They pull back onto the Sanyo Highway, thankfully at a more manageable speed – it seems whatever demons Lan had when first getting behind the wheel were sated. Saya pulls her phone out from her purse and looks at the map application, following their progress as they head west towards downtown Hiroshima.
Most of the locations were in Japanese, but a few had English alongside them and she picks out where they were headed, the Sheraton Grand. It seems to her like a lovely high-rise hotel, until she scrolls down to the reviews. She balks at the amount a room costs a night and looks over at Lan.
“Lan, this is too much. These go for nearly thirty-thousand a night!”
Shaking his head with a smile, he eases off the accelerator as the traffic slows. “Reo made the reservations, take it up with him,” he offers, but when she starts rummaging through her purse, plucking out Reo's business card he gave her when they first met, he laughs and shakes his head, placing his hand overtop both of hers.
“I'm kidding, don't actually,” he says.
Saya turns her phone towards him, pointing at the much less expensive dots around the same area, in the tens of thousands, not thirty. “Any of these would be fine,” she protests.
Lan, still driving, only glances at it before returning his hand to the steering wheel, leaning back in the seat. “It's done and paid for,” he states, “You keep thinking about money, Saya. I offered this as a vacation to you.”
Without taking his eyes off the road, he taps his own temple. “Start thinking like it is. Reo and I already.. sort of agreed that you could pay for your food, drinks, souvenirs, but I brought you here, so let us take care of some of it.”
Saya grumbles a bit and puts Reo's card back in her purse, sliding her finger around on the phone's screen.
“Reo said you lived a few kilometers.. north, I think? North of this hotel, whereabouts? Everything looks so.. dense,” she says.
  Lan furrows his brow at that. Dense? We live in Tokyo. An American thing?
Between looking out at the road, Lan glances at her phone, which is centered on the hotel they were heading towards. “Zoom out a bit?” he asks.
Saya pinches at the screen of her phone, zooming out from the dense downtown area of Hiroshima, little patches of green surrounding the gray and white streets. Another glance, “move the map north a bit?”
She pulls the screen down so that it centers over a rather large patch of green, surprisingly unmarred by any roads or houses. Her finger hovers over the screen, waiting for the next part.
“There.” Lan states.


Saya leans down to look at her phone, squinting to try and find any sort of road or domicile or.. anything other than a forest.
She moves her finger left to right, not seeing anything resembling it until the label on the map comes into view: Ushitayama.
She doesn't recognize what it stands for, but she does know the word for mountain, yama.
“I'm.. not seeing it, you mean around the outskirts of this “Ushita--”
“--yama,” He finishes for her, nodding. Saya looks over at him and to her, he seems particularly unwilling to meet her eyes like he usually would.
Lan slows the car as it veers off to the left, onto another highway as they both lean right with the turn. Saya is still studying Lan before looking at her phone again.
“Lan this is a mountain.” she states.
His fingers tap a little too fast along the rim of the steering wheel as he nods. “That's right.”
“You live on a mountain.”
He tilts his head and grimaces a little, making Saya even more curious.
“Lan I'm not seeing any roads or buildings or.. sidewalks here. It says it's a national park, but w.. what?”
He pushes on the brake as they're stuck in another line of cars. Lan sighs and looks over at her phone, then her. “Technically, the government owns it now.”
Owns what, the mountain?! She thinks.
“We, I mean my family, negotiated with the government to turn it into a national park. Most of it, in 1971.” The car rolls forward slowly as drivers merge onto a road heading south towards downtown Hiroshima.
“The Satake family owns about a kilometer's worth of land, where our house is, and the other ten or so are walking and hiking trails. It's actually rather pretty in the fall.”
It was their turn to merge as he speeds up, flicking the turn signal and easing out into traffic. “There are no taxes on the land, and since it's now a park, no neighbors, either!” He grins, then feels it slipping as her wide eyes just stare back at him.
“Your family.. owns a mountain,” she mumbles at him in disbelief.
He holds up a finger from the steering wheel, shaking his head. “Owned. Owned. There is a difference. And the lane up to the house is private so you won't find it on street view..”
Saya turns back to face out the front of the car, now completely reconsidering what her expensive hotel room must be a drop in the bucket for them.
She also quietly thanks herself for arguing for a hotel room in the first place. Reo and Satake-san himself were proper, Lan thought of himself as a black sheep – what were his other relatives like?


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About the author


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.

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