Finally managed to get myself to sit down and get some work done. Chapter actually turned out waaaaay longer than I was expecting, in that in the midst of editing it gained about 2000 words in length.
Anyway, this is the chapter where Mr. Satou finally makes the scene. I hope everyone enjoys what I've tried to do with his character and that you like the chapter. Thank you for your continued support.
Act 5 - Part 4: That's Life
The classroom bustles with activity as Mutou gives instructions to pair up for an assignment, each of the students flying to their usual partners. Seeing as how Misha and Shizune have already chosen each other, I receive an idle goodbye as I go to search for someone else, even though it’s clear that they contemplate asking the teacher if they could allow a third person.
Deciding to try my other option, I shoot a glance to the back row and wait for the dark-haired girl to notice me. Upon silently agreeing to partner up, she begins shuffling her materials around as I take my seat in the desk beside her. We both nod and share a nervous chuckle, waiting for the assignment to be passed out.
There isn’t much to say about the relationship between Hanako and myself. We're able to talk with a bit of freedom now that she's warmed up, but at the same time, most topics either create awkward pauses or total silence, or are totally forbidden for one reason or another. Getting to know Hanako has been more a continual exercise in how to interact with her, rather than actually learning more about her.
“H-Hello.” She fidgets, twirling a pen between two fingers and trying to avoid eye contact.
At least I’m learning, though. I never believed that social interaction was a skill until I met the girl sitting beside me. “Hey.”
All that remains after greetings is silence, which I may have thought to be awkward before but has now become commonplace between us. It doesn't have the chance to last very long either, as Mutou deposits our assignments on our desks a moment later.
Ten calorimetry problems -- not necessarily anything difficult, but it would seem that Mutou's trying to let us study as groups, rather than spending yet another day lecturing on the same thing despite no one understanding it. It’s Thursday, we’ve been going over this for nearly a week, and yet half the students here are still left scratching their heads just looking at the problems, including my own partner.
It almost makes me feel singled out, since all of the material we're going over today feels simple; I might just be the only person in the room enjoying any of this. It's a comforting thought that helps to push away the aggravating fact that I have to go in for work tomorrow, at least.
Although she doesn't make it a point to speak up, it's very clear that Hanako doesn't even know where to begin, her eyes flickering back and forth across the page with more than a hint of worry. She begins shifting through one of her notebooks, hand shaking as she tries to pinpoint where exactly we talked about the material.
It takes all of my resolve to even speak up in her current state. “Uh, Hanako... would you like some help?”
She freezes in place, as if snapping out of her world of panic and realizing that she's still in the classroom with us. The only motions from her body stemming from the light quivering of a pen in her hand. No words form on her lips as she opens her mouth, regaining a bit of sense from the surprise.
“I-I would... I-I mean if you w-wanted to... i-if you could...” She stammers out, cutting herself short each time before finally giving a flat “yes.”
Without a word, I pull away from my seat and go back to my own bookbag, digging out a small notebook. Having accomplished that, I'm already flipping to the page I need by the time I get back to my seat.
I sift through pages and pages of diagrams for a bit before pointing one out for Hanako, “is that what you're stuck on?”
Her eyes analyze each line and label for a few moments before she shakes her head. “N-No, I'm stuck on...” Hanako trails off, looking at her own page of notes and then over at the worksheet, trying to figure out how to answer. “I-I don't know what to do w-when you have a n-negative temperature...”
“Oh.” I respond, turning to the next page in my notebook. “You remember that thing we did with the styrofoam cups and the ice cubes?”
She disappears into her thoughts as if trying to make sure she actually needs assistance, racking her brain for any details she might have glossed over before giving me a curt nod.
“Alright, well, basically the negative value means the temperature decreased, instead of increased.” I state, trying to put together the right answer. “You just calculate the problem as normal if there's a negative temperature, it just means you'll get a negative amount of energy, and vice versa.”
“You're probably stuck on that 'alternate formula' Mutou tried to give us, because he hates when we take shortcuts.” I continue, shifting through my class notes to point it out. “The regular one works just fine, though, he just likes taking the roundabout way.”
