Star Crossed Lovers, by Oliver Chooi (email@example.com)
Italy, a country well known across the world for its beauty, splendors, and most of all the fine arts. Here a wandering artist may find the end of his long road, to finally become a professional with the skills and talents that he possessed. Having traveled across most of Asia and Europe as a wandering painter, Ogata had finally come to Italy. He was in his early twenties now, having left Japan more than five years ago to pursue his dream. In that short time, he had honed and mastered his skills to the fullest. And now, in his heart and soul, he possessed the ability to begin the life he had wanted ever since he was a young boy.
His stand was set up today, as it had been for the last few weeks, near a well-known museum; a location Ogata had chosen because he knew that many lovers of art would come here, including some with influence. To become a professional he would first have to be noticed by someone here in Italy, someone that could hopefully sponsor his work, and he felt that this place was a good start. Along with paintings that were for sale, he had several examples set up, some of them beautiful paintings of landscape and vivid scenery, but most of them portraits that he had kept of people that he'd painted in his years of travel. That was his best talent after all, the ability to capture the perfect likeness of a person to the finest detail. A portrait that he had painted of himself was also set up, so that people could measure just how good his art was. It was almost a mirror image of the handsome young Japanese artist, detailing his long thick black hair and dark brown eyes perfectly. Indeed, the only difference between the drawing and the man himself was that he was wearing a long-sleeved white shirt today instead of the black jacket portrayed in the painting.
It had been a good day for Ogata; several paintings he had been working on since arriving in Italy had been sold, and he had even received several requests from people wanting to be drawn by his hand after seeing the talent that he possessed. And to his surprise, the director of the art museum himself had come out and was now talking to him. "This is some fine work indeed. I see that the visitors who had come to the museum, telling me about a talented foreign artist, were not exaggerating their compliments." The small, chubby man was looking over Ogata's work with great respect. The director of the prestigious Italian Museum of Art knew talent and skill when he saw it and the work sitting before him was impressive indeed. "Thank you very much, although I feel that you are flattering me just a bit," Ogata politely said to the man. "Oh, you humble yourself!" the director started and smiled, "I have worked at the museum for a long time, and often aspiring artist have had their stands set near. Many times their work is good, but yours is truly something special," he finished, pointing at a particularly beautiful painting, which depicted a nearby lake in a style called Realism.
Ogata accepted the compliments with great pride, and was happy that people here in Italy were already talking about him. "I am glad that you like my work. I am Seiya Ogata, my regards", he said as he shook the man's hand. "You speak the Italian language quite well Mr. Ogata. My name is Luigi Salvatore, director of the Italian Museum of Art, though I'm sure you knew that already," started the middle-aged man. "I have to get back to the museum soon, but let me tell you once again that I am quite impressed by your work. Am I correct in assuming that you have come here to Italy in hopes of becoming a professional painter?" Ogata nodded. "In that case, come to the museum tomorrow at noon. My office is on the second floor. Seeing your exceptional talent, I believe that I can help you find someone to sponsor your work." With that, the man smiled at Ogata and turned to walk back to the museum. A wide smile came across his face, and he was so excited that he nearly knocked over an art piece. "My dream, my life goal...it is slowly becoming a reality."
The next day, Ogata woke up early with high hopes and anticipation of the upcoming meeting. He put on the same white shirt he wore the day before and a black pair of pants that he'd bought only a few days ago and headed out of the door of his apartment. "Good morning! Ciao Ogata-san!" He heard the familiar loud voice behind him when he was locking his door, knowing only one person who actually addressed him in Japanese form here in Italy. He turned around to see a little girl, pretty and cheerful, smiling up at him. She was about ten years old, and had beautiful long black hair with a cute pink ribbon tied in the back. "Ah, good morning Angelina. Why are you up so early?" Ogata asked, a smile coming across his face at seeing the young girl whom he had quickly become friends with since he moved here two months ago. "I wanted to talk to you before...," Angelina looked curiously at Ogata. "Hey, where are your paints and stuff?" she asked after seeing that he was not carrying anything today. "No work today, I'm taking a day off to meet with someone." Angelina smiled and nodded, somehow knowingly Ogata realized.
She reached into the left pocked of her red dress, and pulled out a rather large book. "See, I was reading this to learn more about Japan like you said!" Ogata read aloud the title of the book. "Japanese Myths and Legends. That is a rather difficult book to read for one as young as you, my little friend." He remarked. Angelina scowled and playfully slapped Ogata on the leg. "Hey, Angelina is very smart Ogata-san!" She said, making her point by accentuating and dragging the san honorific, which she had used to address Ogata since she became friends with him. "Anyway Ogata-san. Do you know what today's date is?" He thought for a moment, trying to recall the date on yesterday's newspaper. "Lets see...yesterday was the sixth. That would make today July seventh, I believe." Angelina nodded, and was flipping the pages in her book until she found the part she was looking for.
"Thats right, July seventh!" She turned the book outward so that Ogata could see the title of the story. "The legend of the Tanabata." Ogata read the title aloud, recognizing the Japanese myth immediately. "Certainly, the Festival of the Stars will be celebrated in Japan this day to honor the mythological star-crossed lovers. Angelina has studied her new book well, hasn't she?" The young girl nodded, and then pointed her finger towards Ogata, "Thats right, Ogata-san! I read this story just last night, that is why I wanted to talk to you before you left." A puzzled expression came across his face, but before Ogata could say anything, Angelina went on to explain. "Today is the annual meeting of Hikoboshi and Orihime, right? In the story it says that they can only meet once every year in the Milky Way, and Japanese people celebrate their meeting and hope for such a romance themselves. Isn't that right?"
Seeing that Ogata was still not catching on, she decided to tell him. "Don't you see, Ogata-san? I read about the Japanese legend of the Tanabata last night, the day before July seventh. And you are the only Japanese person I ever met and are even my neighbor and friend!" she took a deep breath and a huge beaming smile came across her face, "Ogata-san, I think that today you will meet someone very special! Just like Hikoboshi and Orihime, a destined love that will never end! That's what I wanted to tell you." With that, Angelina gave her good friend a huge hug and sprinted away, having no doubt in her mind that what she just told him would come true. Ogata smiled, very happy that this innocent young girl held such imaginative ideals in this modern world, but happier by the fact that this wonderful child was his friend. As he started off for his meeting at the museum, however, not once did he consider that Angelina's prediction was anything besides the imagination of a child enthralled by a romantic fairy tale.
