Wakened Scholar of the Sea
When the window was open, the sea spread out before them.
Any time they took a deep breath, they could faintly smell the salt water.
Two weeks had passed since Koutarou Seno and his lover Shuuji Shiraishi had moved into this apartment with a view of the ocean.
Living in a town where no one knew anything about them was more exciting than Koutarou had expected.
Maybe it was because they were setting out on a new life.
Everything he saw felt fresh and new.
Since Koutarou was dead, as far as the rest of the world was concerned, he couldn’t go out openly, so all the official procedures were handled by Shuuji.
Instead, Koutarou handled most of the actual moving, including tidying up.
Considering that not long ago he couldn’t do anything outside of research, he could hardly believe how much he’d changed.
Even now, he went out to the balcony quite naturally, took in the dried laundry with quick, practiced motions, and then went back inside.
In the past two weeks, the actions had become simply part of his daily routine.
The corner apartment of the two-story building where Koutarou and Shuuji lived was a 2DK layout,1 and wasn’t really big enough for two full grown men.
But it wasn’t a problem for the two of them, since Koutarou especially had hardly any material possessions.
There was the dine-in kitchen, and they made one of the other rooms their bedroom, and then the remaining room was the living room and Shuuji’s work space.
Koutarou spent a lot of time in that room too, even while Shuuji was working.
Shuuji’d turned on his PC first thing this morning, again, had been working there all day.
Only when it was time for lunch did Koutarou call him and force him to interrupt his work, but other than that, he’d had his head down all day.
When he was concentrating, he didn’t even seem to hear things around him, didn’t seem to see anything but the screen in front of him, so Shuuji probably had no idea what time it was.
He was concentrating so hard that Koutarou didn’t want to interrupt him, but he was worried that Shuuji was concentrating maybe too hard.
So after Koutarou was finished putting the laundry away, he made some coffee and called out casually.
“How about a little intermission?”
He didn’t know if it was his voice reaching him or perhaps that he was invited by the smell of the coffee, but Shuuji responded immediately.
Shuuji turned around, the traces of concentration still on his face, and a bit spacey somehow.
“You have amazing powers of concentration, as ever.”
“There’s been some serious clattering around here, and you haven’t noticed a bit of it,” Koutarou pointed out, and Shuuji flashed a small, wry smile.
“What have you been doing that makes such clattering?” Shuuji asked, turning around to face Koutarou, and putting himself fully in intermission mode.
“I’ve been putting together the bookshelves we bought the other day.
Shuuji’s eyes followed Koutarou’s pointing finger, and he got a surprised look on his face.
There was a large bookshelf that reached all the way to the ceiling, which they’d bought online, and which now contained Shuuji’s work materials.
“You did that by yourself?”
“There were instructions on how to build it.
You seem pretty busy, I have to do what I can.”
“You can really do anything now, huh.”
The words made it seem like he was impressed, but Koutarou felt an echo of loneliness in his tone.
Until now, Koutarou had relied on Shuuji for all of the daily chores, including the housework.
But now that he didn’t have any research work, he had plenty of free time and nothing to do with it.
I have to get this done…”
“We promised not to say stuff like that, didn’t we?” Koutarou pointed out with a grin, and Shuuji let out a surprised little noise, and then smiled, embarrassed.
They’d promised not to think of anything as entirely their own fault.
That was the one of the rules the two of them had decided after they’d moved to this apartment.
Shuuji had implemented it in order to rebuke Koutarou, who’d repeatedly apologized that his clone self did nothing but cause Shuuji trouble.
Along with a rule that they wouldn’t decide important things by themselves, and that they wouldn’t hide things, those were the three rules for living in this apartment.
Mainly, Shuuji had implemented them for Koutarou’s sake, but strangely the one who broke the rules most often had been Shuuji.
“How long are you going to laugh?”
“That is so you, Shuuji.”
They’d been going out for a long time, but Shuuji could never quite seem to stop worrying about him.
Whenever he felt Shuuji’s kindness, a joyous smile ended up spilling onto his face.
