|Hana ga futtekuru by Sakiya Haruhi and illustrated by Ima Michiko
||[Oct. 11th, 2009|10:00 pm]
Hana ga futtekuru by Sakiya Haruhi and illustrated by Ima Michiko is a lovely lovely lovely book I can't even begin to do justice to in a mere summary. It's about cousins, one who is gay and has been in love with the other. The other is straight, but has always been very protective and indulgent. It's a lyrical story of how they come together. I find it wonderfully, lushly romantic. Painful, especially the beginning (unrequited love, anyone?), but the payoff. It is big. BIG. I had a hard time condensing the story because a lot of the beauty of the book is in the mood and the tone, so I've been working on it in chunks for weeks. I hope I was able to convey even a smidgen of what makes this a great read (though I suspect I've totally failed). Just read the book and savor it, if you can.
The book starts with a vivid memory Hasumi Akihiro has of seeing his older sister Natsuha and cousin Hakamada Ryouji going to their old playground on land owned by Ryouji's family. He'd followed them, feeling left out. He can only catch bits of their conversation. At one point Natsuha comments that Ryouji's voice has changed. She thinks Ryouji seems like a man, but Ryouji responds that he isn't. Ryouji catches Natsuha so she doesn't fall, and holds her. Even though he is five years younger than Natsuha, they seem right together. Natsuha comments with a sigh that there are no fireflies, and Ryouji agrees. Akihiro leaves without saying anything to them. As he walks away he sees a firefly. He thinks that they can't see any because they are too caught up with each other, and feels ignored. And resents the situation. The three of them had always done things together, but now Akihiro is alone. Though he'd never heard about them dating later, after that incident he put some distance between him and them.
In the present: Ryouji leaves work, wondering if he should stop for a drink or just go straight home. He receives two text messages. One is from a friend from high school, Saeki Shinya, asking if he wants to go drinking. The second is from his girlfriend of three years, Makiyama Rina. She's confirming that Ryouji is free to visit his parents. She's been urging him to take her to see his parents recently, so he figures she's thinking about marriage. But he can't help but feel bad about never having brought her to his apartment...He never has people over for a very good reason. It starts to rain, so Ryouji passes on drinking and heads home.
Ryouji's apartment is dark when he arrives. He calls out to see if his roommate, Akihiro, is home. He is. Akihiro is an assistant for a university insect research team, having always loved bugs. Ryouji asks if he can turn on the lights. Akihiro says he can, but tells him not to come in yet. Ryouji hears a buzzing sound and asks what it is this time. Akihiro happily replies that some moths had just emerged from their pupa. He'd left the door to their cage open while their wings dried, but they'd gotten out. He goes on to explain the particular moth species, but Ryouji can't make heads or tails of it all. He can only see that Akihiro is standing on the sofa with a net. Akihiro is slender with a feminine face, and looks much younger than his 28 years. He acts much younger as well. Ryouji figures that Akihiro had been so excited while waiting for the moths to emerge that he'd forgotten to even turn on the lights. When Akihiro yells out to Ryouji not to open the door, Ryouji suppresses a laugh and tells him he won't.
After about 15 minutes Akihiro has finished catching the moths, with much commotion. Luckily they live in a building with thick walls and won't get complaints. Ryouji calls out to Akihiro to confirm that he can come in. He'd opened the door in a previous insect escape before getting confirmation and had had bugs fly out on him before. When Akihiro replies that he can come in, Ryouji enters to see Akihiro, all sweaty, crouched over as he puts the moths into the cage. He asks if they need to clean up since they were moths, but Akihiro replies that these moths don't have scales right after they emerge from the pupa. Akihiro happily shows off his moths, noting how their wings are transparent and their bodies colorful and plump. He thinks they are cute and looks for confirmation from Ryouji. Ryouji, for his part, can't agree. It's not repellent, but it's certainly not attractive or cute. He comments that it's cuter than a centipede. Akihiro responds that centipedes are useful and the mortal enemies of cockroaches. Ryouji bites back a tart response.
The good reason Ryouji can't invite people home is Akihiro. Who knows when a bug could be flying loose in their apartment? Most people, particularly women, don't really like insects. Ryouji himself doesn't really like insects, but he'd grown used to them. He'd HAD to get used to them.