Ogata made it to the museum an hour before the appointed meeting with the director to find the place already fully active. The earlier conversation with Angelina was at the back of his head now, with eagerness and anticipation dominant in him. He was now walking through the great museum, looking over the many works of art that hung on the walls. As he came to a large section devoted to the works of a famous Italian artist, he fantasized his many paintings hanging in their stead. "The great works of Seiya Ogata...I like the sound of it," he mused aloud, the optimism fueling his believes that this day would be a major stepping stone along his ambitious road. "I don't know who this Seiya Ogata is, but I must say that I like the sound of it as well," a soft melodic voice said just a few feet behind him.
Ogata started to turn around, immediately sensing that something about this upcoming encounter was not normal. Perhaps it was a trigger deep in his subconscious set by his earlier conversation with his friend or a surreal emotion that he had never felt before, telling him that this was someone very special. When he finished turning to face the person, the latter suddenly became more than true. "Hello there," said the strikingly beautiful young woman standing before the now shaken Ogata. She wore a lovely long red dress with a silky golden fabric coming across the chest line, which was demure but very enticing. She had delicate light brownish skin, tanned evenly across her slender body by the Italian sun. Her hair was long and light brown, tied by a red ribbon in the back to flow down freely and two finely combed curls came down at both sides in front. But as breathtaking as her appearance was to Ogata, nothing could have taken his gaze away from the woman's vibrant green eyes. They reflected to him clearly the inner beauty of her, and the vivid sparkle in those orbs drew him in and would not let him go. Ogata was not sure he even wanted to leave.
"Hello there," she said again, her voice still soft and quiet. After a few more minutes of silence, Ogata managed to finally break out of the enchantment this woman had unknowingly cast upon him, if only temporarily. "I, I'm sorry...you just took me by surprise," he lied, and not very well he realized when he repeated it to himself silently. She smiled after finally hearing him say something, though, and did not seem to mind his odd behavior. "Yes, I do have a habit of taking people aback. I apologize Mr..." she prompted. "Ogata Seiy...Seiya Ogata I mean. Just call me Seiya." I'm so nervous that I'm even messing up my own name, he thought to himself after making the mistake of reverting to the Japanese standard of surname first. This isn't like me at all.
"Seiya then...I do like the sound of that," she said and giggled slightly while extending her right hand towards Ogata. "I hope you like my name too. I am Carrino Soletta, but just Carrino is fine." Ogata hesitated, thinking that if he made contact with her the woman would draw him in once again. But after a few seconds he did shake her delicate hand, and he immediately felt a connection between himself and this unique woman as they touched, something that went beyond mere physical attraction on his part. "You have a very beautiful name...," Ogata said while blushing slightly after he shook Carrino's hand. And eyes, and hair, and body, he thought to himself as he continued to be charmed by this young Italian woman.
Carrino smiled warmly once again, feeling perfectly comfortable around this man she had just met. "I'm glad then. Because you know, names are very important things. The people that love us most give them to us, and there is always something special behind their decision, even though we may not know it. So I have always believed that your name is something that you should treasure and be proud of," she said. Ogata himself had never thought that a name was anything special, or that it held any particular meaning beyond identification. But when he heard Carrino's reasoning of the importance of it, Ogata immediately accepted her words as truth.
Carrino started to walk around to take a look at several of the paintings on that floor with Ogata following just a few steps behind. "Seiya...you are an artist?" she stated as much as asked. "Yes, though right now I am just a wandering painter here in Italy," he answered, feeling more composed and less nervous around the woman suddenly. Carrino nodded, and stopped at a large painting that vividly depicted the Mediterranean Sea under a beaming red sunset. "This one is my favorite, I've loved it ever since I was a young girl," she started, but stopped to slyly wink at Ogata, "Though I am still quite young I assure you." Ogata blushed again, though more obvious this time, and looked away from Carrino's gaze. She laughed lightly, a knowing grin on her gentle face. She went on, "The Red Winds of the Mediterranean Sea, thats what I call it. I used to spend hours right here, just marveling at it."
Their conversation was broken off as the bell of the nearby church rang loudly in the distance just a few blocks from the museum. It was only then that Ogata finally remembered why he had came here in the first place, and realized that he had been talking to Carrino for a while now. "I'm sorrry, I ha..." he started, not sure if he wanted to finish that sentence. "I have to go, I am supposed to meet with the director of the museum at twelve o'clock", he finished regrettably, wanting to talk to this enchanting person more than his time allowed. A curious expression came across Carrino's face, and she pointed to a clock at the end of the corridor. "But it is a few minutes after one now," she remarked. Ogata looked questionably at the clock several times, confirming that it was indeed an hour after his appointment.
"But...how can that be? I came here at eleven, there is no way that I have been talking to you for two hours!" he said, a lot more loudly then he had intended to. Carrino looked hurt, and turned her back. "Oh? Are you saying that I am not interesting enough to keep one entertained for at least a couple of hours?" she asked with an exaggerated tone of sadness in her soft voice. Ogata did not catch the feint, though, and immediately felt guilty for offending the young woman. "No, thats not what I meant! I just..." he started as he circled around the woman to face her. She had both of her hands covering her face, trying to hide her chuckling. "Are you...laughing?" Ogata asked curiously. Carrino stopped and shook her head, tears of laugher still evident in her green eyes. "No no, not at all. But you are forgiven," she said with another sly wink at the confused man.