Do you have any requests for dinner? I was going to go shopping after this.”
“Is it that late already?” Shuuji muttered, glancing at the wall clock.
Koutarou always went shopping in the evening, so he knew some time had passed without even looking at the clock.
“It’s nice to be so into your work, but I think maybe you’re getting a little too into it and ignoring things.
You worked late yesterday too, didn’t you?” Koutarou asked, and for a moment, the words caught in Shuuji’s throat.
Last night, Shuuji had said he had a little more work to do, and so Koutarou had gone to bed by himself.
But since he’d woken up when Shuuji finally got into bed, he knew that Shuuji had been up till close to dawn.
But if he pointed it out, Shuuji would only worry that he’d woken Koutarou up, so Koutarou mentioned it obscurely.
“You never know when work is going to dry up when you’re freelance.
So I try not to refuse requests.
Well, I say that, but actually the jobs are kind of piling up at the moment.”
Shuuji said it all in a bright tone, but Koutarou wasn’t going to be taken in so easily.
Until Koutarou had gotten in that accident, Shuuji had worked at his own pace.
He’d never put in any effort to sell himself.
But now he was proactively looking for work.
Koutarou’d even heard him making sales calls.
Clearly it was because of Koutarou.
Koutarou didn’t have a job, and they didn’t know whether he’d ever be able to get one, so Shuuji was working hard for him.
I wish I could find a job quicker, but…” Koutarou bowed his head in apology.
He’d started looking for work immediately after they’d moved here.
But there weren’t many jobs on offer, maybe because this was the countryside rather than Tokyo, and besides, it wasn’t so easy to find jobs that could put Koutarou’s strengths to good use.
And Koutarou clearly couldn’t use his own identity, either.
Shuuji’s expression got serious for a moment at Koutarou’s apology, and then he laughed a little through his nose.
And you just said it to me a minute ago, too,” Shuuji pointed out, and this time it was Koutarou who had trouble speaking.
“You haven’t done anything to apologize for, have you? I said I wanted you to do some careful investigation when you look for a job.
Besides, as far as that’s concerned, you do all the housework, that helps me out.”
Of course, there wasn’t a word of lies in what Shuuji was saying.
But Koutarou couldn’t meekly accept them, not as he was now.
No doubt it was Shuuji’s kindness causing him to say things like that, in an effort not to hurt Koutarou.
Certainly, as Shuuji said, he’d taken over all of the housework.
After all, there wasn’t anything else he could do for Shuuji.
He’d mastered cooking, cleaning, and general housework because he felt a sense of impending doom, like if he couldn’t handle at least that much, he’d become nothing but baggage for Shuuji.
But he kept those thoughts to himself, and responded with a smile.
“Alright then, I’ll go do the shopping shall I?”
“Please do,” Shuuji said jokingly, and bowed his head.
Shuuji watched him go as he headed out, wallet in hand.
As soon as he was alone though a sigh dropped out of him.
Neither one of them were the joking type, Koutarou especially.
But the jovial attitude Shuuji’d adopted a minute ago was probably him attempting to be considerate, trying to lighten Koutarou’s mood.
Koutarou knew it too, and it pained him.
He’d done nothing but cause Shuuji to worry ever since he’d been reborn as a clone.
This wasn’t what he’d planned.
He’d only wanted to live with Shuuji the same as he had before, and so he’d created a clone.
But in the end, he’d made Shuuji sad, and had become a source of hardship for him.
Above all else, he didn’t want to cause trouble for Shuuji, he didn’t want to become baggage for him.
But he couldn’t be apart from Shuuji, no matter what.
They’d decided not to hide things, but what would Shuuji think if he knew Koutarou harbored such selfish egotism.
He was afraid Shuuji would hate him, and so he couldn’t reveal his true feelings.
Those dark thoughts still with him, Koutarou walked the fifteen minutes to the grocery store.
There was another store a bit closer, but things were more expensive there, overall.
He never would have thought about economizing before, but seeing Shuuji take on extra work to support him made Koutarou want to reduce their expenses as much as he could.
