~ ~ ~
Nanao could still remember the day he first saw that brilliant shade of green eyes as if it was yesterday.
He had been out with his mother after a shopping spree when he noticed the group of three running after a butterfly. Well, actually, it was more like two of them were running while the other was walking slowly behind them, yawning once in a while.
The darker haired boy and the ginger-haired one had to stop in their butterfly pursuit to push their other friend to move from his spot when his legs seemed about to give out under him, his eyes droopy with drowsiness. But the two boys just wouldn’t let him rest, insisting on playing together.
Nanao next saw them playing on the playground in the sand, building a sandcastle, and trying to compete over whose side of it was taller or better looking.
Another time, he saw them exiting a bathhouse together, laughing as they walked and talked together without a care in the world.
Eventually, somewhere along the line, the three boys became two and the dark-haired boy was nowhere to be seen with the other two.
And then the years passed and Nanao moved away out of town for a few years. But those green eyes and that brilliant smile stayed with him, a treasure locked in his heart to keep him company whenever he was lonely or sad.
He hadn’t expected to return back to Binan when he entered high school. And yet, his family had wanted to return so here he was again. But Nanao didn’t see any traces of that boy that year despite having looked for him.
So it was quite more than just a simple surprise when he suddenly saw an older version of the boy in passing in the hallway, walking beside his sleepy friend.
That’s when it hit Nanao. And the unexpected skip of his heartbeat told him he was right: this was the same green-eyed boy from his childhood.
So now Nanao had a goal. One that he intended to put to accomplish. No matter what it took.
...But the boy’s sleepy friend kept getting in the way. Even though it wasn’t on purpose, the sleepy boy was becoming an obstacle in getting the cute ginger’s attention.
Despite it all, Nanao wouldn’t be deterred.
One way or another, he’d get the cutie’s attention and make him notice him. After all, Nanao was quite confident in his appearance, and judging by how he was treated at school and with his classmates, he was quite a catch. So how hard could it possibly be to get the cute ginger’s attention?
...Quite hard, he later found out.
But Nanao still wouldn’t be deterred! Not if he had anything to say about it.
So imagine his surprise when he went to the student council room near the end of his second year and found the same dark-haired boy as the current vice president.
The world was smaller than Nanao could’ve ever imagined.
But it had all worked out and his request had been approved and as such, the Earth Defense Club room that wasn’t in use for any club activity was now his. Or well, it would be once he reached his senior year.
And Nanao waited. And kept trying various methods to get the cutie’s attention away from his sleepy friend to focus on him. But it wasn’t an easy task.
Still, Nanao wasn’t one to be deterred.
When his third year finally rolled around, as club president, Nanao was among those waiting to recruit members for his club. But considering how that whole ice cream sale in his first year with another classmate had made the two of them somewhat legendary in the school, he knew there’d be an uproar of students wishing to join if he wasn’t discreet.
So Nanao had a plan: he’d recruit the cutie and by extension, his sleepy friend discreetly.
And since Nanao had been watching and observing them for the past year, even flirting with the adorable ginger, he now knew how to get them to join his club. And best of all, the two childhood friends hadn’t joined any other clubs – courtesy of Nanao’s slight meddling their first year – so they had no reason to say no.
And so, the Earth Defense Club was born.
Nanao was thrilled. He now had a reason to see that cute cutie with the breathtaking green eyes at the end of every single school day. And obviously, he ensured to tease and flirt with the boy as much as he could, though it was subtle of course. He couldn’t scare the poor sweet boy away, after all.
One had now become three. But they needed a total of five for Nanao to have a complete club or else the newly appointed school president would disband them before they’ve even begun.
Thankfully, a pair of first-year kouhai were quickly ensnared in Nanao’s grasp. And they were quite the adorable pair, too.
Welcoming them all in their clubroom, Nanao smiled and laughed in that light, airy way as he teased Ichiro and Taishi, making them each go red, one from anger and one from blushing.
Ryouma watched the scene with a sudden pang in his heart, hollow and aching, confusion washing over his features. Because up until then, it had been him who Nanao used to tease and pay a lot of his attention to for the past year. But now… it wasn’t just him anymore.
Even so, Ryouma quickly grew fond of the newcomers and he and Nanao settled into a comfortable mom and dad of the club dynamic where they acted like the parents of everyone within the Earth Defense Club.
None of them could’ve ever imagined just how literal their club name could become though. But when Karls suddenly teleported while they were in the Kurotama, it turned literal fast.
