Akira Pseudo-Route [Complete!]

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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 2/4]

Post by Thanatos02 » Thu Mar 06, 2014 4:20 am

Hey guys, just dropping this off before I hit the hay. It's kinda hard to believe that I've been writing this for almost 17 months, I always figured I'd have it done within the 1-year mark, but life just keeps catching up to me.

Anyway, this originally came out as something of a terrible filler chapter before I (with massive help from my editor) managed to turn it into its own thing. The table's practically set at this point, and the next chapter is going to make a big boom out of a lot of the build-up. It's not the last, we've still got 3 segments to go, but expect a lot of action with the next update. Comments and criticism still welcome, as always.

Act 5 - Part 7: Under My Skin

I'm brought back into the world of the awake by the beeping drone of my alarm clock, the red panel glowing '7:00 A.M.' as if trying to burn its image into my mind. Unable to keep my eyes open, my tired hand takes random whacks at the nightstand until I'm able to quell the racket, feeling no guilt about turning over and burying my head into the warm, welcoming embrace of my pillow. The covers weave around my frame and I'm bathed in warmth again, the thought of class today a distant image in my sleep-addled mind.

The oddly familiar scent of cherry fills my nose as I roll face-first into the pillow. Upon sitting up, it becomes clear that the girl who was previously here with me has opted to wake up sooner and call dibs on the shower. I'm only able to make it halfway back to dreamland before my alarm clock goes off again, though.

The alarm, the shower, the closet, my backpack. They don’t understand. I love you, bed. You're the only one that understands me. It's with a heavy heart that I finally force myself awake, casting the covers off and rubbing the sleep from my eyes.

On one hand, I could try and join Akira, which would both save a bit of time and grant me another few glances at her naked frame – two things one can never have enough of. Then again, it's probably for the best that I don't go pushing my luck, especially when Kenji's almost certainly cooped up in his room. I feel like I should be worried about him walking in on Akira, but I just don’t feel very worried; the door doesn't lock, but even if he did decide to try and use the shower, he'd probably mistake her for me.

That's a pretty interesting question, actually. Should you worry about the girl you like being seen naked by someone who is, for all intents and purposes, blind, and would probably mistake her for a guy in the first place? It would be another issue entirely if it was one of the other guys in class, but...

I'm thinking too hard on this, I need to be getting ready for class - I'll only be able to squeeze in a five minute shower, but I suppose that's the price to pay for having a guest over for the night. If anything, I'm thankful that we didn't get caught.

Halfway through my morning routine of cleaning up all the notes on my desk and making sure I’ve taken all my pills, I'm interrupted by a stark, almost energetic knocking.

Now, it can't be Kenji. Kenji's knocks are lazy, but frantic at the same time, as if to say 'I need to see you but if you're not here then it’s fine.' The knocks I'm hearing right now are more like 'I need to see you and I'm going to keep knocking until someone answers the door.' Could it be Shizune and Misha, perhaps? I wouldn't be surprised if they found some kind of contrived excuse to yank me away for 'volunteer' duties so early in the morning. The only other possibilities are Lilly and Hanako, and... well, they wouldn't knock like that.

No other way to find out, I guess.

As soon as I open the door even a crack, I'm bombarded by an energetic “Hey Hisao! It's been a while since I've seen you, huh?”

“Good morning, Emi.” I reply, quickly becoming more alert from just her presence alone. I subconsciously straighten my posture and adjust my shirt, keeping the door only cracked enough to talk to her – there’s the benefit of Akira's suit not arousing much suspicion, but I'd rather not take any chances in case there’s more visible than just her outerwear.

A stack of yellow notes sits between Emi’s hands and she looks like she may have just finished a morning run, a few beads of sweat still clinging to her face. Her hair is tied into two tight twintails, swaying as she hops back and forth, seemingly in a hurry to finish whatever it is she's here to do and get to a shower.

Despite being so jittery, though, she takes a moment to look me up and down, no doubt since this is the first time we’ve met in a while. “You look pretty worn out. Girlfriend keep you up all night?” She winks before giggling to herself, shuffling through the notes and then picking one out for me.

I resist the urge to glance back at the bathroom door out of guilt before shaking my head. “Oh, no, I just had a late night studying. Trying to keep up, you know.” I give a nervous chuckle, accepting the yellow slip.

“The nurse says it's been too long since you came in for a check-up. You'd better have been keeping up with things, for your sake!” She chimes, flashing a feisty smile before looking through the stack once more, trying to figure out where her next visit should be. I’ve heard about Emi going around campus to hand out summons to the nurse’s office on some mornings, but this would be the first time I’ve ever been subjected to such a thing.

However... before I can send her off, the foreboding sound of a door handle clicking passes through my ears, bringing both my attention and hers to the bathroom entrance.

As expected, the older of the two Satou sisters emerges, wisps of steam heralding her entrance, yet doing nothing to keep her hidden. Luckily she hasn't decided to take a risky approach, as she's wearing her shirt as well as a towel around her hips, although she's still showing quite a bit of leg that way.

I can practically feel both of their looks boring into me, with Akira wearing a confused frown when she notices the girl in the doorway and Emi no doubt beaming with a mischievous grin, just waiting for an opportunity to jab me over it.

“Hisao, is... is that Lilly's sister?” Emi muses, snickering between each syllable. She sounds more surprised than amused, although I don't even have to turn around to figure out just how much she must be enjoying this new information.

Akira, on the other hand, remains silent and calmly jumps between the two of us, avoiding the urge to make a joke about the situation. She squeezes in through the doorway and subsequently ignores the scrutinizing gaze of the other girl in the hallway, not even so much as turning a curious glance in her direction.

With my guest safely out of sight, I nudge Emi further back into the hallway and shut the door between us, trying as hard as I can to keep from panicking. Despite that, it is only then that Emi relinquishes any self-restraint she may have been holding on to, erupting in laughter and making me jump in surprise. “Jeeeez, Hisao! I knew you were a player, but this is ridiculous!” She coos, her voice muffled by the door; an idle tapping follows her statement, as if she were bouncing up and down from the sheer absurdity of the situation.

“Listen, Emi, you can't tell anyone about this.” I say, holding my back to the door in case she tries to push her way back in.

My statement is met by something of a giggle, followed by “Come on, Hisao, do you really think I'm that kind of person? Your secret's safe with me.” The handle jiggles in my hand as if she’s checking to see if the door is open again. “You’re gonna have to tell me what you’re doing with a girl like her, though! Isn’t she like ten years older than you?”

“Six.” Akira remarks in a blank tone, the shock of the situation having already passed as she sits on the bed and dries her hair with the towel, revealing that a pair of red panties was all she was wearing beneath it.

“It’s... a long story.” I answer, deciding that it might be a bad idea to say ‘we met at a suit shop and things spiraled out of control from there.’

I hear another set of giggles from the other side of the door, with a muffled ‘clack clack clack’ following her motions as she undoubtedly bounces around with a strange excitement. “I won’t interrogate you, I’m actually really surprised! We had a bet going over whether or not you’d wind up with Hanako, though.”

“Who’s ‘we?’” I ask, unable to keep from grimacing as Akira glances over at me, a ‘oh, did I just hear what I thought I heard?’ grin plastered on her face.