Her eyes drift away from me and her pen begins prod at the worksheet, all while we continue exchanging questions and explanations. At this rate, it only takes a few minutes for her to solve the first equation, first having to stop and shakily dig a calculator out of her bag. I receive an expectant stare as soon as she's done re-working and checking her answer about four times.
I don't even need to glance over it after all the effort she put into it. Naturally, after all the debating with herself and retrying after each shake of my head, she got the answer right. “See, you've got it down.”
This time, however, she's the one that shakes her head. “I-I missed the day we went over th-this...”
Oh, right. Hanako seems to have a habit of disappearing from class. I feel a little stupid for letting such a detail slip away, considering how often it happens... although at the same time it makes me wonder just how she manages to catch up each time. I've never heard of Mutou offering private lessons except for cram school.
“Ah.” I mutter, sliding my notebook over to her desk before beginning to work on my own assignment. “How do you always catch up, then?”
“N-Natsume... takes really good notes...” Hanako replies, glancing over to the two journalism girls, who are too lost in trying to figure out the cryptic puzzle on their worksheet to notice us. “She d-doesn't study, though... m-most of the time she just copies down w-whatever's on the board without p-paying attention.”
Rather than dwell on the idea, the two of us begin to chip away at the assignment, but not before sharing a short laugh. Hanako breezes along now that she's stepped over that one pitfall, although we have to stop every so often to cover another small concept or run through my notes looking for the fine print her journalist friends didn't bother to copy down. As soon as she finishes the next problem, she nudges her paper across the desk and gives me an expectant stare.
“See, you've got it now.” I state, feeling a bit of satisfaction as she tries to hide a tiny smile.
It’s a weird feeling, to say the least. Whether it be a simple explanation or a drawn out, detailed study session with her and Lilly, it keeps coming back; this strange satisfaction with having helped someone learn or figure something out.
I mean, it's nothing I'd go making any decisions on just yet, but it's certainly a lot more preferable to a future as a janitor.
“I'm looking forward to As from all of you.” Mutou calls out as the bell rings and everyone else makes a break for the door.
We exchange a few nods while I get everything in order and gather up all of my notes, trying to put it all into the same sequence as before. “Could you and Lilly wait for me? I need to talk to Mutou about something.”
Hanako smiles and offers a small wave while I make my way across the room, her own bag already packed up. She pulls a small novel out and begins to idly flip through its contents, checking over her shoulder every so often to see if Lilly has arrived.
“Hey, Nakai. Was there something you needed?” Mutou asks with bright eyes, piling all of the worksheets into a small clip and sliding it into his briefcase. “I saw you helping out Ikezawa today. You did a good job.”
“Really? I just explained what I had down in my notes.” I reply, trying to hide my apprehension.
He tilts his head, a smile already forming on his lips. “Is that so? Well, most people don't even know how to teach out of the book, so you've got a knack for it at least. If half my students worked as well as you did we wouldn't be stuck on this unit.”
“That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about.“ I say, deciding to just come out with it. “Can I ask what got you into teaching?”
He chuckles. “Well, I'll have to give you the condensed version on that. I'd be more than willing to offer you some stories about my first jobs, but it would seem that you've got some friends waiting on you.”
A quick turn reveals that Lilly has arrived sooner than usual, and is presently sitting in the desk across the aisle from Hanako. Neither of them look like they’re in a rush, at least.
Mutou coughs and mulls over his words, trying to think of where to start. “Everything seemed to happen on its own. I needed something to get by after I dropped my career at a chemical testing facility, so I started tutoring.”
“That went on for about... a year? I can't remember at this point.” Mutou adds, looking out the window as he tries to recall all the details. “The money wasn't too great, but it was fun. A lot more fun than sitting at a smelly desk and writing up hazard reports.”
The idea isn't difficult to get behind. I can see some of the drawbacks of having teaching as a career just from having been a student, but it sounds much more appealing than a life of maintenance, or if things go 'well,' a chemist of any sort.
“So how did you wind up here?” I ask, trying to recall the conversation we had in that restaurant many months ago. “You mentioned just going back to school and then getting a teaching job. Is it really that easy?”