Ogata started laughing himself, continually amazed by this cheerful woman's capricious personality. "You are a very interesting person, Miss Soletta." That brought a scowl to her face. "Hey now, I told you to call me Carrino. No need for formalities, since I have the feeling we're going to become good friends. Or maybe more...?" She finished by mischievously blowing a kiss at Ogata. He blushed slightly, taken aback by her less than subtle hint. "I...anyway, it seems as though my meeting is canceled for the day. I doubt that the director will see to me after being an hour late," Ogata remarked; though he did not totally believe it himself. "Um...I hope I am not being presumptuous by asking, but would you like to have lunch with me? If not, I under..." Carrino waved the last thought away with her hand and smiled happily. "Not at all, Seiya. I would love to. But I have been known to indulge my self beyond what my figure may suggest, so I hope you can afford me."
With that, the two of them walked out of the grand museum side by side, Ogata knowing clearly that he may have just ruined his chance of finding a sponsor with the influential help of the museum director. But when he looked at this magnificent young woman walking so close to him, though he had only meet her a few hours ago, even his life long dream of becoming a professional painter seemed to pale in comparison. He did not understand the strong emotion he felt towards this woman, but he knew that it was something that went beyond mere physical attraction. It was then and there that Ogata remembered the words of his friend. Today you will meet someone very special...a destined love that will never end! "The Tanabata. Just like Hikoboshi and Orihime...?" he repeated Angelina's words quietly. "Seiya? Did you say something?" Carrino asked curiously. "Just thinking aloud of what I want to eat," he lied, an impromptu thought at best. "But I think you'd better choose, for my taste in Italian food is less than refined."
"Most Italian people I know will tell you that spaghetti and its many variants are this country's finest food. But," Carrino stopped and brought the huge slice to her delicate lips, "if you ask me, a pizza with lots and lots of toppings is still the best way to go!" she finished and made her point by loudly biting into the piece, which was generously topped with pepperoni, mushrooms, and several things Ogata could not identify. It was an amazing sight to him to say the least, seeing this slender and perfectly figured woman eating with such a healthy appetite.
The two of them were sitting at a table towards the back of a small restaurant, which Carrino had quickly chosen when they came out of the museum. "I know the owner very well, and at this time of the day it is not very crowded," she had said, and indeed there were very few people in the small but finely decorated place known as Giavonni's Famous Italian Pizzeria, though Giavonni himself had not greeted them yet. Carrino had ordered their lunch, which included the large pizza that she was currently working on with Ogata having just eaten two slices so far, two small salads, and a bottle of wine that was not very expensive but which Carrino had said was very good.
"Cozy, isn't it?" Carrino asked as she wiped some tomato sauce off her face. Ogata nodded, "Very nice and quiet, not to mention the great food. I haven't been to any fine restaurants like this since I'd come to Italy, you know." Carrino brought her hand up at that statement, motioning for Ogata to wait until she finished chewing. When she finally did she said, "Thats right, you're from Japan aren't you Seiya? A handsome wandering artist from Japan...and I'm having lunch with him. I wonder what my parents would say?" She finished by sending an alluring look Ogata's way, only partly in jest he realized. He looked away so that Carrino could not see him blush, at which she just laughed. "There is no need to be bashful, Seiya. But if I am making you uncomfortable, let me know." Ogata shook his head, "Not at all Carrino. Perhaps your charms are getting the best of me, though." She smiled and blew another kiss Ogata's way, not at all reluctant or too shy to admit openly that she was attracted to the man.
"Carrino! Your presence here always makes this place so much lovelier, I felt it in the air as I was walking through the kitchen!" The pair was interrupted by the loud distinctively Italian voice, and both turned their heads to see a large elderly man with short black hair and a huge mustache walk towards them. Carrino got up from her seat and gave the smiling man a huge hug, "Giavonni! Have you put on a few pounds there since the last time I saw you?" she teased as she pointed a finger at the man's belly when she began to sit back down. "Oh Carrino, do not tease Giavonni so!" he pleaded jokingly. "Is this your friend? Or is he your special someone?" Giavonni asked as he curiously looked at the man whom he recognized to be a foreigner. Before Ogata could interject, Carrino answered, "Well, I don't know just yet Giavonni," she started as she cast an enchanting look at Ogata, "But I would not dismiss the latter."
"I am Seiya Ogata, nice to meet you." Ogata introduced himself and shook the older man's chubby hand. Giavonni shook his hand firmly and said, "Ah...you are Japanese, no? Ever since she was small, Carrino always used to say that she wanted to meet a man from Japan." Ogata cast a curious glance at Carrino after hearing that, but she just continued to smile at him as she took a few sips from the wine. Ogata felt himself being more and more attracted to her by the second, and somehow he knew that she felt the same way. When his dark brown eyes connected with her sparkling green orbs, there was something magical between them, and they both felt it as they continued to stare at one another despite the fact that Giavonni was standing right in front of their table.
"Eh? Maybe old Giavonni should just leave you two lovebirds alone, no?" the flustered man asked after watching the two for a minute just staring at one another. At that, Carrino got up and said, "That is all right, Giavonni. Could you please keep Seiya company for a few minutes? I have to make a small trip to the lady's room." She jokingly waved good bye to Ogata, and he waved back in the same demeanor as she walked off to the restroom. When she was no longer in sight, Giavonni sat down in her place, a somewhat serious expression on his face as he said to Ogata, "She is quite a young lady, isn't she?" Ogata nodded, somehow feeling comfortable around this older man.
"She is more beautiful than any woman I have ever known, in both body and spirit. I have not even known her for a day, but I feel something wonderful whenever she just looks at me with those eyes..." he said, just as much to himself as to Giavonni. The chubby man looked closely at Ogata, seemingly trying to discern whether or not his attraction towards the girl Giavonni had known for years was merely superficial. That was the last kind of person he would want Carrino to get close to, he knew, and the last person that the young woman would want to be with. But somehow, as he stared at this honest looking man, he knew that Ogata was not coming from that shallow place of affection at all.
"Seiya...can I call you that?" Giavonni asked the young man who was still trying to sort out his own feelings. Ogata nodded. "Seiya, I have known Carrino since she was just nine years old. She has a gentle heart, and is as bright as the sun over the Mediterranean Sea. I can tell just from seeing the way she looks at you that Carrino feels a bond between you two, just as you probably do as well," he started. He took a small sip from Carrino's glass and continued, "She has always been a romantic, which is why she has never been involved with anyone seriously. Don't tell Carrino I said that though, or she would likely slap me blue. She is the kind of woman who would want to hold out for a great romance, destined lovers, or soul mates if you would. It may seem a childish fantasy to some, but Carrino Solleta is that kind of woman. That is what makes her so special." He stopped for a moment, wanting Ogata to consider what he just told him.
