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Nii-san, Senpai

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The world sprung to color as Sora leapt through the air. As his leg vaulted into the blue sky, as his bright orange shoe lifted up and out, into the greater world, the chorus of a pleasant walk home from school was nothing but a single portion of the joy Sora saw. By his side, there was a bright fiery red—Hiiro—And a subtle pink, with a tinge of umami salty flavor—Hinata. Sora found it odd how Hinata’s flavor had been changing within the past couple of months. Hinata’s color was often masked, and it was only getting worse.

“HaHa! Hihi!” Sora shouted out, walking sideways down a wall, perfectly cheery, as all else.

Hiiro clutched a piece of paper next to him, and he looked somewhat upset, and Sora didn’t even need to read his color to be able to tell that much. He stared at the page, obsessively staring into the corner as he walked, not even bothering to look where he was going. Well, it’s not like Sora and Hinata walked on the sidewalk, really. Hiiro had been getting better at parkour recently, he was a quick study. 

“What’s wrong, Hii-chan?” Sora asked, popping up from right behind him.

Hiiro just frowned, knitting his eyebrows together, just giving a subtle look back. Curious, Sora peered over his shoulder and saw that Hiiro was clutching his graded history exam.

“Hah? Hii-chan, you got a 94%!? That’s amazing!” Sora said, surprised beyond any reasonable amount.

Hinata, who had been casually walking on top of the wall next to them, dropped down with a plop, before extending his hand and snagging the paper from Hiiro’s hands. He held it out in front of them as they walked, and Hinata looked at it as if it were some kind of foreign substance. A deep green shot out of Hinata rather uncharacteristically, and Sora was almost taken aback at the show of honesty.

“What the hell, Hiiro-kun?” Hinata said, almost disgusted.

Sora frowned, as Hinata quickly scanned the thing, his eyes racing left and right down the page as they continued to walk.

“Hii-chan, your color seems…Are you upset?” Sora asked. “Sora’s class had this same exam, and everyone was struggling, as well.”

Hiiro put his thumb to his chin, and he found himself lost in a dark mahogany.

“No…I just. Hm. Yes. I just wish I could have done better,” he said, still frowning.

Hinata half about smacked him on the back of the head with his own paper.

“What the hell, Hiiro-kun! Yuuta-kun and I were dying! Do you have any idea how hard some of that kanji was? I didn’t remember half the shit on there.”

“Sora thinks that’s because you and Yuu-chan were preparing for the live you had yesterday.”

Hinata pouted, huffing, adding, “Well, yeah , I get that they don’t make our courses difficult, but if we didn’t also have to work like four jobs, maybe some of us would do better in school, you know? We can’t exactly go to cram school, you know?”

Hiiro bit the side of his cheek, and Sora could see the dark color of red splitting into the air, the blood metaphorically spraying like a cloud all around him.

“My education from home included classical Japanese literature, a little bit of English, civics, basic necessities—Not. Well, I didn’t learn modern Japanese history. I feel like I’m missing the past two hundred years. Is that strange?”

His voice was soft, his voice sounded so worried, and Sora wondered why his ears were tinged so violet with shame. To be told that he was wrong, to be told that he’s strange, even if he was succeeding, perhaps because he was succeeding—It was a painful thing, for sure.

Hinata laughed, patting Hiiro on the back, pulling him forward as they walked.

“Nah, that’s not strange at all. Everyone learns at a different pace, you know?”

And Sora could see Hinata’s color. The surge of green. The oily, salty spread of dark green, merging effortlessly against Hiiro’s dark red. In short, Hinata’s words were pained, but you could never tell that from just his voice.

But, unfortunately, Sora could hear so much more than sound.

“Huh, what’re Aoba-senpai and Rinne-senpai doing together?” Hinata asked, and Sora immediately turned his head. Hiiro turned his up just a second later, and in a moment, he found his history test back in his own hands.