My questions are met with a stark chuckle, followed my a nostalgic smile. “Well, nothing's as easy as just 'doing it.' Even though I already had some good schooling in the subject I wanted to teach, there are... well, there's a ton of training you have to go through to be a teacher, no matter what subject.”
“Let's not mention the hours and hours I spent just learning the thousands of safety and emergency protocols we have for this facility alone.” He adds, a dullness clouding his gaze. “I suppose you'll want to know how I wound up at Yamaku as well?”
I nod, which only prompts a shrug from the man across the desk. “It's not a terribly interesting story, I'm afraid. I actually applied without even knowing that it was a special-needs school, even though the facility is pretty famous in retrospect.”
Would that mean that I have to get into tutoring if I wanted a job as a teacher someday? I'm not against the idea, although I'm not sure if I have the mastery needed to warrant asking someone to pay me for the help.
“As for getting the job, well...” He trails off, scratching his chin scruff in thought. “I met most of the qualifications right off the bat, and I had experience in both teaching and chemistry, so that helped.”
A thousand questions swim through my head while I take in all of the information. How much would schooling cost opposed to a strict sciences degree? What should I decide to focus on? What level do I want to teach? What are some of the qualifications he mentioned?
“So, what is it you're curious about?” He asks, one arm lingering in his pocket as he checks around the room to make sure that all of his errands are done.
“I don't know quite yet.” I respond, chewing on each word as it's delivered while at the same time regretting that I didn't just cut loose with everything I could ask. “Do you think that teaching is something I could aim for?”
His expression lights up and he crosses his arms, looking as though he'd rather pat me on the head than say any more. “Well, that's certainly a good question...”
“Have you thought about where you'll be going to college?” Mutou asks, his expression becoming a bit more serious. “I know it seems like an unrelated thing, but I'm just a little curious.”
If I had already chosen a college, I might be worried about how my life would change because of all of this – as it stands, though, the extent of my work lies in looking through pamphlets while waiting for check-ups at the nurse's office. At this point, all I'm really looking for is something that will let me stay in contact with Akira.
“I've looked around, but haven't made a decision yet.” I admit, deciding to leave out the finer details pertaining to what's basically slacking off. “It's just a possibility I don't want to shut out yet.”
He shrugs and picks up his briefcase, adjusting his sleeves as he gives me one final note. “Well, that's what scientists do; they entertain all the possibilities and only chase after something when they're sure it's the right way.”
“I guess in layman's terms, I'm telling you to do some personal thought on it and come ask me later.” Mutou finishes, giving an airy laugh. “I'm more than happy to help, but I feel like anything I could say to you on that choice would be pretty biased.”
With that said and suspecting that I have nothing else to add, he offers both Hanako and myself a parting wave and heads out, leaving me in an empty classroom with the two girls.
There's one thing taken care of, I suppose, even if it just means more decisions to make. It's beginning to feel like there's nothing but painstaking decision-making to do from this point on, adding to the stress of having to go and meet Akira's father today.
“Good afternoon, Hisao.” Lilly says as I approach their desks, my bookbag already slung over my shoulder. “How have you been?”
“I’ve been alright. Just been doing lots, and lots of work.” I groan, already looking forward to lunch today. “What have you been up to?”
The two of them stand up and we make our way to the tea room, talking along the way. “A few class representative duties, nothing more. It's rather early in the trimester for you to be so tired, don't you think?” Lilly replies, her hand guiding along the wall.
“You'd think so, yeah...” I trail off, still running my plan for today through my head. “Doesn't seem like I'm the only one, though.”
I just barely manage to catch Hanako stifling a yawn, her complexion turning bright red the moment I take notice of her. Lilly is left confused for a moment while I try to keep from laughing, the dark-haired girl walking beside me quickly shying away from vision.
“Been staying up late?” I ask, which causes Lilly to giggle as she realizes what's going on.
Hanako freezes for a moment before nodding. “A few days ago, Y-Yuuko got s-some of the b-books I ordered...”
We begin pacing down the hallways once more, with Hanako drifting to Lilly’s other side as if to distance herself from me. The taller of the two girls decides to keep going, however. “Ah, Hanako has been up awfully late over the past few nights.”
