Edited by RedPandaChick
Father and I stared at each other in the middle of the hall.
He would rarely come home, even if he was in the city. Most of the time, he would be outside of Tokyo, sometimes even outside of Japan—like Mom.
"You know I'm busy," he said.
"Just like Mom. I know," I replied.
Silence surrounded the hall. The maids kept doing their chores as usual since they were used to us arguing; they didn't even bother to stop us anymore.
Sakakibara-san came out of the dining room and told Father, "Araki-sama, dinner will be ready in twenty minutes."
"That's later than I expected," Father scowled.
"We're very sorry, Araki-sama," Sakakibara-san apologized. "We didn't anticipate—"
"There's no need for excuses, just make sure you finish in twenty minutes."
"Yes, Araki-sama," Sakakibara-san bowed. Though it was his job, I respected him for being quite old and enduring Father's absurd demands.
Father then looked back at me and asked, "Shall we eat together?"
"Sure," I bluntly responded.
Father stood still as I walked upstairs. He and Sakakibara-san began talking as soon as I got to the hallway, but left afterward. I didn't want to bother to listen anyway, it probably was some business babble.
Fujisaki-san walked by and I asked her to prepare a long bath—I always needed every bit of peace I could get before a dinner with Father.
A couple of minutes later, I took off my clothes and stepped into the bath. A bath wasn't bad after a long day outside; my first time at a manga store.
I just went to a store, I told myself. But why am I so happy about it?
I closed my eyes and fell asleep.
Someone knocked on my door and said, "Koji-sama, your father is waiting for you in the dining room."
"I'm coming," I replied. "Thanks, Moriyama-san."
I got out of the bath, changed into my pajamas, and headed downstairs to the dining room where Father was already waiting. I sat at the opposite end of the table.
We stared at each other for a moment before Sakakibara-san arrived carrying a tray with our food. He put a bowl and a plate in front of Father and then filled his cup with his favorite tea. He took a sip and let out a breath of satisfaction.
Sakakibara-san then approached me and did the same. The dinner consisted of oyakodon seasoned with furikake and a small bowl of miso soup; it was delicious. I couldn't deny Father had a good taste for tea either.
"Thanks," I thanked Sakakibara-san.
"You still have that habit," Father noted, with a slight shake of his head. "It's their job, you don't need to thank them."
"I want to," I replied and took a sip of my tea. Father drank even more of his; he would always do that when he felt the lightest of stress. What would he do without his tea, I wondered.
We began eating our food without saying a word. It was no use arguing with him, he wouldn't listen; I had tried all my life.
"Yoshimura told me you went to a store with a girl," Father said.
Here it comes, I thought.
"Tell me about her."
"No, Father, her family isn't wealthy," I sighed. "No one seems to be in that school, which is good."
"I didn't ask that."
"But you wanted to know that, didn't you?"
Father sighed, "You know that our status—"
"Screw the status," I cursed.
"Koji-sama!" Sakakibara-san yelled at me.
"It's fine, Sakakibara," said Father. "He's in his rebellious phase."
"Rebellious phase?" I reiterated and stood up. "What about this; screw you."
We stared at each other. His brows frowned more and more before he reached for his cup and drank a lot of his tea. I walked away before he could finish and headed upstairs to my room.
I didn't even finish my food this time, I thought, lying down on my bed. How funny he is. He cares more about his status than his own family. I can't believe he doesn't even flinch when it comes to Otsune.
Someone knocked at my door.
"Who is it?" I asked.
Father opened the door and stepped in.
"I didn't tell you to come in," I said and sat on the bed. "What do you want?"
We stared at each other once again, but his frown wasn't one of anger anymore.
"I'm sorry, alright? It's my fault," he sighed.
My head took a while to process his apology. It was the first time he said sorry to me.
"Only now you realize?" I asked.
"But I have no choice."
And here comes the justification, again, I thought. Would be nice if he could learn to apologize and be done with it.
"I know your mother and I haven't been with you when it mattered, but we had no choice."
"I've already heard this," I said.
"We've tried to protect and help you, but you only—"
"Make it more difficult for you?" I finished his sentence. "You've told me this too many times."
He paused for a few seconds before continuing, "I ran out of options."
"What?" I questioned.
He kneeled down in front of me and bowed.
"What can I do for you to believe me?"
Well, this is new, I thought.
"So your only option left is to ask me directly?"
I didn't know what to answer. What could a Father do in his position to recover the trust of his son? I only knew he had to do something, find the answer himself.
"I never said I don't believe you," I said.
He lifted his head.
"But you have done everything wrong for me," I added. "And for Otsune."
Father looked back at the floor.
"You want to do something for me? You can start by telling the bodyguards not to patrol outside the school or follow me."
He looked at me before answering, "Fine, I will."
"And I want you to help Otsune."
Father stayed silent for a long while, looking down at the floor.
"I'm sorry, Koji. Even if that would make you trust in me again, I can't do it."
"I figured," I said. "Can you at least stop using your status as an excuse?"
"It's not an excuse and it's not my status," he replied and stood up. "I want to make my family happy, I assure you that. I, also, need to keep its wealth. I can't ruin what our ancestors have been building upon for generations. I wish you could understand."
I was speechless for a moment. He had never taken the few seconds he took now to explain it before. Why?
"Maybe I don't understand it completely," I said. "However, I, also, think there are better ways to do it. Maybe you're too afraid of change. Afraid of what people will think about you—us—if you say something they don't want to hear."