"Before today, I would have thought such a thing a childish fantasy indeed, the mere believe that there is such a thing as love at first sight or destined lovers. But..." Ogata stared in the direction of the restroom, seeing Carrino slowly walking back to the table with a beaming smile, "In light of the words of a young friend, and having met this magnificent woman, the two ideas do not seem so absurd to me." Giavonni nodded, believing that this young man could indeed be the man that his little Carrino had been holding out for. He waved at Carrino, motioning that he had to return to the kitchen. But before he left the table, he whispered in Ogata's ear, "Do not let this magnificent woman slip away from you, or you will regret it for the rest of your live." As Ogata looked once again at Carrino walking towards him, he realized that nothing, not even his dream of becoming a professional painter, could compare to the future that he might share with this wonderful woman. "A love that will never end...I hope so." He said the words quietly to himself as he smiled at Carrino.
Five hours later, the two were sitting on a bench near a small lake as the sun was fast setting over the horizon. Few people besides them were around, just a couple of women with small children playing in the distance. After having left the restaurant, Carrino and Ogata had just aimlessly walked through the city, chatting and getting to know each other even more. They had decided to rest here when they came across the lake just an hour ago, and since then the two had been mostly silent, seemingly trying to sort out their own feelings about the day and the special person that each one had met. "Beautiful scenery...I can already see the stars shining down on us," Carrino remarked with a hint of melancholy in her voice when she broke the silence. "Seiya...do you remember the painting that I showed you when we first met this morning at the museum?"
Ogata thought back and remembered almost instantly, "Of course, the Red Winds of the Mediterranean Sea you called it." Carrino smiled, happy that he had remembered. "Yes. I did not tell you why I loved it so much though. Do you want me to tell you?" she asked, and Ogata nodded instantly, wanting to know as much about this young woman as he could. "I have always loved the sea, and the Mediterranean certainly is beautiful," she started as she looked from the small lake to the appearing sea of stars, "But...nothing can compare to the splendor of the crimson glow that illuminates the sea at a given sunset, making the winds themselves turn to red. One will not always see it, but when they do, the sight is really something to behold."
Before she went on to finish, Carrino slowly began to move her left arm to Ogata's right. She brought her slender hand to his and her arm under his as well, so that the two were holding on to each other. Ogata was surprised at the reaction, but made no move to leave her touch. "You see...for me, the painting symbolizes that the best things in life are worth waiting for. No matter how long you have to wait, no matter the hardships, always wait for the crimson sunset over the Mediterranean Sea. Do not settle for anything less." As she finished, Carrino lightly squeezed Ogata's hand with her delicate fingers and kissed him softly on the cheek.
A pleasant sensation went through Ogata's body, and he felt as if nothing in the entire world seemed to matter right now except for the both of them. Hesitantly, he left Carrino's delicate hand and started to bring his right arm across the woman's slender shoulders. She made no move to back away, and as Ogata brought his strong arm around her, she rested her head on his right shoulder. It was now Ogata's turn to lay a story out before their magical encounter, "Carrino...do you believe in star-crossed lovers?" he asked, even though he already knew the answer to that. She nodded, enjoying their soft embrace and listening intently to Ogata at the same time.
He went on, "In Japan, we have a legend called the Tanabata. It is a story about two people, Orihime and Hikoboshi, who are represented by the stars we call Altair and Vega." As he said that, he pointed to some stars that were appearing in the sky. "The two were deeply in love, so deeply in love that they both forgot their responsibilities. The girl's father saw this, and was very angry with them. As punishment, he separated the two by making them live at opposite sides of the Sparkling River of the Heavens, the Milky Way." As he said that, a sad expression came across Carrino's face. Ogata saw this, and quickly went on, "But...every year on the night of July seventh, the two lovers cross the sky and are able to meet once again." Carrino was deeply moved by the story, having always been a fan of romantic fairy tales herself.
Then a realization came to her, "Seiya...is today not July seventh?" she asked with a hint of hopefulness in her soft voice as her head still lay on Ogata's shoulder. He nodded, "Thats right. As we speak, people in Japan are sending out their wishes and respects to the two star-crossed lovers for the annual Festival of the Stars, hopes of romance among them no doubt." His gaze met with Carrino's after that, who was now looking up at him. "But...it seems that I, thousands of miles away from Japan, have found someone whom even the legendary lovers cannot compare to. I can only hope that she feels the same."
With that, Carrino stood up and motioned for Ogata to do the same. She was almost face to face with him now, as the height difference between the two was not significant. As she peered once again into his dark eyes, she put both of her arms around the man's neck and whispered into his ear, "Believe me Seiya...she does." Having answered any doubts that Ogata may have had, Carrino pressed her delicate red lips against his in a passionate kiss that seemed to last for hours. So much passed between them through that intimate connection that no more words were necessary. And when they said goodbye later that evening, both Ogata and Carrino knew in their hearts that their encounter had truly been something special.
The next three months passed quickly, with Ogata and Carrino meeting almost daily. Ogata had not since then attempted to meet with the director of the museum or anyone else for that matter, and made his living by just continuing to draw and sell paintings whenever he was not together with Carrino, and it was successful enough. She was more important to him now than anything. The two would spend the entire day together; going to fine restaurants, parks, lakes, and the occasional festival. But no matter the location or event, the air of lovers grew thicker and thicker around them.
It was early October now, and the two were going on a weekend cruise. "The Enchanting Mediterranean Sea Cruise? I think you overestimate how much money a wandering painter makes," Ogata had jokingly said to Carrino when she showed him the brochure a few weeks ago. "Hey now Seiya, do you think I would suggest this without having taken care of the expenses already? You know me better than that I hope," she had said, and had purposely left out how she had the money to spend, knowing that Ogata would not press her about it. She had talked little in the last few months about her family, known as the Italian Red Nobles. Ogata had been surprised to find out that Carrino was an aristocrat, but he realized that it was a subject she wanted to avoid, and that she had only mentioned it because she wanted there to be no secrets between them. He also knew that they did not approve of their relationship, so it was a silent rule between them not to talk about it and risk ruining the mood.