“I-I’ve been studying too…” She mutters.
The two of them continue to exchange little pokes at each other while I drift behind, content to let them have their conversation. As it stands, my mind has been spinning a little too wildly to participate in the first place.
Akira says she's going to pick me up at the front gate, so I don't have to worry about catching the bus into town. We're going to meet her father as he gets off the plane, and from there we'll be driving him to a hotel or whatever he says he's staying at; she wasn't too clear about it on the phone last night.
We work in silence as Hanako and I get the chairs ready and Lilly starts to prepare a pot of tea. The dark-haired girl sits down as soon as everything is ready, cracking open one of the many novels in her bookbag without another moment’s hesitation.
The day’s schedule lingers on my mind, nothing but uncertainty clouding my already nebulous thoughts. “Hey, Lilly, can I ask you something?”
“Of course, Hisao.” She responds without pause.
“Are you going to meet your father today?” I ask, deciding that skirting around the matter isn't the best option. Hanako has no doubt heard the news as well, seeing as how the only thing I receive for breaking the silence is an momentary glance.
At this, Lilly lets out a light sigh and folds her hands together, unsure of what to say. “I will be meeting Father at a different time. Akira has already told me about the plans you two have, and I trust you to accommodate him in my stead.”
Meeting at a different time, then. That's both bad and good, from what I can tell, although it would be nice if we didn't have to deal with him at all. No matter what I hear, I can't shake the idea that he's someone I'm just not going to get along with. Considering Lilly’s response, I can’t help but think if he’s hard to get along with even for his own daughters. Either that or she’s distressed about not getting to see him sooner.
“I wouldn’t know anything about accommodations. The only thing I’ve been told about is that we’re picking him up at the airport.” I shrug. “What should I expect?”
“Ahh, well, Father...” Lilly says, her voice trailing off while she fills the kettle. “You would be wise not to argue with him. Just do your best to stay calm; he can be quite pleasant as long as you don’t aggravate him.”
‘Calm,’ huh? Even if she says that, it doesn’t take much before I’m checking my phone for the tenth time in the past hour with a jittery hand, waiting for some other details to arrive from Akira. So far, there's nothing aside from when she would pick me up from the front gate and that my school uniform would be fine for the day.
“Are you ready to meet him?” Lilly asks as she takes a seat on her usual side of the table.
I've been asking myself that all day, and even then I can't find an answer for her. “Maybe?”
Lilly utters a polite giggle. “My my, that’s certainly better than what Akira had to say.”
“She and I had a bit of a debate over it, a few nights ago when she first mentioned it to me.” She continues, an earnest smile on her features. “I would like to meet with my father as soon as I can, but I understand that you can handle these things better.”
“What do you mean by that? You’re her sister, I’m sure you’re much better at keeping her calm than I am.” I remark, pausing on my thoughts.
My statement is met with an amused smile. “You shouldn’t sell yourself short, Hisao. If our phone calls are any indicator, you’ve proven to be quite a good source of stress relief for her.”
I try to control the blood rushing to my head as my brain jumps to the worst possible conclusion. Pushing aside the questions as to whether or not Akira would tell Lilly that she’s done ‘things’ with her classmate, I’m still uneasy about everything planned today. “So just what is it between the two of them that needs so much assistance? I understand that there’s bad blood, but…?”
The girl across from me tries to hide her worried expression, to no avail. “Well, I suppose there’s no harm in saying that Akira can’t be kept calm around her father. I can assure you that he will be in a rather bad mood when he gets off of the plane.”
She pauses between each statement, picking her words carefully as if for fear of insulting him otherwise. “I feel that you have more tact with temperamental individuals compared to myself.”
So what she’s saying is that her dad is going to be really ticked off for one reason or another, and that she doesn’t want to be in the car when he and Akira start going at it.
“So what's the schedule again? You said his flight should be getting here in about an hour, right?” I ask, watching each car pass by on the road while the modest hum of the engine fills my ears. The radio has been silenced, deemed too distracting while Akira tries to focus on driving between moments of being lost in thought.
