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  Saya stays silent for a moment, searching his face. Lan had secrets, but he didn't seem to be lying. She pulls the paper out from beside her and looks down at it.
  
“You said I'd have to find a place to stay, if I went without you,” she says before looking up. “If I went with you, where would we be staying?” A valid question, even if Saya doesn't bring up the trustworthy-with-money topic.
  
“Your family is in Hiroshima, so I'm assuming you didn't think far enough ahead bringing a stranger in for a night or two.” she states.
  
Lan tilts his head for a second as he recalls his family home. They were obviously thinking of two different sized places, because he could throw a football across their complex and not come anywhere near where Saya's room would be from his own.
  
But he understands her point, nodding. “I can call Reo, and he'll.. find you a hotel room, no problem, if you'd like. The offer was just sort of last minute, so I didn't think..”
  
Saya folds the paper again and taps it against the top of her crossed legs, cycling through situations in her mind. She knew enough people and could send enough messages that if Lan was psychotic, she could be found. What a terrible way to think.
  
But people don't just offer vacations to neighbors, picking up a stranger's tab, or paying it forward, possibly. And he was honest about why.
  
“Alright, Lan. I'll go with you." She tips her hand back towards his front door as he follows where she points. “The rules, from outside, still stand. This is my vacation, and I will..” she pauses, “..entertain your family for you.”
  
“You were honest with me, and I appreciate that.” A little too honest, she thinks, and there's more where that came from, and you know it. “You want to use me as a shield, and I've done that with my friends towards my family before, it's nothing new.”
  
“So I'll play the bashful foreigner-next-door that you are taking on a tour of Hiroshima 'because she's never been there' – or something to that effect, correct?” Lan nods, his whole body language had changed in front of her, his palms on his knees as he looks over at her, going from morose to strangely excited, another expression Saya hadn't seen.
  
Her 'listen-to-me' attitude of lecturing faltered a bit as she thought of the smiling black Labrador she had when she was younger. Why am I thinking about this now? She wonders.
  
“It's short notice, so beyond the flight and the hotel, which I will be reimbursing.. Reo? For?” she asks, not really sure who is paying their way, even as Lan shakes his head. “Yes, I will. Everything in Hiroshima, I pay my own way. Okay?”
  
Lan squints and looks to the side as if that may not be totally possible, but stays silent and nods.
  
Saya breathes in slowly through her nose, and out through her mouth, calming herself after all this overwhelming information washes over her to process later. Focus on the now. Weekend. Hiroshima. Free.
  
Starting to stand, Lan does as well, which seems antiquated to her, but well mannered. He doesn't walk after her as she makes her way to the front door, pausing halfway.
  
“You said you don't go back to Hiroshima often..” Saya places her hand on the wall next to her, the confirmation paper in her hand as she looks back at him. “When was the last time you went back for more than a day?”
  
Lan furrows his brow and glances up, oh Jesus, he's doing math, she thinks.
  
“Two-thousand and.. two?” he answers.
  S
aya would have been ten years old.

  “Right. I'll..”
  
His answer had obviously thrown her for a loop, as she opens the paper back up, looking at the recommended check-in time. “It says just before noon, so do you want to meet outside around nine?”
  
Lan nods and starts towards her. “Let me walk you out, at least.” She nods and turns to slip back into her shoes in the landing of his apartment, twisting the knob and opening it to the now-afternoon sun.
  
“Nine, then.” She had.. quite a bit of packing to do, and quite a few messages to send. Saya turns and waggles the folded paper up at him. “Reo. Hotel. Yes?” It was less of a question than a qualifier.
  
He nods curtly and fishes in his pocket for his phone. She puts her hand down near his wrist before he can dig it out. “Once we're done.”
  
Saya lets go of Lan's doorknob as it rests on his forearm, keeping it open. “And Lan?”
  
He looks over at her as he squints, the sun starting to set behind her. Just a silhouette. “Don't do this again. You said 'a child is a very good pawn' earlier.”
  
Saya taps the paper with her free hand, “I'm not yours, either. Just this once,” before turning and disappearing behind his door to her own, and into her own apartment.

  In two different cities, across an entire country, tens of people worked in unison for what amounts to three days.
  
Saya starts packing while telling her friends and family that her “strange alcoholic neighbor” offered her a trip to Hiroshima, no strings attached, to which her parents nearly had an aneurysm hearing.
  
Lan frantically calls Reo, who has to excuse himself from the main household to hear Lan at all, pawning off the finding of a hotel room to his assistant once he hangs up with his brother.
  
Aiko, who hasn't seen Lan in years is more than happy to watch her attendants make the complex as utterly spotless as possible, and he's bringing guests!
  
And Toshio, who stands looking out at the courtyard as all of this happens around him, one simple question on his mind:
  

  Why now?

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A note from drac

End 1.


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About the author

drac

Bio: 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.

[email protected]

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