Alright, wanted to wait to get some commentary elsewhere before bringing it over, but I'm not getting much so I fully expect to be torn apart here eheh.
Merry christmas, y'all. Thanks for your continued support.
Act 5 - Part 5: My Way
The sounds of sweeping, mopping, and dusting linger in my head, clouding all of my other thoughts. Today I've been tasked with quite possibly the most tedious list of jobs yet, following a particularly lengthy research and testing period covering such invigorating hypotheses as 'does this new antibiotic cause drowsiness in all patients, or only some' and 'why doesn't the vending machine ever work.'
Everything here just feels dull as of late, regardless of how complex some of the experiments may be. The only excitement I can find is in watching the real scientists work, which is also losing its glow despite being such a rare occasion. I suppose it couldn't retain its air of wonder forever, but even being able to use the equipment has gotten old. For one, autoclaves are just an excuse to watch TV and wish I had a book with me rather than an interesting machine. It doesn't help that all of the tools and glassware that used to keep my curiosity on high have become just that; simple tools and glassware.
On top of that, daily tasks have finally begun to feel like chores.
Pull all of the glassware out of the counters. Make sure it's all clean and ready to go for the next project. Dust out the cabinets, even if there's no conceivable way that they could have gotten dirty in the week since you last did it. Sweep every square centimeter of the floor. Wipe down every single surface. It seems like easy work, and really and truly it is – the only thing holding me down is how utterly boring it’s become.
It’s a little amazing that I used to view this place with such wonder and excitement, and now here we are a little over a month later and it’s even more boring than an English lecture. Is this what all jobs are like, or is it just this one?
At this point, the only reason I’m not falling asleep is the sudden vibrating in my pocket every few minutes.
“[The pizza place a few blocks away from the jazz club is generally pretty good, from what I hear. I'm not one for pizza though, so we'd have to find somewhere else.]”
I check over my shoulder before reading and responding to the message, having already been warned about phone usage during my shift. It's amazing that I can get a response in the first place, considering how much work Akira has to do right now. Thank goodness for dinner breaks, I suppose.
Digital lettering floods the screen as I tap my reply into the keypad. “[I'm not really too bothered about where. If you really want me to choose then there's a good Korean barbecue place not too far away.]”
Not that there's much to talk about aside from date spots. The subject of her father has been avoided ever since the episode in her car yesterday, and I'm not quite at the point where I'm going to press for any details or stories of the past. It'll come out when she feels it should come out, I suppose – I don't think she'd hide anything from me, provided there were anything to hide in the first place.
By the time I finally finish taking care of every detail in the first floor lab, the only reply I receive is a short “[Barbecue sounds pretty great. I'll get back to you after work.]”
After sending a short response, I slide my phone back into my pocket and continue going about my duties. Rather, going to get more duties, since I've finished everything ahead of schedule.
I pull the mop bucket into the elevator, content that there’s nothing to interrupt at seven in the afternoon, long after regular work has finished. A few researchers linger in the hallways, spending their short breaks in front of the television before heading back to their offices to take care of personal business. I used to think that they were here to take care of matters so pressing that they didn't get to leave with everyone else, but now I know that they're just checking emails and finding some way to cram even more drinking-straw-and-duct-tape models into their already-cramped workspace.
That’s definitely the only saving grace about this job now. The only reason I’m never late to work is because they’re always finishing up on the big stuff right when I come in. I’d try to get here even sooner if classes got out that early. With that in mind, I suppose it's not all totally mundane yet. Maybe I'm just in a bad mood from being tasked to the exact same thing every day for a week; I get the impression Mr. Setou is upset with me for having to call in and get my schedule...
My train of thought is interrupted by someone calling, the small display on the cover of my phone flashing with a number I don't recognize. I debate whether or not to pick it up, albeit for a bit too long seeing as how the ringing stops before I can even get out of the elevator.