She shrugs before pulling her phone out of the cup-holder and handing it to me. “The flight's a few hours, and he sent me a message telling me to 'have transportation ready' by the time he arrives. It's probably better to get there early, since he'll just throw a fit if we're late.”
Of course, we say 'schedule,' but in reality the only things happening are that we have to pick up Mr. Satou and then immediately drive him to a hotel, although what hotel that's supposed to be has been left unknown, as has his actual arrival time. The only thing I know for sure at the moment is to expect someone who acts professional but is overly cranky about it.
We spend much of the trip in silence, exchanging idle remarks about our days as time goes by. It feels like it's only been a few moments when we're trying to find a parking space at the airport, with Akira grumbling in annoyance at each new obstacle.
“I'd like to just get this over with. We had a chance to have a good reunion in Scotland and instead he spent the entire week in meetings.” She grumbles, trying to glance around the corner as she pulls into an empty space. “He took an hour off to stand in a few pictures and have a really short dinner. That's it. It's pretty two-faced of him to go flying across the world for us all of a sudden.”
My thoughts fly back to the family portrait I saw on her camera and I try to recall everything Akira said to me over the phone. The man in that picture didn’t seem like the dismissive, cold-hearted jerk she’s making him out to be, although I guess today’s the day to confirm or deny that.
It takes a few moments to check over the arrivals before deciding that it would be better to wait for him to find us, rather than turning each terminal upside down looking for him. Confident that we’ll be able to meet him from here, we share a long sigh and find a bench, one of many in what appears to be a food court.
“Seems like a lot of trouble to go through.” I say, crossing my arms and trying to relax against the hard metal seat. “Are you ready for him?”
My question is met with a downcast gaze, a shrug, and another grumble. “About as ready as I'll ever be. Believe me when I say that I'd be totally fine with never having to deal with the man again. How about you?”
Am I ready to meet my girlfriend's father? I want to act confident and say that everything will go smoothly, but considering what I've heard up to this point; I'm not so sure. Even if he disapproves of me; he can't do much to pry us apart, so I can't see it as a bad idea to have a good relationship with her parents.
Even if she doesn’t.
“I'm not sure.” I say, unable to think of a good answer. “I think we share the same mindset here; I'd just like to get it over with and send him back to Scotland. It feels like there are too many things that could go wrong.”
“Well, I wouldn't say that.” She returns with a light smile. “At this point all I have a chance of losing is my job. He's not getting me, and he's definitely not getting Lilly, so you don't have to worry about that.”
I suppose that much is true. He can't just snag up the two of them and forcefully carry them back to Scotland, and at the same time they're both reasonable enough to work through anything he may try to pull, even if he is their own father. There's still something eating at me th-
“Oh, look who's here.” Akira says, her brow narrowing and an annoyed pout on her lips.
We both stand up to greet the approaching man, who looks identical to the one in the photo I saw on her camera – long black hair tied into a ponytail, silver thin-rimmed spectacles, and a black business suit with golden tie. He carries no luggage and walks with a stiff leg, his entire being seeming to carry an attitude that just screams 'I'd rather be somewhere other than here.' His stature could be considered a foil to Jigoro’s, standing only a few centimeters taller than Akira or myself and no less slim.
“What's up, pops?” She greets, both hands thrust into her pockets while I remain silent, waiting for a chance to introduce myself.
Despite having such solid facial features, a lot of emotion shines in his eyes. Mr. Satou shoots both of us a dull glare before responding with “I'm sorry, I thought I was supposed to be picked up by my loyal daughter. That didn't sound like a 'good afternoon, father' to me.”
Well, no, there's a lot of emotion in his mouth too, it would seem.
“Let's just pretend I'm in the mood to care.” She counters, giving a sarcastic glance in the other direction. “Do you want to give me a manners lesson or do you want to hurry up and do whatever gets you back in Scotland the fastest?”
Well, that's certainly a step off on the right foot.
Without giving Akira a response, he reaches for his phone -- a sleek black folding model -- and begins to click through its contents. “These rotten airports can't do anything right. I've never had a flight so atrocious.”
