much better.” 

Chigiri nods, turning his gaze from his platter. “I think I get it. You’ve been living in the future, living for the future all this time. I suppose it’s time that you ground yourself.” Kunigami makes an approving sound as he holds back a dry-heave. This cake is way too sweet.

“And you? How are you doing?” Kunigami asks. The question is more than what it seems. 

Chigiri’s throat closes, giant lump sitting heavy on his chest. He’s not quite sure how to answer.

Fuck it. Honesty is the best policy.

“I’m still in the process of healing. Physically and mentally. Some days, I don’t even want to get out of bed. It hurts, and I can barely move right,” the words don’t stop coming out now. He hurtles onward, straight into the sun.

“I think about what I have to do for my future and what I could have been, and it feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders again. It’s exhausting, and it’s been this way since Blue Lock ended. Thing is, though, it’s different when you’re around.” Kunigami leans forward, comforting hand sliding under the table to draw figure-eights on Chigiri’s knee.

“Kunigami, it’s not like you’ve changed me. I won’t say anything stupid like that. It’s more like, you make me forget. You said that your problem was that you lived in the future? Well, mine is that I lived in the past. The fear of what the past could mean literally paralyzed me. Hell, I spent years holding back because of that. And then when I left Blue Lock, my parents were busy too. I was lonely. I hate to admit it, but I was lonely,” Chigiri pauses, his shortcake completely forgotten, and Kunigami looks back at him, gaze gentle. Understanding.

“When I’m with you, I think I can settle for the present. You make living in the now a little more bearable.” The last part becomes a whisper under his breath, and he’s not sure if Kunigami even hears.

Kunigami cannot take compliments, so he deflects the topic back to safer waters. 

(He mentally communicates that Chigiri is just as important to him as Kunigami seems to be to the other boy.)

 

 

chrysanthemum

  • a flower in the asteracae family, native to East Asia and northeastern Europe. both perennial and annual, these cheery flowers are also known as the “queens of fall”.

possible meanings:

  1. loyalty
  2. friendship
  3. exuberance
  4. longevity

 

Karaoke night. A Blue Lock reunion.

This means there is a whole hall had been rented out just for them. There are unlimited snacks and drinks.

It is simultaneously the best and worst idea ever. Chigiri is 100% sure this pitch did not come from Ego or Anri or anyone else on the original Blue Lock team, because not once had they been concerned about how well the competitors had been getting along. This must be some weird attempt from the higher ups of the JFA to appease their infuriated parents.

The tension is heavy at first, but it soon dissolves. What’s done is done, after all. There is no point in luxuriating in your own pain. Chigiri and Kunigami know that better than anyone else.

Everyone is here — they’ve somehow managed to gather every single boy from Blue Lock — and the bass thumps frantically in their ears as disco lights flash across the booth. A kaleidoscope of colors cavorts across their faces. Karaoke right now was a bit of a disaster, to say the least.

Chigiri sidles up to Kunigami, like it was natural for him to do so. Kunigami tries not to act too pleased, suppressing his smile as Isagi waves at him. He notices that Isagi is sitting next to Bachira, and flashes him a thumbs up. Isagi’s eyes widen, and he avoids eye contact, embarrassed.

Nagi finishes singing (more like… reading) the lyrics to an obnoxious girl group song made ten times more obnoxious by his monotone singing voice. 

“What was that supposed to be? My heart didn’t explode. More like, it crawled back into my ass and hid from the light forever,” deadpans Ryuusei.

Kunigami doesn't miss the way Chigiri flinches a little at the sight of Ryuusei. His eyes narrow, and he places a hand on the small of Chigiri's back.

“You wanted me to sing. So I did,” Nagi flips him off and sits down, unconcerned. Reo just chuckles, patting Nagi on the back. As Nagi takes his hands off the mic, half of the boys uncover their ears, breathing sighs of relief. In that moment, Igarashi makes a move for the microphone. Looking unusually concerned, Bachira plucks the microphone out of Igarashi’s hands with lightning-speed, ignoring an offended Igarashi. “I’ll take that, thank you!” 

“Kunigami, you go next!” cheers Bachira, quickly handing the microphone to the boy in front of him. Kunigami sighs heavily, but he goes along with it. “Sure, why not.”

The boys whoop, surprised at the easy agreement. Chigiri claps, grabbing a tambourine. He doesn’t know what to expect, but this is sure to be interesting.

As it turns out, Kunigami has a deep voice, cavernous and suggestive. It makes Chigiri feel like the bottom of his stomach has dropped out. He hides his blush in his sleeves as Kunigami sings some stupid Ed Sheeran song. The song is overplayed and a tad cheesy, and Kunigami’s pronunciation isn’t even that good — the syllables are sharp and foreign and he sings them too soft, too round — Chigiri would know, English is one of his strongest subjects. But none of that matters in the moment, because to put it plainly; he sounds good. They all know it.