“Oh, uh...” Emi trails off, realizing that she said something she shouldn’t have. “Just Rin. Me and Rin. Rin and I.”

Rin? That painter girl? I can see Emi being something of a gossip, but Rin? Why would she be at all concerned with...

That’s not what I need to be worrying about right now. I’ve only got half an hour until class starts and I haven’t even started to get ready.

“So you’re not going to tell anyone about this?” I ask out of paranoia, still leaning all of my weight against the door even though it’s clear that Emi won’t try to get in again.

A receive a short ‘heh,’ followed by “Of course not, Hisao! Your secret’s safe with me, I wouldn’t go spreading something like this around the school, you know.”

I heave a sigh of relief and relax, trying to calm myself down as the fact that my heart’s beating too quickly for comfort catches up to me. “Okay, good. Thank you, I'm sorry you had to come at such a bad ti-”

“As long as you get to the nurse's office before I finish giving out all these notes~!” Emi says, her voice trailing off and the metallic clacking of her prosthesis leading down the hallway. At first I begin to panic again, but then I realize that the stack of passes she was carrying had to have included at least another couple dozen visits across campus. She’s fast, but she’s not THAT fast.

Akira watches my expression with great care, waiting until I've calmed down to toss my uniform pants at me. “What was that about?” She asks with a mix of confusion and concern.

I sigh, already in the process of putting my pants on while I seek the rest of my uniform. “I’m not entirely sure; it started off as a visit to give me a pass to the nurse’s office so I can show up late to class, but then... well, that happened.” I'm forced to pause between each phrase while my train of thought makes frequent stops, constantly distracted by the exposed pair of legs in the room.

“Well, it was a girl. Nothing she hasn't seen before.” Akira concedes with a small laugh, checking over her suit for any patches of lint before starting to slip into her pants. “You've been taking care of yourself, right? Took your pills and everything?”

I nod, glancing over to my nightstand to ensure that all of the 'twice daily' bottles are turned over and the 'thrice daily' bottles are waiting on the desk. “It's probably second nature at this point. Habits form pretty fast when you're dealing with matters of 'do this to not die.'”

“Yeah, you don't need me to mommy you. That's good.” She pats down her pockets, pulling her phone out and thumbing through its contents . “Think the Shanghai would be alright with me hanging around for a few hours? May as well take some time and catch up with the news.”

“Eh? Why would you need to... oh.” I say, glancing out the window to see students already making their ways around the courtyard. “They actually don’t do room checks here, so I think it would be fine if you just stayed here.” I continue, doing up the buttons of my shirt in practiced motions while looking for my comb. “I'm not sure what you could do about lunch, though. Lilly and Hanako usually invite me for lunch, so maybe you could...”

She cuts me off, waving one hand around as if to say 'don't worry about that.' “I called up Lilly before I got in the shower, she said it'll be fine if I meet with you three for lunch, I just need to kill some time before then. There's this empty classroom on the third floor, right?”

“Yeah, it's right down the hall from the stairway...” I trail off, checking myself in the bathroom mirror before calling over my shoulder, “When did you call Lilly?”

My question receives a playful wink, a gesture made all the more enticing by the fact that Akira has already begun to take off her pants with the intention of going back to bed. “You're a pretty heavy sleeper.”

“If you say so.” I reply, taking care of the finishing touches on my uniform before grabbing my book bag. “So you're going to meet us for lunch, then?”

“Yep.” She nods, undoing the top few buttons of her shirt before plopping back on the bed with her arms outstretched. “I'm just going to catch a few more hours of sleep, if me staying here won't hurt anything. Only thing Lilly had to say was that there might be a guest today.” Her voice carries a hint of annoyance, although I'm not sure if it has more to do with her father or if it's because there's anything that could interrupt a time with her sister. “Well, 'might be,' but that usually means 'expect something.'”

That throws off my rhythm a little bit. I'd been preparing myself for how I was going to act for the board meeting, but now I have to meet him a few days early. I suppose any exposure to him helps me build up a better understanding, or at least teaches me more about him, but at the same time, he's... not the easiest person to be around. I can see where she's coming from on that end.

I finish tying my shoes and head for the door, only to be stopped partway there. Before I can say anything, my lips are sealed shut and I can feel her hands gripping my shoulders, lulling me into a state of bliss I've never experienced this early in the morning.

A light moan escapes her throat as she holds the kiss out, barely allowing me to get into it before she sees fit to break away. “That's your goodnight kiss, and your good morning kiss – it's all you're getting today.” She says with a sly grin, nudging me back with her slender hands.

“No lunchtime kiss?” Are the only words I can muster as my brain spins within its hard shell, every other concern in my mind melting like butter on a hot skillet while a big dumb grin droops from my lips.

“We’ll see about it.” She returns, waving me off before slipping back under the covers and gesturing for me to turn off the light. Thoughts of skipping class for the day run amok in my head as I lock the door behind me, my daydreams already flaring up before I can even get to the stairwell.


The sterile environment of the head nurse's waiting room sends uncomfortable chills of deja vu up my spine, the soft murmur of his voice behind the door the only noise discernable from the hum of an AC unit and the ticking of a wall clock. I wasn't given a specific time, the only thing the pass says is for me to report to the nurse's office; I suppose that doesn’t matter, seeing as how I can get back into class whenever I’m done no matter how long it takes.

I’m not even sure on why I have to be here right now. Is it just because it’s been a while since I stopped in? Why would that warrant pulling me out of bed to come for a check-up? I suppose it’s good that I check in and make sure that all of this stress isn’t literally tearing me apart, but I can’t help but feel like it’s a waste of time, almost.

Either way, I'm only left waiting for about ten minutes before he opens his door and a girl steps out, waving goodbye as she skips to wherever she's supposed to be. She’s then followed by the Nurse himself and I'm the first thing to catch his eye, my presence welcomed by an enthusiastic smile.

“Well, well, well. It's been a while since I've seen you in here.” He says, letting the door shut with a 'click' as soon as I step inside. “How's that job been? I certainly hope you've been taking care of yourself.”

Now that I think about it, I don't think the job's helped me out a whole lot in terms of my fitness. I guess I've been getting a bit of exercise by using the stairs, but most of the time I can just use the elevator since I have a maintenance cart anyway. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, though; if there's no physical labor then it doesn't matter, but if I haven't gotten any exercise from it he might chew me out regardless.

“It's been going alright. The work isn't as taxing as I originally thought so I haven't had to worry about pushing myself too much.” I answer, unsure of what else to say.

My statement is met by a bit of a leer. “Mm, but by the looks of it, you haven't been getting much sleep, have you?” He says, leaning in and analyzing my expression. “Seeing a bit of restlessness -- or is it just all those late night parties at the guys' dorm?” He shoots me a joking grin before standing up and getting his stethoscope ready, the motion itself enough to say that I should take off my shirt.

“Just a lot of late studying, pretty much.” I reply, unbuttoning my uniform shirt while I brace myself. He goes about the usual procedure, only stopping to make a weird expression twice before dismissing it as 'normal' and pulling away.

It makes me wonder if there are any other students here with arrhythmia. It doesn't seem like a very common condition, but then again, neither do blindness and missing limbs, and there's plenty of that to be found here. At least I can be grateful that it’s one of those ‘invisible’ disabilities, so it’s not like I have any reason to go looking for someone who has ‘that’ in common with me.