Thoughts float through my mind, singling out the possibilities while I push the bucket into the maintenance closet, doing my best to dump its contents into a small floor drain without letting it flood over. It's at this point that I fully close the door and engage in the formal practice of 'wasting company time,' doing unneeded rearrangements of the chemicals on the shelves and reading each and every label in the hopes that it'll somehow say something different than the last time I was in here.
I check my call history one more time to make sure it wasn’t someone I need to be calling back. To begin with, who would even need to reach me in the first place? The head nurse is the only staff member with my phone number, so there aren't any records that Misha and Shizune could use to contact me. Akira doesn't use her work phone for personal things, so it couldn't have been her. Would Hanako or Lilly ever have a reason to call me?
Does Hanako even have a phone? She's a teenage girl so I have no reason to believe that she wouldn't, but for someone as anti-social as her...
Oh, it's ringing again.
I'm able to answer in time, not the slightest worry in my head over someone opening the door to find me slacking on the work I've already finished.
“Hisao Nakai speaking.”
The first thing I hear is a sigh of relief, followed by “Ah, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to reach you. Good evening, Hisao.” Her voice is just barely audible thanks to the terrible signal, and I get the impression that she's already under a bit of stress.
“Lilly?” I respond, having to click the volume tab a dozen times before I can finally hear her. “Good evening to you as well. Did something happen?”
“Ah, no, there aren't any issues at the moment. I was just curious as to whether you'd like to attend dinner with Hanako and myself tonight.” She giggles.
Dinner tonight? Does she mean in her room like with tea and study sessions, or are they planning to go out somewhere? “What's the occasion? It isn't just every night I get invited out to dinner with two girls.” I chuckle.
“My my, it's nothing formal at all.” Lilly returns. “It's merely a meeting with my father, tonight at eight. We were hoping to go to the Shanghai, but he tends to change things around so you'll have to excuse us if our arrangements change.”
Do I really have a choice in the matter? I don't think they'd be too offended if I opted out, but what reason do I have to try and stay out of it? Clearly Lilly is inviting me for a reason; did Akira tell her how our meeting with their father went?
“Of course I can come.” I respond before realizing that I only have an hour to get into town. “Can I ask why you're inviting me? Akira gets off work at nine, doesn't she? What's another hour to the Shanghai?”
I hear a short 'ahem' while she tries to put her reasons into words, the constant fluctuations in volume not helping her case. “Father isn't in the mood to see Akira at the moment, I'm afraid.”
“'In the mood?' What do you mean 'in the mood?'” I echo, taken back by how forward Lilly puts it and how passive she seems to be about going along with it.
“That's what Father wishes. It's simply the way things have to be right now.” The tone of her voice dips a little, her sullen words making it feel like she were forcing herself to be a little more detached from the actual issue. “I don't agree with it either, but there isn't much I can do to go against it. He wanted to spend some time with me and I was given permission to invite a few of my friends.”
What was the word she used to describe him before? 'Patriarchal' or something along those lines? I have to wonder if he treats his daughters worse than he treats co-workers or even random strangers. It's already evident that he doesn't have much respect for anyone who isn't himself.
I give a light sigh. “If it's important that I be there, then I'll try and make it. I'm still in work clothes though, and I'll probably be late since it takes a while to get back into town.”
She pauses, no doubt thinking about whether or not I should even show up for her father if I’m going to be late. “That won't be a problem at all, don't concern yourself over it. We'll be sure to take our time.”
“Fair enough.” Expectations for the night float around in my head, unsure of what to expect when it comes to him and his other daughter. “I'm not gonna leave you and Hanako alone with him.” I add with a chuckle.
My statement is returned with one last giggle. “You have my appreciation. I do hope you can make it tonight, Hisao.”
With that, we exchange our goodbyes and the raspy sounds of the receiver click back to silence. The glowing screen on my phone indicates that it's already seven in the afternoon. It takes at least half an hour to get back into town, assuming I can catch the bus at a proper time. At this point it's just a matter of trying to get everything sorted out and convincing the boss to let me go home early.
Speaking of Mr. Setou, there are some other things I need to talk about – he's usually in his office around this time. It's right next door, on top of that.