Our presence is not acknowledged for the remainder of his open rant about his flight experience, silently expecting us to follow suit while he begins to wander through the airport. He seems to accept that I'm here with Akira despite neither asking for a name nor giving me any time to make an introduction. Naturally we follow him, if only so that Akira can ask where his bags are.
“Taken care of.” He answers, not even shifting a gaze in our direction.
“Where are you staying?” She continues, her bored tone doing nothing to mask how obvious it is that she clearly can’t wait to get away from him. The fact that he answers each of her pointed questions in kind only proves that he’s aware of this as well.
“Taken care of.” Mr. Satou repeats.
“How about your wallet?” The younger Satou snarks.
He stops mid-step and turns around, an unamused look on his face as he opens his suit coat and shows off the fact that there are four different chains dangling from his inner pocket, each attached to another part of his clothing. “Taken care of.” He says again, quickly closing his jacket while seeming to muse about a past event.
Akira shoots me a half-smile and we continue to follow him, regardless of the fact that he's heading to the wrong gate. There's a certain swagger to his step, always walking in a straight path and refusing to step out of the way for anyone who may be coming from the opposite direction.
It takes a while for the woman beside me to finally break the silence and mention “Hey, pops, you know we're going the wrong way, right?”
“Our family doesn’t go the wrong way.” He returns, droning on in that same correcting tone as if he were lecturing a student before assigning them detention. “They only take longer to get where they're going.”
No matter where I try to squeeze in, there's no room for me to say anything between them. Akira is too focused on keeping her composure rather than egging him on with sarcastic remarks, and her father is too busy attempting to seem like he knows where he's going despite the fact that we've already passed through two of the five parking lots without him saying a word about directions.
It takes all of my courage just to say one thing. “Sir, do you know what you're even looking for.”
This time he shoots an odd glance over his shoulder, surprised that I decided to speak up. “Of course I know what I'm looking for. My brother-in-law sent me a picture of that gaudy mess every week for a year like it were something to brag about.”
Despite saying this, however, we stop in the middle of the parking lot – in the middle of the road, in fact, while he begins to idle around. It would seem that he's faded into his own world as he checks his phone once more and begins to tinker with his wristwatch and utters an awkward cough.
“It's this way, pops.” Akira says, gesturing for me to follow her before taking off in the opposite direction.
At first it would seem that he’s capable of listening to help from others. We’re proven wrong, however, as he waits a moment to pull out his cell phone and make a call. Despite that minor issue, he decides to follow after us, although it can’t be considered following for long as he soon passes us up and takes off in whichever direction he deems ‘correct.’
Luckily, Akira doesn't seem to mind this one bit; she’s content to have a few more minutes away from him.
“So that's your father?” I ask, catching up to her after a few unfruitful attempts to wave Mr. Satou over.
“Yeah. That's the old man.” Akira anwers, sighing and shaking her head. “You think you've gotten away from him and boom, he just pulls the chain even tighter.”
It’s not that hard to imagine where she gets the idea from. He definitely feels more like someone who would sooner lock the people around him up and do everything himself. It’s one thing to take matters into your own hands when the people around you have failed, but he’s treating both of us like we’re not even good enough to wake up in the morning. I can’t even begin to fathom how he runs an entire corporation when he treats people like this.
“Well, look on the bright side. What's the worst that can happen now that he's here? It's not like he can kidnap your or Lilly. You mentioned earlier that the only thing at stake right now is your job, right?”
She meets me with an unnerved frown. “Of course that’s the only thing at stake. That's all I'm worried about at this point. I wouldn't feel a damned thing if he were to just disown me on the spot, but I've actually had a pretty good run in the business despite all of that.”
After a moment of thought, she lightens up a little and ruffles my hair. “Just to say it again, though, I'm staying. You don't have to worry about that. If anything, look out for Lilly – she says she wants to stay, but she doesn't have 'feelings' for our parents quite like I do.”
“She acts strong, but she needs the support right now.” Akira adds, groaning once more. “It's pretty crappy that it has to be this way. Just goes to show you can't let yourself get too settled in.”