There was a flower shop across the street. Perhaps the sound of the bell on the door had alerted Hinata that the two were there, perhaps it was something else. The distinct sound of a perfect fifth, C and G, the color of green, and it took Sora a moment to remember that other people didn’t have synesthesia. For sure, the two that walked out were Rinne and Tsumugi, Sora knew that much immediately.

As if on instinct, the three stopped, hiding behind a nearby bush. Hiiro wasn’t really sure why they needed to hide in the first place, but he went along with it.

If there was a way to see what kind of color he himself had, Sora wondered what sort of texture it would be. He wondered if it would smell like garbage, he wondered if it would be coarse, he wondered if it would be a darker green than Hinata, a darker blood that Hiiro’s.

Tsumugi was laughing. Rinne was pulling his arm. They looked like they were having fun. Sora’s senpai was having fun with that guy. It was practically revolting. What were they doing in front of a flower shop, anyways? Sora knew Tsumugi had a liking for flowers, but with him? He looked at Hiiro to his side. He meant no offense.

Sora gripped down so hard on the bush’s branch that it snapped.

“Sora-kun, you okay?” Hinata asked, surprised at the noise.

Sora blinked once, his body slamming back down upon the Earth.

“They’re not,” Sora said, not really understanding the words coming out of his lips. “Senpai’s not on a date, is he?”

“A date? With Rinne-senpai?” Hinata asked, his head flipping back to the scene.

Sora could see the radiating colors from across the street. A brilliant yellow and a light cyan blue. It was almost painful to look at, due to how bright it was sparkling. Rinne was laughing, holding flowers in his hands, a bright smile to outshine the sky. Tsumugi was so shy, a small blush on the tips of his cheeks, barely visible to the naked eye.

It certainly looked like a visual novel scene, Sora knew that much.

“Hm,” Hiiro hummed, and the two quickly shot over to him, realizing that he had been silent this entire time.

Hiiro blinked a couple times, noticing the attention had been drawn to him, and looked side-to-side, as if to ask what they were staring for. Hiiro’s color had brightened since his interaction with Hinata, and Sora was almost surprised at how calm he appeared.

“What do you think, Hiiro-kun?” Hinata asked.

“Hm,” Hiiro hummed again, before looking back out to the scene. “I’m not really worried. Tsumugi-senpai isn’t exactly Nii-san’s type.”

“Hah?” Hinata and Sora asked, both staring at him blankly. Hiiro was completely serious.

“You know your brother’s type? ” Hinata asked, completely in shock.

Hiiro tilted his head in confusion. 

“Do you not know yours?” he asked.

There was a moment of silence as Sora’s mind began to whirl in on itself. Did he? Did he not? What was Tsumugi’s type? Who had his senpai shown interest in before? Why had he never stopped to consider this before? Before panic could fully take over, Sora found his mouth opening again.

“What is gambler Onii-san’s type, Hii-chan?”

Hiiro crossed his arms, saying, “Well, Nii-san likes honest people. He wants someone to tell him he’s wrong, he wants someone who can stand up for themself, someone who will stay by his side, even when he’s being an absolute idiot. Someone who can intellectually stimulate him, play off his devil’s advocate. That’s the sort of person Nii-san is drawn to.”

Ah, Sora realized. Perhaps Hiiro didn’t mean it in a romantic context. Or maybe he did? Sora wasn’t really sure.

Either way, Tsumugi definitely didn’t fit any of that criteria, that was certain. Well, Sora was sure Tsumugi could put up an intelligence challenge, but beyond that, well. Needless to say, his senpai was a bit of a pushover. Everyone knew that.

Sora nodded.

“Hii-chan, you’re right. Although gambler Onii-san might be senpai’s type.”

Hinata’s head curled, now focusing on Sora.

“How do you guys know their types?” Hinata asked, completely at a loss.

“What, does Hina-chan want to know Yuu-chan’s type~?” Sora asked, playfully. 

Hinata blushed a bright scarlet red. Sora thought pink was a good color on him.