“Has everything been alright? I'll assume you've been keeping up with your medication.” He continues, letting the metal implement hang around his neck while he goes to check through one of a dozen filing cabinets sitting against the wall. “No major incidents, am I correct?”

I shake my head on reflex, although a few memories immediately come to mind. “There’s not much to speak of, no. I've been a little stressed out by a few things that are going on, but nothing that would involve me pushing my luck.”

He gives a small 'hm' as he pulls what I assume is my folder out of the drawer and slaps it on his desk. I'm given a moment's pause while he searches for the right paper, in the process of scribbling down a few notes before he's even settled into his chair. “Well, any stress at all is no good. It's part of life, though, so just be sure to take it easy as often as you can.” He explains, flashing a short grin at me before continuing. “Stress-related heart issues are common enough in people without your condition, so... just keep an eye on that.”

“Everything has been pretty easy to figure out, to be honest.” I note, already putting my shirt back on and trying to get an eye for just how much he's writing down.

“It’s a good thing you're a quick learner, since everything checks out. The only real advice I can give you is to keep doing whatever you're doing. It seems like you've made some improvements, so just keep at it.” He says with an enthusiastic grin, capping the pen and setting it down. “See, just a short check-up. Any questions?”

At first I start to gather up my things, but then my mind flashes back to the time I've been spending with Akira. Thoughts of caramel-colored bottles jump through my head in particular, and I can't help but express a bit of curiosity. “Is it... What's your stance on, uh, alcohol?”

He glances up from the paper and gives me a stern glare, his head is tilted in confusion and no doubt the fact that it's me makes the question that much worse. “Alcohol, huh?” His tone comes across as distilled annoyance, his eyes challenging me as if to say 'do you really need me to say it or is this enough?'

“Y-Yeah. I'm just a little curious..” I return, trying as hard as I can to avoid coming off as guilty and probably failing nonetheless. “I’ve gotten offers from co-workers to go drinking, but I’ve always turned it down because I’m not too sure of what would happen.”

“As a medical professional, I'm going to have to advise against it.” He leans forward and crosses his fingers, propping his head up atop them. “Studies are ongoing, so I couldn't give you a definite explanation for what it has to do with your condition, but from a general standpoint, alcohol and heart conditions don't go well together.” At this, he gives a long sigh before leaning back in his chair, relaxing a little now that he's left me shaking in my own seat. “Not only that, you're a student, and drinking is strongly prohibited, especially since you’re not even of legal age. So if the health concerns aren't enough, then maybe you could consider your standing at this school as another deterrent.”

I give a strong nod. “Oh, no, I'm just... I'm just curious, is all.” I stammer out, thinking back to the strange palpitations I got during both that night on the roof with Kenji, as well as the multiple evenings with Akira. “So... even one drink is out?”

His posture drops for just a moment, surprised by my persistence. “Well, a glass of red wine every now and then has been proven to help 'prevent' heart disease, but I'm not in a position to tell you whether or not it reduces the severity of conditions and afflictions that have already taken root.”

Would it be better to keep taking risks for the sake of enjoying some time with Akira, or should I just ditch the idea entirely? I've already seen what happens first-hand, and I really don't want to go pushing my already shoddy luck. “So... only in extreme moderation, then?”

He takes a moment to think on it before finally shaking his head, although his expression lightens up a considerable amount. “Any at all is too much. I'm sure you could get a bit of a debate on it if you went for a second opinion, but I maintain that it's not worth the risk. Those are uncharted waters we’re looking at, Mr. Nakai.”

Well, so much for that. Not only is it a bad idea because of all the medication I have to take, but even as a stand-alone issue, my heart still keeps me from having fun. I can't help but wonder how Akira might take something like that; alcohol seems like a pretty big thing for her when it comes to relieving stress, and I feel a little bad that I won't be able to partake in the activity with her.

It’s a really stupid thing to feel insecure over, too. I don’t think I’d be worried for a second if I hadn’t been there for all the times that Akira made annoyed observations about Tetsuo’s absolute refusal to go drinking under any circumstances. Was it his avoidance of the act that caused such a disconnection, or was it his attitude about the whole thing?

The nurse looks me over with a trace of suspicion while I gather up my things and stand up. “You haven’t already been experimenting, have you?”

“Ah, I... no, of course not.” I reply, trying as hard as I can to keep my cool.

He raises one eyebrow, not totally convinced. Instead of pursuing the matter further, though, he seems to take my word on it. “Well, either way, hopefully I've made myself clear. Any other questions?”

I shake my head. “That's the only thing that's been bugging me. I'll try and stay away from it; doesn't seem like much good can come from it in the first place.”

A blatant lie on my part, but maybe if I say it enough it'll keep me from pushing the envelope. Then again, it's only true under the condition that my chest isn't rigged to explode from anything more agitating than a bump.

“Alright then, I'm glad we see eye to eye on this.” He says, adjusting his coat and following me out so that he can call for the next student. “Just be sure to take it easy.”

Yeah, I’ll be sure to take it easy between the scathing corporate executive dad and nagging decisions to be made. All this entire meeting has really given me is that drinking really and truly isn’t a good idea, and that I should keep doing whatever I’m doing that doesn’t involve alcohol. Ugh.

I bow my head before leaving the infirmary. My watch indicates that I've only missed fifteen minutes of class, although with the way I'm feeling now I'm wondering if it would be alright to miss another hour and go back to sleep. There's enough motivation for that idea waiting in my room as it is, and I'm sure it could be justified by how far ahead I've been able to get with...

No, no skipping class. Even if there's a half-naked girl waiting for you back in your room.


Class goes by without incident and everyone packs up their things to head out for lunch, although Hanako seems to be having some issues, as indicated by her absence today. Mutou has also already left the room, in a rush to make to his own lunch, apparently. I wish I could sum up what was covered in today's lectures, but I spent most of it trying to plan out the meeting I'm about to have with Mr. Satou.

As far as lunch goes, I'm still not entirely sure of what to do or think. I genuinely want to believe that he's just here to have lunch with his daughter, but the things Akira has said will always have me leery of his intentions – at the same time, it's pretty easy to get into the mindset that she might be just a little biased because of their past together.

Sure the guy's a total jerk, but... maybe he has some good intentions behind it. It's understandable that he's trying to get Lilly to offer up her hand for an arranged marriage, since that's pretty much their entire livelihood hanging in the balance if he lets the company go to someone who isn't in the family. Despicable and manipulative intentions, sure, but understandable nonetheless.

What still has me utterly baffled is what he has in store for Akira. Most of the time it feels like he'd rather disown her and be done with it, but there’s always this nagging feeling in my head, like he just wants to take her out for a drink but doesn't know how to ask without barking a hundred insults along the way. I suppose it's to be expected of a Japanese businessman in his position to be more than a little abrasive, but I can't really discern if I'm misunderstanding or if there's nothing under the surface and he's just a giant asshole.

Nothing to do other than take the plunge and try to find out, I guess.

With my bag slung over my shoulder, I'm the last one to leave the classroom. I didn't take the time to pack my own lunch, so naturally I'll be stopping by the vending machine today; it wouldn't look very proper of me to show up to a planned lunch without, well, a planned lunch. Anything I can do to reduce the number of things I'll...

