INTRODUCTION: The Vandal
Right there, on his doorstep. A dark blue laptop case tucked under his arm, his eyebrows furrowed into a deep frown and wearing a school uniform, sporting a medium length shaggy hairstyle, light brown in color – was a Vandal.
His dark brown eyes staring intensely into his, his grip on the laptop case tightening. With a cigarette in his mouth, thirty-four-year-old Usami Haruto stared down at the younger boy, his lips parted slightly. He was aware that the cigarette might fall from his mouth, but he was unable to close it, or process what the younger male had just said.
His mind travelled back. Four years ago, when he was aged thirty, was when he had first met this boy. With wide eyes, he stared at the boy while he remembered the day, they first encountered one another.
Four years before, the month of October.
Haruto let out a sigh, running his fingers through his black hair. Work had tired him out. He felt like he was getting really old, even at thirty. “Good luck today – Usami!” he heard someone exclaim behind him. Turning around swiftly, he seen his boss. A flirty, middle-aged lady, with long, sexy legs and a serious work ethic. As far as Haruto knew, she had never been married, or had children, even at thirty-three. He admired that kind of lifestyle, and while he didn’t really want to get married, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. “Ah, thank you” he said, shooting her a slight smile as she passed him, her briefcase accidentally rubbing off his leg. She didn’t seem to notice as she kept walking towards the train station. Haruto sighed again, lighting up a cigarette. Since that morning, he had smoked about fifteen cigarettes. He was damn nervous. Even though he was supposed to be at his fiancées house in an hour, he didn’t feel rushed.
Just as he placed the cigarette in his mouth, he felt his phone vibrate in his slacks pocket, and then the ringtone. Nobody was phased by it – it was Tokyo, after all, and outside a law firm at that. Everyone was used to it. He took his phone out of his pocket, glancing at the caller I.D. There, in vibrant black print.
He picked up immediately, pressing the phone to his ear and puffing out some smoke. “Ah, my lovely bride-to-be. What can I do for you?”“I was just calling to make sure you would be here in an hour. Mother is really worried that your food will go cold.”“No worries, I’ll be there” he reassured her. “Hm, Haruto. Are you smoking?” she asked, a hint of annoyance in her voice. “Huh? Yeah, why?” he blinked. “I told you I don’t like it when you smoke” she said. Now her voice sounded upset. Haruto frowned. “Okay, don’t worry. I’ll put it out right now.”“Thank you. I better go, my younger brother should be home from school any moment.”“K. See you later” he said. She hung up seconds later, and he continued to smoke the cigarette for a few seconds, before he put it out and threw it away. “Fuck. Already nagging and we aren’t even married yet” he mumbled to himself, taking off down the road towards the train station.
Well, it wasn’t necessarily that bad. She was a pretty hot woman, and the sex would probably be satisfactory, but he wasn’t in love with her – not by any means. Her family seemed sweet, though he had only met her mother and father for dinner in a hotel when they agreed to get engaged. Both of his parents were passed away, so it was just the four of them. They had met up a few times since, but not as much as the both of them would have preferred. They had met at university, actually, and had met up in a bar thanks to Facebook five months before. They had decided to get married two months later, and their wedding date was set to December.
During the dinner, his future in-laws had mentioned that they had a younger son, as well as a son one year older than Reiko, but he had died some years ago in a car accident. They said because of this incident, their younger son was quite rebellious and sometimes rash and rude. He was very excited to meet him – not. Brats like that drove him crazy, and if that kid was going to be his brother-in-law, well that was just terrific. Once again – NOT. You cannot use your loved ones death as an excuse to be an asshole. At least, that was Haruto’s opinion.
As he boarded the train minutes later, he found himself wondering if this marriage would even last. Reiko had been his friend at college, but even at that time, he didn’t find her particularly appealing. Sure, she was hot, as mentioned before, but there were definitely better-looking women out there, and nicer too. Though he was aware she would torture him for the rest of his life (or at least, until they divorced. IF they did), he felt the need to get married. His reasoning was unclear, even to him.