Ogata was standing now in front of the large cruise ship; still waiting for Carrino to come back from the small shop that was set up a few minutes away from the docks. She had said that she needed to buy something before they left, and had insisted that there was enough time left before the ship departed. "Only five minutes left..." Ogata said quietly to himself as he looked around to see if Carrino was coming back. "I wonder what she needed to get." Just as he said it, he saw Carrino in the distance walking back to him, effortlessly making her way through the crowded port while carrying a curious looking bag.
When she was standing once again with her partner, the steam whistle started to blow. "Whew...looks like I made it just in time," she remarked cheerfully to Ogata. "I was almost about to leave you behind, my lovely Carrino," he teased, which bought him a playful kick from her as they walked up the steps to the cruise ship. "Anyway, what did you need to buy?" he asked as they stepped on the boat. "Well now, what indeed?" was all she answered, and Ogata knew her better than to bother asking any more about it. The ship departed shortly after they and the rest of the passengers were on board, into the majestic Mediterranean Sea.
"So this is O-sashimi? Is this good, Seiya?" Carrino was curiously asking Ogata a few hours later as they were having lunch in the luxurious dining room of the ship. She had ordered a Japanese dish that was actually on the menu, wanting to at least once eat food from the land that was home to the person she now cared so deeply about. "It is, but you should add some of this," he said as he took a little bit of the raw fish and dipped it twice in two small cups that were on the plate. "Wasabi and soy sauce...without them, it would taster rather flat." He held the piece out to Carrino, and she took it without hesitation.
"Mmm...it is definitely something for an acquired taste, though I am already starting to like it," she said as she was already getting another piece ready, "But then again, in the last few months I have learned that everything from Japan is something that I can easily grow to love," she said with a wink to Ogata as she started chewing on the second piece of fish. He chuckled, and looked out of the dining room window to the gentle waves of the sea, once again reflecting on the wonderful memories him and Carrino had made in so short a time, "I came to Italy to become a professional painter, which had been my dream ever since I was a little boy drawing pictures of my mother. But now...that dream seems like a single wave in the ocean when compared to what I have found in its stead."
Hearing Ogata's romantic analogy, Carrino bent over the table and gave him a soft romantic kiss, which turned more than a few heads in the ship's rather crowded dining room. When she released Ogata from her gentle lips, she said, "This is the first time that you have mentioned your mother, Seiya. She must be a beautiful and kind woman." Ogata nodded, "She is. I used to paint pictures of her all the time when I was a child, and even still before I left five years ago. She was my greatest support when I made the decision to leave home to travel the world. I hope that she is doing well." Carrino smiled warmly, but something about the look in her eyes told him that she had a very different kind of relationship with her parents. He knew that it was not something she wanted to talk about, though, so he respected her silent wish.
"I...would like to be painted by your hand as well, Seiya." Carrino remarked quietly to Ogata, almost as if she was shy, which was definitely not like her at all. Ogata looked at her curiously, "You know I would love to paint a portrait of you, Carrino. I mentioned that I wanted to a few weeks after we first met, but you said..." The young woman cut him short, "I said...that I wanted to wait for a special occasion, a special time and place to be drawn by the hand of the man I love." She pointed out of the window, the waves of the Mediterranean flowing gently under the afternoon sky. "The special place," she remarked.
After a few seconds she added quietly, almost to herself, "A special time." Ogata heard the words, but did not consider that they meant anything in particular. "I'm sorry...I did not think about it, so I did not bring any canvases or brushes along," he sadly remarked, realizing that this would have meant a lot to Carrino. To his surprise, she smiled instead and pointed to the bag that was next to table, which she had not left in their quarters when both of them had unpacked their luggage. "I thought that you might, which is why I went to that little shop near the harbor before we left. They had nothing fancy, but I hope that these will do."
She gave the bag to Ogata, and he pulled out the small canvas, brushes, and a nice selection of paint. He nodded as he looked to each one of the tools of art, making sure that they would suffice before putting them back into the bag. "When do you want me to start?" Ogata asked Carrino after a few minutes. "Tonight...after the sun has set," she quietly answered as she was taking a small sip from a glass of water. Ogata nodded, having no way of knowing that the evening him and Carrino were going to share would be one that neither one of them would ever forget.
"You know...this room has more decorations than my entire apartment," Ogata remarked a few hours later as he was setting up for the painting in their quarters. It was a beautiful room, with several paintings across the walls, golden vases on the table and desk, and a gorgeous red carpet with a unique design that Ogata had never seen before. The single bed was very large, more than twice as big as the one Ogata used in his small apartment, and then there was also the medium sized couch that Ogata was sitting on. "Maybe my dear Seiya's home just needs a woman's touch," Carrino answered back from inside the bathroom, where she had been for the last thirty minutes since they had come to their quarters after having watched the beautiful sunset on the deck of the cruise ship.
Ogata was finished setting up now, having had to improvise of course on his layout. He'd put one of the small chairs at the foot of the bed, where Carrino would sit and pose for him. Another chair was tipped upside down in front of him, on which he had stacked several books to rest the canvas against. The different colors and brushes were in front of his feet, so he made sure not to make any sudden movements in fear of putting a stain on the expensive looking carpet. "I think this will do. How much longer are you going to take? You are too beautiful for much makeup, so I doubt thats what you're doing in there. Are the clothes taking a long time to get on?" Ogata asked somewhat impatiently, wanting to finally paint this beautiful woman who meant so much to him.
"Well...the latter is certainly not the case," she quietly said to herself as she took one final look at the large mirror in the equally sized bathroom. Her long light brownish hair hung loosely down over her shoulders and was still a little bit wet from the quick shower she had taken, her regular fine curls not even being visible. She realized as she took that final look at her reflection that what she was about to do would change everything, and it was that realization that gave her the nerve to step out of the bathroom and into the luxurious room where her precious Seiya was waiting for her. "I'm ready, Seiya," she softly said to him as she walked towards the bed to move the chair Ogata had set up aside.