Akihiro happily tells Ryouji that he'd gotten his hands on some pupas and had warmed his room up, and had succeeded in producing adult moths. Ryouji finally understands why Akihiro had the heat on during the rainy season. He comments that now he gets why the electric bill had been so high the previous month. Akihiro slumps his shoulders and apologizes, as he's just a freeloader. Ryouji hadn't meant to scold Akihiro, and tells Akihiro that he is a roommate not a freeloader. But Akihiro points out that he doesn't pay rent or anything. He seems very down, so Ryouji again tells Akihiro not to be bothered by the situation. Akihiro thinks he should've gotten a job at a company after graduate school, but Ryouji can only sigh. As if Akihiro could ever work in a normal company.
Their living together had begun four years ago when they were 24. Akihiro had just gotten his master's degree and could either work in the university or go back to his hometown. Akihiro's father had declared that Akihiro couldn't work in the real world, and in response Akihiro had declared that he could live on his own. He disappeared for a month. Akihiro's dad, very worried, begged Ryouji, the second son of the main family who lived in Tokyo as well, to look for Akihiro. Ryouji found Akihiro, but Akihiro and his dad continued to fight about Akihiro's future. Ryouji, sick of it all, told the two of them that he'll watch over Akihiro so that Akihiro could stay in Tokyo. Both Akihiro and his dad felt obligated to him already and agreed to the compromise. So since then, Ryouji has had responsibility for Akihiro and can't mess up.
Ryouji gently reminds Akihiro that he won't be able to do the research he so loves if he works at a regular company. Akihiro hugs the cage to him. When Ryouji adds that Akihiro wouldn't be able to do things like raise moths at home if he lived alone, Akihiro starts fiddling with the cage. Akihiro protests that he could raise them at the university. But Ryouji replies that it is Akihiro himself who can't stand just having them at work and brings them home. Akihiro sits up properly and looks up at Ryouji, "sorry" written on his face.
Ryouji sighs and asks if Akihiro had eaten yet. He can tell the answer by the look on Akihiro's face, and offers to make him something. Akihiro has no domestic skills at all. Akihiro tries to decline, but Ryouji insists. He tells Akihiro to put away his cage. Akihiro obeys, but is very apologetic. Ryouji tells Akihiro that he is in no way a burden or a bother. He asks if Akihiro has a reason for moving out. Akihiro vigorously denies it. He says he enjoys living with Ryouji, but wants to be sure that Ryouji is okay with the arrangement. Ryouji firmly says he's fine.
Akihiro had grown up coddled by his family, as he'd always been weak and delicate like his mother (who'd passed away a while back). Ryouji had done so as well, but after witnessing Akihiro's rather bad break-up with his boyfriend ten years ago there is an awkwardness between them at times. It had surfaced when Akihiro had first come to live with him. Ryouji hates being a problem for Akihiro, and wants Akihiro to live freely. He tells Akihiro to live in a more carefree manner, stroking Akihiro's hair. Akihiro keeps his head down, but thanks Ryouji in a small voice.
It is at that time that Ryouji's phone rings. It is Ryouji's girlfriend Rina, calling him since he hadn't called her back. He explains that he hadn't confirmed it with his parents as they aren't home right now. Though it's a lot more complicated than just that. A second son in an old family like his typically is just a spare, not particularly important or necessary. Unfortunately Ryouji is in an odd position because he'd been so good at everything. He never had a close relationship with his parents or his older brother. He just doesn't know how to explain the whole thing to Rina. Even if he could he doesn't know if she'd understand. Rina tells Ryouji to set a date soon, and they say goodbye.
Ryouji calls Akihiro over to set the table. Akihiro comments that Ryouji's phone calls with Rina are quite short. Ryouji replies that it's just her personality. Akihiro compares her to his sister, having heard about her second hand from Saeki (her coworker) as well as Ryouji. She's pretty, smart, and unpretentious, very much Ryouji's type. Ryouji brings over the food (rice porridge) and watches Akihiro eat as he unwinds with some tea sent over from home. Ryouji warns Akihiro about the hot pot, tells him to eat it all, and urges him to take a bath when he's done.
