Lan opens his mouth with an 'I..' but closes it, having already come up with her answer before she could say it. It's the same thing everyone said. Stop drinking. It's partly why he closed his mouth around everyone. One misstep could lead back to the hospital, even against his will. The habits of an addict.
“I take it back, I tend to like the less expensive food anyway. All of this is tailored to 'palette styling', I would lose automatically.” He sits back against the stool, Saya watching him as he turns – his expression dropping a bit as he watches the chef work.
She watches him for a moment before doing the same, the chef skillfully working four plates almost simultaneously, no assistants except the ones that present him the dinnerware and the ingredients. It was admittedly a wonder to watch, but what he was creating was a mystery as of yet.
“So, we were talking today,” Reo chimes in, now that Saya is back in view, “How did you like our city, Miss Travis?” Behind him, Toshio leans forward to hear the answer, Aiko keeps an ear open but doesn't make it a priority.
“Hm? Oh! We visited the Peace Museum, Lan took me to the transportation museum, which was actually a lot more interesting than he first described it, and kind of rounded it out to a trip to the floating torii, Itsukushima? It was gorgeous.” She twists her napkin around in her hands, fidgeting a bit. “Though honestly, everything I've seen since coming here is very lovely, your home included.”
Toshio chuckles and bahs, waving a hand but Aiko leans around, having caught that. “Oh? I'll take that compliment. It wasn't as large in the past, but I made sure that when Toshio and I expanded the complex that it matched perfectly. Wood, aging, it's like matching marble panels, yes?”
No? You have to match marble panels? She thought, but she smiles, nodding, getting the idea that new wood would clash with the older area of the house. Saya also kept to herself that on Lan's tour, she could see the difference. No need to poke the tiger with a stick.
In front of each of them, the chef places out a curved white plate, delicately arranged as she goes by example, taking it with both hands and looking down at it as she sets it on the bar in front of her. Her head tilts a bit as she inspects it, it's more a work of art, than anything edible, so she finally leans over.
Lan,” she whispers. “What exactly is this?”
He wasn't much help, turning the plate around in a circle slowly, though the other three of their party had no problem picking up theirs. “Meat, greens, onion? A..” He stops at the yellow bulb item, choosing himself to look at his father as they seem to gather it all up in one go.
Lan picks his up, starting to approach how to gather all of this up in one go. “I'm assuming it won't kill you, so.. thanks for the meal,” he scoops the strange layout of food? up to his mouth.
Saya waits for his reaction – knowing she'll have to eat it anyway, and is encouraged when Lan's face didn't turn in disgust. Her turn.


  An young woman comes to collect their plates as the chef starts on the next: soup. Soup, she could do.
“Oh, thank you for this, by the way.” Saya leans, hoping Aiko hears – though who picked her dress out in her relative sizes she couldn't be sure. Toshio didn't react, but Reo and Aiko did, she smiles back at her.
“Isn't it lovely?” Aiko asks, looking down at Saya's profile. “I love bright colors for the summer months. Though admittedly I only provided the size, Reo picked out the final thing. Good in business and creative ways!” she praises.
Reo doesn't comment and looks back at the chef preparing the black and gold bowls for each of them.
Lan turns to Reo, speaking lower than the people around them can hear, more in Japanese so that Saya doesn't. “Oh, thanks for the gloves. I flushed them down the toilet.”
Without a pause, Reo casts a sidelong glance to him, “Saving the tie so we can hang ourselves, are we? Father knows you have his gun. But not the bullets.”
Gritting his teeth, he turns and hooks an arm around the back of his chair, turning to face Reo clearly, leaning down to hiss at his half-brother. “Are you able to keep your mouth shut about anything you find out about me? At all? I'm on eggshells already, with all of you.”
“And without me, you'd be dead. I am doing a JOB, Lan, that our father asked me to do. Or do you think I like traveling up to be your babysitter every month?” Reo finally turns and looks up at his brother, not intimidated by Lan's height.
As with every conversation with Reo tends to end, Lan tsks and turns back towards the chef, who was already presenting the second course, Lan being the last to pick up his bowl. It was a simple part, broth of green onions, seafood from the bay, mushrooms from the mountain, all of what Hiroshima had surrounding it, but that was this restaurant's niche.
He twists the chopsticks between his fingers, looking down at the large pieces of both floating idly in a clear soup. An idle tic makes the ends of his chopsticks click together before he notices Saya, bowl in hand, looking between him and his hand, then Reo inquisitively.
“It's nothing. It's.. me being me, and Reo being Reo. Don't worry about it.” He looks down at her bowl and nods towards it. “Seafood and mushrooms, a little less weird than the last one.”
While Lan eats, bending a bit, she catches a glimpse of Reo over his shoulders, who was studying her unflinchingly.
Gauging what, she didn't know, but he too turns forward after a moment.


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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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