Snatching his overstuffed duffle bag from the luggage cart, Sugizo waved to Heath, hoping to hurry him along a bit.
“Grab your bag before they move the cart again, slow poke,” he said to his travelling companion.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Heath said, sounding mildly irritated. “My back is stiff from that long train ride.”
“Not the train, you’re just getting old,” Sugizo quipped, a mischievous little smile on his lips despite the fatigue.
“Yeah, yeah…whatever,” Heath shot back, moving over to pull his own duffle off the cart. He had to put down his guitar case in order to drag the heavy bag down. “Now we have to lug these things on our backs. Wish I hadn’t bought so much on the trip now.”
“Surely we can get a taxi to take us at least part of the way,” the auburn-haired man said.
“At this time of night? I don’t know…maybe.”
“Yeah, if the trains are running, there’ll be taxis. Come on, let’s go see.”
“This isn’t the city, Sugi. We were lucky to even get a train stopping here at night.”
“Still…we can check. If not, maybe we can get a ride from someone. You got any Japanese currency left in the deep recesses of that coin purse?”
Heath pulled out his wallet and looked inside. “Hmmm…a little. I need to find a currency exchange tomorrow when more things are open. Most of my money is either in Russian rubles or Romanian leu.”
The two had been on an extended trip and were finally making it home to their little seaside town. Having been away for a while though, they were in for a few surprises when they walked out of the train station looking for transport.
It seems that tourism had taken hold in the area, turning their quiet little town into a quickly growing, albeit small, city.
“What in the world…” Sugizo started, getting his first glimpse of the traffic outside the station. “Where did all this come from?”
“Okay, I stand corrected,” Heath said, eyes open equally as wide as his mate’s. “Maybe it is the city…now.”
“Hey! You two need a ride somewhere?” the taxi driver shouted from the vehicle that had just pulled up and stopped in front of the two weary-looking men.
“Umm, yeah—as a matter of fact we do,” Heath responded, nodding at Sugizo.
Once they’d tossed their duffle bags into the trunk, they slid into the back seat holding onto their instrument cases.
“Where to, gents?” the driver asked.
“Ummm…what was the address again?” Heath asked Sugizo, looking a bit flustered that he couldn’t remember.
“Come on now, we haven’t been away that long,” the auburn-haired man said with a grin and then turned to the driver. “You know Noyama Street?”
“Noyama? Noyama…” the man mumbled as he thought. “Oh, in the old district? Near the river?”
“That’s the one. Can you just drop us off in that area? We’d like to walk a bit and check out the old neighborhood. We’ve been gone for a while now and it looks like things have changed since we’ve been travelling,” Sugizo responded.
“Sure thing. You’re the boss,” the driver said and quickly pulled out into the flow of traffic.
All along the drive, the two men were astounded at just how much things had changed in their once traditional little town. There was actually a city center now with several multi-storied buildings and what looked to be a modern entertainment district.
“Damn, you’d think the family would’ve told us how much building has been going on,” Heath said as they continued to drive.
“How long you guys been gone?” the driver asked, seeing how amazed the two were.
“About fifteen years,” Sugizo answered matter of factly.
“Fifteen years?! Well hell, no wonder you’re surprised!”
The driver shook his head and continued. “Yeah, all of this started…I guess it’s been about ten years ago now. Began with a couple of new resorts on the beach and then new restaurants, followed by loads of stores and such. It’s just exploded.”
“I see that,” Heath said, eyes still glued to the scenery of lights and buildings as they drove along.
After about twenty minutes, they reached their destination and the driver pulled over to let them out.
“Is this close enough? I can take you to a specific address if you prefer—those bags look heavy.”
“Oh no, it’s fine. This is plenty close enough,” Sugizo responded with a smile, pulling out his wallet.
Together, the two men had just barely enough to pay the fare and give the driver a tip.
“Thank you. Have a good night,” the auburn-haired man said as they hoisted their bags onto their backs once again.
After watching the taxi pull away, they looked around and tried to get their bearings. Luckily for them, the old neighborhood didn’t seem to have significantly changed while they’d been gone. They started walking.
“Oh damn, I just had a thought. What if he’s not living in the same place? We didn’t bother calling,” Heath remarked.
“Hi-chan, the family has been in the same house in the same neighborhood in the same town forever.”
“True, but with all this expansion and growth of the town, he might have decided that it’d be safer to relocate.”
“I’ll believe that when I see it. The estate is practically the ‘seat of power’ and with his promotion and all, I just can’t see our dear uncle moving. No, he’ll be there—wait and see,” Sugizo assured his mate.