Flashback to their last year in high school: Ryouji and Akihiro will be rooming together in Tokyo when they attend university. Ryouji is waiting for Akihiro to show up so that they can talk about rooming together. When Akihiro doesn't show up or call, Ryouji figures Akihiro had forgotten as he was supposed to be meeting a kouhai before meeting with Ryouji. They can always meet up again later. But when Akihiro's sister calls that night and asks if Akihiro is over there, Ryouji promises to look for Akihiro before Akihiro's overprotective father finds out he's missing and decides to not let Akihiro attend university or something. Ryouji goes to the woods they'd played in when they were children, figuring from Akihiro's serious countenance that he had a serious talk with his kouhai and he'd want to do it somewhere private. As he'd suspected, Akihiro is there. With his kouhai. But the scene that greets him shocks Ryouji: Akihiro had obviously been raped by his much larger kouhai. Akihiro prevents Ryouji from attacking the kouhai, and explains to Ryouji after the kouhai leaves that they'd been dating. But he'd wanted to break up when he left for university. He also had told the kouhai that he was going to be sharing a room with Ryouji, which had angered the kouhai and prompted him to assault Akihiro. Ryouji is in shock, but takes Akihiro back to his house. He lies to Akihiro's sister about Akihiro's whereabouts and has Akihiro stay over that night. When he tries to get the spaced-out Akihiro to take a bath or at least change, Akihiro starts muttering about wishing humans were more similar to insects that do not have distinct sexes. He thinks he's more like that kind of insect, maybe that's why he loves insects so much. He states that he just fails at human interactions. Ryouji can't help himself, he hugs Akihiro and tries to comfort him. There's nothing wrong with you, he says. But Akihiro tries to reject Ryouji. You're not like me! You can't understand! He struggles, but Ryouji doesn't let go. He holds the crying Akihiro until he wears himself out.
Back to the present: Akihiro had finished his bath while Ryouji had been reminiscing and tells Ryouji good night. He thanks Ryouji for the food a bit ill-temperedly. Things have continued to be awkward between them. Akihiro had refused to live with Ryouji during university after that incident, but they had ended up living together after graduation. Akihiro's insanely overprotective father had wanted to bring Akihiro back home, but Akihiro had wanted to stay in Tokyo. In the end Ryouji had offered to watch over Akihiro to placate Akihiro's father. Ryouji had wanted to take the opportunity to close the distance that had grown between them over the years and had solidified after that incident. He knew that Akihiro had a bit of an inferiority complex because Ryouji was so good at everything and Akihiro had always been compared to Ryouji. And he knew Akihiro had gotten quite a shock when Ryouji, a relative, found out he was gay. He'd tried to show in his actions and his words that it didn't bother him. Yet the wall between them still existed just as the memory of that incident did. Over the years, Ryouji had learned to provide a comfortable environment for Akihiro. He figured that as more time passed things would smooth out.
After saying goodnight to Ryouji, Akihiro retreats to his room. He feels heavy and tired. Ryouji's stance as a protective guardian wears on him. Ryouji had always been rather perfect, and always kept people at a slight distance. And yet he continually indulges and coddles Akihiro as if Akihiro is still a child. Akihiro, for his part, reminisces as well. He remembers spying on Ryouji and his sister that time at their old stomping grounds, and the shock of seeing an adult expression Ryouji's face then and later on. He remembers sensing that they could relate as a man and a woman in a way that he couldn't. He'd gone to a private all-boy's school and had been confessed to quite a bit. He'd chosen the kouhai because the kouhai's physique reminded him of Ryouji. The kouhai had known that Akihiro pined after Ryouji, but had hoped to turn Akihiro's feelings towards him. So when Akihiro had tried to just run away to Tokyo (and to live with Ryouji, of all people), the kouhai had exploded. Ryouji had no damn clue. Over the years Akihiro had slept with several men in Tokyo (it is much easier to find other gay guys here than in the country), all with similar physiques.