Once more the city scenery begins to roll by, the soft hum of a car engine calming to my ears. Akira doesn't seem to be driving with any purpose or direction, however, seeing as how the man in the backseat hasn't spoken a word since we found him waiting by her car in the parking lot.
I can just barely see him in the rear-view mirror, having to tilt my head quite a ways to get even that. Any attempts to engage in conversation are called off before I have a chance to make them, considering how entranced Mr. Satou seems to be with the road in front of us. The only indication of whether or not he hasn't fallen asleep with his eyes open is the disapproving grunt that results each time Akira flicks her turn-signal on at an incorrect intersection.
The silence continues to eat at me, however, and finally I decide to venture out of my comfort zone. “So, how was the flight, Mr. Satou?”
A stupid question, in hindsight, considering how stirred up he was after meeting us at the terminal. It’s better than nothing if I’m trying to get a conversation going, though; maybe he’ll say something other than ‘it sucked.’
My expectations fall short, though, since all this warrants is a short cough followed by a growl that almost sounds like “quite terrible.”
“Are you having a good day?” I ask, letting each question follow in logical order.
He coughs again, checking his wrist-watch as if waiting for the moment on his schedule where the guy in the passenger seat shuts up. “Not in particular.”
Even though I can’t think of anything more engaging, I decide to press further.
“Well... why aren't you having a good day?”
Once more his hand flies to his mouth, although Akira cuts in before he can even make a noise. “Would you like a cough drop, father dearest?”
Rather than finish the gesture, he merely lays his hands in his lap and, for the first time, smiles at me while gesturing to Akira. “That's why.”
Okay, so I've gathered another detail – Akira picked up a few social quirks from her folks. That's all I can really figure out at this point, though. I still haven't the slightest inkling as to what he's trying to accomplish by coming here; what's there to benefit that warrants flying across the world, even?
I try again as soon as I’m sure that Akira has nothing else to say. “Can I ask you a question, Mr. Satou?”
This time he shrugs. “I don't see why not, I've already had an outrageous number of asinine questions leveled at me over the past few hours. What's one more?”
I try not to grimace at the remark and dwell on how stupid I sound, deciding to just come out with it. “What brings you all the way over here to Japan?”
“I'm not quite sure, honestly.” He says, taking a short breath as he thinks on the fact. “On one hand, I should be here to talk my daughters down from their false perceptions of 'independence' and petty adolescent rebellion, but on the other hand a visit to the older branch might be a good idea every now and then, considering who's been left in charge.”
Every single one of his words drips with passive aggression, his expression unchanging as he piles on the criticism.
“Oh gee, I wonder what he means by that.” Akira jabs, for the most part unfazed. They both keep up a pretty good poker face, although Mr. Satou would be the first to lose the second he opened his mouth.
“Of course, it couldn't be about my daughter, who is only a Human Resources Director because my buffoon of a brother-in-law decided that he wanted to create drama in the family business.” He counters, crossing his arms and shooting a glare at Akira. “Keeping bad workers, letting good ones go instead of offering incentives to get them to stay, mismanagement of local assets, irresponsible conduct with other management personnel...”
He stops only to take a breath before continuing. “The list goes on, Akira. I'm rather disappointed, not just because you're my daughter, but because you've been handed a high-tier job and given every chance to succeed, and yet you just keep throwing it away, time and time again.”
Akira simply rolls her eyes and keeps driving at a calm pace, only braking to stop at a red light. Her reaction seems a little underwhelming for such a heavy stream of criticisms. “I don't keep bad workers, Pops, I keep staff that show promise of improving. I don't tie excellent employees down because they want better pay and, being the off-shoot of a gigantic investment ploy, we don't have any more money to pay these excellent people.”
This is the first I've ever heard of Akira being criticized for her work in any way. Everything looked just fine when I visited earlier this week, although I suppose most issues wouldn't show themselves on the outside.
She lets out a long sigh while waiting for the light to turn green, deciding to continue before he has any chance to cut in. “If by 'mismanagement of local assets' you mean 'postponing a shipment to a new customer to stay in good standing with one of our older partners,' then sure, totally guilty, even if that's not my department at all, old man.”
