“Explain,” she demands. If Reo didn't have her full attention before, he certainly does now. It was a strange look for her, one he rarely saw.
“Lan is bringing.. a..” What even was the word for Saya? From what Reo saw, they weren't friends, just neighbors living as the only two people in that flimsy apartment complex. “An acquaintance of his,” he finally settles on, mentally prepping for the barrage of questions incoming.
“Acquaintance? We are talking about the same Lan, correct?” Reo didn't answer, nor did she wait for one. “I thought Toshio rents the whole complex he lives in. And he doesn't go out..”
Aiko talks out her thought plan, hesitating here and there, but ultimately coming up short. Reo can't help but let his mouth quirk up a bit at his mother so confused she was speechless. There were quite a few faces he was seeing from her today.
Sighing as he relents, Reo rests his forearms on his knees and laces his gloved fingers together, wondering how to put this. “It's his neighbor.”
The look of confusion doesn't leave his mother's face, so he continues. “When Lan wanted to.. escape..” Reo grimaces, as if the last word tasted bad. “And Father rented out the apartment complex, they weren't all open.” Before she can speak, he holds up his hand. “Most of the tenants took the buyout, as expected. And I'm not sure how this all went under the radar, but one remained.”
His mother picks up her tea and listens intently as her face eases, no longer confused but more recalling how it all played out. “Have you met this.. man, woman?” Aiko asks.
She's fishing now, Reo recognizes. “I have, they didn't know me, or Lan, or really anything Father has done. Just that Lan was well.. reclusive, as he is wont to be.”
“And just like that,” she waves a hand in the air, “He offers to bring them here? You make it sound like they're nothing but passing strangers, Reo.”
She's not wrong, he thinks, he picks up his own cup and saucer and pauses, tilting his head. “They're.. not strangers. Not friends, either, but..” She's the first female to talk to him in the last nine months, “They haven't ever been to Hiroshima, apparently, and Mountain Day is soon..”
Aiko rolls her eyes at that. The irony is far from lost on the Satake family in Hiroshima. They may be surrounded by hills and mountains, but they were barely above sea level where they lived.
“..and Father asked if he wanted to come. This time he said yes.” Reo sips his tea and sets it back down onto the table as his mother examines him, not replying.
“Miho!” she calls towards the sliding doors. Reo watches as it opens to a woman around the same age as his mother, a woman Reo regarded more than once as pure evil. If his mother was now head of the household, Miho was her vice president.
“Ma'am,” she answers, bowing to the two of them.
“Over the next week, I need the house spotless. All three wings. Nothing like the simple turn we do every week or two.. we are expecting..”
She levels her gaze at her son, who looks over at Miho, and back to his mother.
Toshio's driver pulls into the family courtyard around 7pm, which was normal for him. What wasn't normal was what awaited him. The first surprise of the day was what could only be Reo's car there, and the second was the lack of attendants that usually preceded his arrival.
“A moment, sir.” his driver states, getting out himself and hurriedly around to Toshio's side, thumbing open a large umbrella and only then opening the car door.
He turns and steps out onto the gravel, under the umbrella as he scans the front of his home. They're always so punctual, he thinks as he starts forward towards the entrance, looking down at Reo's car. His driver follows behind, keeping Toshio out of the rain.
His bare hand hovers over part of the hood of Reo's car as he continues walking, mildly warm, his son had been here an hour or two, at least.
He stops and squints into the open doors of his house – of people scrambling both left and right, but he couldn't make out the shapes. The reason didn't bother him.
Toshio tilts his head back and hmms to himself, thinking. When nothing comes, he speaks to his driver. “Guests, are we expecting guests?” That was the only conclusion he could come to for Reo being here and the chaos inside.
The driver fishes in his breast pocket and thumbs open a small notebook, all while keeping himself and his boss dry with the umbrella, though he does talk to himself: “No, no.. that was yesterday.. the next few.. no..?” He shakes his head, shrugging as well. “No, sir, as far as I know there are no guests on their way.”
A fit? A tizzy? Toshio smirks a bit at that. It wasn't being Aiko to have those, but it does make him wonder if Reo was a part of it, or was the cause of it.