Akihiro looks at the large aquarium in his room, the reason he's been keeping his room really warm. He wants to have "it" mature in time for Ryouji's birthday. But he remembers that Ryouji might be spending that day with Rina. While Ryouji may not remember his own birthday, she certainly wouldn't. Akihiro wonders if Ryouji is serious this time. Ryouji's had many girlfriends who have come and gone, Ryouji never becoming particularly attached to any one of them. But Rina's lasted three years. And Ryouji plans to take her to his parent's house. Akihiro thinks about what he will do if Ryouji and Rina get married. He also wonders if his efforts at raising "it" will be wasted. It seems all his efforts end up being fruitless. In the corner of the room the moths flutter against the cage. Akihiro feels like them. He's stuck in a small space, unable to get out. Ryouji has no idea that his compassion keeps Akihiro trapped. Akihiro decides to release the moths at university the next day. Though he's feeling a bit on edge, he knows he has to go to sleep. He has to work the next day. Though he knows he can't be wasting his energy, he can't help but wish he could just dissolve like a chrysalis and turn into something else. And hates his weakness in wishing for the impossible.
Ryouji meets up with Saeki after work the next day. Saeki, who hates insects after an unfortunate incident in childhood involving a bee in his pants and swelling in a sensitive place, complains about Akihiro's hobby of bringing bugs home to raise. But he'd called out Ryouji to talk about Rina. He wants to confirm Ryouji's intentions to marry her. Ryouji tells him that he figures it's about time. They'd been together for three years, long enough to get to know each other. He's very rational, both about his reasons and hers (she wants a provider for her and their children). Personally, he finds her the easiest of the women he'd dated to deal with. Saeki finds it all kind of...cold and dry. When he asks if there isn't more love or something between them, Ryouji responds that normally there is, almost like it's about someone else. Saeki teasingly comments that if Akihiro was a girl and wasn't into bugs, he'd be perfect. He has a cute face, is quiet but slightly odd, and just plain interesting. Saeki even likes the fact that Akihiro has no ability to do the everyday things of daily life. He says it knowing Ryouji will be a bit miffed, and indeed Ryouji does get a bit upset. Ryouji has always been a bit distant with everyone, except Akihiro. Akihiro is the only tender spot for Ryouji.
Saeki mentions that he's a bit worried for Akihiro once Ryouji gets married, since he'll be on his own. But he figures Akihiro will get used to it eventually. Ryouji, for his part, is nonplussed. Akihiro alone? It'd never occurred to him. Then Saeki comments (innocently!) that there just may be someone who will take care of Akihiro. When Ryouji asks "Who!?" Saeki has no idea, but Akihiro had lived alone during college until he moved in with Ryouji. There probably was someone or another. After all, Akihiro makes people want to care for him. Ryouji is internally totally piqued. He remembers that incident ten years ago, to Akihiro's statement that his kouhai had always been gentle with him until that time. He'd felt peace of mind with Akihiro within his sphere these last four years. Saeki senses Ryouji's unease and points out that's it's a bit unfair of Ryouji to have a partner in Rina and not be okay with Akihiro having someone as well. Is Ryouji that protective? Ryouji denies it. He wants Akihiro to be happy, to find someone he loves and who will treasure him. Saeki is struck by the difference in Ryouji's attitude towards his own and Akihiro's romantic relationships, but in the end drops it. He's happy to hear that Ryouji is serious about Rina.
Akihiro is not home when Ryouji gets back. Ryouji goes out to the balcony and smokes. He hadn't smoked in the apartment since Akihiro had moved in because Akihiro's insects were weak against the smoke. He suddenly wonders why he continues to watch over Akihiro when doing so robs him of such small liberties. He tells himself that it is because his uncle had asked him to. The red tip of the cigarette shines like a firefly, which reminds Ryouji of what he'd told Saeki earlier. That he wants Akihiro to do what he wants. He remembers that those words had been uttered by Akihiro's sister Natsuha ten years ago. It takes him back...