Chigiri is too busy trying to hide the red spreading across his cheeks to really keep up with the tambourine, and the boys end up glaring at him as he taps the instrument, arrhythmic. It jingles sadly on every incorrect beat.

There are many other songs after that, many a rendition of AKB48 and Beyonce wailed in horrid high-school boys' voices — but it’s all a blur to Chigiri. That night, the center of his focus becomes Kunigami.

It’s terrifying. They were close at Blue Lock, sure: back then, Chigiri had learned that Kunigami either sleeps like a rock, or not at all. And on the nights when he couldn’t sleep, Chigiri had been the one who sat with him, in the sleeping quarters, or the balcony, or the cool tiles on the hall’s floor, surrounded by the sound of dreaming. But close as they were, had their feelings for each other always been this personal?

He knows one thing for sure. He wants Kunigami. He wants him, and though it’s awful to say, he finds it to be the most welcome distraction. Football had left a vacuum in his life. With the major focus of his adolescent life gone, the desperate affection he feels is one way of mitigating the boredom. The voice in his head knows it’s cruel to think of Kunigami as a distraction. The voice in his head also says that Kunigami is clearly more than just a diversion to him, that he’s grasping for straws out of desperation to ignore his feelings. Chigiri wills his inner voice to shut up.

Chigiri is thankful for any shift in focus. Can he have one night? Just one night, where he doesn’t think about the remnants of twinging pain in his leg. One night, where he doesn’t have to worry about the crushing doubt of losing what makes him special. 

Another opportunity for distraction comes.

Someone throws an afterparty, and Kunigami and Chigiri stumble along, hands on each other's shoulders. They talk over too-sweet punch and suspiciously made Moscow mules. Kunigami decides Chigiri is done for the night when he starts getting in Barou’s face. Friendly banter is fun, but tempting the devil is not a good idea, and Barou’s grimace will begin to shoot off sparks like a killer in a second-rate horror film if Chigiri pushes it any further.

“Alright, that’s enough,” Kunigami steps in, lifting Chigiri over his shoulder. Chigiri splutters in protest at first, but ends up collapsing in a fit of drunken giggles. 

They make it outside. A moth dances around a streetlight, flitting perilously close to its burning core. It plays a dangerous game.

Chigiri wobbles when Kunigami places him on the ground outside. He leans heavily on Kunigami, limping back to the main street, his head lolling back as they take a taxi back to Kunigami’s neighborhood. 

A phone rings, cutting through the loaded atmosphere. Chigiri listens in on bits and pieces of Kunigami’s call.

“Friend — reunion — sorry, I know it’s late. Yeah, I will. I love you mama,” His voice grows decidedly quieter towards the end. Chigiri giggles, resting his head on Kunigami’s shoulder. A mama’s boy. Cute.

“Chigiri. Chigiri, are you still there?” Kunigami shakes Chigiri’s shoulder. He’s a clingy drunk.

“Hm? Yeah, I’m good.” Chigiri buries his face in Kunigami’s neck, drowsy. The contact makes his skin spark pleasantly, and he lets out a pleased sound. Kunigami sighs, and gives Chigiri a few seconds to collect himself. When Chigiri just nuzzles deeper into his shoulder, Kunigami softly takes the lower half of Chigiri’s face in his hands. “Hey, sober up.”

Kunigami realizes his mistake when peerless red eyes glimmer up at him; so bright, so soft; unbelievable, like morning stars. Chigiri is breathtaking and beautiful and everything in between. Kunigami only realizes that he is squishing the life out of his cheeks when Chigiri pouts. “Ow,” he grumbles in weak protest.

Kunigami panics, relaxing his fingers. “Sorry! Sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he pulls away, apologetic. 

Chigiri just laughs. “I know. You would never.” The beautiful thing is that it’s true; they’ve only been reunited for a month, maybe, but he has more faith in Kunigami more than he’s ever had in any physiotherapist or counselor.

The taxi rolls to a stop. Kunigami hands the driver the money, and waves a hand at him to keep the change. It’s a quarter past midnight, and they exit the taxi in companionable silence.

Chigiri is terribly intoxicated, but the chill of the outside air brings him a moment of clarity. Illuminated by the moon, even the hard lines of Kunigami’s face look soft. Chigiri thinks Kunigami’s best features are his eyes. They glow, dark yet knowing, and painfully compassionate. He notices that there’s already a telltale line forming around Kunigami’s mouth, the traces of a hard grimace left behind. The pale scar on the left side of his jaw is the same color as the milk-white blossoms on the apple tree that stands tall in front of Chigiri’s flat. 

Kunigami breathes in. “Chigiri, I — ”

“Kunigami,” the words are cold, but not unkind. “I’m not sober. I don’t want to hear it right now,”

Kunigami swallows. “Okay,” he says, hands uncharacteristically unsteady. 

The world spins off of its axis for a little bit. He feels dizzy.

“Later,” Chigiri says. Said under the stars, it sounds like a promise.