“If you weren't botching deals with better partners, you'd have more money to pay the workers that are worth a damn, incompetent woman.” Mr. Satou finally snaps, fuming as if she had just personally insulted him. “Maybe you should have stayed in school instead of taking a shot at ruining your family's heritage, or at the very least taken the promotion when it was handed to you on a silver platter!”
“You spew so much crap for someone who hasn't even been here for seven years.” She counters, keeping a firm grip on the wheel to deter the temptation to reach back and slap him. “Hell, if you're going knock me for 'misconduct with other managers' for drinking with my coworkers after a shift, then you may as well go ahead and dock my pay for wasting company time by taking more than fifteen seconds in the damned bathroom.”
He lets out a sigh, shaking his head in shame before adding “I think the best punishment for you is the knowledge that you refused to put some effort into your damned career and go into something that isn't a dead end on every level.”
We continue to sit at the red light, the bitter silence that follows lasting what feels like an eternity. Before long, the woman beside me only follows up with “Are you going to tell me where you're heading or are you going to keep bitching at me over business matters you clearly don't care enough about to take care of on the phone?”
She's practically seething at this point. I don't think I've ever seen her this genuinely ticked off, and with any luck I won't have to again. I'm not too sure about the details, but something about all of this has really gotten under her skin. On top of that, this is just after a little less than an hour together – what was it like when they lived under the same roof?
“Taken care of.” He says, dismissing everything that's happened in the past few minutes and regaining his composure in an instant. Before either of us have time to gather what's going on, he steps out of the car and then wanders through stopped traffic, catching a taxi as if it were the most casual thing to do.
Did he... did he just...?
“Akira, your father just-”
“I know.” She says, a mixture of fury and detachment flashing across her features as she tries to calm down. “Let him go. With any luck he'll get bored and book an early flight back.”
The light finally turns green and we take off, the taxi Mr. Satou disappeared into hanging a sharp right and cutting off the lane beside it in the process. Akira doesn't seem to have any particular place in mind, simply driving for the sake of driving until she can get her thoughts in order.
“What was that about?” I ask, gripping the door handle while she makes a quick turn and begins speeding down an empty lane.
Akira shakes her head and tries to relax in her seat, keeping one hand on the wheel while the other rests in her lap. “I wish I knew. It's just one of those things he does, he's always been that way.”
“Nothing's ever good enough for him.” She adds, her lips dipping into a solemn frown. “He has some pretty nasty temper and control issues that you only see if you're not a boot-licking yes-man.”
I suppose that's one way to approach it if you're the manager of a big company who can't be kicked off of the pedestal. “So that's why he's here, then. You've never mentioned anything like that when it comes to your job.”
“That's because it's management drama.” She says, scowling at the mere thought. “We're hitting some bumps this quarter, and for some reason he's deciding to make me the scapegoat for everything. Probably so he can bring in some schmuck who doesn't give a damn about the employees.”
“You say it like he's been trying to get rid of you for a while now.” I remark.
At this, she deflates entirely and pulls up to another red light, trying to put together the right words. “Let's just say my collar's firmly secured even if he isn't here in Japan. Everything you just heard had to do with issues we've been having ever since I moved up to Director of HR.”
With that said, she reaches for her handpurse and begins to flip through it, her attention flickering between the road and its contents. “Listen, I'd really like it if we could leave this for later.”
“Oh, uh... sure.” I say, taken back by her sudden desire to change the subject.
“You wanna go get some dinner?” Akira continues, clasping her purse shut before bringing her focus back to the road. “I don't mind spotting you for some food.”
I wave my hand back and forth in refusal. “Dinner sounds good, but I can get myself. I've got all these paychecks that don't go to anything beyond fast food anyway.”
She finally perks up and shoots me a light smile. “Well, that works. I don't suppose you can drive, though?”
I shake my head, confused by the notion.
“It was worth asking.” She chuckles, still trying to punch through the terrible mood hanging in the air. “I'm really feeling a drink or five, but it’d be pretty stupid to drive home like that.”
Last edited by Thanatos02
on Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:53 am, edited 2 times in total.