Flashback: Ryouji runs into Natsuha when he was in middle school and Natsuha was in her last year of high school one day. He'd known that she had always wanted to attend a university in the city and become a translator, but her mother had recently had a heart attack and would take years to recover. He'd recently heard that she was going to attend a local junior college instead. After some pleasantries, Natsuha suddenly asks if he'd like to go see the fireflies. He has no reason to decline, so they start walking. She asks him about how he's doing, talks about what silly thing Akihiro had done recently...Not about her mother. He can't ask her, though. They reach their old childhood haunt and look over the river. Natsuha crouches at the edge of the river and comments that Ryouji's voice had changed. He sounds like an adult. Ryouji replies that he's not an adult. Natsuha laughs, but then falls silent. Ryouji, not knowing what else to say, comments that there are no fireflies. Natsuha wonders if it's too early for fireflies, or if they no longer appear in this area. She then says that she wants to let Akihiro do whatever he wants. She thinks he has potential, as does Ryouji. Ryouji understands that Natsuha is giving up her dreams to stay home so that Akihiro can be free. He hates that he doesn't know what to say to her. She suggests they go home as it's getting late. When she stands up, Ryouji reaches out to her in case she slips. Natsuha takes his hand, and for an instant rests her forehead against his chest. She tells him that she's alright. She smiles and urges him to start heading home. Ryouji remembers that smile well, because he'd fallen in love for that instant, with that smile. Even now it lingers within him...
Back in the present, Ryouji thinks about Natsuha's current circumstances. She'd taken care of things at home until her mother had died. She'd then entered college a few years late, but had met the man she wants to share her life with and is probably thinking of marriage soon. He compares the steady strength of Natsuha with Akihiro's inability to do the everyday living thing. He looks at the plants on the balcony Akihiro grows for his insects, and wonders why Akihiro can't put the care he gives his insects to himself as well. Though he knows he's being unfair to Akihiro--after all, if Akihiro completely failed at life he wouldn't have lasted as an assistant at the university. Though he thinks of Akihiro as almost the same from when they were children, nothing remains the same. He thinks of his upcoming 29th birthday. He's almost thirty, his life should start to change quite a bit. He thinks of marriage, the big event looming before him that doesn't feel real at all to him.
Towards the end of June, it is the rainy season and Akihiro is under the weather. He's worried that his insects might become affected by the weather, but more than that the gathering reality of Ryouji and Rina's marriage weighs heavily on him. Ryouji had invited him to dinner with Rina and Saeki that night. He shows up slightly late to the restaurant. It is his first time meeting Rina. They exchange pleasantries and order drinks. When Akihiro tries to order the same alcoholic drink as Saeki, he's overruled by Ryouji who reminds him that he shouldn't drink when he's been lacking sleep. Akihiro pouts but in the end orders mineral water. Rina laughs at their exchange, because Akihiro was just like Saeki's description of him--cute and young and pretty. Akihiro attacks Saeki, who defends his assessment. When Ryouji defends Akihiro as well, Saeki lays the blame for Akihiro at Ryouji's (and Akihiro's sister's) feet for indulging him so much.
The appetizer comes, a salad with white asparagus on it. Akihiro frowns at it, but then Ryouji takes the asparagus off his plate. Akihiro complains that they are in public. At home Ryouji eats the stuff Akihiro doesn't like, but he doesn't need to do it at a restaurant. Saeki and Rina comment that they are like a father and son. Ryouji apologizes, realizing he'd gone too far. Akihiro checks to see if Rina is upset. Previously when he'd met Ryouji's girlfriends some of them had been unhappy (and jealous) at how much Ryouji coddled Akihiro. Once, when a girlfriend had commented that their closeness is kind of gross, Ryouji had coldly told her off (he's family, I don't want to be told that their relationship is gross). With Ryouji so clearly indicating that he doesn't need someone who can't accept Akihiro as well, it had been very awkward. Things hadn't lasted long with that girlfriend. Rina, for her part, is pleased by Ryouji's ability to indulge Akihiro. She thinks it will translate into him being a good father.
Akihiro sees that they are very well-matched. He feels like he can give up on Ryouji if it's Rina he's chosen. He thinks that maybe it's not so bad that he can finally bury this long unrequited love thanks to such a superb person such as Rina.