My train of thought screeches to a halt as I peer over the heads of the crowd in the hallway only to find a distinct head of black hair, his shoulders draped in dark blue and what looks like a shaving bandage stuck under his chin. He's looking around with his arms at his side, moving only enough to keep from brushing up too strongly against any students.

Part of me wants to call out and wonder what's going on, and the other part just wants to take the scenic route up to the next floor and pretend I didn't see anything. Ultimately, my manners get the best of me and I approach him, although only after most of the crowd has cleared out.

“Mr... Mr. Satou?” I ask, immediately bowing my head as soon as he responds to the call.

The silence that follows speaks a lot of things to me, mostly on how out-of-place he both looks and must feel. Aside from the blazer, it would appear that today he's allowing himself to get away with 'business casual,' sporting only a long-sleeved shirt with no tie and a pair of slacks. The fancy logo on his lapel tells me that it's still an ensemble that would command months of paychecks from where I'm standing, but at the very least it seems like he's loosened up a bit.

“You are...” He trails off, failing to show any sort of emotion as he racks his brain for my name. “Necktie, correct?”

“It's, uh, Nakai. Hisao Nakai.” I remark, wincing a bit as I prepare for the verbal beating I'll surely receive for correcting him. I make no effort to move from my spot, waiting for him to initiate any sort of travel.

Satou tilts his head and adjusts his glasses, as if trying to shrug off the error. “Ah, I apologize.”

We sink into another silence, the air between us making me wish that I could shrink into my shoes and waddle away. Something about him commands a lot more than what I'm able to provide, and although he's been able to maintain a calm demeanor so far, I can't help but wonder when that's going to snap.

He eventually decides to check his phone, the shiny golden watch clasped around his wrist complimenting the shiny golden ring resting on his fourth finger. “Would you happen to know where I could find an empty classroom on this floor?” Satou asks, not even skipping a beat. Although his tone comes across as confident, I can't help but feel a little apprehension in his voice – he must be someone that really hates asking for directions.

“This floor?” I ask, now tilting my head as well while I remain frozen. “This is the third floor. If you're talking about Lilly, I think she meant to say second floor, near the library. That's where She and Hanako usually have lunch, anyway.”

“I see.” He says, maintaining eye contact, that strange yet familiar glimmer of red gazing into my mind from behind his thin-rimmed glasses. “I would have checked there first had I not received faulty directions.”

Then, without thanking me or saying anything else, he makes his way to the staircase and takes a few cautious steps down, taking care not to bump into a boy with an eyepatch. I take my time following him, allowing just enough of a window to make it seem like I'm not trying to stalk him, or do anything that would otherwise warrant getting yelled at.

Once I get up to the empty classroom, I'm only welcomed to the sight of domestic rivalry, with Akira already sitting at one side of the table beside her sister while Satou is just now pulling up a seat beside Hanako on the other. There's already another chair set up at the end of the table opposite the window, which I assume is for me.

The two of them lock eyes for a few moments before glancing away – Akira and her father, that is. A white 'visitor' sticker has been affixed to the chest of Akira's jacket and her general appearance would tell me that she decided to have a second shower prior to showing up for the meeting.

As soon as I enter the room, I'm met with a friendly smile and a wave from both Akira and Hanako. Lunch appears to have already been set up, so an emergency visit to the vending machine won't be necessary, seeing as how there's already tea and food available.

“Good afternoon, Hisao. I'm glad you could make it.” Lilly says as soon as I take my seat, indicating that the party's all here. “I'm sorry for the sudden arrangements, I wasn't expecting two more guests today.” She adds with a smile, rousing a cheeky 'heh' from her sister.

One glance at Hanako would indicate that she, indeed, hasn’t been feeling very well. It's clear that she doesn't intend to attend class today, but she's still decided to throw on her uniform, albeit she looks a little shook up, as if she overslept before coming here. Stray locks poke out from her head, making me wonder if she even had time to brush her hair before rushing over to the classroom. There's a bit of a panicked look in her eye and she appears to be trying as hard as she can not to shake, as indicated by the nervous clasping of her hands in her lap.

The strangest thing is that Mr. Satou doesn’t seem to feel the need to say anything, even to give a half-hearted greeting. He makes eye contact with everyone in the room, even Lilly, but other than to acknowledge that he’s not the only one in the room, he remains silent. Between what happened in the hallway and this, I get the impression that he’s trying to restrain himself, for some reason.

“So how's your day been, sis?” Akira asks while the tea is poured and our lunch of egg salad sandwiches and rice cakes is divided up.

“I've been quite alright, Akira. I had to wake up a little early, as you know, but it's nothing I have difficulty taking care of.” She replies with a smile, pausing to finish pouring her father's cup of tea. “What about you? It's a pleasure to get to visit with you on your day off.”

She takes a brief pause to thank Lilly and Hanako for the food. “Just didn't have anything else to do and felt like I'd come see my baby sister.” She explains, grinning at the pout that follows from her so-called 'baby sister' before starting to dig into her lunch.

Mr. Satou glances up every so often to pay attention to who's speaking - who, at this point, happens to be the dark-haired girl beside the eldest Satou - but does nothing to add to the conversation himself. It’s clear that he’s listening, but... is he just not interested?

“I-I think I came down with... with a bit of a c-cold...” Hanako says in a quiet voice, her hands shaking as she struggles to keep her teacup steady. “The n-newspaper club had a d-drafting meeting at the Shanghai last night and we.. d-didn't get back until t-two.”

Lilly quickly forgets her sister's remarks as soon as Hanako speaks up. "That doesn't sound very nice. Have you thought of taking a break from club activities?"

She shakes her head, fidgeting as she tries to put together an answer. "N-No, I can handle it. Th-There isn't much to do until the autumn f-festival, so... I-I'll be fine."

"Hey, at least they're keeping you busy, right?" Akira smiles and adjusts her seat, trying to avoid sitting directly across from the eldest Satou.

Hanako nods and opts out of speaking, avoiding eye contact upon noticing that Mr. Satou is also paying attention to her words. A short silence follows while Akira chews on a bite of her sandwich, mulling over her thoughts before looking at me, and then over at her father.

“What about you, Pops? Anything happen today?”

He glances up from his own meal, a riceball perched in-hand just inches from his mouth while he issues a reply. “I am your Father, I am not your ‘Pops.’” With that said, he then returns to his food for just a moment before setting it aside, with Akira practically unfazed by the exchange. “Today has been a good day, however. I attended a breakfast with Design & Distribution this morning, and we’re shaping up to release an adjusted version of model fifty-two. Thank you for asking.”

“Oh, fifty-two? They were having some trouble finding a new supplier for the R400 ports after Takeuchi went out of business this last week. I’m glad they got that worked out.” Akira responds before taking a sip of her tea. Extra care has to be taken not to knock anything over, since the table is a little overcrowded to account for the two extra seats.

...Did that just happen? The two of them just had part of a conversation and no insults or criticisms were flung -- not even a sarcastic comment. “What’s model fifty-two, exactly?” I ask, trying to keep it from staying one-sided long enough to get to the breaking point.

Without even thinking about it, both Akira and her father say “Business stuff” in exact unison, prompting an exchange of awkward glares. They both try to remain stoic, avoiding eye-contact while they continue indulging in their food in silence. Hanako doesn’t seem too keen on interrupting the stalemate, content to wait and listen in on what happens next.