I approach the office at the end of the hallway to find an open door, but knock on the paneling anyway. He's inside doing some work on his computer, having replaced many of the stacks of paperwork with even bigger, more disorganized messes of forms and slips. His hair is still a mop and he’s wearing what could imply that it’s casual friday.
That would, of course, insinuate that we have casual Friday at all. The last time I saw a scientist in anything other than black slacks and a white coat, he was being sent home for 'unprofessional conduct.' It's a miracle that I manage to get away with khakis and tennis shoes; for all the talking he does about the janitor being a vital job, he sure doesn't hold me to many standards.
That's beside the point, however. He doesn't even look away from the monitor to wave me in, still punching keys on the keyboard while taking a long swig from his coffee mug. “Good evening, Nakai.”
I bow my head before taking a seat. “Good evening. I've finished up on everything, I think.”
"What do you mean you think?” He asks in a stern tone. “Are you sure or aren't you? Why are you wasting my time instead of double checking?"
My posture tenses up by reflex and I do a quick replay of everything I've done on this shift. “Yes sir, I'm done. I cleaned the first floor lab, sanitized the three cabinets on the third floor, and reorganized the broom closet.”
“That's pretty good, dude. Very good.” He says, calming down as soon as I give a 'satisfactory' answer. “Sorry if I'm a bit occupied; trying to get some reports and progress summaries together for a big investors' meeting. Busy busy busy.”
“Oh, I'm sorry if I'm interrupting.” I say by reflex.
He shakes his head while checking over a sheet of paper in his lap. “It's alright, just saying I might be a little distracted. Still trying to figure out all those little shortcuts Mr. Shuugetsu knew how to do.”
Mister... Shuugetsu. How long has it been since I actually saw him? It seems like it was just yesterday that he passed through here, giving me an idle nod and a glare that said everything for him.
“Ah. How has he been?” I ask out of a desire to keep the conversation going. I can't say I'm too curious or concerned with Tetsuo himself – he's not a very interesting topic to dwell on.
I'm treated to a shrug and a grumble while he continues to fiddle around with the mouse. “I haven’t heard much from or about him. He transferred to a different lab a while ago, no doubt for a pay raise or something in that vein. I've heard that he's been in the middle of some disagreements with management, but it's nothing I'd trust; he was one of the most upstanding employees we've ever had.”
It's no secret that he transferred. He had been talking about the position, shaking hands, and handing out farewell cards a week before it even happened. Although it seemed a little fake, I assumed that it was just how things work when you're a professional of that tier. I suppose this is all just part of his plan, though; climbing the ladder to the top.
Either way, I'm happy for him. Or, well, about as happy as I can be considering who he was. Maybe I'm just content in knowing that he won't be back anytime soon.
“It's a little strange not seeing him around.” I remark. “He was supposed to be the district manager, wasn't he? He seemed to spend more time here than at any of the other branches.”
“Well, that's because he had a special someone. It was a shorter distance from here to where she worked than from any of the other branches.” Mr. Setou chuckles, still typing with one hand while he flips over a page. “Don't quote me on that, though.”
It's a little weird, hearing things about someone after they're gone. “Didn’t everyone know about that? Why treat it like a secret?”
“Things like that are very fickle when you're in his position. No use lingering on it, now that he's moved out.” He shrugs, his expression changing from laid-back to detached. “You'd be better off worrying about your own position at the time being. That's not to say you're in any trouble, just some friendly advice.”
'Friendly advice' he says, with a rather disgruntled expression on his face. A few moments later an even sterner and more cautious warning slips out. “You tend to ask some questions that could put you in a bad spot. Curiosity is good, but with concepts – questions about co-workers aren't so great.”
I've been hearing that too much lately. Mutou says I'm overly curious, Akira says I'm always lost in thought, and now I ask too many questions about the wrong things. “I'm sorry.”