The day before Ryouji's birthday, they eat dinner together. Ryouji fusses about Akihiro's condition. He'd been quite busy at work and was worn out. He'd also made an effort to distance himself from Ryouji. But he's not prepared when Ryouji tells him he will be going to his parent's house with Rina tomorrow. Akihiro had been banking on seeing Ryouji at least a little to show him what he'd raised for his birthday. And Ryouji was going to be away the day after that for work. Akihiro knows his present won't last until Ryouji comes back. Ryouji notices Akihiro's pale face and asks what's wrong. Akihiro is terribly agitated. He can't believe he's shocked by something so minor. He knows it's not right to ask, but he asks if Ryouji can change his plans. He really wants Ryouji to see his present so much, because he'd decided it be the end to it all. Akihiro hates himself, that he hadn't thought things out better and is now so distressed. Ryouji waits for Akihiro to elaborate, but when Akihiro doesn't he asks if Akihiro has plans. He can change his plans if necessary. Not necessarily Akihiro's, but Ryouji's. Akihiro can't believe that Ryouji is so willing to change his important plans (to tell his parents that he's getting married!) for Akihiro's as yet unmentioned plans. Akihiro tells Ryouji that it's nothing, but Ryouji doesn't accept Akihiro's words. Akihiro had become so pale and had been speechless. It isn't nothing.
Akihiro is filled with anger at that moment. Ryouji had chosen Rina, was going to go away, but yet still indulges Akihiro. He hates being coddled by a wanna-be protector. He asks when Ryouji plans to have the wedding. Ryouji is terribly vague about it, which is unusual for Ryouji. Akihiro asks if Ryouji loves Rina. Ryouji replies that one would think so since he's marrying her. Akihiro realizes that even Rina is the same as all the other women, who hadn't been truly desired by Ryouji and had eventually left. Ryouji thinks of marriage as a contract, and the conditions for this contract between him and Rina had been fulfilled. So they were going to get married. Akihiro points out that if marriage is a contract, then it's as if Ryouji doesn't care who he marries as long as she fulfills the conditions. He asks if the conditions were right then couldn't HE be the one Ryouji marries? He feels like Ryouji had said horribly insensitive things to him. He's angry. Ryouji, for his part, is apologetic. It's not that anyone would do for him. Had he not explained it well? Besides, Akihiro is a guy. It's just odd, putting aside the marriage as a sort of contract business. Something breaks within Akihiro at that point. He fights the urge to punch Ryouji. He wants Ryouji to stop trying to explain himself so earnestly. He doesn't want Ryouji to shove the fact that they are different in his face anymore. Even as Ryouji explains that he's a good match for Rina because he can provide a steady and comfortable home for her and their children, Akihiro tries to calm down. He tells himself that Ryouji doesn't mean anything bad. It's easy for heterosexuals to think like this. They really are so different. And Ryouji has no damn clue.
Akihiro decides to show Ryouji his present. He asks Ryouji to clean up after dinner while he prepares. He decides to reveal everything to Ryouji that night.
Ryouji is told to wait in the living room for a while. He turns off all the lights, even the light of the answering machine, and closes the curtains. He thinks it's a bit childish to be in complete darkness, but he's excited. When he asks what it is, he hears Akihiro's voice from a slight distance saying he'll soon know. Then he sees a blue-white light quavering before him. Then he sees more of them, and he realizes they are fireflies. Akihiro had raised them so that they would mature right around Ryouji's birthday. Ryouji is taken back to the woods of his childhood by the sight. He thanks Akihiro. He apologizes that his plans conflicted with Akihiro's since the fireflies wouldn't have lived long enough for him to see it after he'd come back from his work trip. Akihiro responds that it doesn't matter, it's just a trival thing. Akihiro's voice is emotionless. Unable to see Akihiro's face in the darkness, Ryouji feels uneasy.