A ten-minute train ride later, he stood outside the train station. He was about to call Reiko and let her know he was close by, when he noticed a gang of youths pestering a young boy. He stepped closer, slowly, and listened in to the conversation. He noted the young boy was wearing a school uniform, and he didn’t necessarily look scared. The gang leader pushed him a little, taking a hold of the front of his jumper, squeezing tightly. “You heard me, asshole. Give me your money, I know you have some! Your parents are rich, after all!”“I told you, fucker!” the young boy yelled angrily, “I don’t have anything with me!”“Stupid liar!” the leader exclaimed, lifting his fist to punch the boy, but Haruto stepped in. He took a hold of the leader’s arm, forcing him to release the boy. The boy stared at him with admiration in his eyes, but Haruto didn’t register that at the time.
“Oi, leave this kid alone” he said sternly. The youth yanked his arm away from Haruto. “Who the fuck are you?! His sugar daddy?!” he snorted. “I’m a stranger, but I cannot let you do this. Leave him be.” “Fuck you, man!” he barked up into Haruto’s face. Haruto rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Just piss off, the lot of you!”Regardless of their swearing, they listened to Haruto, walking away slowly and spitting on the ground beside him. Haruto recoiled with disgust, stepping away from the spit. “Are you alright?” he asked the young boy. “Y-yes!” he exclaimed, bowing “thank you, sir!”“It’s fine. Stay out of trouble.”
He started to walk away, glancing back to see the boy was headed in the same direction. He ignored him, not uttering another word as he continued to walk in the direction of Reiko’s home, where she lived with her family. Just as he got to the front gate, he turned to face the boy. “What? Following me now?” he asked. The young boy blinked. “Are you going to tell me you live in this neighborhood too?” he asked sternly. “I do. That’s my house there” he said, pointing towards Reiko’s home. “Huh?”
Now it was Haruto’s turn to be confused. Just then, the door opened to reveal Reiko and her parents. Her parents were smiling, but Reiko looked a little mad. “You two are late!” she exclaimed, walking down the pathway. “Oh?” Haruto glanced down at the smaller boy, who was looking at him with confusion in his eyes. “Haruto - you haven’t met Ren, have you?” she asked, leaning into him as she reached him. Haruto wrapped a stiff arm around her. “Oh? No” he shook his head. “Well, Haruto, this is my brother – Onodera Ren. Ren, this is my Fiancé, Usami Haruto.”
Ren’s eyes widened, a sad look in them. It quickly vanished, though, before he let out a small scoff, looking in the opposite direction. “Ah, didn’t know you liked geezers.”Haruto squinted at Ren. He wanted to strangle the little bastard already - and he had only just met him. Geezer?! He was thirty! “Hey, now, just because I’m not as youthful as you are doesn’t make me a geezer” Haruto chuckled. Ren rolled his eyes. “Keep telling yourself that, old man.” “You little-!” he exclaimed, but Reiko started to giggle.
“You’re so cute when you’re angry, Ren!”‘Cute?!’ Haruto thought to himself ‘HE’S cute?!’ “Come on inside, it’s cold out here!” their mother exclaimed, calling them in with a wave of her hand. Reiko took Haruto’s hand, pulling him up the driveway, with Ren trailing behind.
Dinner progressed nicely – or, as nice as it was going to get. Ren made a few old man jokes that made Haruto uncomfortable, and Reiko just found it sweet. Haruto confronted her out in the backyard about it later that night. The garden lights illuminated the beautiful garden. It had ever type of flower that Haruto could think of, it was simply stunning. “So, is he always like that?” he asked her immediately as they stood outside the back door.“Ren?” she giggled “yes, mostly. He was like that with my old boyfriends, too. I think he’s just scared of losing me.”“Oh, is that so?” he sighed, reaching into his pocket to grab a cigarette, but then remembered Reiko didn’t like it. Though he needed one so badly after his conversations with that kid. He was trying so hard to get along with him, but he kept verbally attacking him. “Anyway, I want to have a look around your garden” he lied. Since it was massive, she wouldn’t find him smoking. “Okay, come inside when you’re ready, but don’t take too long, it’s freezing out here. Oh, and, I want to show you something in my bedroom.” She winked.