“Oh, it's perfectly alright. Just warning you for when one day when you'll have a manager who isn't as easy-going about this stuff.” Setou says, switching back into his usual attitude while he takes the paper, casts it over his shoulder, and goes to the next one in the stack. “Besides, you're not a terrible enough worker for me to really throw a fit about anything.”
I suppose that works. Have I already proven myself despite only being here for a little less than two months? I guess it's good that I meet the standards, at the very least. There wouldn't be a bad note if I decided to leave for something else.
Something else... “I've never really thought about it, and I'm sorry if it's disrespectful to ask, but where is there to go from here? As a custodian, I mean.”
“That's not disrespectful at all, it's a good question.” He pauses for a moment to glance over at me before getting back to his work. “Honestly, if you're hoping for a big promotion soon, I can't help you out there. You're a good worker, but you need to work on the...” He trails off, coughing to himself as if to catch his train of thought. “I think headquarters is looking for a new sanitation foreman up in Osaka, but they probably want more experience, you know?”
I nod. “That's more than alright. I actually wasn't asking about a custodial position. I'm thinking more in the vein of... becoming a chemist.”
He snaps a finger against the enter key so hard that it might break, causing me to jump in my seat. “You have to go to school for that. We don't hire the unqualified under any circumstances.”
“I see.” I say with an awkward 'heh.'
“Just thought I'd get that out there.” He responds, calming down and letting loose with a gentle sigh. “What's got you so interested?”
Would it be safe to tell him? I don't think he's really tied down to the idea of me staying as a janitor, but I'm not too sure about how much of a faux-pas it is to tell your boss that you're thinking of looking for a job elsewhere. It isn't with a bad intention, but... still.
I think I’ll just avoid talking about teaching for now. “I'm curious about what kind of help I'd be able to get if I wanted to go to school for an applied science.”
“Oh, well there's a lot we can do for you there.” He chuckles, grabbing a handful of papers off of the pile and straightening them as he talks. “If you want I can find one of the handbooks for you; we've got a lot of scholarships available, provided you're going into a certain field with the intention of coming back to us.”
“So the company will pay for my tuition, then?” I ask, trying not to get my hopes up.
He nods. “That's actually how I got my job here, little man. There's a lot of 'ifs' though, like you gotta keep a good GPA and they pick your degree program and...” Mr. Setou trails off, beginning to sift through the stack of papers.
At first he lifts a packet up here and there, thinking that it might be just under the surface. “You really gotta work your butt off, though. Moreso than what you've been doing... here...” He grunts while struggling with the mess on his desk.
I'm not too sure as to why it would be in this stack of papers in the first place, but he seems pretty intent on the idea, beginning to sort through it with such intensity that it starts to cascade onto the floor. “Mr. Setou, you don't need to... it's alright if...” I stammer between trying to keep the pile steady.
“Quiet.” He growls, glaring between each fold with so much anger that he could start a fire.
This continues until I step out of the way in an attempt to maintain safety as he violently throws the entire mound to the floor, beaming as he finds a small orange pamphlet at the very bottom. “See, I knew it was in here.”
It's bent up beyond belief and it looks like it's been through a few coffee spills, but there it is, all in cheesy lettering strewn across the front panel. Part of me wants to wonder why he can't just print out another one, seeing as how it's so thin and cheaply made, or even wonder why he still has this in the first place, but I don't want to let his hard work and frustration go to waste.
“Thank you.” I mutter, folding it up and sliding it into my back pocket.
I receive another nod before he goes back to his computer, not the least bit bothered by what appears to be the aftermath of a copier tsunami around his desk. “You're free to go if all your tasks are finished, by the way. It's not gonna be a very late night here.”
I bow my head and give him another 'thank you' before taking my leave.
Tuition assistance for certain fields. Surely chemistry must be one of those? I know teaching has been on my mind quite a bit, but this makes it a lot more complicated of a choice. Teaching is just an interest of mine, but this is a career in the making, as far as I can tell. On top of that, if I could get through college without having to worry about loans...
I'll need to talk to some people about this. Akira and my parents seem like a good start.
