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Orange Tree

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In the days and weeks following Yoshikage Kira’s death, the post office was still closed on Sundays.

There was no fanfare, no story in the papers, barely a hint that the greatest evil Morioh had ever known had finally been laid to rest. Two families filed missing persons reports, and as usual, no closure was ever reached. No one seemed to notice that, after that day, the disappearances that had plagued the town for decades suddenly came to an end. No one seemed to notice anything at all.

And so the days drifted lazily by, much as they had before.

September rolled around. With considerable effort, Josuke and his friends dragged themselves out of their summer stupor and into unfamiliar classrooms. They were in the 11th grade now, and the reality of their final two years of high school hit them almost as hard as the pile of books they were immediately required to purchase. To make matters worse, Josuke’s mom had given him a sound telling-off for last year’s grades and demanded he take the harder math courses ‘to stop all those video games from rotting his brain’. Not that Tomoko minded the games, really – she just didn’t want to see her son flunk school because of them. Still, the result was a lot more stress and homework than Josuke thought necessary for a strapping young lad such as himself. Plus, Okuyasu wasn’t taking those classes, so they sucked even more.

What Okuyasu had started taking was Home Economics. This got a lot of the girls talking (“That big lump of a delinquent? Taking cooking classes?”), but after seeing him at work in the kitchen they quickly changed their tune. While his presentation and manners needed some work, and his blatant disregard for “correct proportions” occasionally became disruptive, the food he whipped up was enough to bring tears to their eyes. The kid was clearly a natural. It was like he’d been cooking his whole life – which, of course, he had been, albeit only for himself and his dysfunctional family. Unbeknownst to him, Okuyasu was beginning to gain some favour among his female classmates.

Koichi, meanwhile, had been spending more and more time with the young mangaka sensation, Kishibe Rohan. The sales figures for Pink-Dark Boy had seen a spike ever since Rohan took Koichi on as his muse, and the pile of unopened fan mail in Rohan’s study grew taller every day (“The point is that the letters exist”, he told Koichi, “I don’t need to actually read them.”). Suspiciously, despite all the time he spent at Rohan’s house, Koichi’s grades had remained constant. Both Josuke and Okuyasu had a feeling that Heaven’s Door was involved somehow.

It was nice, Josuke kept telling himself. It was nice to take a break from all the fighting and danger and mystery, and just live like a regular, totally ordinary teenager. Except it wasn’t nice. It was fucking boring.

The only thing that kept him from going completely braindead was Okuyasu. Unlike Josuke, Okuyasu seemed to be adapting to ‘life after Kira’ fairly well, probably because his situation had improved so much since the two of them first met. He still shed tears for Keicho, of course, and his father was still dependent on his care, but now he had a strong network of friends to support him through the hard times. This alone was enough to keep a smile on his face.

To Josuke, it seemed like a downright miracle that Okuyasu could have gone through all that and still come out fighting on the other side. He always felt a little bad saying goodnight to Okuyasu, watching him clamber into that rotten, boarded-up old house he called home, back to that once-abusive-and-now-literally-a-monster father. But no matter how much he offered a space on the couch, Okuyasu insisted he was fine by himself. He had responsibilities, after all. In times like that, Josuke got the sense that his friend was probably going to be the better ‘adult’ of the two of them.

But they weren’t quite there yet. In the meantime, the two boys busied themselves with video games and afterschool snacks.

“I’m just saying though, dude…” Okuyasu said with a familiar glimmer in his eye, “Like, imagine if you had a stand that could make you real good at games! I mean…I don’t really need it, I do okay, y’know, but I’m more talkin’ about, uhh…” He let the end of his statement hang, and Josuke raised an eyebrow at him.

“I fuckin’ dare you to finish that sentence, bro. I could beat your ass at Tekken literally any day of the week.”

“Pfft!” Okuyasu scoffed. “Yeah, any day except Monday through Sunday, eh Josuke?” He punctuated his laughter with several solid slaps to Josuke’s back (which actually kinda hurt, but Josuke tried not to show it).

“Whatever!! You just wait, I’ll sneak in practise while you’re stuck doing chores for your old man, then we’ll see who’s the best,” Josuke sulked.