The way he was now, it was all he could do.
When he arrived at the supermarket, Koutarou handily tossed some things in his shopping cart.
He’d hadn’t understood where anything was at first, hadn’t even known what to buy in the first place.
It wasn’t until he’d come to this town that he’d learned how much vegetables cost.
Shuuji had gone shopping with him and taught him all of it just after they’d moved here.
Now he’d gotten so good at it he surprised even Shuuji.
He did the shopping just about every day, so it wasn’t too much on any particular day.
As he was leaving the store, the cloth bag he’d brought with him in one hand, his eye caught on a crowd of people who seemed quite tense about something.
“Is he alright?”
“Somebody call an ambulance.”
Just from hearing the voices from the crowd, he could guess what was going on at the center of it.
“Excuse me, sorry.”
Koutarou cut through the crowd, advancing through the circle.
At the center of it was a man in his eighties.
He was stretched out on the ground with his right hand over his chest.
From the look of it, he’d collapsed after a sudden heart attack.
“I brought the AED.”2
A young woman in a store apron rushed over with something in an orange bag.
But the person she offered it to, an older man wearing the same apron, was obviously flustered.
There were AED’s all over the place now, but the reality of the situation was that very few people could actually use them.
This store must have been one of those places where they had one installed, but no one had any experience in using it.
The instant he realized all that, Koutarou took a step forward.
“I’ll do it.
Someone make arrangements for an ambulance please.”
Koutarou’s offer put a look of relief on the man’s face, and he handed over the AED.
Koutarou accepted it, and knelt down beside the man who’d collapsed.
Medicine was Koutarou’s field of study, and of course his innate intellectual curiosity helped, and so he’d take a lot of different classes when he was in college.
He’d taken one on the AED as well, and had even gotten to try one out.
He didn’t hesitate.
He leaned in towards the man’s face and confirmed that he wasn’t breathing, and then unbuttoned the man’s shirt and set up the AED.
He still remembered the order of operations, so he didn’t bother waiting for the machine’s announcements, and only had to hold on a few seconds while it activated.
“A shock is required.”
The AED analyzed the man’s heart rhythms and announced its conclusion.
Koutarou immediately followed directions.
“Stand back, please,” he warned the onlookers, just to be sure, and then pressed the shock button on the AED.
As the crowd looked on, swallowing hard, Koutarou moved skillfully to the next step.
After the machine administered the electric shock, he administered chest compression and artificial respiration.
He advanced through the emergency procedures, following knowledge already settled in his head, while in his ear, he heard the ambulance sirens approaching.
– – –
Koutarou opened the door and entered the apartment, and Shuuji greeted him with a smile from the kitchen.
Charmed by Shuuji’s smile, one naturally broke out on Koutarou’s face as well.
“You done with work?”
“More or less.
I mean, I haven’t gotten the official okay quite yet,” Shuuji said, adding that he’d only just emailed his data.
“Well, good job though.
So, you’re done with work for the day then?” Koutarou asked, and Shuuji nodded.
“I think I’m gonna stop for today.
I need to hit the reset button on my head.”
Koutarou could see a bit of exhaustion on Shuuji’s face as he answered.
With all the jobs he’d been taking on lately, his schedule seemed to have gotten pretty tight, and he’d been basically living in front of his PC twenty-four hours a day.
He wanted to help however he could, but Koutarou was a layman in the field of book design, so there was nothing he could do.
Shuuji said he wanted to cook, to switch his brain over, so Koutarou stood next to him in the kitchen.
He could have left everything to Shuuji, but he wanted to be by his side, even for a little while.
Koutarou had been trying not to get in the way of his work, so even when they were in the same room lately, they’d hardly spoken with each other.
They made dinner together, ate it still together, and for the first time in a while, they got to spend slow, easy time with each other.
It was still a bit early to go to bed, so they moved to the living room and had some coffee.
“Maybe I’ll come shopping tomorrow too.”
“You have become a bit of a shut-in.
Running out of ideas?”
