A/N: Hello! Sadly, due to a change in circumstances, I won't be able to update as frequently as before. But I will definitely still be posting new chapters. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy this one!
December, Present Day
On a sleepy street in the heart of Edinburgh, there lies a tea house that has been in business for over 100 years, despite the sign on the door always proclaiming it closed. It provides a haven for a specific type of traveler: one who journeys, not from place to place, but through time.
Rubbing his gloved hands together, Aoto glanced around the quaint, well-manicured park. A few morning joggers made their way up and down the paved paths, and a high-schooler biked to class. Aoto grabbed another handful of crumbs from his bag and tossed them into the pond. Instantly, a frenzy of koi fish desperately gobbled up the crumbs.
Aoto smiled softly and leaned back on his park bench. Well, it wasn't really his, but it might as well be. This was the bench where he had made just about every one of his big decisions. This was the spot where he decided to join the calligraphy and tea culture clubs instead of the baseball team, even though all his friends were joining the baseball team and doing otherwise made his popularity take a real hit. This was where he had come right after the fight with his father over ten years ago, and where he had decided that he would run away.
It was also the place where, just a few hours ago, Aoto had decided not to attend his father's funeral.
He scooped up more crumbs. As he tossed them, Aoto caught a glimpse of someone running towards him. To his surprise, it was none other than Shoma, still wearing his black funeral suit. His brother's normally neat hair was disheveled, and as he sat down on the bench, Aoto noticed that his hands were shaking.
"What happened? Are you alright?" Aoto asked. "Shouldn't you be at the funeral?"
Shoma stared blankly at the koi pond, and his lips twitched as he tried to find the right words. After what seemed like ages, he whispered, "I ran out."
"Ran? Before the ceremony, or after?" Aoto asked.
Shoma put his face in his hands. "Right in the middle," he mumbled. "I can't believe I did that. It's bad enough that you and mother didn't show up, but can you imagine what they're going to say when word gets out that I walked out of my own father's funeral?"
"I imagine that they'll say that it serves Hiroshi right," Aoto replied. He held the bag of crumbs out to his brother, but Shoma shooed it away.
"I didn't mean to leave," Shoma cried. "It was so suffocating in there; I just wanted some water. But then my feet just kept carrying me out the door, and then to the bus station, and finally here." His shoulders sagged. "So disgraceful. What's wrong with me?"
"There's nothing wrong with you." Aoto tossed more crumbs to the koi. "Tell me, do you miss him?"
Shoma chewed his lip, then shamefully shook his head.
"There you go, then," Aoto replied. "You can forgive him, but if you don't miss him, then you don't need to mourn him."
"You don't really mean that, do you?" Shoma asked.
"I do," Aoto replied coolly. "Why should you lie and pretend like your entire world has fallen apart when he was the very one who caused most of the pain to begin with? Our father dying doesn't change the fact that he was a monster. Does it?"
Shoma twisted his hands. "I... I'm not saying that. But maybe it wasn't so black and white... maybe I should've stayed-"
"No." It was a soft "no," spoken in the same manner as someone declining extra salt on their dish. But that single word carried far more anger than anything else Aoto could have said. Aoto claimed that he was more like their father, and Shoma admittedly had to agree. But while Hiroshi's eyes had been like fire, Aoto's were as cold and unyielding as finely crafted steel. Shoma didn't dare argue back. Instead, he clamped his lips shut, his fingers toying with the edge of his suit coat.
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The Time Traveler's Tea HouseScience Fiction
(Watty "Wild Card" Winner 2018) In the heart of Edinburgh, there lies a tea house that has been in business for over 100 years, despite the sign on the door always proclaiming it closed. It provides a haven for a specific type of traveler: one who j...