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  The chef was confused as Lan returns, but bows to all of them, leaving the setup he had in front of them as clean as when he approached it. The assistants still started forward to wipe down the counters and start washing his implements.
  
Reo was the first to look over at Saya, though the rest of them lean back in their chairs. “So what did you think?” he asks.
  
“Interesting? Sparse?” She fidgets a bit as they're left alone once the cleaning is done. “I know that places like these are tailored to..” she pauses, searching for the phrase, “'catering to the taste',” she settles on, but shakes her head, wondering if that got the thought across.
  
“It.. it was an experience, that's all I can honestly say.” She looks Reo's way, smiling back at him. “Wouldn't be my first choice, but it was very interesting.”
  
“And disgusting,” Lan speaks up, to neither of them before turning to Reo, “What the fuck was that last dish?”
  
Reo grits his teeth and glances back at his parents before addressing Lan. “You've had sea urchin before, and don't curse--”
  “Yeah, I have, and it was okay, not great, okay, putting the syrup, God..” Lan places his hands on the bar in front of him, shaking his head clear of the taste of that last course. He sits back and looks over at Reo.
  
“You can't tell me you liked that,” he states, and Reo wasn't able to meet his eyes. Gourmet didn't always mean delicious, and all three of them knew it, though only the loudmouth in the middle was willing to speak up about it.
  
Saya was the first to speak up, “It was kind of.. weird. To have all this broth, salt, umami, and then this..” She pauses, tilting her head as she tries to nail it down. “Sweetness? But not? A dessert from the sea,” she holds out her hands in a cup form, for nature gave unto them their feast. But her hands drop, “Sea salt caramel. With just a hint of the caramel,” she decides, shaking her head. “Let's just agree whatever that was..”
  
She laughs and rests her chin in her hands, her elbows on the bar as she faces forward. “This is exactly what I expected.” Both Lan and Reo look at her inquisitively, until she finally turns to them.
  
“Show me the bill, and I wouldn't be surprised at the amount. I'm learning what all this means,” she tilts her head to look at them, raising a brow. “Am I wrong? This place is empty, we're the only ones here.”
  
Reo breathes in, stiffening at the challenge, looking around him for which attendant will bring the bill. Lan, though, was looking at Saya, squinting at her as he studies her face. There's a difference between the surprise and the knowledge, he thinks, this isn't her first rodeo.

--

  The family stand up, Lan and Saya the last to do so, the Satake family making their way out of the restaurant as Lan reaches out and drags the black receipt tray along the bar with a finger as they walk, glancing at the total before letting go.
  
Jesus Christ, he thinks. Saya starts to reach for it but he takes her hand in his before she can, leading them out of the restaurant as three cars wait for them. Two black sedans and a taxi. Lan didn't have to guess which one was for them.
  
Though they were all turned towards the restaurant, waiting for both of them as Toshio took Saya's hand first. “It was a pleasure, you are always welcome here,” he smiles, genuine.
  
Saya was the one to hold her hand out to Aiko, though, who took it gingerly, “Thank you for visiting, feel free to come back,” she says, Saya nodding.
  
And Reo, who didn't offer a hand at all, his gloved hands linked at his waist, bowing slightly to Saya as she approaches. “It was.. an experience.. hosting you, Miss Travis.” He glances to his parents who were already making their way to their car.
  
“The tow--” he stops himself, pausing a moment before reforming his sentence. “My family would be grateful to have you as a guest whenever you want. I hope you and Lan have a good trip back to Ota tomorrow.”
  
Saya nods, and steps back as the driver opens the door for Reo, sliding into the backseat. The first car with his parents were already gone, and the driver takes his place at the wheel, pulling the sedan into drive, leaving Lan and Saya with a cab.

--

  “So that was.. interesting,” she murmurs, the two of them in the back of the cab as it navigates the small lanes out to the highway.
  
“Better or worse than last night's dinner,” Lan asks, looking over at her. She smiles, shaking her head.
  
“Better. Less accusing.” She turns and looks at him, they both know it was Aiko's prodding that turned the dinner sour. “Though what did you talk about with Reo?”
  
Lan breathes in and turns away from her, looking at the streetlights flashing along the road. “An argument. As always. Nothing you have to worry about,” he reassures.
  
Saya studies him for a moment, wondering the truth of that. But she doesn't see a reason for a man who is crumpled in on himself, his knees against the back of the taxi's barrier, looking so out of place with six feet of man to bother coming up with a lie.
  
Eventually, they pull up under the hotel's canopy, attendants opening both of their doors. Saya steps out, and Lan mumbles to the driver as he starts to extract himself out of the cab, stretching his arms above his head as he looks over the top of the car at Saya.
  
“Are you okay from here? The cab can wait, if you want me to--”
  
“You can.. walk me to my room, yeah? The taxi will still be here?” she asks, shouldering her purse.
  
“I.. I—um..” Lan leans down to the driver, speaking in Japanese who reassures him that the trip has been taken care of, waiting or not.
  
“Sure. Sure, right, should be a gentleman, right,” he says more to himself, walking around the back of the taxi and standing beside Saya. The doors open again thanks to the attendants, the two of them making their way towards the bank of elevators.

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A note from drac

Apologies for missing Tuesday.


Support "Integration"

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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