"A bathrobe? Are you sure you..." his voice trailed off and he thought that it might never come back to him as he watched Carrino slowly slide off the red bathrobe that she wearing as she laid down at the foot of the bed, then dropping it to the floor. His gaze never followed the robe, though, his dark eyes being locked on Carrino who was now wearing nothing except her light brown skin that was spread evenly across her entire slender body. Without even realizing that he was doing it Ogata's gaze shifted from Carrino's blushing face and beautiful hair, looking for minutes at each and every lovely inch of the young woman's undressed figure.
"Ca...Carrino," he managed to stammer after a few minutes as he managed to compose himself just a little, his face red and warm. She was blushing slightly as well, but smiled regardless and said, "A special place, and a very special time. I want you to paint me like this, Seiya, so that I may always remember the first night that I gave myself to the man whom I will always love more than life itself." With that, Carrino laid down sideways on the bed, one hand under the side of her head for support and the other lying freely across her body. She gave Ogata a look that nearly made him melt in spite of himself, her wondrous green orbs more enchanting now than ever as they gazed at him to take in his entire existence.
Without realizing fully what he was doing, Ogata picked up one of the brushes and started painting the beautiful nude form of Carrino lying before him. She laid perfectly still on the bed and did not say a word, wanting this painting to be perfect and not wanting to distract the already shaken young man. Ogata was equally silent as he started to draw a perfect outline of the young woman, applying all of his skill and discipline despite the thoughts that were flying around in his head. Within a few minutes, he had finished the delicate area below her slender waistline, and was now working his way up to her gentle face and flowing hair.
When he was finished drawing the outlines of Carrino's body, he stopped to look at her closely again before moving on to the details. Her previous words echoed in his mind. A special time...the first night that I gave myself to the man whom I will always love more than life itself. Ogata swallowed hard and his mind was racing, but after a few seconds he continued to paint, now working on the details and coloring. Within an hour, he was almost finished. As he looked from the still unmoving form of Carrino to the painting before him, he realized that this was one of his finest works ever. He had detailed everything in so short a time, from the delicate parts of the young woman's magnificent body, to her enticing small chest and her slender waistline. And even though Carrino was now as Ogata had never seen her before, he put the most detail still into what drew him to the woman in the first place; her vibrant green eyes. He had few colors to work with, but he mixed them so that beaming glow of her orbs would shine more brightly than anything else would on this very unique painting.
He sat still on the soft couch for several minutes before laying down the brush, staring back and forth between Carrino and the now finished painting. "I'm...finished," he hesitantly said to her as he took one last look at the canvas. Carrino started to pull herself up, seeming not at all cramped or uncomfortable from having laid still for over an hour. Ogata handed the painting over to her, not quite knowing what to expect. As she looked over the drawing, almost a perfect reflection of her undressed figure, she nearly cried tears of joy. Because what she saw was not herself bearing her all to her precious Seiya. Carrino saw this painting as a symbol of how much this man cared for her, how much he adored everything about her. And more so than anything else, it symbolized to her how far they had come in these last few months, and where they were about to go.
She stood up and put the magnificent painting against the wall, then walked back to Ogata who was just looking at her. She smiled down at him and motioned for him to stand up. When he did, she started to slowly unbutton his white shirt. Ogata made no move to stop her. When Carrino was finished, she went around him and took off the shirt to expose the young man's muscled back. She then put both of her arms around Ogata and pressed her head and chest against him. As he felt Carrino's intimate touch, a sensation that he had never felt before went through his entire body. She whispered softly in his ear, "I love you. I am yours now Seiya, body and soul. All I ask in return is the same from you." All hesitation and nervousness was gone from Ogata now as everything started to unfold before him, and he said softly with great affection, "Over the great Mediterranean Sea, I swear that I will always be yours as I am now. Carrino...I love you."
With that, no more words needed to be said between the two lovers. They became as one as they started sharing with each other the love that had grown in them since they had met on that fateful day three months ago. Over the magnificent Mediterranean Sea and under the river of stars, Carrino and Ogata connected to form an intimate bond that would forever bind the two together.
"Isn't she beautiful Seiya? Look at those eyes..." Carrino was crying as she said it, marveling at the spectacle of the newborn child. Ogata did not hold back any tears either, and was barely able to get any words out his mouth as he looked and said with a lump in his throat, "My daughter...our daughter, Carrino!" The nurse that was standing by and smiled, understanding well what the couple was feeling. "I will leave you three alone for a few minutes. The docotor will come in a little while," she said and exited the hospital room, leaving Carrino and Ogata with their baby girl, who was not crying at all and was just staring back and forth between the two people that were now her parents in this world so new to her.
"She looks so much like her mother..." Ogata remarked as he wiped a few tears from his eyes, referring in part to the baby's skin, which was even slightly darker than her mother's. Carrino, who was holding the baby in her arms on the hospital bed nodded and added, "But I can see her father in her very well." She smiled with tears coming down her cheeks and pointed to the girl's head, "See...she is going to have black hair like you, Seiya." He gently stroked the newborn's thin hair. "She is going to be so beautiful, Carrino. Maybe even more so than her magnificent mother," he said teasingly. But Carrino agreed fully, "I know she will, in mind and body. Both of us will see to that."
"Have you thought of a name?" Carrino asked Ogata as she was playing with her daughter's fingers happily. "Not yet, but I was think..." he stopped as he saw the calendar hanging on the hospital door. He walked up to it and a beaming smile came across his face as he saw the date. "Seventh...July! Carrino, it is July seventh!" he cried. Carrino smiled warmly at him, remembering once again that important day one year ago, "The day that we first met and instantly fell in love. The Tanabata. Hikoboshi and..." They both said it in unison as they looked at their newborn baby girl, "Orihime." The child smiled after hearing the name and waved both of her tiny hands out in front of her, telling both of her parents that she accepted the name they had given her. Ogata remarked, "When we first met that day, you told me that names are important things. I think that our Orihime already understands just how meaningful her name is."
