(Remember, this is an original novel written by the commander of ExR, Addis, and is not a translation.)
“You’re really not going to eat my lunch?” Misaki whispered up at Ren. His little hand was tightly clutching Ren’s hand, his big amethyst eyes sparkling as he looked up at the taller man. Ren smiled at Misaki, squeezing the little hand tightly.
“No, I am not,” he chuckled, “As you said, your mama made that for you.” Misaki giggled and then grinned happily, dropping Ren’s hand as his ran forward toward the preschool. Chuckling at the enthusiasm of a small child, Ren walked slowly after him to let the teachers know he would be back later to pick Misaki up.
The preschool was a one floor building with a small playground in it’s courtyard. There was a gate surrounding the building, making it easier to keep an eye on the children while they played outside. Ren walked Misaki through the front gate until they arrived inside. One of the teachers was helping a small girl take off her jacket. When the two walked through the door, the teacher looked up and smiled, her eyes alight with joy.
Ren had known for a while that this female teacher had a crush on him, but because he leaned more towards men then women, he felt none of her charms. One of the main reasons Ren believed she liked him was because she was Jun’s omega half-sister, Hana. She was now eighteen years old and had grown into her looks. Her long blonde hair cascaded down her back and her bright green eyes sparkled with emotions Ren didn’t even want to name.
“Auntie Hana!” Misaki squeaked, running up to Hana, his joy evident on his small face. Hana sent the small girl into the room behind her and squatted on Misaki’s level to help him take off his coat. Once she took it off, she picked him up and settled him on her hip. Misaki played with her hair as she turned to look at Ren with that bright smile. No matter how Ren looked at it, that smile made his heart hurt.
“You’ll be back later to pick him up?” Hana asked, her smile turning a little shy. She had always liked Ren ever since the first time they had met when Misaki was born. Their meeting had been in a crazy hospital room filled with family and friends, but what always stayed in her mind was the sad look that had appeared in Ren’s eyes as he held Misaki for the first time. There had been tears glistening in his eyes that had nothing to do with appreciating a new life. As Ren had handed Misaki back over to Kichirou and Jun had bent down to kiss Kichirou on the top of his head, Hana saw that look once again. That sorrow that glistened in Ren’s eyes had captured her heart. It was then that Hana had realized that Ren had wanted Kichirou to be more than his best friend.
“I should be back around three.” Ren answered, running a hand through his reddish brown hair.
Sighing, Hana moved her blonde hair behind her ear before saying said, “I’m sorry my brother is making you help take care of Misaki.”
That gentle but sorrowful look entered Ren’s eyes as he glanced at Misaki. “It’s not a problem. I’m doing it for Kichirou too.”
Ah, Hana thought, why can’t you give up on him? But she knew that a love that had lasted for almost fifteen years was something that could not be easily forgotten. She knew that Ren would be celebrating his thirty-fifth birthday soon and she wanted to somehow alleviate that burden he seemed to be carrying around in his heart. Hana was just about to open her mouth to suggest they go somewhere, just the two of them, when the front door bell jingled as it opened.
“I’m so sorry I’m late. I’ll go talk to the principal now.” The voice was as soft as the bells that were attached to the door and the rush of cold air that wafted in from the outside hit Ren’s skin on the back of his neck, making him shiver.
Even as he turned to look at the man who was speaking behind him, Ren felt an odd sensation within his chest. It was as if his heart was burning slowly. Had he eaten something wrong the night before? The man that walked in passed by Ren and their eyes met just for a second before he disappeared down the hall.
Ren stood their stupefied as that tall silhouette disappeared beyond where his eyes could see. Just with that one glance and somehow, that man’s appearance reverberated throughout his being. He looked to be no older than his early twenties, his light brown hair long in the front but shaved close along his neck and slightly farther up. He had pale skin and flushed cheeks even with the teal scarf that had been wrapped tightly around his neck.
“Who was that?” Ren asked, his eyes never leaving the hall.
Hana frowned, but still answered, “He’s a new teacher that just started here yesterday, Ichikawa Shouta. That’s not a very good first impression to be late on his full first day, though.”
“Shouta?” Ren whispered, his thoughts stuck on the on thing that hit him the hardest when the younger man had passed by him. He felt as though a rock had smacked him across his face.
Shouta ran into the bathroom, not even stopping as he shut himself in one of the stalls, panting heavily. He sat down on the toilet seat, his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. He let go of his cheeks, closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, trying to calm down. He would never know that the one thing Ren remembered the most about him, and that he would never forget, were Shouta’s bright teal eyes that looked like caribbean waters. Shouta’s breaths were uneven and he couldn’t stop himself as he reached behind his head and lightly touched that throbbing bite mark on his nape.