He disappears through the door, leaving Kunigami like that under the apple blossom tree. He tilts his head toward the heavens, and prays for luck. 

 

 

apple blossom tree (cassia javanica)

  • a deciduous tree boasting showy pink or white blossoms. can reach up to 80 feet tall, providing shade in summer and letting light in during winter.

possible meanings:

  1. good fortune
  2. you before all
  3. high hopes
  4. young love

 

Meet me by the park at 7. 

Sent at 3:01 PM

Who else would text with proper grammar?

i’ll be there! Chigiri types out his response a little too quickly.

Delivered at 3:01 PM

 

Somehow, the hours rush by much too soon and too slow at the same time.

An unhealthy amount of overthinking and pacing happened in between 3:01 and 6:30. Now, it is 6:30 in the evening. Chigiri ties up his hair, unfrays his nerves, and desperately hopes that fate will treat him kindly, because it is very likely that he will just cease to exist if his affection isn’t returned.

Chigiri makes it to the park a little earlier than 7. He sees Kunigami, ever-distinct as he stands on the street. The familiar burn and squeeze of his chest starts up again, like the bellows of a hearth.

Kunigami jogs up to him, hands behind his back. He looks like he’s going to be sick. Chigiri is just glad to see that he’s not the only one who gets nervous to the point of physical illness.

“Chigiri Hyoma,”

His first name sounds so right coming from Kunigami’s mouth.

“You were the reason I got past the wildcard round in the first place. I remember when you first called me a hero. I know you were making fun of me. Yet it didn’t feel hollow, it felt so real. I believed in myself because of you, or something to that effect. You could say you’ve always had an impact on me. Look, I guess what I’m trying to say is that we got to know each other because of Blue Lock.” Kunigami shuffles, clearly uncomfortable with the intimate honesty.

“We were originally connected by nothing but football. I thought I felt the way I did for you back then because… I don’t know, I assumed that I wanted your speed. I thought I was jealous of you, or that I wanted to work in my power shot with your weapon, or something stupid like that.” Kunigami brings out a full bouquet from behind his back. This one is much different from the first one he’d brought Chigiri; it’s not a haphazard array of wildflowers, it’s a full arrangement of lovely, vivid blooms. There are apple blossoms from the tree outside Chigiri’s house, the baby’s breath he had stolen from Isagi’s bouquet, and prickly-beautiful arctic rose. Chigiri holds the flowers close, smiling breathlessly.

“Now football is gone. And six months have passed since Blue Lock ended.” Kunigami can feel his pulse racing in his neck, his wrist, his stomach. His heart is now open for service.

“We left Blue Lock, and we left football behind. Only my feelings are the same. I had to sift through a lot of memories to figure that out, you know.” Kunigami takes another slow, shaky breath.

“Chigiri, I like you. A lot, probably too much. We’ve only seen each other twice since then, I know, but I think we have something real. I-”

The urge starts in the pit of his stomach. It’s a little like setting a forest on fire, like squatting in the dark backyard with sparklers in both hands. An ill-advised show of beauty. It spreads to his arms, his legs, his fingertips, until it overtakes him. Chigiri smiles fondly. “Shut up. Just shut up and close your eyes,”

"Huh-" Kunigami blinks, sputtering. Chigiri tugs Kunigami down (he’s stupidly tall, why is he so tall), gracing him with a chaste kiss.

It’s far from perfect. Chigiri thinks he tastes a little bit of his own hair, and their teeth clicked upon contact. But Kunigami gets that dazed, love-stupid look in his eyes again. 

“I was going to sit through your whole speech. But I don’t think I could stand hearing all that self-pitying nonsense. Because Kunigami Rensuke, I like you too.”

“I might even love you, or come to love you some day.”

 

 

They are an odd pairing, if you’re not looking closely. Here, the rigid precision and timeliness. Here, the typical heroic masculinity. Here, the whimsical love of novels that are way too old. Here, the slightly feminine appearance.

They are now eighteen going on nineteen.

Take a moment, and picture this.

Tokyo. You enter a sprawling auditorium packed with bodies. You can’t tell left from right. There is a boy who lives and breathes for the future. There is a boy who shrinks away from it, who hides from the future as if his life depends on it. There’s an overfamiliar, oppressive feeling in the air. It is held breath and the trickle of rain before the downpour.

Akita. The air smells like apples as the petals of the fruit-barren tree swirl around your feet like small tornadoes. You are drunk on the citrus tang of youth and the poisonous drawl of alcohol. The boy who lives for the future has lost what little preparation he has. He is scared because nothing lasts forever. 

Kagoshima. An apartment tucked away in the busiest corner of the idyllic suburb. The street is picket-fenced, lined with family restaurants and a laundromat here and there. There are apple blossoms in spring. Two boys, two pairs of hands, two hearts. They beat in tandem. They have found their present.

Living in the heart of the city, they understand that they have lost everything but each other, and the little things in life. That is enough to survive. In fact, that is enough to tell the stars they’ve won.