“Yeah, something like that,” Shuuji smiled, confirming Koutarou’s suspicions.
If all he did was output, his pool of ideas would end up drained.
Koutarou decided to talk about what had happened to him that day, maybe it would be one piece of input, at least.
“Speaking of, at the supermarket earlier…”
He told Shuuji all about the man who’d collapsed, and how he’d done emergency first-aid until the ambulance arrived.
“You did all that?” When the story was over, Shuuji didn’t hide his surprise.
“I didn’t have any real life experience, but I managed.”
He didn’t necessarily want to boast, but he just wanted to report that there were things he could do, even as he was now.
But Shuuji’s face was pale.
“Jeez, is that alright?” Shuuji muttered, like he was talking to himself.
“What if someone had noticed you, Koutarou…”
“I’m not that famous.” Koutarou flashed a grin to say Shuuji was worrying too much.
“Someone in the medical field might know you.”
“It was only the EMTs who saw me,” Koutarou said, trying to reassure him that it was okay.
They had asked him if he would accompany the man to the hospital, but he didn’t really know the man, and the EMTs were there, and besides, Koutarou only had theoretical knowledge, he wasn’t really needed, so he’d refused.
So the only ones Koutarou had actually spoken with there had been the EMTs.
But, the smile didn’t come back to Shuuji’s face.
He still looked tense.
“Nobody was really looking at people’s faces that well anyway.
Everyone was focused on the man who collapsed.”
“If you were a normal person, maybe, but you’re different, Koutarou.
You should be a little more self-aware, your looks catch people’s eyes.”
“Do they?” Koutarou tilted his head, not understanding.
“With a face that good-looking, and you’re tall, and you carry yourself well, anybody would notice you.
If you had any clothing sense, you’d look like a model.”
“Well, because it doesn’t matter what I wear, right,” Koutarou said, looking down at himself.
He didn’t have any hang ups about clothes, so he just kept wearing the same stuff for years, until they got damaged or hard to keep clean.
“To be honest, I’ve always thought it was kind of a waste.
You would look so amazing.”
“Isn’t it better if I don’t stand out?”
“Which is why I haven’t said anything, have I,” Shuuji said, like it really was such a shame.
It seemed that they were going to drop the matter without having to change his wardrobe, and Koutarou sighed to himself in relief.
If Shuuji said he wanted it no matter what, he’d be happy to dress however Shuuji liked, but if he didn’t have to, he’d never go that far on his own.
He wasn’t picky about what he wore, but neither did he want to press for change himself.
Shuuji seemed to still be uneasy, and his voice was clouded over.
“Well then maybe I should wear glasses when I go outside,” Koutarou said, and made circles with his thumb and forefinger of each hand, putting them over each eye in place of glasses.
His eyesight wasn’t bad, so he’d never worn glasses before, and he’d only even worn sunglasses that one time, when he’d made the decision to leave Shuuji.
Glasses were the only disguise he could think of, but if that would put Shuuji at ease, he’d put on anything.
“You’d look good in any kind of glasses, Koutarou,” Shuuji finally smiled, but even then it was fleeting.
As long as he was a clone, he wouldn’t be able to entirely erase Shuuji’s anxiety, and he knew it.
It was just something he wasn’t going to be able to achieve.
Koutarou took the coffee cup from Shuuji’s hand, and set it on the table.
Then he gently wrapped his arms around Shuuji, who responded by looking at him questioningly.
“You’re not working any more today, right?” Koutarou asked back, and Shuuji silently nodded, his face going a little red.
“Let’s get to bed then,” Koutarou said, and then got up and put his hands behind Shuuji’s hips and knees, quietly picking him up.
“Oi, Koutarou,” Shuuji said, flustered.
It was the first time in the long years that they’d been going out that Koutarou had done anything like this.
When research had been his entire life, he’d been indifferent to his physical health, and he hadn’t had much arm strength, but now he was extremely toned.
He’d become more active, and had more opportunities for physical work.
He’d gotten so he could pick up Shuuji’s delicate frame, at least.