No! ” Hinata shouted out. “Well. Maybe. I don’t know. We’ve never talked about that, so.”

“It’s strange to hear people call Nii-san their Onii-san, too,” Hiiro said, chuckling almost playfully. “It’s okay, I trust that Nii-san has good intentions here.”

Sora frowned, looking back to the scene. The two had begun to walk down the street after their short chat, and entered the building adjacent to the flower shop. Sora didn’t like the color coming out of Rinne, the man seemed almost embarrassed about something. It was a terrible look on him.

“Should we follow them?” Hiiro asked, somehow already knowing the answer.

“Of course,” Sora said, decisively, before jumping up and taking off.

Rinne skimmed quickly over the stacks of books, and almost at once he felt intimidated. The whole environment just made him feel out of place. First of all, the bookstore was dead quiet, and there were few customers among the dusty shelves, but on top of that, Rinne was in nicer clothing than normal, and he was carrying around a bouquet of flowers. They really should have gone to the florist after picking out a book, it was a dumb idea, really.

“See anything he might like?” Tsumugi asked, leaning in close to his side.

At once, Rinne pulled away, feeling the warmth of Tsumugi’s body close to him. He normally didn’t mind the physical contact, but a part of him wondered if Tsumugi had problems reading the room.

“Nah, it’s that, ugh,” Rinne said, groaning. “I’m not good with this kinda shit, you know? Does he even read? I have no idea what he’d like at this point…”

In a way, Rinne knew that he associated reading with home. It was strange, after all, considering how many of their traditions were completely oral in nature. He had heard that in other tribes, they didn’t read or write at all, it seemed to be something unique to them. There were, apparently, many traditions of theirs that were completely unique, Rinne was soon realizing. He wasn’t quite sure where to get the meat for the festival in Tokyo either—It’s not like anyone had pounded bear meat on hand. He’d get Niki to figure something out.

Rinne held the bouquet out in front of him, and he wondered if the flowers of a giant lily were appropriate. It had taken Tsumugi and the florist over twenty minutes to just try to figure out which plant Rinne was talking about, as the name they used in the city was different. Well, he was happy, considering that they ended up having them at all.

“Well, you said he likes learning, so perhaps a nonfiction book would suit him?” Tsumugi asked. 

Rinne grimaced. He knew that he personally could not stand to read another dry, boring book on civic duty and agricultural practices. Well, Hiiro was different, Hiiro might enjoy something like that.

Tsumugi led him over to the nonfiction section, and Rinne saw about half a dozen things he had only heard about tangentially. It made him nostalgic in a sense, reminding him of the time he was seventeen, reminding him of the time he cracked the passcode to the Shiina household computer. He probably lost ten years of vision from how long he stared at that screen, just reading everything he could. Niki had to practically drag him out of his seat to even get him to eat, with how loud he was blasting idol music for.

“What about this?” Tsumugi said, handing Rinne a book about two inches thick. “I personally don’t read nonfiction too often, but Shu-kun recommended it.”

A complete history of the French revolution.

Rinne swallowed.

Yeah, that’s what he was getting.

The bell tinkled as the two left the bookstore.

“Senpai!” Sora shouted, jumping excitedly down the street.

Tsumugi practically collapsed as Sora bounded into his arms. Clinging tightly onto his senpai’s thin frame, Sora hugged him closely and protectively, letting the sights and smells of blue clog his senses. He glared at the mop of red hair standing behind them and Rinne snarled back.

“Whatcha’ doing out here, little pipsqueak? Asobi’s not fun enough for you? You gotta’ go out and stir up some trouble?”

Sora didn’t like the look of this guy, he never did, really. Why did he always have to be so nasty for absolutely no reason? It was actually Tsumugi that whipped around, laughing in empty air as the puff of his blue hair settled in the wind.

“Ah ha,” he laughed weakly. “Sorry, Sora-kun gets a little protective around me, that’s all.”

“Does he now?” Rinne asked, smirking.