“Oh, good evening Hisao!” I'm greeted by the resident waitress as I step through the doors of the Shanghai. “Do you need me to show you the table? Because, well... they're the only ones here.”
Yuuko gestures to the only occupied table in the entire building, giving me a nervous glance before heading back into the kitchen to take care of the order they’ve already made. “I’ll get to you in a bit! They got a lot of food.”
Sure enough, I can spot that head of dark hair tied back into a short ponytail, his back turned to me with Lilly and Hanako sitting across from him in their usual casual outfits. A pot of tea sits between the three of them, along with four teacups.
“Ah, H-Hisao’s here.” Hanako says, prompting a friendly smile from Lilly.
“I'm glad you could make it.” She says, followed by a friendly wave from Hanako and... nothing from the elder Satou. In fact, all he really seems to do is stand up without facing me, as if it were an apt enough method of telling me to take the inner seat of the booth. I suppose there isn't much to say that hasn't been said, though; boring suit, upright posture, and everything else.
Once I manage to settle in, it only takes a few moments for the previous orders to arrive. Hanako takes the liberty of pouring me a cup of tea before poking at her own food, a plain sandwich of some sort. Lilly has matched her order, also receiving a plate of what looks like a generic sandwich with some kind of lunch meat, idling away while she takes her time sipping from her teacup.
No doubt enjoying the silence while it lasts.
Surprisingly enough, Mr. Satou stands by while three different dishes are being set in front of him, and...
“Please excuse me! I'll go get the rest right now!” Yuuko says before bowing so hard that she nearly hits her head on the table. From there, she scrambles back to the kitchen with her serving tray in hand, clearly distressed by something that happened before I got here.
Now that I really look into it, Lilly seems to be the only one that isn't affected by his presence, as opposed to Hanako who looks like she might shrink into her own boots at any moment.
“So, how has everyone been?” I ask, awkwardly hammering the words out while Mr. Satou's piercing gaze scrutinizes every inch of my body.
Lilly punctuates the silence that follows with a 'clink' of her cup against the saucer. “We've been quite alright. It feels like it's been a while since we were able to sit down like this, hasn't it?”
Hanako nods in agreement, picking up one half of her sandwich and beginning to take a nibble at it.
An interruption arises while Yuuko is returning, though, causing her to nearly drop her entire tray. It's practically a miracle that none of it manages to spill on the man beside me.
“Don't you think it would be polite to wait until everyone at the table has been served?” Mr. Satou suggests, in a smoother voice than I've ever heard him use thus far.
Hanako sits still, frozen like a deer caught in the headlights and not breaking her stare from Mr. Satou, at least not until Yuuko shows up to pass out another round of plates. He seems to be building up some sort of queue here, since the size of his meal has gotten so large that he has to push some of the dishes onto my side of the table.
“Take his order while you're at it.” He grumbles, disappearing into his own world while he adjusts his suit coat and folds his hands in his lap. If I'm not mistaken, I think he wants to get into his food as soon as possible, or at least before it gets cold, and I can't help but feel like he sees me as some sort of obstacle in that endeavor at the moment.
I wave off the notion. “I'll just have a coffee. I'm not feeling too hungry.”
Once again, though, our night is dictated by the man beside me. “It's rude to go without food when everyone else has called for it.” He says in a stern, albeit quiet voice.
Thoughts of arguing against him come and go in an instant. “Alright, then I'll have a chicken sandwich.”
Yuuko nods and begins to run back to the kitchen, pausing for a moment while Mr. Satou tells her “Put it on my bill.”
“I can pay for myself.” I object, noting a quick tinge of annoyance flashing across Lilly's expression.
The only thing I receive for such a notion, however, is “and I can pay for a million of you. You don't seem to have been taught any manners; arriving late to a dinner meeting, refusing aid when it's offered, wearing dirty clothes, elbows on the table.”
I check myself to find that my shoulders are covered in dust and a quick sniff would indicate that there's some rubbing alcohol stuck to me somewhere. “I just got off work. Excuse me, I thought this was something laid back..”
