Four years ago, Lan was a happy man. A useless, nothing of a man, but happy. The reason why always made him feel guilty. When no one expects anything of you, you start to expect nothing of yourself. And thus, Lan’s destructive impulses started much, much earlier than four years ago.
Lan Satake’s father was a very, very successful man. As CEO of the Satake Group, Satake Toshio worked for his fortune. Everything was business. Everything was negotiation. Everything had a price. Toshio held himself confidently no matter where he was, he had brought the group kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
As dependent as Japan was on rice, land was at a premium. Toshio’s father recognized this and taught him enough to know that not production, but harvesting and fabrication were the future, but he was not grateful for his predecessors. The rice his machines processed in other countries were only possible from the first power driven mill. Times change, cities expand, rural becomes suburban, becomes urban. Food once local is now imported, so the machines can be exported. A shifting landscape of business. Everything was business. Relationships, especially, were business.
It was inevitable for heirs or heiresses, presidents, CEOs, and their offspring to mingle with each other. The world didn’t evolve without it, true deals were face-to-face, anything less was insulting. Accompanying his plainly suited father, Toshio shadowed along behind him in a perfectly-fitted tuxedo, observing his movements and mannerisms.
His father had chided him for his choice in clothing, but it was formal, and acceptable. Toshio thought his father’s choice of a simple suit was a.. lower representation of the Satake name. His father would chuckle and shake his head. When no one expects anything of you, his father would reply, you can do anything.
Toshio would nod and listen, but he intended to be his own man. After all, personal growth is as important as corporate growth. But even after business school across the ocean, he came with only historical knowledge, market analysis. Toshio valued that, but it was the experience in person of watching his father work that he took in like a sponge.
It was much to his chagrin that early on accompanying his father, Toshio would be delegated to those heir’s princes, the CEO’s sons and daughters. There had been a few he had kept his eye on, who were just as intent on succeeding as he was. Then there were the boys and girls of leisure that wanted nothing to do with where the money came from, just that it kept them in the lifestyle that they were accustomed to: doing anything at anytime to anyone, anywhere they saw fit.
The latter disgusted him, he’d smile and nod, most knew English, and he was fluent, but their conversations would eventually drift into the latest car, or mansion, or plaything they had acquired. Toshio would find an excuse to withdraw from the conversation, neither leaving a positive or negative impression on them. Neutrality, his father taught, is a simple skill to play with, but hard to master.
Except, he found, when it came to Emma Matsui nee Greene.
She stared down at the vegetable plate one of the servers had handed her. Specifically, the cucumber slices. Picking one up and popping it into her mouth, she considered her surroundings. Perfectly dressed, perfectly acted, perfectly choreographed. She was used to it at this point, but this moment in time, cucumber slice in mouth, it came to her.
Everyone here is.. well, a cucumber. She smiled proudly to herself at this comparison. To her, it made perfect sense.
On their own, cucumbers are.. mildly tasteless. They can be interesting, even bitter if the rind is left on. Her eyes scanned the crowd until she found what she was looking for: an impeccably dressed older woman, drink in hand, frown on her face. Bitter. And nothing.
But, cucumbers can be.. developed. Refined. Or perverted. Take.. pickles, for example. A slumped man at the bar fingered his drink – certainly not his first and if the bartender was worth his salt, hopefully his last. Disheveled and here for the booze. They can be fun, but too much salt in the brine.. hm.
Or as a Tzatziki. A light, fluffy yogurt-based-- athletic looking man, obviously proud of his physique and.. she stifled a smirk at his overly sprayed on tan.
And then there were the reasons why cool as a cucumber was a saying. Why they were refreshing, lending to a fresh scent, placed over eyes at spas, and were so.. recognizable.
Emma set her small plate on a cocktail table nearby, watching the motions of a sharply dressed Asian man in a tuxedo. He flit from conversation to conversation, mingling with his elders as well as his own age. It was intriguing. He adjusted his glasses in minutiae, with gloved hands, she knew exactly what was going on. That man—boy, she mused. He thinks he’s better than they are.