A slight smile appeared on Father's face. "Maybe," he replied. He then turned around and walked to the door.
That went better than I expected, I told myself.
"I, also, came here to tell you that I'll leave tonight. I won't be back for a few weeks," he said, looking out at the hallway. "Don't get in trouble."
"You know that was because of the dumb school, but sure, I won't. Have fun," I replied stiffly.
That was awkward, I thought.
"Oh, and don't tell your mother about this," he added.
He took a moment to timidly answer, "She'll make fun of me," and walked away.
That does sound like her, I told myself.
I lay back down on my bed, unconsciously smiling. I couldn't believe everything went well for the first time. We were able to talk without arguing—except when we were eating.
My stomach growled.
Right, I barely ate, I thought.
Someone suddenly knocked at my door repeatedly.
"Yes?" I asked.
"Can we come in?" Fujisaki-san asked.
"Sure," I replied. "Wait, 'we'?"
She smashed the door open and stepped in, followed by Moriyama-san and Yoshimura-san.
"Why is everyone here?" I questioned and sat up.
"I'm sorry, Koji-sama, but they overheard when I was telling Araki-sama about it," Yoshimura-san apologized.
"Yes, yes, now let me do the talking," Fujisaki-san shut him up.
What's happening? I asked myself, perplexed.
"Don't be rude, Fuji-chan," Moriyama-san nagged. "So, who's the lucky girl?"
"Oh, it's about that," I said. "She's a classmate. She invited me to buy manga together—"
"So, it was a date!" Fujisaki-san shouted, holding her hands under her chin. I had only seen her get that excited a few times. Usually, it was when she was watching or reading something.
"No, we just went together. I bought two mangas for her because she didn't have enough money—"
"You already bought gifts for her!" Fujisaki-san shouted again.
"Isn't it contradictory that you want to know more, but you keep interrupting him?" said Yoshimura-san.
"M-Maybe…," she stuttered and crossed her arms.
"Continue, Koji-sama," Moriyama-san said.
"What? Nothing else happened?!" Fujisaki-san shouted. "You didn't hold hands? Hug? A quick smooch?"
"Even if it was a date, it wouldn't be appropriate to do that in the first one," Moriyama-san replied. "Unless Koji-sama didn't tell us about prior dates."
She stared at me. Her smile could pierce anyone's soul.
"Nothing has happened," I assured. "I only know her last name."
"Boring," Fujisaki-san yawned. "Do you at least like her?"
"She's pretty, but I don't feel anything for her," I answered.
Fujisaki-san sighed, "It was a false alarm then."
"I told you," Yoshimura-san remarked. "But you never listen to me."
"Because everything you say is boring," Fujisaki-san replied. "Koji-sama, do you even like someone?"
About to deny it, my mouth got stuck and nothing came out for a second.
"No," I replied.
"You hesitated!" Fujisaki-san shouted. "Mori-senpai, he hesitated!"
Why did I hesitate?! I asked myself.
Fujisaki-san leaned forward. "Who is the lucky girl?! Or maybe it's a guy?"
"I-I said I don't like anyone," I stuttered.
"Now you stuttered!" Fujisaki-san shouted in front of me.
"Come on, Fuji-chan, we won't be able to get anything else from him today," Moriyama-san said. "Mura-kun, let's take her out."
"Sure," Yoshimura-san complied and grabbed Fujisaki-san's arms from behind, pulling her away from me.
"I need answers!" Fujisaki-san shouted once more before disappearing from my view into the hallway.
I lay down.
Why did I hesitate and stutter? I wondered.
It was as if I didn't know myself.
"Koji-sama," Moriyama-san called from the door.
"Oh, I thought you had left already."
"Why don't you finish your dinner? I'm sure it will help you clear your mind."
I smiled back. "Sure. Thanks, Moriyama-san."
She left my room.
I went back for my food after a few minutes of lying down. My food was still in the same place, but Father's was already gone. I sat down and continued eating. For some reason, it tasted even better than before.
Moriyama-san, Fujisaki-san, Sakakibara-san, and Yoshimura-san would usually chat with me as I ate, but I was alone. However, I felt peaceful.
I noticed a folded paper in front of me.
Father probably forgot about it, I thought and left it in place.
"Koji-sama," Sakakibara-san called.
"I think Araki-sama left that note for you."
"Oh, really? Thanks for telling me."
"You're welcome," he said and walked out of the dining room.
A note? Why would he leave a note? I wondered. I grabbed the paper and unfolded it; there wasn't much written.
"Koji, I'll stop sending bodyguards as I promised, but the maids and butlers will still tell me about what you do," the note said.
Fair enough, I thought.
"Though I can't promise everything you asked," the note continued, "I promise I'll change my mindset to improve our family and myself. I hope you understand it won't be easy."
A smile appeared on my face.
"Now, destroy this paper, and don't let anyone find out."
What? Then why would he leave it here? I asked myself. He should learn to use messaging apps.
I threw the note into the trashcan and headed back to my room to do my homework. I then exercised, played some games, and went to sleep.
It was a very productive day.
The next morning went by quite fast and the bell for the break rang. I headed to the laboratory because Kawahara-san asked us to come. She and Kozue were already there.
"Hi, Araki-kun! How was your date?" Kozue grinned.
"Hello, Kozue. You can tell me," I replied. "Did you have fun at the store, too?"ns188.8.131.52da2