“Shit man, that’s cold…” Okuyasu sniffed. “Anyway, I’m serious! What if you had a video game stand? You’d win all the tourneys and nobody’d ever know your secret! Unless somebody else in the tournament had a stand, too…that’d be pretty crazy…”

Josuke jumped on the topic with enthusiasm. “Dude, I just thought of something. What if Jotaro was secretly a pro gamer? And Star Platinum could stop time so he’d pull off all the crazy combos! That’d be fuckin’ SICK!”

“Yeah yeah yeah! Or what if your stand could actually go INTO the game, for real? And fight next ta your guy? I want a stand that can fwoosh into the TV and beat up Tyson in Punch-Out!”

Josuke scrunched up his nose. “Punch-Out? Are you serious? Who the fuck plays Punch-Out anymore, that shit is seriously old-school…games can do 3D now bro, have you heard?”

“Pshh…just ‘cause your mom buys you all the fancy new games…ain’t nothin’ wrong with the classics. Anyway, sure Punch-Out’s old, but it’s actually pretty hard! Old games are way more ruthless…”

“Sure, man,” Josuke said, stretching, “but wouldn’t you rather punch out Mike Tyson for real? I reckon you and I could take him if we teamed up.”

Okuyasu considered this for a moment. “I dunno…he doesn’t have a stand, though. I’d feel like a bit of a dick lettin’ loose on a guy like that just for the cool points…although…it would be pretty cool…”

“How do you know he doesn’t? Maybe all the top athletes have stands. Like a secret society or something.” Josuke leaned into the couch and lazily flicked through the channels. “How can there be nothing on TV, we have like 50 channels…I’m gonna go get an ice cream from the freezer, you want one? I’ve got double caramel crunch, choco-strawberry—”

“—Aw man! You don’t even need to ask, you know I’m all about that choco-strawberry! It’s the perfect flavour combination for a summer day!” Okuyasu’s mouth was already watering at the thought, and Josuke smiled to himself as he stood up and walked towards the kitchen. It was always nice to see Okuyasu in such a good mood.

Before Josuke could grab the last of the ice cream, his train of thought was abruptly derailed by a large, broad chest blocking his path. It took him a second to work out that he’d basically just smacked headlong into Jotaro, who’d been rounding the corner at the same time. Jotaro looked down at him, unreadable as ever, Star Platinum briefly manifesting to stop his fresh cup of tea from crashing to the ground.

“Whoa! Shit! Sorry, Jotaro!” Josuke jumped back, hastily re-structuring his jostled pompadour.

“Heyyy, Jotaro’s here!” Okuyasu called from the couch. “Wanna play some games with us, Jotaro?” he asked with a conspiratorial wink in Josuke’s direction.

Jotaro narrowed his eyes as he glanced back and forth between the two of them, apparently suspicious. “I’m busy,” he said finally.

“Oh yeah,” Josuke sneered, “gotta go write another report about all those cute little starfish on the beach, right? Marine Wildlife of Morioh Bay: The Life and Times of My Weeny Star Friends – by Dr. Jotaro Kujo.” He laughed a little at his own silly voice.

“No. That part of my thesis is finished.” His voice was firm, but Josuke thought he could see a slight smile playing on Jotaro’s lips. “But I was actually thinking I might start researching sea turtles. You’re welcome to join me if you want. Could always use an assistant.”

“Ugh!!” Josuke cringed. “You’re such a goddamn weirdo! Those things are gross!”

“Aw, I kinda like ‘em…” Okuyasu mumbled, and Josuke suddenly felt a little embarrassed.

“…Anyway, I’ll uh, go get that ice cream,” he said, scampering into the kitchen.

Once Josuke was out of earshot, Jotaro moved towards the couch and turned his attention to the pile of games strewn across the floor. “…Which of these games is Josuke the worst at?” he asked.

Okuyasu was surprised by his sudden interest. “Uhh…probably any of the racing games, he gets too fired up and always falls off the track. Why, you thinkin’ of playin’ us after all?”

“Not today. But I’ll hang onto that piece of information for later.” Jotaro glanced at one of the racing titles. “It’s pretty much just like driving a car, right?”

Before Okuyasu could answer that, yes, it was totally just like driving a car, if you were used to doing wicked jumps at 200 miles an hour while throwing things at other cars, Josuke returned with the ice cream. He made a face at Jotaro.

