A voice from my past was calling me - from the time my younger brother was so small that I, a child, could walk with him in my arms.
He had grown tired just earlier and demanded to be carried, but our Mother told him to walk properly and refused now that he was a little older, saying being carried is for babies. I didn’t know whether to be glad I was relieved from my burden or to feel lonely and mourn.
When I discussed this with my close friend, he laughed at me.
“I don’t have siblings, so I’m jealous.”
I couldn’t be angry at him for laughing after that.
“You have Luce and me, right, Corteo?” I replied. At that, Corteo smiled happily...but sadly, too. He must not have trusted that I was serious. That’s sad, I thought.
It was difficult for children with parents in the mafia to make friends. So while Corteo was the only friend we had, we were close. He was smart and passionate about his studies, and he always had something new to teach us. I liked listening to him have fun sharing that information.
The changing scenery before my eyes was from a time long gone.
— I’m dreaming, I realized, while still asleep. After all, that was all gone now...
The only precious thing I had left with me was Corteo...
“Big Brother, let’s go on an adventure.”
Luce took my hand and pulled me towards the forest. So this was when we’d come for a picnic as a family...?
It was still too early to have lunch, and Luce was full of energy, having come thus far in the car.
Together with Corteo, the three of us were on an adventure in the forest. That said, this was a man-made forest created for picnics, so surely there wouldn’t be any of the wild beasts Luce was expecting to see in it?
“Luce, that’s a poisonous mushroom, so don’t touch it.”
It was a good thing we had such a knowledgeable friend. Mother was amazing for staying firm and bringing him along no matter how many times he held back and refused her. As I was thinking such, I took out a handkerchief and wiped Luce’s hands.
“And this one?”
“It’s not poisonous, but...it’s better not to, ah.”
The moment he had heard it wasn’t poisonous, Luce had popped the red berry into his mouth. Immediately, he made a face and spat it out. “S-s-s-so souuuuur!”
Corteo looked on despairingly, kicking himself for being too late to stop him.
“...What an adventure,” I murmured, watching my younger brother. I fumbled around in my pockets. As an older brother, I had to be prepared if I was to bring Luce along with me — though the one preparing things was our Mother.
I held out a sweet candy wrapped in thin paper. When he tore off the wrapping and popped the candy in his mouth, Luce’s frown transformed into a smile. I preferred him that way.
Luce was mischievous and inquisitive, bright and talkative. I thought he also resembled our Mother in terms of looks. I probably took after our Father more.
Our Father was a member of a mafia family, but he was calm and gentle. On top of that, he was intelligent. I thought that was rather paradoxical.
From time to time, my Father and Corteo would discuss complex calculations that I couldn’t understand. How could those two keep on talking about formulas that looked to me like they were written in code?
“Lunch is ready, so come back! Angelo, Luce, Corteo!”
Mother called to us. I loved her voice.
We looked at one another, grinning.
When Luce gave the signal, the three of us started to run. Luce was giving it his all, but Corteo and I were naturally running alongside him. Corteo was watching Luce’s feet. He was anxious, preparing to support him if he fell over. That’s how kind he was.
Luce jumped into our Mother’s arms with a broad smile.
I wondered what our Father was doing waiting next to them with his arms open. As I slowed down, I made the mistake of locking eyes with Corteo.
“Testa-san is waiting. Off you go, Angelo.”
Stop it. It’d be embarrassing to copy Luce at this age.
“He’ll be disappointed. Come on, off you go!”
I grabbed my friend’s arm as he tried to run away and jumped into my Father’s arms.
— If we die, we die together. I’m taking you down with me, bestie!
My Father caught both of us relatively large boys and patted our heads cheerfully. Though he was busy with work, he’d gone to the trouble of taking leave to go on this picnic. I was embarrassed, but I’d just have to bear with it.
When I glanced to my side, Corteo looked on the verge of tears.
Corteo’s Father wasn’t around anymore. It must have been a long time since he was patted with such a big hand.
I quickly turned away so I wouldn’t see his face, and endured the patting until my Mother called for us. That’s the proof I could bear with a lot.
We laid the food out on the picnic rug. We helped a little, but my Mother had woken a lot earlier than us and made everything, so while we prayed to God before our meal, it was my Mother I was thankful to in my heart...
— I knew I was dreaming. It’s no longer there: that old, treasured... happiness.
The gentle days before he’d lost everything several years ago. Avilio saw that rare dream for the first time in a while.
This was a familiar voice too, though it had deepened, closer to an adult’s now. It was as kind as it had been back then.
Avilio opened his eyes to that thought.
Corteo was glancing at him, looking concerned. Well, on thinking it over, he’d worn that expression since they’d met again.
“Stop it with the revenge. Your life is far more important.”
He said that, but he hadn’t abandoned Avilio.
After calling his name, Corteo averted his gaze, hesitating, like it was difficult to go on.
“What is it?”
After hesitating countless times, he swiped his knuckles across Avilio’s cheek.
Avilio realized he’d just had tears wiped away.
He hadn’t cried in years now. Not since that night, next to Corteo, though during the time he had been on his own, he had woken with his pillow wet.
Back then, the dreams Avilio had dreamed hadn’t been soft memories, but rather harsh reality. He’d startled awake to his own screams, too.
Perhaps being by Corteo’s side had relaxed him.
Avilio got up and lit a cigarette. He sucked in the bitter smoke, as if to drown out the lingering remains of that sweet, nostalgic vision.
Corteo, sitting beside him, did the same, putting a stick in his mouth and searching for a match. Avilio held out the lighter with a bitter smile.
Yeah, smoking didn’t suit Corteo. But he didn’t voice that thought.
Avilio sealed it off in his heart, just as he had his apology for dragging Corteo into his mess. He was aware that he had chosen to kill his enemies and die over living with his friend.
Someday, and hopefully soon, he had to set Corteo free from this fate.
Stay with me just a little while longer...and then walk a different path. Forever.
Corteo...be loved by God.
I rejected Him long ago.
Because I chose bitter revenge over a sweet dream.