Akihiro talks about finding a place and moving out. After all, Ryouji and Rina are to be married. Ryouji offers Akihiro free use of the apartment (which he owns). He can live somewhere else. He's flustered and perturbed by the thought of Akihiro going away. Of not being with him. Akihiro tells Ryouji that he needs to live by himself. But he hates being by himself. It's lonely. Ryouji wants to tell Akihiro that they can stay together, but he doesn't. He's the one choosing to marry and be separated from Akihiro. He hadn't meant to toss aside Akihiro when he'd chosen Rina. He hadn't thought about anything. Akihiro goes on to say that Ryouji can make children and not be alone anymore. He can't. He can only love men, and though he doesn't think that not being able to reproduce is wrong, it's lonely. Ryouji can hear the pain in Akihiro's voice, and he can't stand it. Yet he's the one that is causing that pain. Akihiro says that he wants to be in a romantic relationship. He'll stop seeing his sex friends and get a boyfriend. He wants to shine for someone, like the fireflies. He wants to find his life's partner. Someone who will treasure him. Ryouji is shocked. Akihiro has had and continues to have casual sex? He had no idea. So he demands an explanation. What does Akihiro mean? Akihiro replies that he wants someone who loves him, and this time he'll love that person back. Ryouji is in a panic. He can't see or find Akihiro in the dark. Akihiro then tells Ryouji he'd loved Ryouji. The reason the kouhai had raped him ten years ago was because the kouhai had realized he was similar to Ryouji. Back then Ryouji had loved Natsuha. And now he loves Rina. It's all very proper. Ryouji is always proper. Ryouji desperately wants to talk properly, face to face, not in the dark, but Akihiro continues. He will live by himself, he needs to start there. He thanks Ryouji for everything till now. Ryouji tells Akihiro to stay, and stumbles in the dark to find the breaker switch. By the time he turns on the lights, Akihiro is gone.
Ryouji races down the hall, but he misses the elevator doors closing. He wants to chase after Akihiro, but he realizes that he doesn't know what he wants to say to Akihiro once he'd caught up with him. So he goes back to his room, and eventually realizes he needs to do something about the fireflies when they start hitting the lights. He starts patiently catching them. When he takes the container into Akihiro's room, he's surprised at the big aquarium. Ryouji himself had never been interested in bugs, but he'd enjoy them in Akihiro's presence. Because Akihiro had said they were pretty, he'd thought them pretty. He feels like he'd been watching Akihiro's happy profile as he looked at bugs instead of the bugs. He's always found his same-aged cousin so adorable. Akihiro had always been so vivid in his mind. And he realizes his idiocy. He hadn't wanted anything throughout his life because he'd already been fulfilled. He hadn't ever needed to put words to his feelings because Akihiro had always been there.
Ryouji thinks about what he should do. If he choses Rina, he will have a comfortable life. But that gentle life would be horribly washed out. Though he tells himself not to be swallowed up in a moment's emotion, he can't rid himself the fear of losing Akihiro. He closes his eyes, and then opens them. His feelings haven't changed. And he decides to want the thing he wants, rather than think of things like the guilt he will have towards the person he will be hurting.
The next day Ryouji meets with Rina as planned, but tells her that he can't marry her. She calmly accepts it because she knows Ryouji wouldn't say something like that if he wasn't totally serious. But she asks why. He tells her that he loves someone else. He's always loved that person but he's just realized it, he hasn't said anything to that person yet. Rina reminds Ryouji about what she was looking for in a husband, about someone who could provide a stable home for her and their children? There's a minimum requirement that she hadn't even bothered to mention--that he love her. If she was just looking for stability she could've just gone with an arranged marriage. She gets up to leave, giving him money for her half of the meal. She won't see him again. She refuses to cry, or cling, or even yell at him. But she will never forgive him. And he won't forget that he'd hurt her. In the end he apologizes, which makes her laugh shakily and tell him she wants to punch him. But instead she leaves, her head held high. He hopes she finds a better man than he. He pays and leaves. As he gets into his car, he thinks about when to go see Akihiro. He knows Akihiro is staying over at the university.
Akihiro is hanging out in the hothouse at the university, surrounded by tropical flora and fauna. He's out of it and really sweaty after being in the hothouse for so long, but he doesn't want to move. He mutters to himself, wondering what he will do now. He'd left without thinking...And is surprised to hear agreement with his exasperation. It is Ryouji. He'd brought the fireflies. He thanks Akihiro for them, they had brought back memories. Akihiro is confused. Wasn't Ryouji supposed to propose formally to Rina and go see his parents? But Ryouji assures him that he doesn't have to be anywhere. He's not getting married. He and Rina have broken up. Akihiro thinks he's joking, but of course he's not. He tells Akihiro that he won't get married if Akihiro is going to go away. He'd thought to get married simply because there was no reason not to. He asks if he can release the fireflies here. Akihiro tells him to go ahead. They can't survive in such a climate, but it's not like they have long to live. He feels guilty about wasting their lives.