“What’re you whispering about over there? Don’t you have work to do?” He took a bite out of his ice cream, only to flinch involuntarily and spit a mouthful back out onto the cone. “Blugh!! Fuck, that’s cold!” Okuyasu laughed as Josuke looked away, a little red.

Jotaro began to make his exit, muttering a yare yare under his breath.

“Oi!” Josuke called, “you didn’t answer my question!”

Jotaro made a ‘hmph’ sound before suddenly vanishing from the room.

“JOTARO! DID YOU JUST FUCKING STAR PLAT OUTTA HERE?! You rude ocean-loving son of a bitch!! At least have the decency to say goodbye!” Josuke flopped himself heavily onto the couch next to a positively cackling Okuyasu. “Jesus! What an asshole.”

“Hahaha…no way man, that was so cool!” Okuyasu beamed. “I wish I could do awesome shit like that, but my stand isn’t good for much…probably ‘cause I ain’t too bright, ya know…”

Josuke frowned at that. While it was true that Okuyasu probably didn’t use The Hand to its fullest potential, it wasn’t because he was stupid. He’d experienced the destructive power of his friend’s stand first-hand, and it was nothing to take lightly – he got the feeling Okuyasu could probably take him down pretty quick these days, if he really wanted to. But he knew Okuyasu better than that, well enough to know that he would probably rather work as Rohan’s butler than let anyone else die. What’s more, it seemed as if Okuyasu didn’t really trust himself with his stand, so it made even more sense for him to hold back – what if he hurt someone without meaning to? He might act tough, but after all the shit they’d seen that summer, after everything they’d lost, there was no way a guy like that would just throw his power around without thinking. He was too compassionate, really, and Josuke loved that about him.

“Hey.” Josuke said after a pause. Okuyasu noticed the shift in tone and turned to him with a worried expression.

“Uh…what’s up?” he asked, slowly devouring his choco-strawberry cone.

“I just wanna say…you’re not stupid, okay? And your stand is really cool! You can teleport and delete stuff, that’s pretty awesome.” Josuke felt a little silly being so candid all of a sudden.

“Mm…thanks, Josuke,” Okuyasu said sheepishly, with a shrug of the shoulders. “I really am a bit dumb though. But thanks for sayin’ that, it’s nice of ya.”

“Hey, come on, man, I’m serious—”

“Bro, you don’t have to try an’ cheer me up, I’m fine, don’ worry about it…”

Frustrated, Josuke summoned Crazy Diamond, who grabbed Okuyasu by the collar (Josuke’s free hands, meanwhile, were concentrated on not dropping his ice cream). Okuyasu’s eyes widened, but he didn’t summon his stand.

“No, man, listen to me!” Josuke continued, feeling himself getting carried away. “You always talk shit about yourself, but you’re actually really fuckin’ great, okay? Who cares if people don’t think you’re smart or whatever, they don’t know you! The Okuyasu I know is strong and funny and really cares about his friends…that’s the good shit, man! That’s the important stuff! And you’re really good at cooking, and video games, and a whole bunch of other shit…the point is, like…what I’m trying to say is, you’re the best damn guy I know, and I just really…”

Josuke cut himself off. Where was that sentence even going?

“…I-I really, I, uh…I just don’t like hearing you put yourself down, that’s all,” he finished quietly. Feeling his face heat up with embarrassment, he released Okuyasu from Crazy Diamond’s grip and went back to eating his slowly melting ice cream cone. Nice one, Josuke, he thought to himself. Can’t even give an encouraging speech to a pal without flying off the deep end. Goddamn feelings.

He heard an alarming sniffling sound coming from Okuyasu and felt even worse. Great, he even made him cry. What a good friend.

“Josuke?” Okuyasu’s voice sounded high and wobbly, the way it often did when he was upset about something. Josuke forced himself to meet his friend’s gaze, trying to look as apologetic as possible. It was as bad as he expected – Okuyasu was staring at him with tears streaming down his face, ice-cream-covered hands shaking.

“Uh…sorry, bro…” Josuke mumbled, swallowing hard. “I didn’t mean to get so worked up about it…” Okuyasu just shook his head.