The same can’t be said of Lilly, though. “My, this all sounds a little interesting. Could you elaborate on what ‘business stuff’ might be?”

Akira and Mr. Satou both open their mouths to speak, subsequently going quiet as soon as they realize that the other wants to talk. I don’t really know what’s going on, but if I had to take a guess, it seems like Mr. Satou is trying to be a bit more mannerly, and Akira is trying not to stomp on that and set him off.

“You know a lot more about this than I do.” Akira says, gesturing for the man opposite her to continue.

He refuses the notion, however, returning the gesture with “It’s your branch, you know better than I do what all has been going on.”

Akira lets out a barely-audible groan, either left uncomfortable by her father’s sudden show of manners or stumped on how to explain the concept to others at the table. “Project fifty-two is, well, a name for a wireless router we’re planning to ship out in a few days. Normally this would all be top-secret, but if it’s about to be released then there’s no reason to keep it under wraps, really.”

The smile on Lilly’s face doesn’t fade even the slightest bit, but it’s still clear that she has no idea as to what Akira just said. “So... is it an important assignment that you’ve been working on?”

“Yeah, it’s... well, no, I haven’t been working on it personally, but I’ve gotta manage what goes on with all the departments, so I know what’s going on.” Akira replies, finishing off the last bite of her sandwich in the silence that follows.

At this point, Mr. Satou has become strangely quiet, crossing his arms and looking as though he wants to cut in but is holding himself back. Beyond a single bite of his rice ball, he hasn’t touched his food ever since the conversation started.

“Is there anything you want to add, Mr. Satou?” I ask, unable to resist doing what may as well be stirring the situation due to piqued curiosity.

Without waiting even another moment, he begins. “Project fifty-two is the development and subsequent mass production of a router capable of transmitting through both a wired ethernet and wireless-n connections. The technology isn't cutting-edge, but our priority with this product is to strike a balance between affordability, security, and ranged capability. It is the first in a series of routers that we hope to release, using Japan as the testing grounds in order to get a scope of our projected market.” Mr. Satou explains, leering at Akira with more and more disdain as his speech drags on.

“What are you looking at me like that for?” Akira returns before Lilly can raise any more questions.

“Do you even know any of that? I’ve heard quite a bit about how disconnected you are from the company projects.” He asserts, somehow able to come off as both accusatory and calm at the same time.

Akira tries her best to keep her composure, sitting up and letting out a long sigh. “Of course I know all of that, old man, that’s something we were working on even before I had to take some time off because of your nonsense.”

“Maybe you should explain that, then, instead of remaining so vague about everything that comes out of your mouth.” His brow narrows and it looks as though he’s using every ounce of restraint in his body, like all the annoyance with her from the past week were just now being let loose.

“Oh, yeah, I’m gonna go barking about jargon to some people who barely even use the internet. Great idea, pops.” Akira shakes her head and finishes off her cup of tea, looking more disappointed with the situation than annoyed.

Hanako, while seemingly interested in the topic, looks more and more uncomfortable with each word that’s uttered, and I have to say that I share the same feeling. Lilly, on the other hand, maintains her usual demeanor even though it’s clear that she’s incredibly bothered as well -- no doubt she must have gotten used to it faster than everyone else in the room. Every time he gets like this it feels more difficult to speak, which is the worst problem because all they need is someone to defuse the situation.

“Never under-represent your products, girl. If you know proper business practice then maybe your branch wouldn’t have to work so hard and only barely make it into the black.” He argues, taking a sip of his own tea in retort before setting it down with a displeased expression. “How long did you steep this tea?”

At this, Akira becomes visibly irked and leans forward on the table, still maintaining the same tone of voice. “Is nothing ever good enough for you?”

“That’s a damn good thing to be asking at the rate you’re working at.” Satou rebukes with a glare matched in intensity only by the girl sitting across from him.

Before the argument can escalate even further out of control, Lilly cuts in with “That’s enough, I apologize for asking,” her voice wrought with strain as she tries to keep her own composure. The other two pause in their spots before going along with Lilly and trying to calm down, once again avoiding eye contact. Lilly takes this moment to shift the topic elsewhere, “So, Akira, do you have any plans for your birthday?”

“Honestly, I have no idea.” Akira answers, cooling off as Hanako pours her a new cup of tea. “I’d like to go see a concert or something, but chances are all I’ll have time to do is head to the jazz club for a night.”

Ah, right, Akira’s birthday. We briefly touched on it last night but I didn’t have much to say at the time. Even now, I can’t think of anything to do for her; I have no ideas for gifts and it’s probably too late to schedule anything big, like a trip to a concert or a fancy restaurant. She’s definitely not the type to fawn over jewelry and we’ve only been together for a fairly short time, so that’s out. I’m still too young to buy alcohol and I doubt I’m going to get lucky with Kenji again, so that’s also something I can throw out.

I’m sure I’ll think of something before then. “It’s your birthday. Whatever you want to do will work out, I’m sure.”

She shrugs, giving the impression that it’s not something she finds too important. For good reason, I’m sure, considering the big elephant in the room right now.

“There will be time for that after the meeting.” Mr. Satou states as he finishes off the rice ball on his plate. “The meeting which I’m sure you got an invitation to, of course.” He adds in a blank tone, eyeing Akira as if waiting for her to make another mistake.

She doesn’t give him the opportunity to lunge, though. “Of course I got the invitation, old man. I’m bringing a few guests, though.”

The reply doesn’t even seem to make a blip on his radar. Instead, he just casually responds “You could bring a troupe of civilized monkeys with you, if you wanted. All I care about is that they’re quiet and not a distraction.”

Akira glances over to me with a snicker, nodding before her eyes follow over to Hanako. I’m not sure if they’ve talked about this before, but Hanako doesn’t seem to want to attend; any attempts to pull a response out of her are all met with a light shake of her head.

“I’m sure it will be very pleasant. Thank you for inviting us, Father.” Lilly adds, having long since finished her own meal with no desire to go for seconds.

It could already be assumed that Lilly is going, naturally. If Akira hadn’t invited her to sit in then she’d probably just show up as a guest of her father, no doubt. I’m wondering what kind of an ordeal this will be -- supposedly it’s just a shareholder meeting, and I can’t imagine those as being any more entertaining than watching a guy point at some pie graphs and drone about stock options for an hour. The invitation for guests is open, though, so is it going to be more like a party or a ball of some sort?

Either way, the only instructions I’ve received are to dress nice and to be quiet for the entire duration. I’m finding out about all this at the same rate as Akira, no doubt.

“What’s the meeting for, anyway?” I ask out of impulse, paying careful attention to the black-haired man down the table in case I need to duck out of the room.

He glances up and meets my gaze with a blank expression, pausing just before attempting to take another sip of his tea. “It’s a shareholder’s board meeting. Is that not self-explanatory?”

I shake my head. “Is that really all it is? It seems like there’s a lot of effort going into it, what with all the guest invitations. I get the impression that it’s more than whatever goes on in a generic shareholder’s meeting.”

The attention of everyone at the table shifts between me and Mr. Satou, no doubt due to the curiosity of every other person here. If it wasn’t obvious before, it is now: no one has been told much about this event.