"Orihime...you may never know exactly how much you mean to both of us. To think that the first time your father and I..." she left the words hanging in the air, both of them fully aware that it had been almost exactly nine months since that romantic night aboard the cruise ship. Ogata smiled and said, "Somehow I have the feeling that our daughter will come to love the Mediterranean Sea even more than you do." Both of them marveled at the sight of their Orihime until Carrino was forced to break the silence, having no choice but to lay before them the not so joyful side of this day as a somewhat grim look came over her face, "I think that my parents may be on their way to the hospital. The nurse probably contacted them by now, considering that one of the famous Red Nobles is having a baby here."
Ogata frowned. He had not actually met Carrino's parents yet, but he knew that they did not approve of his and her relationship whatsoever. Even though she was in her twenties already and on her own, according to family traditions and her own nobility she would have to make decisions for the rest of her life in consideration of the Red Nobles. And falling in love and having a baby with a wandering artist from Japan certainly seemed rather shameful to them. When he considered all of that, he certainly understood why she had wanted to avoid the subject before.
"They will not a approve of our relationship even now, will they?" Ogata asked with an uncharacteristic grim undertone to his voice, an unpleasant attitude that was brought forth whenever they were forced to talk about her family. Carrino was still staring at Orihime, the newborn baby slowly falling asleep in her mother's arms. She had no real answers for her beloved Seiya, the subject being as depressing to her as it was to him. "I am not sure what we should do." Before she could go on, the door opened and into the room stepped the leader of the Soletta household, Carrino's father. Before even looking at his daughter who had just given birth to his grandchild, he sent a cold stare at the man he knew to be Seiya Ogata.
"Father...it is good to see you," Carrino lied, wanting to draw the pressure off Ogata, "Where is mother?" Without turning to face her, he answered, "She stayed at home. She did not want to meet this...man." Ogata's shoulders stiffened at the condescending tone of the older man's voice, but he did not say anything for Carrino and Orihime's sake. Carrino was not willing to ignore it though, "You should show this man some respect, father. And you and mother are just going to have to accept..." She was broken of harshly, "We will accept nothing! You are a proud member of the Soletta family. For the sake of the Italian Red Nobles' reputation, and for the sake of your newborn child, cast this wandering artist aside!"
"Now...what is all this commotion?" The doctor entered the room, and saw that this new person was the one making all the noise and said, "I am assuming that you are Miss Soletta's father? I am sorry, but you will have to leave if you continue to yell. It is not good for the baby." The young woman cast a disarming smile the older man's way and he actually did calm down. "I have to ask the mother and father a few questions, so please step out for a moment. You can come right back in after I'm done." The angry man hesitated, but stepped out of the room at the doctor's request.
"Well, he is not very pleasant, now is he?" she asked the two with a humorous edge to her statement when the man was gone. Both Carrino and Ogata looked each other in the eyes seriously, knowing this way anything but humorous. As they thought about their situation, the first real roadblock in the way of the magical romance that the two shared neither one could think of an easy way around it. But as Ogata looked from his beloved Carrino to his newborn daughter, Orihime, he knew that there was only one thing he could do if the Soletta family did not accept him that could ensure both of them happiness and well being.
"Ogata-san? Where are you going?" Angelina was in front his house that stormy morning as she saw the young man; not looking his usual well groomed self. His hair was not well combed, and the little girl noticed that he had not shaved in a few days. But what hit her was the fact that he was carrying two bags full of luggage. "Are you leaving for somewhere? With Miss Carrino?" she asked hopefully. She did not know of any of the recent developments, but prior to the birth of their child, Ogata had spoken of Carrino with Angelina many times. Hearing the mention of his lover's name, Ogata nearly started to cry, but he held back as he said to his little friend, "I am afraid I must say goodbye. You have been a very good friend to me, Angelina. I am leaving Italy today to go back to Japan."
A sad expression came over her face, and Ogata bent down to give the girl that was partly responsible for his magical romance a big hug. "I won't forget you, my little friend." He said nothing further, and started walking away from the apartment that had been his home for more than a year, leaving a sobbing Angelina in the falling rain. She yelled after him, "CIAO! Ogata-san!" Ogata turned around to wave farewell to Angelina, then started walking towards his second and final goodbye before leaving Italy. If parting with his close friend had been sad, then having to leave his daughter and the woman he loved more than life itself would be heart breaking. But he knew that this was what had to be done.
He arrived in front of Carrino's large house around afternoon, and the rain was coming down even harder now than before, seeming almost to symbolize the feelings Ogata had. He was about to knock on the large door, but at the last minute he changed his mind. "I can't...if I look into Carrino's eyes, there is no way I can go through with this!" he cried aloud, and lightning struck somewhere in the distance as he shouted it out. At that moment, he remembered something that had been said to him when he first met Carrino that wonderful day more than a year ago. Do not let this magnificent woman slip away from you, or you will regret it for the rest of your live. "I will regret this for the rest of my life," he said aloud to himself, "But for their sake, I must do this."
He took out a letter from the left pocket of his black pants, something that Ogata had prepared for this situation. "Please forgive me, you two. I hope I am making the right decision," he said as he put the letter under the doorway. He took one final look at the house, imagining what the three of them might have had and tears started coming out his eyes. He then turned around, walking away from his daughter and the magnificent woman whom he would love forever. "Seiya!" yelled the familiar voice as the door of the house opened. "Please, don't go!" Carrino screamed as she started to run after him, stopping only to pick up the letter that she knew was Ogata's. Despite his previous resolve, he turned around to look at the young woman, who was crying even more than he was.
"I can't stay, Carrino. I begged and I pleaded with them, but they will not accept me. If I do not leave now, you and Orihime would be miserable forever," he said as he took the young woman in his arms one last time. "I understand it Seiya! But this isn't fair...it can not end this way! All I want is for the three of us to be together forever!" she cried as she tightly hugged Ogata. "In my heart Carrino, there will never be room for anyone but you and Orihime." he promised her, and she squeezed him even tighter and cried, "I will never be able to love anyone but you either Seiya. Never!" The two of them embraced each other for what seemed like hours. Neither of them said any more words, wanting to enjoy the last moments together and not wanting to talk any more about how their fairy tale romance had turned into this despicable tragedy. When they realized they could not hold this embrace forever, they shared one final passionate kiss under the storm, the heavy raindrops acting as the curtain that closed on their destined romance.