“N-no, dude, it’s…it’s f-fine, I just…it’s real nice, you know…t-to have somebody who cares about me so much…I dunno what to say…” He paused. “Hey…bring out Crazy D again?”

Josuke was taken aback. “Huh? What for?”

“Just…c’mon, I’ve got an idea.”

Reluctantly, Josuke summoned Crazy Diamond to his side again. Okuyasu seemed satisfied, and suddenly The Hand materialised as well. Josuke threw both hands up by his face in a gesture of surrender.

“Whoa whoa whoa! I get that I went a bit far, but you don’t have to –”

Josuke was cut off again, but this time it was by the secondhand sensation of being enveloped in a tight hug as The Hand pulled Crazy Diamond close. It was a strange feeling, being hugged by someone who wasn’t even touching you, but he was surprised to find it a little comforting, too. He let himself settle into the hug with a relieved sigh, releasing tension he hadn’t even realised had built up.

“You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, man,” Okuyasu said, voice still shaky with emotion. “I don’t wanna think about where I’d be without you.” Josuke’s Crazy Diamond returned the hug in response, and Okuyasu started crying again.

“S-same here…” Josuke said with a gulp, feeling a little overwhelmed himself. He was pretty sure they both looked like total idiots right now, and god forbid Jotaro come back and see their stands having a tender moment in the living room. Still, something about the whole encounter felt…necessary, and the two of them stayed in that invisible embrace for longer than they’d care to admit.

“Okuyasu…” Josuke said after the moment had passed, “Uh…”

Okuyasu went bright red as The Hand disappeared. “Um! Haha, yeah, sorry about—”

“—No, dude. Your ice cream. It’s totally melted, look.”

“What!! Shit!” Okuyasu finally looked down at his hand to see a soggy cone filled with semi-liquefied ice cream, as well as several sticky strawberry rivers travelling across his wrist. Josuke had to laugh.

“Don’t worry, I got it.” Crazy Diamond reached towards Okuyasu’s hand and, with a dramatic flourish and a hearty ‘DORA’, punched the ice cream cone back into its rightful, non-melted state.

“Whoooooa!!! That was awesome, Josuke! Here, lemme get yours!”

Before Josuke could raise his very valid concerns about that idea, The Hand went sailing past his face. He suddenly found himself about a foot closer to Okuyasu on the couch, and without any ice cream (save for the small stump of a cone left in his hand).

“What the fuck?! My ice cream!”

“That’s for gettin’ all shouty up in my face before,” Okuyasu said. “Not that I didn’t appreciate what you said an’ stuff…”

“Goddamn it, Okuyasu! That was the last caramel one!” Crazy Diamond gave The Hand a solid-but-friendly headbutt, which was returned with an equally solid-but-friendly punch to the chest.

After a bit of stand-assisted roughhousing, the two eventually settled back down and tried to choose a game to play. Josuke’s shoulder was nestled into a gap near Okuyasu’s armpit as he slouched into the couch.

“Oi, Josukeee, I can’t play when you’re lyin’ on my arm like that,” Okuyasu whined.

“Yeah, well consider it a penalty…to even the playing field, you know?” Josuke squished Okuyasu’s arm with his shoulder on purpose, and his friend flashed him a cheeky grin.

“A-ha! So you admit that I’m better than you?” Crazy Diamond gave Okuyasu a kick under the coffee table.

“Nahhh, I’m just letting you think you are, to help with your confidence! If I played at full power, it wouldn’t be fair!”

“Sure, sure…” Okuyasu kept grinning, clearly unconvinced by Josuke’s cunning ruse. “So, how about some F-Mega then?”

Josuke narrowed his eyes. “No, because that game is shit and cheap. What is it with you and these retro games? I’d watch you play Zelda though.”

“Umm…I’m up to that really hard bit though, I dunno if I wanna keep going…”

Josuke sighed dramatically.

“…But I’ll give it a try? Yeah, okay!” Okuyasu tried to lean forward to slot the game cartridge into the console, but didn’t get very far thanks to Josuke’s shoulder still pressing stubbornly into his arm. “Bro…” he sighed, quietly exasperated. Josuke used his feet to push off from the floor in an attempt to wedge himself even closer, but instead slipped clumsily down the couch and hit his cheek on one of Okuyasu’s many metal accessories.

And so the days drifted lazily by, much as they had before.