Ryouji calls Akihiro's name. He asks Akihiro to look at him, then asks if Akihiro's love had already ended. He gently touches Akihiro's cheek. Akihiro replies that he's planning on it. Ryouji asks if Akihiro can take back the "loved" and stick with "love," if it's not too late. He asks Akihiro to cut ties with his sex friends. If he wants to have sex, have sex with him. Akihiro is frozen, dumbfounded. Ryouji tentatively strokes Akihiro's cheek, and laughs at Akihiro's dumfounded open mouth. He tells Akihiro that Akihiro had always laughed with his mouth wide open, showing his teeth, when they went looking for bugs. Akihiro frantically tries to hide them, but before he can Ryouji kisses him. For an instant. Akihiro finds it all unreal. He asks Ryouji why? He's different from Akihiro. Ryouji replies that he's not different. Nothing is different. Not even back then. Ryouji asks why Akihiro wants to be alone. Why can't Ryouji be with him? Akihiro pulls Ryouji's hand away from his face and replies that Ryouji will marry Rina and have children. Ryouji tells him he doesn't want them. Akihiro responds that Ryouji himself had said they can't marry. He doesn't need Ryouji to take care of him forever.
Ryouji sadly asks if Akihiro's love is already in the past. Is he too late? He explains that he didn't particularly want to marry. There just was no reason not to. He doesn't particularly want children either. Rina was the one that wanted them. Akihiro points out that that attitude is rather awful. Ryouji agrees, he hadn't even realized it till now. So before he became truly awful he'd ended it. He hadn't wanted Rina. The person he'd wanted was already right in front of him, so he'd thought he'd had that person already. He hadn't realized it. He can't marry Akihiro. There's no reason to, either. He grabs Akihiro wrist tightly. He admits that they can't marry, and he is dawdling and late. But he asks Akihiro to choose him. Akihiro yells at Ryouji to wait. But Ryouji just pulls his body to him. Akihiro is very confused. He and Ryouji go around in circles for a while, while Akihiro tries to absorb the situation. He calls Ryouji stupid for giving up the chance at a normal life. But Ryouji calls himself stupid for not realizing that he could lose Akihiro. He begs Akihiro to take back the past tense on his love again. Akihiro tells Ryouji to say it first. Ryouji tells Akihiro that he loves him and smiles. He says it again, and asks Akihiro his feelings. Akihiro complains that Ryouji is rather presumptuous considering he'd only realized it yesterday, but in the end gives in. He says he loves Ryouji as well, adding that it all kind of pisses him off. But the rest of his words are lost in a kiss. They kiss long and hard. Ryouji asks how many people Akihiro had slept with, to which Akihiro asks the same thing back. Akihiro calls Ryouji an idiot again. Ryouji agrees again. Akihiro can't believe Ryouji had chased after him, even hurting a really great woman in the process. Ryouji asks if an idiot version of him is no good. Akihiro says that he is no good, but he presses his tearful face against Ryouji's chest. Ryouji had thrown everything away to come to him. He'd caused Ryouji to do it. And it brings him a dark joy. They walk out of the hothouse holding hands.
And have sex, obviously. Sorry, I've lost steam. Not that I'm all fond of going into details re: sex scenes. It's sweet because Ryouji asks Akihiro if they can have sex, so that he can cement their new status before Akihiro starts to second guess and regret. He knows Akihiro well. XD
I find this romantic primarily because Ryouji is so driven and sweet once he realizes his own feelings and decides what he really wants. He's persistent but not forceful (and never ever is forceful, though he is bossy XD;). Though he is a dope for not knowing his own feelings for like forever, he's so loving once he does.
I also love the firefly motif. I love Akihiro the bug nut. I love that Ryouji is not so fond of bugs but has gotten used to them. XD;
There's also a really great story of them going back home for a memorial service. Rather long, and mostly sweet. They are a cute couple.
Pics from that story:
At their childhood haunt as adults.
Thrilling sex at home! Must muffle the sex sounds!
from the afterward:
A bonus: Almost Lover by A Fine Frenzy. I'm mad for this song right now, and it has the right feel.