“I hope you’re right. Now, if we can just find the damn place. I’m worn down to the knees—I need a long rest. We’ve been trying to get home for what? Almost two weeks now?”
“Almost. We left Bucharest twelve days ago.”
“And my back feels every damn day of it too,” Heath grumbled, readjusting his pack.
The two walked on for a while longer until Sugizo finally stopped and looked around. “Are we even on the right road?” he thought out loud.
“What?!” Heath exclaimed, stopping and dropping his heavy bag, narrowly missing the other man’s feet. “We better fucking be, Sugihara!”
To his credit, Sugizo managed to look slightly worried for about twenty seconds before spotting a street sign and smiling.
“Yep, we are. And I think we’re almost there too,” the auburn-haired man said. “Come on, old man.”
The brunette grumbled and rehoisted his pack. “Old man my sweet ass…” he mumbled and gave his mate a somewhat nasty look, but followed along in spite of himself.
The family estate was set back off the road a fair distance and the house itself was mostly hidden in the trees. On top of that, the path to the entrance gate was purposely concealed. A person pretty much had to know where to look or they’d never find it. Having been away for fifteen years wasn’t helping matters either when it came to locating their destination.
At long last, it was Heath that finally spotted the telltale painted fencepost.
“There!” he exclaimed, excitedly pointing and causing Sugizo to stop abruptly. “There’s the fucker right there.”
“Oh thank the maker! I thought you weren’t going to make it much further…”
“Ya know, you can fuck right off any time now,” the tired brunette responded, pushing aside the seemingly overgrown bushes and purposely letting them fall onto Sugizo as he followed.
“Thanks! Love you too…asshole,” the auburn-haired man said with a chuckle. “So spicy.”
They followed the path that they knew led to the main house and several minutes later, they were standing at the front door to the family home that they hadn’t seen in so many years.
Sugizo reached up and pulled the old-fashioned bell pull that sounded the doorbell inside the house. Before very long at all, the door opened just a crack and a pair of eyes stared at them from inside.
“Can I help you?” the female voice asked, not willing to open the door any further just yet.
“Sugizo and Heath…we’re family. We came to see our uncle.”
“Sugi-san?! Heath-san?! Is it really you?” the woman asked, pulling the heavy door wide open.
“Morihito-san? Are you still here?” Sugizo responded with a big smile to the lady he recognized as one of the longtime servants of the family.
“Of course! You know I’d never leave!” the woman said happily, hugging each of them. “Come in, come in! Your uncle will be so happy to see you both! He’s in his library, I believe.”
“I hope he’s happy to see us…we need a place to stay!” Heath said.
“Oh, I’m sure that won’t be a problem. The house has been added onto since you’ve seen it. There’s plenty of room!” Mrs. Morihito informed them, still smiling. “I’ll get one of the boys to take your bags to one of the guest rooms once you’ve seen your uncle.”
“Boys? I thought Hisashi and Teru had moved out. No?” Sugizo questioned.
“Oh yes, they have, though they’re not far away. No, these are new boys that you haven’t met yet. Five of them!”
“Five? Seriously? Uncle has been busy then!” Heath assessed. “Let’s go see him and make sure he isn’t gonna turn us out into the cold now that he has a house full of new playmates.”
Mrs. Morihito just shook her head and chuckled. “You know the way. I’ll see you both in a little while. Come to the kitchen for tea, okay?”
They promised that they would and made their way through the dimly lit old house until they reached the ornate, polished wooden doors of the library.
Looking at each other and taking a deep breath, Heath reached up and knocked on the door.
“He won’t turn us away, Hi-chan. You know he won’t. We’re family,” Sugizo said quietly. “Especially not after what happened to Dad.”
“Enter!” was heard coming from inside, muffled by the thickness of the doors.
The two men pushed the doors open and entered, looking around in the expansive library for the man they called Uncle. They spotted him across the room, sitting at his desk, reading glasses on, pouring over some papers.
“Umm, sir…sorry to bother you while you’re working,” Heath said quite respectfully.
The slightly older man looked up from his papers and his mouth dropped open. He rose from his chair and came out from behind his desk, silk robes flowing.
“Heath-san? Sugi-san? Am I hallucinating?” he said, breaking into a wide smile as he moved towards them. “My heavens, it’s good to see you!”
The man was only marginally older than Sugizo and Heath, being the younger brother to the man they referred to as Dad. He was tall and regal-looking in his antique silk kimono, long blue-black hair tied back at the base of his neck with a simple ribbon. His large, expressive eyes danced when he smiled.
“Sakurai-san,” they both said at almost the same time, giving him a deep bow.
“It’s wonderful to see you too, Uncle Acchan,” Sugizo said, returning the smile.