The first thing Kinshirou noticed when he arrived at the movie theater was the chaotic line in front of the venue, kids chatting loudly and their teacher struggling to keep them in place. He squeezed his nanny’s hand a bit stronger than usual, the other hand holding tighter a small package.
“There’s no need to be scared, Kin-chan,” said the lady gently, “They’re here to watch the movie, too. It will be lots of fun!”
Kinshirou nodded slightly, lowering his gaze. From the top of his seven years-old, he wasn’t sure if “fun” and “chaos” could be a plausible match. Anyway, as it was a school activity, he would behave perfectly as always. So he quietly lined up with his classmates hoping that no one would notice him there.
Better yet, he wanted only one classmate to notice his presence.
Kinshirou heard the broken voice of someone running towards him and raised his head just in time to see a blue-haired boy rushing in his direction.
“Geez, I... thought… I wouldn’t make it!”, Atsushi Kinugawa bent his body, resting his hands on his knees while trying to catch his breath. “My dad… ah… sorry…”
Atsushi looked like he was worried about being late, since his best friend would always talk about the importance of punctuality. However, Kinshirou didn’t mind; indeed, his smile was so bright that his nanny grinned.
“Looks like you’ll be just fine now,” she said. “I’ll be waiting right here with the chauffeur when the movie ends. Be nice and don’t walk around on your own, be always close to the teacher and your classmates.”
As Kinshirou nodded, her expression made it clear that she knew she didn’t have to reinforce any of those instructions to such a disciplined boy, but she was doing that mostly out of duty. “Good. Atsushi-kun, please keep an eye on him, okay?”
“Of course!” Atsushi put on a decided expression. As Kinshirou’s nanny said her goodbyes and left, he turned to his friend. “I’m so excited! I like ‘Super Rainbow Team’ a lot, so when I saw on TV that there would be a movie of them I was like ‘Oh, I need to see it!’, and then Mori-sensei said that we would come to the cinema and then— oh, what kind of popcorn do you like best? We could buy a giant bucket and share… Oh! I kinda prefer sweets, though. Righty, let’s get lots of candies instead!”
Kinshirou wasn’t nearly as excited as his friend. His green eyes wandered anxiously, registering the new environment, before setting again on Atsushi’s face. He tried to smile back, but he was really nervous. “Um. That’s why mom gave me some money, then. I thought…” He showed the small box he was carrying. “I thought we had to bring our own food. Because… this place is for watching movies, yes?”
Atsushi’s eyes widened. “Wait. Kin-chan, is this your first time coming to the movies?” Kinshirou nodded shyly. “Oh, dear. But don’t you like movies?”
“We watch them at home. With tea, cookies, cake and wagashi .” He faltered as he saw the confused look in Atsushi’s expression. “Is that too weird…?”
“No!” Atsushi tried to reassure him hastily. “It’s— it’s different , I guess, but that’s okay! Anyway, we can buy more stuff to eat in there…” He straightened up. “I’ll be your guide! So let’s!”
As he saw the line advancing, he took Kinshirou’s hand and walked to get their tickets with the teacher and get to the snack counter. Kinshirou watched with some awe while Atsushi, always such a passive, fearful boy, called for the attendant like an adult.
“Good afternoon, sir! We would like some strawberry, peppermint and cinnamon candy... cherry bonbons, blueberry lollipops… and those chocolate bars over there! Um, maybe we should get something salty to eat…” He looked unsure, glancing at Kinshirou. “All right then! A small popcorn bucket and two sodas, please!”
Kinshirou wanted to say that it would be humanly impossible to eat all those things in only one hundred minutes, but he couldn’t — not when Atsushi’s warm eyes were sparkling over all those sweets. It was such a lovely sight that he took a moment to realize that he was staring too much.
“Is everything okay?” Atsushi worried about his friend. He was already reaching for his small wallet. “I asked for a small bucket because I thought that it was too much food already. But if you want—”
“It’s perfect!” Kinshirou hurried to reassure him. “It’s just… um, let me pay for it, please!”
“It doesn’t feel right,” Atsushi turned. “I chose all this stuff, you don’t need to—”
“Exactly,” Kinshirou said. “You chose, I pay. This way you don’t need to do everything, don’t you think?”
Atsushi scratched his head, a bit confused. It still didn’t sound right, but Kinshirou looked so determined that he eventually surrendered. In the end, he was glad that his friend was a bit more at ease. As Atsushi finally nodded, Kinshirou smiled at him and paid for the snacks, counting carefully the money just like his parents always told him to.