Glancing at her own parents briefly, she linked her fingers behind her back and started after him, but not to engage in conversation. A game. He had observational skills, so, the young 26-year-old Emma Matsui set off after her target.
She’s not as stealthy as she thinks she is, Toshio thought. As he moved around the room, so did she, in an opposite direction. Caucasian women weren’t unheard of at these types of parties, it wasn’t unheard of that people of varying skin color all came together for the color green after all. Money transcended all petty squabbles in the end.
Introducing himself, he stopped at one group, mostly older gentlemen, but he smiled and nodded at their recognition of his namesake, only to continue their previous conversation as if he weren’t there.
Even as he spoke up about the expanding reach of NTT Docomo, which usually garnered a response or a compliment were met with non-committal ‘mm’s or ‘ah’s before the conversation was steered to another topic.
What was this? Toshio did his research, so why were they disregarding him? The realization of it crawled up the back of his neck. What is different about me and you? Experience? Years? Do wrinkles add that much trust in method analysis than my conclusion would? He churned in his own mind, hearing his teeth grinding up his jaw to his ears.
She had to tug her dress up a bit to keep up with him, slipping from group to group, but unlike him, she simply remained unseen. The burgundy dress was muted, not at all billowy. Emma refused to wear heels, even though her mother would always protest that a tall, demure girl is quite attractive these days.
The way she dressed and looked was the least of her worries in almost 90% of situations. She knew when to look good, but more importantly, she knew how to talk.
Skirting behind a relatively tall, broad-shouldered man, Emma opened a compact to examine her face, frowning as she catches the man turning a bit to see who is behind him. He cleared his throat at her gaze and turns back to his companions. Tilting the mirror to the side, she scanned the guests and found him, grinning at her discovery until she noticed his expression.
Emma closed her compact and slipped it into her clutch, turning to look right at him. That’s the face when you’re trying to hide something, she wondered. She knew because that was the face she would see in the mirror when something didn’t go right for her. Downcast, tight, squinted eyes, his whole body was taut, even as he tried to hide the balled fist behind him. What had they said to him? Or was it that they hadn’t?
Toshio was faced with a choice, not one he was used to facing. Walk away and know that his mind would come up with every conceivable disappointing judgement without them having to say a word, or bow your head like the young man he felt like, nodding and smiling. His vision shook side to side as he looked at their shoes, Toshio didn’t see red. He lost focus, and it was only getting worse as they felt much taller than him, though they had the same stature. Bow out, useless, you tried. Go back to the unknowing idiot childr—
He felt an arm slide around his taut bicep, his slowly-easing vision following gloves matching his own up to a bare shoulder and a burgundy dress. Facing him, was the white girl from before, she’s taller than me, he thought, her hair pulled up in a simple ponytail but tied with a gorgeous large bow. He squinted at her in confusion before she leaned forward to his ear, causing him to hitch back before she grabbed his arm harder.
“If you show them your indignation,” she murmured in perfect Japanese. “They win. Breathe. You’re surprised to see me, aren’t you, nod your head.”
The nerve of this woman, telling him what to-- His dark eyes glanced at her, who met his look with her own tremendous gaze. Dark blue rings surrounded the stunning green center of her eyes, and watching them slowly made his fist uncurl, his jaw unclench. A brunette eyebrow raised at him: Understand?
Toshio nodded once, then turned to the men who were quite interested in the latest addition to their conversation, and bowed slightly to them. “Gentlemen, I have previous business to attend to, I hope you enjoy the rest of your night.” They bowed slightly back, and he didn’t dare look up, turning with the insistence of his newfound acquaintance, away from the situation altogether.
- a recovering disaster? / twitter: @rgdrac
apologies for everything about me, it might get better.
updates will be once a day for the next seventy days since i am migrating from another platform and have those chapters - and more - ready to go. (from 8/9)
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