That night Carrino was sitting in her rocking chair, holding in her arms the proof of the love that would exist forever between her and Ogata. She held up the letter that he had left and said to the child, "Orihime...this is what your father has left for us. We should read this together." The girl looked up at her beautiful mother, so sad and broken now, understanding exactly what the woman was saying. Carrino started to read aloud the letter with tears in her beautiful green eyes:
My Dearest Carrino,
If you are reading this, then it must mean that I did not have the courage to face you before leaving Italy. I knew that if I looked into those beautiful green eyes of yours that I would not be able to go carry out my resolve.
I visited your parents, you probably know of this. They hardly even listened to me when I asked them if they would allow me to marry you. I thought that if I made clear my feelings of wanting to be with you forever that they might change their minds. To them, I am just a poor wandering painter after all though. And then, as they were about to throw me out of their mansion, they told me that I was never allowed to see you and Orihime again.
You must know...no one in the entire world could tell me to stay away from you, not even your parents. But then I considered the consequences. What might those bitter fools do if we did continue our relationship? Disown you and Orihime? Take away everything you have? I don't know that they would go that far...but when I thought of the two people I love more than anything in this world suffering because of me even in the least...I had to make the decision to pull away.
I can't even write this without crying. I just wish I would be able to rip this piece of paper apart as well as this entire situation...but I cannot.
The last year...looking back at it now, it seems almost like a dream. I remember your words when you first walked up behind me that glorious day. I was daydreaming then about seeing my paintings hanging in that museum, as that day could have been an important step on my road of becoming a professional painter, something that I care for little now. "I don't know who this Seiya Ogata is, but I must say I like that sound of it as well," was what you said I believe. Your beautiful voice captivated me instantly, and I knew then somehow already that our meeting was something truly special.
The months that followed...I remember them so vividly. Almost every day we would meet, and we were carefree, except for the underlying thought of your parents of course. But I don't want to think about that now. Our love continued to grow and grow...and then came the magical night that we joined our body and soul. Do you still treasure that painting now, I wonder? To think that our first intimate act of love brought about the birth of our Orihime...she is one special child indeed. She is the product of our fantastic romance.
Orihime...she will grow up to become a wonderful lady, just like you. I sense something strange in her...something that I cannot begin to explain, but something that is very beautiful. I leave her in your loving hands...I am sure that even by yourself you can raise Orihime and bring out her potential in life to the fullest. But I must wonder...what will this girl think of her father? When she is old enough to realize it, what will she think of this weak Japanese man who left her and her mother all alone? Will she hate me, Carrino? I will be able to understand her anger if the time ever comes.
I must end this letter now. Carrino...I am leaving Italy, but please understand that in my heart I will never leave you and Orihime. There is no room in that place for anyone else now, and there never will be. Our romance...it always has been like a fairy tale. Like the Tanabata...we have been separated now, but we will surely not be apart forever. I cannot say we will meet once every year like the stars Vega and Altair, but I know in my heart that someday we will be reunited. I will continue to love you until that time comes...and if it never does, then I will die having once known a romance that most people can only dream of. I will paint pictures of you everyday to keep you close to me...and I will write to you whenever I can and hope that the letters reach you. And I will say one last time...that I will love you and Orihime for all eternity. My lovely Carrino...farewell.
Forever yours, Seiya
As I am writing this, I can hardly believe that I am finally finished. And I say that with some regret, because these past few weeks have been very special. I put a lot of time and effort into this work, and enjoyed every single minute I spent on it.
This is my second Sakura Wars fan fiction now. Now...some of you may ask, why did I choose these two characters? Carrino Soletta and Seiya Ogata...you see, these two people are very special to me in many ways. First of all, they are the parents of my personal favorite Sakura Wars character, Orihime. Second, their story and dilemma has intrigued me ever since I first played Sakura Wars 2, a classic story of a love that was not allowed to be. The way that the Tanabata legend is incorporated in everything centering around Orihime and them I thought fascinating. But most of all, they symbolize to me the essence of the ideal love...pure, honest, never-ending.
I am a hopeless romantic, I will admit that. But that is why I love fiction, Sakura Wars included, and it is the reason why I wrote Star Crossed Lovers. I was determined to write a complete story about the romance between these two special people, and I can only hope that I did them justice. From their magical encounter to their unfortunate separation, I tried to make their story as romantic and heart warming as possible. This meant adding elements of symbolism and even a certain measure of destiny, but in the end I think that I stayed true to what their relationship was. I wanted to make Carrino very cheerful and funny, as Ogata said she had been all those years ago, and a very romantic person. Originally, I thought that this meant making young Carrino a mirror image of the Orihime we know and love, but I realized quickly how idiotic it would have been. Carrino is not Orihime after all.
Ogata I wrote as a man who had a solitary dream of becoming a professional painter, as was mentioned in Sakura Wars 2. This magnificent woman enchants him almost instantly, and his dream pales in comparison. This was obviously another element from the Tanabata legend, just like Hikoboshi stopped working to be with his lover. This was conjecture, of course, as Ogata had never actually mentioned that was the case.
One thing I really want to mention is the Red Winds of the Mediterranean Sea. This is, as every Sakura Wars fan should know, a famous line of Orihime, and also her stage outfit in Shonen Red. In my story, it was a painting that Carrino loved because of what it symbolized to her. Orihime loves her "MaMa" more than anything else, and later grows to love the father she had not seen since she was born. The Mediterranean, as I display in this story, means a lot to both of her parents, which is why I did it.
I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I liked writing it. I am content now, having wanted to write about the romance of Carrino and Ogata for a long time already. Star Crossed Lovers took me about two months total to complete, which includes my original drafts, my additions, and edits. I feel that it is complete now, and it was worth every minute to me. Let me know what you thought about it.
By Oliver Chooi (firstname.lastname@example.org) June 25th 2002
(This and my other fanfics can be found at iorisama.fateback.com)