Red and Blue Castles
It’s a quiet evening at the mansion. As usual, the Sakamakis’ esteemed father is nowhere to be found. While the eldest is being tutored and cosseted, it falls to Reiji to keep an eye on the household. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is how the saying goes, yet where is the place for a castaway such as him?
Reiji decides not to think about that just now.
As he glides through the hallways like a phantom, he stops upon noticing a small splatter of paint on one of the room’s door frames. Those triplets again… He clicks his tongue and opens the door without announcing himself.
Reiji is surprised to find out that he is only one-third correct. Seeing his older brother enter the room, Ayato freezes in place, one of his suspenders haphazardly fallen down to his elbow. His white shirt is covered in paint, as is the wall in front of him. Reiji pushes up his glasses and inspects what Ayato has painted on the wall—a castle? It is actually somewhat impressive art coming from a child, but Reiji cannot afford to be impressed. “Just what do you think you are doing in here?”
"I can see that, you imbecile. I meant why are you painting on the wall?" Reiji notes Ayato’s lack of brushes. "And with your hands? What a mess you’ve made!”
"When Father finds out, he’ll be furious and…" Reiji trails off once his eyes fall upon Ayato’s face.
The youngest triplet’s left cheek has a distinct purple welt. Vampires, especially purebloods such as the Sakamakis, heal quickly; it must be a recent injury. Reiji taps his own left cheek in reference. “What happened?”
Ayato’s arm flies up to cover the bruise and he shrinks in embarrassment, hiding behind his elbow. “I…got into a fight, that’s all!”
"Oh? With whom?"
"With…with Laito! I’ll get him back double next time!"
"Interesting… I don’t recall ever seeing Laito hit anyone. In fact, I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen him get angry." Reiji replies matter-of-factly. Ayato’s shoulders hunch forward in shame and defeat as he begins staring at the ground. His silence is all Reiji needs to piece together the truth. It’s a not-very-well-kept secret at the mansion, Cordelia’s treatment of her children. It seems to Reiji that she spends more time with her lovers and admirers than with the triplets. And when she’s actually around, well… He gazes at his younger half-brother, the very image of pitifulness.
For one agonizing moment, however, Reiji can’t help but feel a sort of envy towards Ayato. Beatrix has never beaten him. He does not wish for her to, of course, and yet… If you’re scolded, it means the other person expects more from you. That’s more than I can say about my own mother. Reiji is tired of the status quo, of the endless, tepid days of following in that useless heir’s footsteps…
A soft sniffle pulls Reiji back to reality. Ayato is very obviously and unsuccessfully trying to hold back tears. Reiji bites his lip. How ridiculous of me, envying my youngest brother. It’s a fruitless train of thought. Reiji steps towards the wall, turning away from Ayato. “In any case, you don’t seem to be very good at art.”
"…! I-I’m just messing around, that’s all! If the great Ayato-sama puts his mind to it, there’s nothing he can’t do! Don’t underestimate me, Four-eyes!"
Reiji whirls back around, offended. “F-four-eyes!? How dare you!”
"Hehe!" Ayato is grinning now, his earlier tears gone and forgotten.
"Hah, putting that aside… I really wonder about that. Why don’t you try this color instead, if you’re trying to paint a castle…?"
"No way! I want a red castle! It has to be flashy!"
"Just where in the world would you find a red castle… How frivolous you are. I certainly would never visit such a garish place."
"W-well, I’m not inviting you!"
The two of them paint side by side for some time, not making much conversation aside from the occasional “Pass me that paint” or “Try painting this instead”. Reiji doesn’t feel the usual tension or pressure that he does when with his family. Their efforts are frenzied and yet calming.
"…I thought you were going to yell at me." Ayato admits some time later, when the two are sitting down admiring their handiwork over a cup of tea and some takoyaki.
"And why is that?"
"Because I was painting on the wall."
"So you understand that you did something bad, then?" Reiji smirks.
"………" Ayato wrings his hands in obvious embarrassment, but he is habitually terrible at apologizing.
Reiji shrugs. “Well, paint can always be washed off. Just take more care in the future. I won’t always be so forgiving.”
"Yeah, yeah!" Ayato laughs, but then stops himself. He looks serious as he mumbles, "I’ll…clean it up. I put it there, so I should be the one to put it away. I understand that." Ayato seems to be glowing in triumph nonetheless as he stares at the painting.
"Hmph. Don’t look so proud. It only looks good because of my superb efforts."
"Wha—! You’re so conceited, Four-eyes!"
I suppose, from time to time, something like this isn’t too disagreeable… Despite himself, Reiji helps his brother clean up the room before their parents and solemnity return.