Lan doesn't say anything for a while as he processes what's in front of him, Saya holding out her purse, and it doesn't take him long to come to his conclusion. His riled up look softens, as he shakes his head.
“Then walk.”
Saya's arms drop as she looks at him with a face of both demand and now confusion. “Excuse me?” she asks.
“I've been doing something when I interact with you, that hadn't dawned on me until now. I've been doing it unconsciously. Do you remember what I said to you in the airport before we took off?”
The airport wasn't very memorable except for Lan's drugged attempt to get on the plane, but it comes back to her, the moment before.
I don't need another mother.
“That wasn't..” she starts to argue, but he places his hands on hers and pushes them down, and the purse away.
“It wasn't you. None of it was. The way I've been acting, I was speaking one way and acting another. The jokes about suicide were awful, I'm sorry. But you are completely right. I don't care.”
Saya clasps her purse shut and pulls it around to her side, letting him continue.
“In not caring, I've been forcing you to. Very overtly, even if I didn't realize it until now. Even what you did, you'd do to a child, demanding their toys because of the way they were acting. And I didn't realize I was almost forcing you to act that way.”
She is starting to understand, as she pulls her hair out of her face, nodding. “Like a..”
“--mother,” He finishes. “And for that I am sorry as well.” He steps beside her and starts leading the way towards the shrine, pausing until she starts alongside him.
“I think I do that to my family as well. And friends I've lost because of my habit. Family will stay with you, 'til the last straw, but to act like that with friends and acquaintances, always looking for sympathy because I have none for myself, isn't fair.”
Saya thinks back over the last few days, and how she was acting because of the way Lan was acting. The tantrums, the care on the plane, taking the rental car's ticket from him, even the way that Aiko and Reo regarded Lan versus his father.
“It's not your fault, it's absolutely mine. And I can't believe it's taken me this long to realize it. And I put you through it to get there.” He smiles wanly as he uncaps the water bottle he was holding. “Don't need another mother; don't need another therapist,” he repeats more to himself than to her, “And that's exactly what I was forcing you to be,” he finishes before taking a drink.


  Saya walks along the guardrail, Lan putting himself between her and the road. She looks out over the water, thinking quietly to herself.
It was a few minutes of walking in silence that she finally speaks. “A..” she closes her mouth, forming the sentence she wants to say in her head first. “A majority of it was you. Yes.”
He nods, but wouldn't look at her, instead keeping his eyes down at the sidewalk as it curved east slowly.
“But I'm not blameless, either. You say your actions forced me, and that is both true and.. not.” She looks up at him, even though he won't meet her eyes. “Sympathy is a very easy thing to give. I wouldn't be a very good teacher if I didn't have any, would I?”
When he doesn't answer, and she doesn't continue, he finally meets her gaze, which has softened much more than before when she laid out the terms. Saya was the one to turn back to the sidewalk first.
“And sympathy can be dangerous. It's easy for people to take advantage of. I'm sure I've done it myself at some point in my life. When you don't care about yourself, you're so practiced at it, you don't notice that you're begging everyone around you for it.”
“To the point where they.. snap, or outright leave. I didn't realize I had been playing the part you set up either.” When the sidewalk curves upward a bit as the shrine entrance comes into view, she pulls out her bottle and drinks from it. Saya stops, but Lan keeps on until she reaches her free hand out and gently grips his wrist.
She finishes drinking and presses the back of her hand against her mouth. “I've known alcoholics, like I said. But yours is..” she lets go of his wrist to cap the bottle before putting it in her purse again. “Yours is compounded. By your family, mother.. something above my.. pay grade,” she halfheartedly laughs. “Your family, your therapist.”
“I care, but I'm not an expert.” They step in line together at the entrance of the shrine, which is less oppressive than the ferry, and moving faster. “But you.. recognized it. And so did I.”
“It's a step towards something, isn't it?” she asks, shielding her eyes from the sun as she looks up at him, Lan looking.. strangely relieved.


  Saya stops suddenly and Lan bumps up behind her as she's confronted with more Japanese, and a list of numbers. Admission prices, she assumes.
“I what.. oh. Right..” He stretches his arm out over her shoulder, his large hand almost pointing exactly where her vision was. “Shrine, hall, both.”
300, 300, 500 for what she assumes is individuals, the others for students maybe? Though she looks past the entrance at the wide shrine grounds, people milling around a bit, taking pictures. “And the hall is.. what?”
“Ever seen old Japanese artifacts? Uniforms, outfits..” He blanks a bit as he tries to remember the last time he was here. “Stuff. Like the Peace Museum only.. not.. burned?”
Saya nods, then leans to the side, seeing just the upturned tips of the torii – what she really came here to see. “I'm okay with just the shrine, the gate?” And already Saya is rummaging in her purse, plucking out a 500-yen coin and placing it on the counter in front of the attendant before Lan could protest.
He does the same with three 100-yen coins, briefly asking the attendant for just a shrine ticket in Japanese, who slides them out towards the two, moving two of Lan's coins towards Saya as her change.
She takes both, pocketing them in her purse as they move out of the way of the slowly agitating crowd behind them. They step out onto the open pavilion.
Even in low tide, there were still knee-high pools of water around the main shrine, but there was enough of a dry bed way out in front of them that people had started congregating around the base of the gate itself, dwarfing themselves in the shadow of it by at least three stories.
“So, you said you knew about it. Start up the facts, tour guide.” Saya thumps her knuckles back at Lan's chest, still looking out towards the torii.


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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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