And surprisngly, Ryouma was the stars shining in the sky alongside Nanao's moon: Luna and Stella, the night-time pair, each helping to support the other shine light in the darkness of the night.
Karls had picked their names well... though was the otter prince even aware of their inner feelings or had this all been a mere beautiful coincidence?
Regardless, it was fitting for the parents of the club to be a pair even in battle.
Nanao thoroughly enjoyed their everyday club shenanigans that made his everyday life now so much more interesting than before. And even though the monsters they had to battle got quite troublesome at times, he looked on fondly at his kouhai as they fought together as a team – as a family of their own making, a family that grew not so much later with the addition of the Student Council members where the three childhood friends were once again reunited.
It was nostalgic to see: the three little boys Nanao had seen those few times before he’d left Binan were once again together, except this time, Nanao was also part of that now.
Having so many fun kouhai to tease and dote on as the days went by made Nanao’s final year of high school so much more entertaining and fun. And despite his ever-growing popularity both within the school and the club, Ryouma was the most titillating of all to him. So naturally, Nanao made sure to pay him some extra special attention whenever and wherever he could.
And years later, long after the whole Karls debacle and Nanao graduating, the Earth Defense Club had remained together, meeting up on weekends and going shopping or walking together, chatting and laughing as they made their way to the Kurotama.
Even when the five of them went on their own path in life, Nanao already working his first job as the others kept studying in school, Nanao tried to keep the club together as best he could. They were a second family to him, precious and irreplaceable, and Nanao wouldn’t give them up for the world.
~ ~ ~
Atsushi could still remember the day he first saw that brilliant shade of green eyes as if it just happened today.
When he first met Kinshiro, he was a shy but polite boy, stiff and formal, their personalities seemingly so different at first.
To Kinshiro, Atsushi was warmth personified and to Atsushi, Kinshiro was like the radiant sun peeking out of the clouds.
Kinshiro was the type of person who needed a little prompting to shine and Atsushi was the one who brought that out in him. But later on, when their relationship fell apart due to a misunderstanding neither tried to discuss and resolve, the sun hid back behind the clouds, never to be seen again.
And with the sun’s disappearance, the warmth also dwindled, affected by the shade.
Because after having lost the sun, the warmth in Atsushi’s heart had never been the same again.
And so, both boys suffered on their own as they grew up, growing together but apart, a discernible distance of three meters always at the forefront between them like an unshakable, unbreakable wall – an obstacle neither could overcome.
Their mutual yearning was unknown to each other, each retreating in their own shell, one in isolation at first and another with a newfound group of friends.
But even as the years went by, neither could forget about the other. And all those unspoken feelings later brought about a darkness in Kinshiro as Dark Aurite who wanted nothing but to obliterate Atsushi.
Their duel seemed fated, the hero and the villain. But after losing Kinshiro, even as Battle Lover Epinard, Atsushi had never quite considered himself a hero. But now he had another chance.
Even when faced with Dark Aurite, Epinard tried to reach out to him, unable to fight someone he was supposed to save – someone he should have protected from all this suffering and pain.
And in the end, Atsushi had accomplished it when he suddenly leaped over to save Kinshiro from the falling bell tower, getting cut in the process from splintered wreckage.
Their relationship began to heal from then on, slowly and awkwardly at first, but there was a lightness to them both now that they knew they’d each been forgiven and could start anew.
But then Kinshiro left him again when he moved abroad and Atsushi’s sun was now not just once again behind the clouds, but also completely out of sight overseas, much farther away than three meters.
And things went back to being lonely and painful, the ache returning to them both full-force.
Fate didn’t quite seem to want the two of them together and Atsushi had never gotten even a single text from Kinshiro while his childhood friend was away.
All of a sudden, when the finale to the Beppu fight was underway, with his back to the wall, his sun had returned, unannounced and unexpected with Kinshiro glowing a radiant pure white-gold as he transformed.
He had missed him; Kinshiro was his sun, his radiance, brilliant and shining, the hero of Atsushi’s heart.
They had saved each other.
Atsushi had his sun back. And Kinshiro reignited the warmth within him again.
The Earth Defense Club had become like a second family and now due to their reconciliation, and now reunion, their family had grown to include the Student Council who came with them to the Kurotama. And then later, the Beppus joined them too, adding to their chaotic, makeshift family.
And with Kinshiro having recently returned from abroad, sitting right across from him at the baths, all their friends surrounding them, he knew he was blessed. And he wouldn’t give this up for the world.