“And just where do you work? A junkyard?” He jabs, making an active attempt to scoot away from me as if whatever he's feeling will somehow lessen from a few centimeters away. I've honestly lost track for whether he's making a sarcastic joke or if he has any genuinely bad intentions. “Have some more pride – if not for yourself then for me and the people around you.”
Lilly takes the opportunity to try and defuse things before I can even give an answer. “Father, don't you think you're getting a little too worked up?”
It has quite the opposite effect, however. “Lilly, please. It gets confusing when we're all speaking out of turn.” Mr. Satou returns while holding a hand up, a blank expression on his face as if this were routine for him.
Even though he tries to deliver it as calmly as possible, Lilly is still left clenching her teeth and straightening her posture, not so receptive to being told to be quiet. In a lot of ways she reminds me of a more restrained Akira. Maybe all those years away from her parents had a bit of an effect after all.
"It's a little sad how manners seem to have disappeared from this country," Mr. Satou continues, sliding his glasses off and polishing them with a silk cloth from his pocket. "It's nothing troublesome, though. You'll simply have to re-learn them if you want to have a pleasant experience."
I can feel the tension rising between Lilly and her father, although I don't get the impression that it's anything out of the ordinary. He's clearly displeased with the situation, but he seems rather detached about it.
It's clear that he doesn't perceive some things in the 'proper' way, considering all of the pointless gestures he makes to his daughter while he talks. "I simply want to see you succeed, and how you're acting now is certainly not the way to do it." He continues, his eyes drooping as if he were bored with tonight as a whole. From there, he turns to Hanako and bows his head, giving an airy "I'm sorry you have to deal with this."
At such a thing, the entire table goes silent, which doesn't seem to distract either of the Satous. Yuuko arrives a minute later with my sandwich as well as a cup of coffee, half of which I gulp down without a second thought to stave off the fatigue of work. Content that 'good manners' have been followed, the elder Satou takes no time before indulging in his own food, eating at a rather fast pace despite taking meticulous care to avoid letting even a single crumb cling to his shiny coat.
In fact, much of the dinner passes in silence. It's something I'm quite thankful for, considering how difficult it would be to argue with food in my mouth and the threat of being smacked for such an outright rude thing in the first place. Hanako continues sneaking cautious glimpses at both myself and the man beside me, Lilly maintains apt posture and goes through about half a pot of tea on her own, and Yuuko has to stop by at three different intervals to retrieve dishes while Mr. Satou plows through his food.
It feels like we're more on his terms now. This isn’t dinner with a friend’s relative, this is three high school students and the owner of a multinational corporation. I get the impression that Lilly has it the hardest right now, having to keep herself from speaking on multiple occasions, which is a strange situation on its own since she usually takes the initiative.
Even though all the food is already gone and dessert has been turned down, we still sit in silence for a few more minutes before Mr. Satou decides to make the first move. “Now then, Lilly, would you like to introduce me to your friends?”
“This is Hanako Ikezawa, a very close friend of mine. She lives in the room across the hall.” Lilly says, clearly trying to limit her words. Hanako offers a small bow of her head, although her cautious gaze never breaks from the man sitting across the table.
“I see.” He responds, bowing his head in such a light fashion that he might have just been nodding. "It's my pleasure to meet you, Ms. Ikeazawa. I trust that you've been watching out for my daughter."
She nods and then shies away, saying nothing more on the subject. It's such a strange thing to behold, seeing how he treats each daughter compared to their company; Lilly receives the 'polite but stern' treatment, while Akira and I get the 'I really wish I didn't have to be here right now' act.
Continuing that trend, I'm given no recognition after Lilly introduces me as "a classmate and a helpful friend" beyond being subjected to the sharp end of a pointed glance before he continues the conversation.
It's at this point that a rather awkward question slips out. “Have you met any suitors in Japan?”
I wonder if he has to try to be so blunt and straightforward, or if it's just how he is naturally.