Sora glared daggers at him, unwilling to break off from his senpai, no matter how hard Tsumugi tried to struggle free.

“Nii-san!” Rinne heard, before he, too, had arms wrapped tightly around him. In an instant, his heart dropped, as he realized that escaping this situation was now twenty times more difficult. Unlike Tsumugi, however, Rinne was unafraid to grab Hiiro by the skull in a desperate attempt to pull him off. Not like it worked, really. Hiiro was stronger than he anticipated.

“Don’t crush the—” Rinne snapped through his teeth, holding the flowers awkwardly behind his back.

Hiiro stopped his assault instantaneously, pulling off Rinne in a second.

“Flowers? Yes? What were the flowers for?” Hiiro asked, tilting his head.

Sora clutched Tsumugi tighter, smelling into his coat. It smelled green and white, and Sora was reminded of the time that he worked part-time at a florist’s.

“Nothing—They’re not for you,” Rinne said, with a flick of his tongue.

Tsumugi’s eyebrows ruffled together, and he acted almost as if there wasn’t another person wrapped around him.

“Aren’t they, though? Well, I suppose the flowers aren’t, but the book was—”

Rinne spun around and grabbed Tsumugi by the head, pulling him into a lock. Tsumugi really didn’t seem to mind, and both his upper and lower body were now being strangled to bits.

“Shut up! You’re spoiling the whole thing! God, that wicca kid was right about you, you really are a mophead!” Rinne said, giving Tsumugi a noogie much in the same way he would to Niki. It was comforting, if anything.

“Don’t hurt senpai!” Sora shouted back, pulling at Tsumugi’s waist, his body practically lifted halfway into the air.

Distracted, Rinne barely noticed when the bouquet was lifted from his fingertips. He barely noticed when Hiiro pressed the petals to his nose and breathed in. He barely noticed that pleasant smile cross against his lips when Hiiro realized.

“Nii-san! You remembered! Yes, the Turep festival is supposed to be tonight,” he said, the giant lily flowers bringing him back home. A soft frown crossed Hiiro’s lips. “I…I didn’t get you a gift. I…I deeply apologize…”

Rinne stared blankly, before dropping Tsumugi entirely. If it weren’t for Sora, he would have plummeted to the ground. Hiiro stood there, almost in shock.

“I was so caught up in idol activities that I…That I…I can’t believe that I…” Hiiro stumbled, as the scent began to feel deadly.

Rinne laughed. “It’s fine, it’s fine, the elder’s supposed to get the younger one the gift anyways, that’s how it is.”

Hiiro’s face scrunched up into a ball and it practically looked like he was going to cry.

“I didn’t get Nii-san…I didn’t get Nii-san a…”

“Oh, come on lil’ bro, it’s fine, don’t worry about it.”

“I didn’t…I’m a failure of an aide…I can’t…”

“Hey!” Rinne shouted, grabbing him by the head and pulling him into eye contact.

“Yes,” Hiiro said back, his expression completely firm and serious.

“It’s fine, really,” Rinne said. “I was gonna’ get Niki to cook us up the chitatap. You can help us with that, right? I dunno really how to do that.”

Hiiro’s face shot up into a million colors, Sora was almost blinded with the shining of red, blue, yellow, and scarlet.

“Of course! I would be delighted to—”

“God , could you two stop running off!” an exhausted Hinata shouted, barreling down the street. He looked up, seeing Tsumugi and Rinne there, grimacing at the latter.

Rinne dropped Hiiro, and Hiiro plopped back down on the ground. Sora finally let go of Tsumugi as well, a slightly guilty expression on his face.

“So you two weren’t…” he said, trailing off.

“Weren’t what?” Tsumugi asked, tilting his head.

Sora breathed a sigh of relief.

“Sora expects a free dinner for this hassle,” he said, shrugging.

“What?” Tsumugi said, shocked. “You learn all the worst traits from Natsume-kun!”

Hinata sighed, rubbing his hand into his head.

“Why do I even bother with these two…”