Even so, Shuuji must have been agitated, or worried maybe, because he clung to Koutarou’s neck.
He was pretty cute like that, and a smile naturally came to the corners of Koutarou’s mouth.
He carefully carried Shuuji into the bedroom and quietly laid him on the bed, and then started to get up again.
But Shuuji’s arms held him in place.
Shuuji clung to him, and his words cut themselves off.
Shuuji’s arms were trembling slightly.
Living with a clone, someone whose very existence was uncertain, was making Shuuji uneasy.
He was clearly trying to shake it off, but that uncontrollable anxiety still showed in expression.
Koutarou gently put his mouth on Shuuji’s lips.
He knew he couldn’t wipe away Shuuji’s anxiety just by tying their bodies together, but he could certainly make sure that Shuuji knew he was real, that he existed.
After Shuuji’s trembling had quieted down, Koutarou took the next step and removed all the clothes that were standing between him and Shuuji’s body.
Shuuji let it all happen to him without saying anything, but when Koutarou put his hands on the final piece, his underpants, he spoke up.
“I’m the only one who’s going to be naked here?” Shuuji protested in a voice that was a bit sullen, perhaps because he was trying to cover up embarrassment.
I got in a rush.”
“Now you’re in a rush?” Shuuji smiled, obviously amused.
That was the smile Koutarou liked.
He’d liked Shuuji’s smile since way back.
He brought his face close again, like he was going to breathe in that smile, and they kissed.
After that, Koutarou started to remove his own clothes.
Soon enough, he was completely naked, and then he took off Shuuji’s final remaining piece of clothing.
This time, Shuuji didn’t say anything.
Now that neither of them was wearing a single stitch of clothing, they at last turned to each other.
“Seems like you still haven’t gotten that weight back, huh,” Koutarou said, reaching his hand out to Shuuji’s bare chest.
“Yeah…” Shuuji let out a little sigh at the feel of Koutarou’s hand.
“I can see your bones like this.” There was a whiff of self-censure in Koutarou’s voice.
Shuuji had been thin to begin with, but with the shock of Koutarou’s accident, Shuuji had become excessively skinny.
After Koutarou returned as the clone, they’d eaten together, and Koutarou had made sure to feed him things with actual nutritional value, but his body weight hadn’t quite returned to baseline.
It was all Koutarou’s fault.
“I’ve always had trouble gaining weight anyway.” Shuuji told him not to worry, and then flashed a suggestive smile.
“Or maybe you don’t want to hold a body like this anymore?”
“Are you kidding? That’s not what I meant.” Koutarou hurriedly denied it.
“I always want to touch you, Shuuji, I can’t help it.”
“Well then hurry up…”
At Shuuji’s invitation, Koutarou unhesitatingly buried his face in Shuuji’s chest.
He sucked on Shuuji’s petite nipples, rolled them around with the tip of his tongue.
Hearing Shuuji letting out faint breaths above him, Koutarou moved his tongue more.
Shuuji’s body was sensitive everywhere, and had always displayed an acute reaction to Koutarou’s caresses, but his chest was especially susceptible.
The way he moved his hips and let out those distressed sighs only inflamed Koutarou.
He hadn’t touched his own body, but things in his core were starting to heat up.
Even so, Koutarou wasn’t in a hurry.
He’d continue the caresses until Shuuji was entirely aflame.
Koutarou didn’t consider it true pleasure if he was the only one feeling good.
Still caressing Shuuji’s chest with his mouth, Koutarou gently brushed Shuuji’s hips with both hands.
This was another one of Shuuji’s weak points.
They’d embraced so many times that Koutarou knew Shuuji’s body better than anyone.
When Koutarou touched Shuuji’s shaft, it had already changed shape.
A sweet, impatient moan leaked from Shuuji’s mouth.
Koutarou laid his own shaft on top of Shuuji’s, and started to draw them both through his hand together.
Shuuji was only saying it out of embarrassment, and he rocked his hips back and forth.
“This way, we can feel it together.”
“Well then hurry up…”
Koutarou knew what Shuuji was demanding.