“I'm afraid I haven't met anyone like that.” Lilly answers without skipping a beat, her statement trailing off into a sigh even though she does her best to seem disconnected from the issue. “I want to say I'm interested in the options you've offered, but I simply cannot wrap my head around the idea.”
He raises a brow in confusion. “I'm just curious, Lilly. We need to find someone nice for you, for the company.”
“I don't understand where any of this is coming from, Father.” Lilly says, keeping her hands in a neutral position and doing her best to remain calm. “You're not retiring soon, are you? Does it have to happen immediately?
“Just... hear me out. I've already tried explaining it to both you and your sister multiple times, and it doesn't seem to work.” Mr. Satou returns, ignoring Hanako's clearly worried expression despite acting so polite just moments ago. On top of that, he doesn't seem to have any shame in talking about these things even though two of Lilly's friends are sitting right next to him. “I'm retiring in a few years and I need to pass the company down. There are a few options, but I'm not going to leave our legacy in the hands of someone who isn't part of the family. That's why I need you, Lilly.”
“What's wrong with Akira?” I chime in, an action I quickly regret when Lilly lets out an exasperated sigh, as if it was the last thing she wanted brought up.
Mr. Satou flickers between considering an answer and telling me to shut up, eventually deciding on the former. “Everything's wrong with Akira, young man. I can't even get a hundred percent out of her in her current position; what makes you think she's fit to run an entire company when she's barely capable of running a single branch at capacity? While only managing its human resources and nothing else, at that?”
Lilly opens her mouth to speak, but quickly cuts herself off, just in time for her father to continue on his 'explanation.' "Even if she did marry someone vastly more competent, I do not believe that it would go without its fair share of issues, and any issues are more than what I would like to deal with right now."
His answer ends on that note, delving no deeper into the matter before he shuts my existence out of his mind. Lilly remains silent while waiting for him to continue on another train of thought, the timely checking of his flip-phone indicating that he has nothing else to inquire about for the moment. It's pretty clear that she looks conflicted about all of this, and now that I've seen the two of them together, I can certainly understand why.
Surprising everyone, the silence is broken by the dark-haired girl across the table, avoiding eye contact with everyone while she mumbles “I-I-I'vegottagotothebathroom...”
“Excuse me?” Mr. Satou asks, his eyes following Hanako's presence while Lilly steps out of the booth and allows passage to the girl beside her. The second she hops onto her own feet, Hanako practically evaporates, bolting to the restroom with such a fervor that you'd think she was running from a murder scene.
“It's nothing.” Lilly replies, taking her seat again. “So what is it you suggest we do then, Father?”
It's clear that she knows what's coming, or that she's known from the very beginning. We might be in the same boat right now; understanding what he's trying to say, but being totally unable to wrap our heads around it. What baffles me the most is that the two of them were planning to go along with it at one point. Akira was offered a higher position, but what was Lilly offered? Was this the idea from the very beginning, ever since they went to Inverness in the first place?
He shakes his head at the question. “Like I said, it's obvious; I will remain the executive of the company until I can arrange something for you, or for when Akira matures as an employee. It's not a very elegant solution, but it's the best we can do right now. I don't expect you to understand.”
What was going through Akira's head for something like this to seem plausible, much less the best course of action? On top of that, I can't understand Lilly's loyalty to the man either; all that seems to come out of his mouth is a constant stream of criticism. Not once have I heard him compliment her or do anything that would highlight him as a caring father. Guiding with a stern hand, but not caring; like he were shepherding animals instead of raising children.
I want to yell at him. I want to ask what there is to even understand about pairing off one of his daughters with some candidate for the next head of the company. I want to say it's selfish and disgusting.
“For the time being, I will stand by my sister's decision.” Lilly states, giving her father a resolute frown. “I care very much about our family and I do want to carry the traditions forward, but I would prefer that you gave me my own space to do so. I'm sorry.”
The words aren't coming to me, though. He's different from anyone else I've met – Kenji changes subjects so fast that it's hard to believe that he's committed to anything beyond his paranoia over feminism, Tetsuo was hard-headed but eventually tried to see things in a different light, and Akira just takes a lot of convincing.