None of the adults would ever know that at that moment, Misaki, who was still clinging to Hana, had widened his eyes as he saw a small, sparkling red string dance across his vision before it disappeared like smoke. When he glanced back over at the dumbfounded Ren, that bright red thread was looping itself around Ren’s pinky and trailing off into the distance.
Smacking his head several times against the bar counter in his cafe, Ren groaned aloud, pissed off at himself. He had tried to work throughout the day, but everytime he had any down time all he could think about were those teal eyes from the night before. Every once in awhile they would overlap with the preschool teacher’s eyes. It couldn’t be a coincidence right? To have met there again was like something out of a story book.
Ren felt like his entire world was crumbling around him, and to him, this was not a pleasant feeling because it reminded him of the incident that occurred almost three years ago. It had been the whole reason why he had quit being a high school teacher and had opened this cafe. Looking around at the brightly lit room and the customers that quietly drank their tea or coffee, Ren couldn’t help but sigh at what his life had become.
A few months before Misaki was born was when Ren’s life had seemed to crumble around him. When he had been in college, Ren had dated a beta man named Okada Koutarou for five years. He thought that they were the perfect couple, however, he knew that he was only using Koutarou to fill the hole in his heart where he wanted Kichirou. Even their names were similar. When they were nearing their five years during their relationship, Koutarou had found out about him being a substitution and that was the reason why they had broken up. Unable to cope with his feelings, Ren had returned here to teach at the same high school as Kichirou. However, by then, Kichirou had already met Jun, and Ren knew that he had no chance.
The day that he had found out that Jun had disappeared, leaving Kichirou behind, he had thought that he finally had a chance to worm his way into his heart. No matter how hard he had tried during those three years Jun was absent, he never even got a step closer to Kichirou’s heart. It had, and always would be, filled with nothing but his younger mate. Thinking back now, Ren thought he had been deceiving himself to even think that he had a chance at all.
Depressed seeing the two of them so happy and stuck in their own world, somehow Ren had ended up with Koutarou back in his arms. That, he realized, was the worst mistake he had made in his entire life. It didn’t matter that he had been drunk and had called Koutarou unconsciously. He didn’t even remember how he met up with Koutarou, but the memories after were engraved into his very soul.
“Boss!” The call woke Ren up from his thoughts and he looked over to the teenager at his side. She was a spry alpha who was working in the cafe for some spare cash. Akira was Ren’s only employee, but she worked as hard as she was able. “Isn’t it time for you to pick up Misaki? I’ll call Hana and watch the store.”
Surprisingly, Hana and Akira were actually really good friends even though Hana was an omega. They had met during middle school and had been inseparable since. Although she was a hard worker, sometime Ren could tell she was trying to hook him up with Hana to help her friend out. Ren just wanted to tell the two girls to find their own mates and to stop worrying about him. He was not worth their worry or attention.
Ren smiled lazily at Akira and took his apron off, switching to for the jacket hanging in the back. “I’ll be back,” Ren called out before leaving his cafe in Akira’s hands. He trusted the girl to be able to take care of the cafe.
He had named the cafe Fate Strings in the hopes that it would be like Cupid’s Den where he had worked after the disaster three years ago. He wanted to be able to give others happiness even if he could not find it himself. Truth be told, he did not miss teaching, but he did miss how the teenagers had appreciated him and looked up to him. Now, though, he knew those teenagers would never look at him the way they had before.
The entire way to the preschool, Ren was begging in the back of his mind to not have to run into that new teacher. He knew that that fresh bite mark had been his, but how could he have thrown his entire life away and not even remember any of it? It was ridiculous to even think about it. He wanted to do as much as he could to avoid the preschool.
Even as he thought this, his cell phone vibrated in his pocket. Pulling it out as he walked, Ren felt his heart thunder in his chest as the name flashed across the screen. Kichirou
He answered before even thinking about it, “Hello?”
“Ah, Ren,” Kichirou’s voice sounded across the other end. “I forgot to tell you this morning that I was off early, and that I was going to pick Misaki up.”
“Is that Ren!!” Miskai’ small voice sounded in the background, “Tell him I ate my lunch!”
Ren laughed out loud, unable to be mad at either of them. He had been halfway to the preschool, but he just sighed and turned around without even missing a step. He made it out of going to the school today, so now he just had to figure out how to not meet up with Shouta for the rest of his life. Now that, he even laughed to himself, would probably prove to be impossible.