Carrying all those candies, sodas and the popcorn bucket, they made their way to the exhibition room. Kinshirou critically analyzed the new place. The lighting was pleasantly soft and the chairs looked somehow comfortable, although probably not as impeccably clean as his favorite couch at home. Still, that would do. Atsushi guided him to their assigned seats and the two boys tried their best not to spill popcorn while settling. Only after being properly accommodated, Kinshirou stared at the huge screen a few meters ahead.
“That’s… impressive,” he commented. It was way larger than his TV!
“Right? It almost feels like we’re inside the movie!”
Kinshirou nodded and looked at the assorted bag of candy Atsushi had bought. “They’re so colorful. Mom and dad don’t buy them for me because they say that’s unhealthy and a commoner snack.”
Atsushi smiled awkwardly at that statement and went through common ground. “Oh, mom and dad say they’re unhealthy, too. But they let me have a few if I behave.”
“Then you must get a lot of them,” Kinshirou couldn’t hide his pride.
“Not that much…” Atsushi laughed a bit. “Would you like to try one?”
“Don’t bother with me, I brought some amanatto …” Kinshirou muttered shyly.
“You don’t have to eat these other sweets if you don’t want to. But I want to share them with you. You can have as many as you want. And you paid for them, after all...”
“If… if you say so…” Kinshirou blushed a bit. “Then… then you may… please help yourself with the amanatto , too!”
“Deal!” Atsushi beamed, and Kinshirou finally smiled back.
The boy took a candy, studying it carefully before unwrapping it. That artificial strawberry scent was too obvious, the surface colorful and shiny. It was hard, too. He sneaked a glance at Atsushi before putting it in his mouth, tasting it with a slight frown.
“Don’t bite or swallow it yet! Let it in your mouth for a while,” said Atsushi. “It’s sweet, isn’t it? I like this one, but I think my favorite would be the cinnamon candy. I don’t think you would like it, though.”
Kinshirou nodded. He was getting used to that new, commoner flavor, and it was not that bad, actually. He was a bit more prone to try the other sweets.
Then the lights went out.
“A-At-chan…?” He looked around, startled, almost choking on the candy. He was so focused on Atsushi that he had even forgotten the other classmates scattered around.
“Oh! No, Kin-chan, that’s okay… they turn off the lights when the movie is about to start.”
“... Oh.” Kinshirou muttered his understanding, a bit shrunken in his seat.
“... Are you okay?”
Kinshirou looked at his side and saw his best friend’s concerned gaze mildly enlightened by the screen.
“I’m sorry. I just—”
“You don’t need to be sorry, that’s okay. This is your first time here, right? You’re still learning. And I know you don’t like being with many people around.”
“... Yes,” Kinshirou said quietly. “But I wanted to come because…” Because it was a school activity and I need to be a good student. Because it was something our sensei wanted us to do. Because you were so happy about this and I am happy when you’re happy because your eyes shine and you smile at me! Because… “Because it could be… fun…?”
Atsushi stared at him for a moment before taking Kinshirou’s free hand.
“Yeah, we’ll have fun,” he said gently. “We’ll watch the movie and I’ll help you with the names of each hero, and we’ll eat a lot of candies and amanatto , popcorn and drink soda. And after the movie we could go to my house because I have a new book and I want to show you. And then we could go to the hill and watch the stars a bit.”
“That sounds really fun…” Kinshirou relaxed a bit, smiling at him.
“Don’t you worry, Kin-chan,” Atsushi reassured him. “I’m here. I’ll take care of you!”
Atsushi turned to the screen, but Kinshirou took a moment to look at their entwined hands. He felt safe and happy, and that artificial candy felt even sweeter.
You don’t need to wish on a star. You’re really like a hero, At-chan.
As the lights went out, Kinshirou stared at the screen without actually registering it.
Why am I here, actually?
He didn’t like movie theaters. He didn’t like hero movies. He didn’t like reboots and remakes. But then, something he wouldn’t be able to explain or understand just dragged him there after school and after parting ways with Arima and Akoya. Something wanted him to sit there on his own, staring at a stupid, childish movie and relive a part of his life he was eager to forget.
He felt a pang of bitterness in his chest and tried not to pay attention to it. The movie had just started, featuring characters he had once buried deep down his memories. The room was almost empty as the session was the last one of the day and the main public for that movie was composed of children and a few nostalgic grown-ups intending to watch that remake.