“Well, that’s actually a really good question.” He says, which then segues into the first and only time I’ve seen him smile, even if it’s just a bemused half-smile. “I could say that it’s just a general meeting, but we try to do things differently within the company, especially at this branch. One thing we’ve tried to adopt over the years is a sort of ‘open-door policy’ that applies to anyone related to the attendees. Just as a means of promoting trust, so to speak.”

He breaks off into a long-winded explanation, throwing around more complex diction than I know how to discern. Akira seems to be the only one who’s following along, but to her it probably feels more like a lecture on what she already knows than anything else.

Sensing that he’s lost... pretty much everyone at the table, he gives a displeased frown and stops himself. “As far as Akira’s concerned, I only have a few announcements to make. There’s going to be catering for the attendees and their guests.” He concludes, gazing directly at me as if I’m the only person the response is meant for -- it’s not like anyone else is willing to pick up on it, anyway. Hanako lost interest near the beginning of the conversation and Lilly seems more than a little clueless, despite her best attempts to remain in the exchange.

“Does that mean you’re handing the company down to me?” Akira asks with a sarcastic smile, having since finished her entire lunch and propped her head up on one arm.

His head jerks over to her as if tugged by a power-lifter, his eyes making it seem like he’s shocked by the joke itself. “You can’t even keep your elbows off of the table, girl. If that’s going to be your attitude, then you’ve got about a hundred years of work before I’ll consider it, even in my sleep.”

“Oh, only a hundred years. That’s down from the thousand it was back in high school.” She replies with a static expression, maintaining the same sarcastic tone despite sitting up and fixing her posture.

The rest of lunch is spent in silence, finishing up whatever scraps remain and gathering up all the dishes. Akira is more than happy to take Mr. Satou’s uneaten sandwich, as well as another cup of tea, much to his disdain. At the same time, the eldest Satou is the first one to head for the door, announcing “I’ll be leaving now. I have another lunch to attend with an old colleague of mine.”

Before he steps out, however, he leaves one message. “Don’t let me down, Akira. Not with this.” His tone is dark, as if he were issuing a command more important than anything else he had ever said. All he receives for this notion is a shrug and an idle wave, neither of which are seen as he makes a break for the exit after letting his wishes be known.

“Well, that was pleasant.” I remark, helping Hanako tidy up while Akira checks her phone. Lilly remains still, her calm, happy demeanor having faded in the absence of her father as she enters a deep thought.

Akira responds with a sardonic ‘hah,’ standing up and beginning to make her way out of the room. “Yeah, he’s always a big barrel of happiness. For a moment there I thought he’d dropped the asshole act, but go figure it’s just as strong as before.”

The younger Satou doesn’t take long to perk up at the notion. “Akira, I should think you would be used to it by now. I have to be honest and say that it was rather unbecoming of you to get so riled up.”

“I was fine until he made that pass at your tea.” She argues, ruffling Lilly’s hair from across the table and uttering a short chuckle at her reaction. “I’m used to the crap about work, that’s no problem. I’m not gonna let him trash-talk the food my baby sister put work into, though.”

Now that I think back on it, Akira is always a little quick to jump whenever her dad’s involved. If it were anyone else then I couldn’t see her being so confrontational, but with her father... I suppose it’s just all the years of pent up bitterness seeking a release. “Well, I think you could’ve done a better job of keeping your cool as well. I’ve never seen you go after anyone like that.”

At this, she turns around and locks eyes with me, crossing her arms as she does so. “That’s just what he does. You would think it gets easier to deal with over time, since he’s been like that for as long as I remember, but he’s just as infuriating as the day he left for Scotland the first time.”

“Well, yeah, but... Are you gonna be alright on Thursday? It seems like things just get worse and worse each time you two wind up within talking distance” I say, which only prompts a nod of agreement from Lilly.

She crosses her arms and gives me an agitated frown despite having already cooled off from the entire ordeal. “Hey, c’mon now. I think I’m mature enough to know when to keep it under wraps.”

“I’m just saying.” I respond, trying not to seem like an accusation. I nudge her in the side as she steps up beside me, my efforts to get her to cheer up falling short.

In fact, my ‘saying’ is only met by another short frown, making me wonder if it was something that was appropriate to say. Ultimately, however, she turns the tables on me. “Do you want your lunchtime kiss or not?”

Ooh, right where it hurts. “Yes, ma’am.” I nod.

“Good.” She replies, returning to her usual self and nudging me in the side to get back for earlier. “Anyway, If you three are heading out then it’s about time for me to be getting home.”

Lilly also decides to get her things ready, with the table already cleaned up and the extra chairs set aside. “It is certainly time to go. The bell rang a few minutes ago, we should hurry if we don’t want to be late.” She says, pulling her bookbag’s strap over her shoulder. “It was very nice to get to visit with you today, Akira. I do hope this is something we can do more often.”

“I’ll try and get something set up. The only reason it worked out today is because I’m off.” Akira replies, flashing a smile to Hanako as she joins our little gathering. “Kinda a shame that we’ve got to split up now, though. Especially you...” In a motion she’s surely mastered at this point, she grips my shoulder with one hand and pulls me closer, allowing her lips to settle into mine. In just a brief moment, though, it’s already over and she’s waving goodbye. “There’s your lunchtime kiss, cowboy. Now get to class.”

“At least something’s going my way today.” I chuckle, adjusting my shoulder-strap and seeing her off around the corner. “Drive safe on the way back.”

With our goodbyes exchanged, I turn around to find both Lilly and Hanako gazing at me, the latter of the two wearing an expression flushed with bright crimson while the former giggles as if she just heard something interesting. “My my, Hisao. I didn’t know you two had gotten so close already.”
Last edited by Thanatos02 on Mon Mar 10, 2014 1:38 am, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 3/6]

Post by brythain » Thu Mar 06, 2014 4:47 am

Happy to see this back. Good job. And you've given me a problem thinking about my version of Akira... :D
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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 2/4]

Post by bhtooefr » Thu Mar 06, 2014 6:41 am

And more and more of the student body learns that Hisao decided that Yamaku wasn't his league at all, he'd rather play in the pro league. Hopefully that doesn't backfire with Emi (and by association Rin, if Emi was betting that Hisao wasn't getting with Hanako, she'll want her money) knowing...
Thanatos02 wrote:I'm brought back into the world of the awake by the beeping drone of my alarm clock, the red panel across the front flashing '7:00 A.M.' as if trying to burn its image into my mind.
I haven't seen an alarm clock that flashes the display when the alarm is going off. Although, Yamaku would be the place to find such an alarm, but Hisao isn't deaf and isn't dating a deaf girl, so...
Thanatos02 wrote:I’ve heard about Emi going around campus to hand out summons to the nurse’s office on some mornings, but this would be the first time I’ve ever been given the
You accidentally part of the sentence.
Thanatos02 wrote:“Hisao is... is that Lilly's sister?” Emi hisses through closed teeth, snickering between each syllable.
Could use a comma, and... hissing AND snickering?
Thanatos02 wrote:“Think the Shanghai would be alright with me hanging around for a few hours? May as well take some time and catch up with the news”
Missing period.
Thanatos02 wrote:I stammer out, thinking back to the strange palpitations I got during both that night on the roof with Kenhi, as well as the multiple evenings with Akira. “So... even one drink is out?”
Thanatos02 wrote:“Second floor?” I ask, now tilting my head as well while I remain frozen. “I think she meant to say third floor. That's where Lilly and Hanako usually have lunch, anyway. Her homeroom is on the second floor, though.”
Lilly's homeroom is 3-2, which is on the third floor.
Thanatos02 wrote:“I-I think I came down with... with a bit of a c-cold...” Hanako says in a quiet voice, her hands shaking as she struggles to keep her teacup steady. “The n-newspaper club had a d-drafting meeting at the Shanghai last night and we.. d-didn't get back until t-two.”