He starts on towards the entrance of his home, the umbrella following him as their shoes crunch gravel underfoot.
Toshio steps out of his shoes and into slippers, watching as the housemaids and attendants run around in front of him. He doesn't move for a while, still trying to figure out why. The family had guests on the regular but it was always with warning, he thinks. And the way they all move in front of him is simple panic.
He peers around the corner to where Aiko would host guests, assuming Reo and his wife were there. The occasional attendant skids to a stop in the entrance and bows to him before resuming their duty.
The Satake household had entertained corporate influencers, dignitaries, even foreign ambassadors now and then, but never at this pace. He passes the kitchen which is hard at work on entrees, soup.. Are they coming tomorrow? He guesses.
Before he gets to the closed doors of the living room, Miho appears before him. She doesn't bow, nor does he expect it, she had been with the family long enough that it didn't matter.
“Apologies, sir, we weren't alerted to his arrival until just a while ago. So we're all making sure the house is ready when he gets here.”
Toshio just smiles and nods, “So who are we hosting this..” And his face drops immediately. He digs in his pocket and fishes out his phone, unlocking it. Reading, much less replying to texts or e-mails wasn't the septuagenarian's strength, but he flicks through the alerts.
When Lan's name comes up, Toshio thumbs the screen and blinks at the response: Yeah, I'll be there.
His father looks behind him, and then down the hall past Miho, all of this activity obviously explained by who was coming, but it told him more than that.
Reo is here, he thinks, and Aiko knows of this.
The patriarch of the family inhales slowly through his nose as he puts his phone away, exhaling slowly. He looks at the closed living room doors, then to Miho.
“Tea, if you wouldn't mind,” he asks. She nods and blends into the bustling hallway, disappearing into the kitchen.
Toshio himself moves to the living room door and slides it open to find his wife on one side, and his second son on the other. Both turn to regard him and bow slightly, even if they don't get up to do so.
He steps in and slides the door closed behind him, though the old house's construction does little to mask the fact that the family's attendants are scrambling around the house.
“I'm home,” he nods to his wife. Turning to Reo, “I saw your car in the driveway, and I'm assuming all of this,” he points upwards and spins his finger in a slow circle: referencing all of the soft cacophony behind the door. “..is because we are expecting a guest.”
Aiko was the first to speak up, turning and patting her knees excitedly as she smiles up at Toshio, announcing:
The plural part catches Toshio off guard as it did his wife. His brow creases in thought as he cycles through Lan's relationships. He knows Lan had distant friends, but none he kept up with, but his son was secretive as it is. Toshio relents that he may not know who Lan is bringing.
Reo seemed his normal self, but Aiko was absolutely ecstatic. He smiles at her, and couldn't fault her excitement. Over the years, she had tried so, so hard to connect with Lan, despite not having any relation to him. She had gone through a gamut of emotions regarding him, including that one dinner, he thinks, she utterly snapped.
Their relationship never progressed further than Lan being cordial to her, which was all Toshio could ask for. What was, is no more, what's new, is the norm. At the end with Emma, Lan followed her more than him, but that was no surprise. Toshio now recognizes what he chose over his family: the Group. Power is attractive. And there are times when it gets the best of even the best men.
Reo was the product of his second marriage, both looking and taking after both his parents. He had the capability of humor, love, showing emotions, but from Toshio's perspective, maturity had changed his son. He went to the best schools, had the best upbringing, and.. maybe unfortunately, turned out very much like his father.
And his grandfather, Toshio thinks, looking at his son's white gloves. He had such an eye for business, like himself at that age, but he wonders if Reo has anyone at his side, in a romantic sense. As a father, Toshio couldn't see it. Emma was a cosmic aligning of opposites attracting. He could see his son with someone just as focused as Reo was.
It made the rare chill run up his spine at such a cold partnership. He needs his own sun. If Lan and his mother were the sun, Toshio and Reo were the cold, reflective moon.
Shaking his head clear of past memories, he refocuses on his wife.
“Apologies, lost in thought.. plural, you said?”
- 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)
feel free to come hang out in the discord, if you like.