“It has already begun, we missed the first scene!” A well-known voice was heard two rows behind him and Kinshirou felt his body freeze.
“Don’t pout at me, Atsushi. It was Yumoto’s fault!”
“I was just trying to decide which candy I would buy, okay???”
“Kinugawa-senpai was eager to watch this movie. As for me, I don’t like movie theaters. Food is overpriced and I prefer investing in streaming companies. Watching lots of different movies in the comfort of your home without paying for lots of tickets and food is a perfect way of saving money during your free time. ”
“Movie theaters are not meant to watch movies, Io. Girls won’t accept an invitation to your home on your first date, you know.”
Why hasn’t he foreseen that? Kinshirou tried his best not to turn around and see them, hoping that he wouldn’t be recognized. His body tensed.
“I think I watched the first version of the ‘Super Rainbow Team’ movie in the theater. I’m not sure because I usually sleep and don't remember.”
“I watched it in the theater, too. Our sensei took us to watch...”
As Kinugawa’s voice trailed off, Kinshirou caught himself divided into two opposite desires. Don’t you dare tell them… don’t you dare remember it. But do you remember that? Will you remember us ?
But Atsushi went silent, focusing on the movie, and Kinshirou didn’t know if he was feeling relieved or hurt.
At some point, he heard a package being opened and the lazy, unbearable voice of Yufuin. “Who brings food to the movies, after all? We can just buy some popcorn here.”
“I know, En-chan. I just felt like bringing it.”
“Whoa, is this amanatto ? Can I have some, senpai???”
“Sure. But hey, don’t miss the movie, this scene is great!”
As the comic scene went on and the group laughed at the stupid things the main character was doing, blissfully unaware of what their dialog was causing around them, Kinshirou felt his eyes sting, his fists trembling. How dare they. How dare he ???
He was unable to pay attention to the movie or to anything else except for that sweet, cheerful voice not farther than three meters behind him. He was unable to ignore the pain in his chest or the single tear that managed to escape from his stubbornly fixed eyes. But he couldn’t leave. He couldn’t risk being seen, being recognized by them. He couldn’t risk being greeted by that clueless traitor.
And so he waited. He waited until the blurred images faded out, until his eyes dried, until those five noisy students finally left, commenting on the movie and all sorts of nonsense Kinshirou didn’t bother to care about. Just then he stood up and left silently.
As he took the opposite direction of the group, he did his best not to look back. He was sure that none of them would look behind and spot his pale, slender figure. And he should do the same — what good would come from looking back, waiting for remakes , rebuildings and rebondings ? He had Arima and Akoya now; he had Zundar and the project of a perfect world to work on. He had a bright future ahead, he couldn’t spare his precious time with reminiscences of a shy, innocent child holding hands with a fake hero.
His heart felt empty; his pocket full of strawberry candy, on the other hand, felt too heavy.
“What are we doing next, senpais? How about a bath? Or we could have some curry!”
“Stock markets are closed now, so I guess I’ll just charge my phone and rest a little.”
“I’m texting this cutie. Maybe we could come to watch something tomorrow since we don’t have classes…”
“It’s late already, I’m gonna sleep… What about you, Atsushi?”
Atsushi took a moment to answer. “I’m not feeling like going home now. I guess… well, the sky is gorgeous tonight, so there’s a place I want to go now.”
“Want some company?” En seemed a bit worried — was that melancholy he was spotting in those chocolate eyes? “I can just nap.”
“Ye— um, no, thank you. I’m just feeling a bit nostalgic. I think I need some fresh air.”
“If you say so. But text me when you get home, okay? And be careful, you know.” En lowered his voice. “If a monster appears, don’t try to fight him on your own. Just call us.”
“Why, usually I am the worried one,” Atsushi smirked. “I’ll be fine. Good night, guys, sleep tight!”
As he parted ways with his friends, Atsushi found himself heading almost unconsciously towards a well-known hill he hadn’t visited for a few years. He sat alone on the grass and gazed at the starry sky.
Funny thing. I ate too much and feel so empty right now.
He reached for his pocket. There were still some sweets he had managed to save from Yumoto’s indomitable stomach. He ate some, absently, while looking at the stars, recognizing planets and constellations, recalling the stories his sister used to tell him and the myths he used to read in his books intending to share with...
I missed this. Still…
It wasn’t the same.
Behind the glasses, his brown eyes reflected the beautiful shooting stars crossing the night sky in opposite directions. The melancholy tasted like amanatto .