Lilly quickly forgets her sister's remarks as soon as Hanako speaks up. “My my, that's wonderful, Hanako! Is there anything interesting coming up?”
That's... not wonderful...
Thanatos02 wrote:Without waiting even another moment, he begins. “Project fifty-two is the development and subsequent mass production of a hybrid router capable of transmitting through both a wired ethernet port and a wireless-n connection. It is the first in a series of hybrid routers we hope to release, using Japan as the testing grounds in order to find a sample market.” Mr. Satou explains, leering at Akira with disdain.
I'm trying to think of a wireless router that doesn't do that, and I'm failing. If the special feature was 802.11n support, Satou was well behind the curve (and I wouldn't call it a "hybrid router") - several months prior, there were multiple draft-n routers on the market: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2114039,00.asp

I'd change the feature, to be honest.
Thanatos02 wrote:“Oh, yeah, I’m gonna go barking about jargon to some people who barely even use the internet. Great idea, pops.” Akira shakes her head and finishes off her cup of tea, looking more disappointed with the situation than annoyed.

Hanako looks more and more uncomfortable with each word that’s uttered, and I have to say that I share the same feeling.
Interestingly, Hanako would actually be one of the three characters most likely to know the jargon being thrown around, and I'm thinking she hits up the computer lab at strange hours.
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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 3/6]

Post by YourFavAnon » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:14 am

“My my, Hisao. I didn’t know you two had gotten so close already.
She doesn't even know the half of it.
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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 3/6]

Post by Mirage_GSM » Thu Mar 06, 2014 11:17 am

Akira, on the other hand, remains silent and calmly pulls the towel over her exposed torso, facing away from me while I nudge Emi out of the doorway before shutting it between us.
“Six.” Akira remarks in a blank tone, the shock of the situation having already passed as she sits on the bed and dries her hair.
Not quite clear on what's happening here. Hisao is in his room talking to Emi through a cracked door. Then he pushes her out, closing the door between them, yet still continuing to talk to her.
Then suddenly Akira seems to have gotten back into Hisao's room somehow, but Hisao kept the door closed all the time, so she should still be in the corridor with Emi...
That's where Lilly and Hanako usually have lunch, anyway. Her homeroom is on the second floor, though.”
Her homeroom is on the third floor. The tea-room is on the second, same as the library.

Finished now.
Either way, the only instructions I’ve received are to dress nice and to be quiet for the entire duration.
Yes... Quite an unusual business meeting if you're allowed to bring friends.
which then segues into the first and only time I’ve seen him smile,
Since this story is told in present tense, "first and only" is a bit redundant.

Nice chapter and good setup for what is sure to follow. I'm still not sure what this shareholder meeting is supposed to be like...
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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 3/6]

Post by monkeywitha6pack » Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:12 pm

I feel that Lilly's father had a good balance of a-holeness this chapter. I mean when I saw it was him joining them I was expecting him to not even want Hisao there, but he let him be there and actually talked to him without throwing insults his way

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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 3/6]

Post by TheGoatman » Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:16 am

I keep telling myself, I won't read the next update, I'll let a few stack up so I can read the rest all at once. But then you ruin that self restraint by updating, and of course that "restraint" went out the window as I entered hypergoat reading, poor chapter barely lived long enough for me to finish my wheaties(about 5-10m)

Some test telling me I read 300 words per minute.. should replace the test content with the next update.

Great update as always, is it wrong that I wish you'd keep updating monthly for a few years instead of ending? I've become rather attached to these monthly updates of yours.
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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 3/6]

Post by Deadpool021 » Sun Mar 09, 2014 5:40 pm

Nice chapter. I can't wait to for the meeting and the birthday, I keep getting the feeling that something bad is going to happen though.

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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 3/6]

Post by Carighan » Mon Mar 17, 2014 4:39 am

Really nicely done. Thank you.
I initially wanted to post about some minor details, but someone was faster than me. ;)
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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 3/6]

Post by Triscuitable » Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:47 pm

Somehow I went two weeks without checking.

Or I forgot that I hadn't read the 3/6 update.

Or maybe it's the fact that I was on a Battlefield 4 binge that rapidly blended into Titanfall.

Reading now. Then back to Titanfall.
Deadpool021 wrote:Nice chapter. I can't wait to for the meeting and the birthday, I keep getting the feeling that something bad is going to happen though.
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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 3/6]

Post by Thanatos02 » Sat Apr 05, 2014 1:36 am

Just a quick update. I haven't died or anything.
Writing is going a little slow, as this has been an increasingly difficult chapter to write without throwing a big chunk out in frustration. It doesn't help that there's been quite a bit of drama going on in my personal life, and I've been having trouble finding motivation to even get out of bed in the morning, much less write, heh. Anyway, I'm aiming to get this chapter out within the next week. I've received a lot of private messages both through here and through steam, and I have to say that I'm really thankful for your continued support. Please bear with me while I'm getting all of this sorted out, I promise I won't leave you hanging.

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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 3/6]

Post by Deadpool021 » Sat Apr 05, 2014 1:56 am

Thanatos02 wrote:Just a quick update. I haven't died or anything.
Writing is going a little slow, as this has been an increasingly difficult chapter to write without throwing a big chunk out in frustration. It doesn't help that there's been quite a bit of drama going on in my personal life, and I've been having trouble finding motivation to even get out of bed in the morning, much less write, heh. Anyway, I'm aiming to get this chapter out within the next week. I've received a lot of private messages both through here and through steam, and I have to say that I'm really thankful for your continued support. Please bear with me while I'm getting all of this sorted out, I promise I won't leave you hanging.
Its better to take your time with writing rather than rush things anyway. I hope whatever drama is happening in your life gets solved though. I love drama in fan fics but hate them in real life.

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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 3/6]

Post by Thanatos02 » Sat Apr 12, 2014 4:54 pm

Alright, Jesus, it's finally done. There was a lot of hold-up with this chapter over some personal issues, as well as with just the content. If it hasn't been made obvious by mistakes in past works, then let it be known that scenes with any more than 2 characters are the bane of my writing existence. It's been a really shaky experience, to say the least, and I'm hoping that I managed to get all of the glaring issues worked out before posting. As always, Japanese business etiquette probably tripped me up multiple times, and pronouns referring to different characters in particular have been a massive pain to work through. Hopefully the work isn't all for naught; there's a big event in this chapter, with another one coming up shortly in the next scene. Only 2 more chapters to go, y'all.

Act 5 - Part 8: Sway

Akira nudges the wheel left and right, trying to squeeze into a parking space. It would seem that we're the late arrivals, even though it's still at least twenty minutes before the scheduled time, which only prompts her to give a long sigh and slump in her seat. She glances back at me with a dull fatigue in her eye. “How about we skip this and go get sushi or something?”