Haruto’s mouth opened slightly. “Didn’t you say you wanted to wait until we were married?”“I did but, you look so dashing in that suit that I couldn’t possibly resist.”He chuckled, nodding “fine, fine.”She leaned up and pressed a soft kiss to his cheek, nuzzling the side of his face before re-entering the house. Haruto stood there, tensed up. She was acting different than usual. He snapped out of it seconds later, moving to the end of the garden, behind the shed, and lighting up a cigarette. “What are you doing back here?” he heard a voice say coldly. He gasped, hiding the cigarette behind his back. “Oh!” he laughed nervously “Ren, what are you doing behind here?!”“I come here to relax when annoying people visit” he said. “You’re cold-hearted, aren’t you?” Haruto sighed. “Yup.”
A silence followed. “You can smoke that; I won’t tell her” he said. Haruto looked down into his lap to see he was doing homework. “Oh, thanks” he nodded, popping the much-needed cigarette into his mouth and taking a long drag. He let out a sigh of relief. Ren continued to write. “What are you working on?” he asked the younger male. “Biology” he said coolly” we’re learning about sex.”Haruto started to cough loudly. The shock of hearing a fourteen-year-old boy say that scared him. “Oh, sorry. I thought since you and Reiko are going to do it tonight that you were cool with talking about it” he said. This kid. “So, you heard all that then?” he chuckled nervously, rubbing the back of his neck. “Mhm.”“Oh.”
Another silence followed before Ren spoke up again.
“If Reiko doesn’t allow you to smoke, why are you going to marry her? It seems like she is trying to change you.”
Haruto was shocked by this question. How on earth was he supposed to answer that?
“Um…I like her” he replied stiffly.
“Is liking someone enough to marry them?” Ren asked.
‘This kid is too smart’ Haruto thought to himself. He sat down on the pavement beside him, sighing loudly.
“No, not usually.”
“Not usually?” Ren questioned, “what makes it different this time?”
“I guess…” Haruto paused, “I need to get married.”
Ren didn’t question that logic. “Well, Reiko is obviously in love with you.”
Haruto raised a brow, “she is?”
“Yeah. She’s always talking about you and saying you two are going to have kids together and that you discuss things like that a lot.”
“Well, yeah. The kids won’t be for a while, though.”
Haruto glanced up at the sky. The stars were starting to come out, scattered across the darkness. He wondered if his parents thought he was doing the right thing.
“I see. Well, just try to fall in love with her at least.”
He hadn’t looked up from drawing his penis diagram once. Haruto tried his hardest to ignore it.
“Okay, got it, kid.”
“I don’t really understand it, but if you want to marry her – I guess it’s fine.”
Haruto laughed, “you guess it’s fine? What has it got to do with you?”
“Nothing at all. She’s my sister, so I have to be protective, even if she’s annoying.”
“I don’t think you will understand for a long time. You’re still a kid. It’s something only adults understand.”
“Oh I see,” Ren nodded, “well I hope that when I get married someday, I will love the person.”
“I hope so too, kid. Do you have a girlfriend?”
“No. My studies are too important” Ren replied, “but I hope to meet someone someday soon.”
“Ah, good boy. Studies are very important.”
“Yeah. I want to be able to treat her well.”
Back to present day
Ren seemed so interested in the girlfriend thing. He seemed to want to have a woman and treat her as well as he possibly could. That’s why – seeing him standing there on his front porch in the blazing sunlight, school uniform on but four years later puzzled Haruto. Haruto’s cigarette was still somehow in his mouth.
“Come again?” he said quietly.
Ren opened his mouth and spoke.
“I’m in love with you. I always have been.”
‘Nope. I definitely heard him right’ Haruto thought to himself, “I don’t need to get my hearing checked.”
“Riiight. So, tell me Ren. What exactly do you want me to do about that?”
Ren squinted, “Fall in love with me, too. Take responsibility.”
He had such a stern look on his face, like it was a demand more than anything else. Haruto was shocked to the core.
‘I am so, fucking screwed.’