He hadn’t intended to get in a rush, but he wanted to feel Shuuji’s entire body.
“Hold on a little longer… You can’t?” Koutarou asked, and Shuuji scowled at him with teary eyes.
He was no match for that expression.
Koutarou lifted himself back up a bit to fulfill Shuuji’s wishes, stretching out his hand to the chest that was next to the bed and taking a condom and lotion from the drawer.
Then, putting the condom on himself with a practiced motion, he turned to Shuuji again.
Koutarou dribbled some lube on his hand and then put it between Shuuji’s legs.
It must have been cold, and Shuuji’s breath caught reflexively.
But he didn’t seem to be resisting, and Koutarou carefully pressed his finger deeper inside.
Shuuji tightened around Koutarou’s fingers.
The fact that he clenched up so tight meant that he still wasn’t ready to accept Koutarou.
Carefully moving his fingers inside, Koutarou brought his face in towards Shuuji’s shaft.
When he put Shuuji’s erection in his mouth, Shuuji puffed out a sweet sigh.
Shuuji’s breathing matched Koutarou’s use of his tongue, and they both gradually got hotter.
As he aggressively fondled Shuuji in front, Koutarou diligently loosened him in the back.
Even though it had been quite stiff at first, it eventually got soft and pulled in Koutarou’s fingers.
It was fine now.
Koutarou lifted his face and withdrew his fingers, gently taking hold of both of Shuuji’s legs behind the knees.
Then he moved his hips forward into that space.
Imagining what was about to happen, Shuuji’s body shivered.
But it was a shiver of anticipation, not of fear.
Knowing that, Koutarou didn’t pay it any attention, and pressed his own towering erection into Shuuji’s backside.
A lusty moan spilled from Shuuji’s lips as if it had been wrung out of him, carrying his pleasure with it.
Enveloped in his warmth, Koutarou puffed out a heated breath too, unable to endure it.
In that instant, although Koutarou was the one on top, he felt like he was the one being embraced by Shuuji.
It had to be because he was wrapped in Shuuji’s kindness.
“Shuuji, I’m gonna move?” Koutarou asked, and Shuuji nodded wordlessly.
Koutarou put his arms around Shuuji’s legs and thrust his hips firmly forward.
“Ah… Ugh… Haaa…”
A long, sweet moan flowed out of Shuuji, and it got Koutarou riled.
He thrust his hips upward with such fervor he almost lifted Shuuji up off the bed.
Pre-cum dribbled from Shuuji’s towering erection and dripped all the way down to where the two of them were joined.
Shuuji was already at his limit, and he wrapped his arms behind Koutarou’s neck and held on tight.
Koutarou reached his hand down to Shuuji’s shaft to hurry on his release.
“Aah–” Shuuji let out a loud moan, and released a splash into Koutarou’s hand.
At that moment, Koutarou climaxed too, inside Shuuji.
Savoring the exhilaration and release of ejaculation, Koutarou started to withdraw himself.
“Shuuji…?” Koutarou said in bewilderment.
Shuuji’s legs were wrapped around his, keeping him in place.
He must have been reluctant to part.
His hands around Koutarou’s neck were as tight as ever.
“Keep it up like that and I’m gonna do it again…” Koutarou said, and told Shuuji he thought they were going to end up in an awkward situation.
“I’m not satisfied yet,” Shuuji said, in a voice so small it seemed to disappear.
But it did reach Koutarou.
Shuuji wasn’t assertive in sexual matters by nature, and his libido wasn’t that strong either.
He’d rarely been the one to initiate things.
But since Koutarou had become the clone, he’d invited Koutarou to bed quite often.
Koutarou imagined it was because he was trying to confirm that Koutarou really was a flesh and blood human being.
If connecting their bodies could lessen Shuuji’s unease, Koutarou could only grant that wish.
Koutarou kissed him lightly to appease him, and then withdrew himself, removed the condom, and thrust back inside Shuuji without putting on a new one.
meaning they had a combined dining room/kitchen and then two additional rooms automated external defibrillator
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