He shakes his head and lets out a dim sigh. “I'm sorry to hear that, Lilly. I'm sure one of these days you'll understand – right now, I do not expect that of you.”
I don't think it's possible to get him to change his mind. He sees Akira as a burden and Lilly as a tool, and based on that alone it's easy to believe that there's no one who stands on his level. Why would he negotiate with someone who isn't on the same tier as him?
“I need to go to the restroom.” I announce after a bit of deliberation; not so much for any obvious reasons, but because I just need to get away from this man before I do say something I'm going to regret.
Passage is granted, although not before a comment of “I don't expect you to understand either,” as if he saw through the motion altogether.
Is there anything to understand? Motives or not, it's incredibly disappointing. Flying all the way across the world just to try and tie his only children down to such asinine things? It's clear that he's dead-set on it as well, seeing as how merely being declined over the phone wasn't en-
My train of thought is interrupted by a dark-haired girl bumping into my...
Her attention is so closely drawn to the ground that she couldn't see me coming even from a straight pathway, knocking into my chest with just enough force to make it hurt. “Hello there, Hanako.”
She meets my gaze before shying away, rubbing her already red eyes and looking even more distressed at my pained expression. I glance over my shoulder to make sure that Mr. Satou can't see us before gently nudging her toward the back door.
There's a bench in the alleyway that looks like it's reserved for employee breaks, but I don't think Yuuko would mind too much if we used it to get some fresh air.
“You don't like him either, do you?” I ask, trying to get her to calm down.
She shakes her head, still unable to put the right words together in the midst of her panicked demeanor, covering her face and attempting to stifle a few sobs.
We sit in silence for a few moments before she finally gathers all of her senses. “H-He's going to take L-Lilly away, isn't he?”
“I don't think it'll happen.” I shake my head and shrug. “I don't know what he's trying to do, but I do know that it's not at all forgivable. I think he'll just have to find another solution to his 'problem.'”
She fidgets with her hands and keeps a downcast gaze, eventually removing her cabbie hat and setting it in her lap. “I-I don't like it when things... change.”
The next statement forms on her lips, but she doesn't say anything, indecisive on whether she wants to speak at all. It takes a bit of deliberation for her to finally vocalize what she thinks. “Lilly has to s-stay here with us... but I don't w-want her to disobey her father.”
“Is that really necessary, though? What's disobedience if he's asking her to do things that actively ruin her own future?” I return, trying not to raise my voice. “That's not her future, that's the future he's chosen for her. I couldn't stand something like that; having my actions dictated by my folks. I'd have to break away from them if that were the case.”
Hanako shakes her head again. “Y-You shouldn't take things like that f-for granted...” She trails off, a hundred different emotions clashing with each other both in her voice and in her expression. It isn't long before she pushes the thought away entirely, her foot tapping against the ground in a nervous beat. “Lilly deserves better than... that.”
“There should be a choice in the matter, at least.” I say, thinking back to all the things that have happened over the past few months. “I think that's something both Lilly and Akira deserve after everything he's put them through.”
It makes me feel so out of place. I’m being swamped with decisions that have to be made while two people close to me are having a family feud over whether or not they even get a choice. At any rate, I think I’m understanding more and more why Akira chose to shut him out after a few years of absence. If this is how he’s always been then I have to wonder how they even got along in the first place.
The worst part is that none of this is up to me. I can’t just march up to Mr. Satou and tell him that Lilly and Akira don’t want to go back with him and so they’re staying here. They have to oppose it, and in such a way that it manages to punch through an ego more dense than lead.
What if this is what it’s going to be like in the future? I don’t want my life decisions made for me, without my input. I’ve already had my entire being flipped inside out by one thing that was out of my control, I don’t know if I could stand another.
I just hope they can find a way around this. I’ll do my best to help, but the feelings of futility are already setting in.
Last edited by Thanatos02
on Sat Oct 18, 2014 12:52 am, edited 3 times in total.