“What a nice thought.” I counter, looking around the parking lot while the car settles into its spot. I undo my seatbelt and sit forward against the front seat, the scent of Lilly’s perfume drilling into my nose. “What about pizza? You said there was this nice place you wanted to show me.”

Lilly stifles a small yawn, already seeming a little restless even if it's rather well hidden behind her calm demeanor. “I certainly wouldn't mind a small dinner stop once the meeting was finished.”

“Well, he said there's gonna be a banquet-type thing afterwards. I wouldn't mind dodging out on it, but I'm kinda trying to avoid letting him blow up tonight.” Akira asserts, giving one of her 'I just want to go home and sleep' looks.

“He's going to be surrounded by a lot of other rich folk, isn't he? I doubt he'd let himself get mad around them.” I return, climbing out of the back and helping Lilly onto her feet.

With her purse in hand, the younger Satou lightly grips the sleeve of my suit coat. She's wearing a red chinese-style dress that seems to hug her form at all the right angles with matching red slippers, her hair tied back into a bun. Akira seems to have opted for her usual approach, although instead of wearing a suit, she's settled for a black long-sleeved blouse and some black cloth pants.

Damn, there goes another chance to see her in a skirt. Maybe I should have tried to convince her to wear one.

Akira guides both of us out of the parking garage and into the more familiar lobby of her workplace, both hands in her pockets. The elevator only takes a few moments to arrive and soon we're on our way up, the sinking lurch of the chamber not doing much to help my already nervous gut.

The doors open with a resounding ding. Both Lilly and Akira try to remain composed, although it's clear that the younger of the two is feeling quite a bit of worry right now. Akira doesn't seem so nervous -- if anything, I get the impression that all of this is just a bore to her.

“Are you ready?” I ask, rubbing her back with one hand.

“About as ready as I'll ever be.” Akira nods, heaving a sigh as we step out onto the carpeted floor of the sixth story hallway.

Keeping in line with the overly ornate reception hall, the interior of the office seems to be just as flashy – the dark-colored carpet looks freshly cleaned, the beige walls are free from even the smallest scratches, and no two paintings or framed pieces of corporate history hang more than a few meters apart. A column of office numbers and other such labels adorns the wall just outside the elevator, pointing to a group of miscellaneous rooms down one path while the other leads to 'Banquet Hall C,' among various other important-sounding places.

The total lack of any sort of crowd in the halls on the way there leads me to ask “Just how big of a company does this have to be for there to be three banquet halls?”

“Well, this used to be the main building until Pops decided to move overseas.” Akira answers, her matter-of-fact tone making it seem more like a recital than a response. “Now it's just a 'shared services center.' We do pretty much all of the auxiliary stuff for Japan's R&D, as well as a ton of other technical mumbo-jumbo.”

Lilly listens with what I assume to be great interest, even if it looks like she's just waiting for our talk to finish so that we can get to the meeting on time. “It must have been difficult making all those changes after Father left.”

“Well, that was before my time. All I know is that there's still a bunch of name plates where they don't need to be.” Akira shrugs, already in the process of pulling us back into step. “There's not really a lot I can say about the place that isn’t just rambling about corporate policies.”

Neither Lilly nor myself pursue the topic further as the meeting room draws near. A few assistants rush around while trying to find more chairs for the other guests. Inside, a long wooden table sits in the center of the room, with seven chairs all positioned around it and a huge projection screen hanging from the ceiling on the open end. There's just enough room to fit more seats against the wall.

All of the guests have gathered either in the hallway or in the board room itself, content to mingle or waste some time until the actual event starts. I assume that the ‘important people’ Akira referred to are the several old and excellently dressed men lingering in the crowd, accompanied by their guests -- other assistants, family, and friends would be a safe guess. Mr. Satou appears to be the only one missing.

In typical business fashion, it takes a few minutes of careful scrutiny before anyone comes to approach us, the first one being a middle-aged man with thinning black hair and enough rings to make an exquisite chain.

Of course, I say ‘us,’ but in reality the only person he’s concerned with is Akira. “Good evening, Ms. Satou, I assume?”

She flashes a light smile and bows her head. “That’s me alright. It’s great to finally meet you in person, Mr. Takatoshi.” Akira returns. Her tone comes off as friendly, but I get the impression that it’s more of a front than anything else.

“Likewise.” He says, not even nodding in response. “It has been a real pleasure working with your father over this past week. I only hope that you’ll come to serve the company much like he has.”

Akira bows her head once again. “Thank you for your compliments.”

As soon as the man turns around to tend to some other person, however, her smile fades and that same tired ‘I really wish I didn’t have to be here right now’ expression resurfaces on her face.

“Something wrong?” I ask, patting her on the back while trying not to draw too much attention over.

“It’s nothing. Just…” Akira cuts herself short as another man approaches, his hands clasped behind his back. She repeats the same act; bowing her head, exchanging smiles and greetings, then thanking him for his time as he leaves for some other matter of business.

This time, however, he stops to greet Lilly as well. He looks her over with an expectant smile, expression unchanging when she doesn’t even turn to meet him. It takes a light nudge from Akira to get things rolling, a surprised jolt jumping through her body.

“Pleased to meet you, sir.” She says, bowing her head.

The only words he offers are “Quite pleased to make your acquaintance, Ms. Satou” as he gazes into her eyes with some sort of curiosity or even confusion. Lilly, on the other hand, takes the event in stride, seeming completely unfazed. Rather than pressing the issue further, however, he decides to go off and begin chatting with another group.

“Is this what the business world is like? Just walking around and bowing heads?” I ask.

She checks around the room to make sure that there isn’t anyone else in line before letting out a low groan, almost as if she were in pain. “Pretty much. I’d like to think that I’m a pretty social person, but not like this. It’s all so fake.”

It's hard to imagine just how Akira must be feeling right now, being scrutinized as the CEO's daughter rather than the 'Director of Human Resources.' In a way, it makes me curious if that's something that usually comes up in her workplace; she doesn't seem too proud of the fact that her father is the owner of the company she works at, so would anyone else worry about it? Maybe it's a case where most of the workers don't even make the connection; I've been at my job for two months now and I can't remember the name of our CEO, what's to say it's different at any other job in a place like this?

“I can understand how it might get tiring.” Lilly says, her smile fading away with each word. “How could you possibly remember so many names and voices?”

“You get used to it. I can’t even honestly say that I’m meeting half these guys for the first time, they’ve all got portraits up in the hallway outside my office.” Akira explains, looking around the space to see if the same thing can be found here. “Actually, Hisao, you should recognize one of them. It’s the guy that owns that medical company you work for.”

Now that she mentions it, there’s a white-haired man easily in his late seventies standing around near the doorway to the conference room. In all honesty, he only seems familiar because I took a lot of time to read the employee handbook at my own workplace, but there is definitely something striking about him. There are two people with him, both dressed in dark suits, no doubt aides or some kind of…

“Are you being serious right now.” Are the only words I can think to say, although they don’t come even close to expressing my disbelief.

“Yep. I was waiting to see when you’d notice.” Akira doesn’t even take a second glance, visibly trying to shut his presence out of her mind. It’s a little fortunate that he hasn’t noticed us yet, at least, considering…

Wait, no, he’s definitely noticed us. Almost as if he were alerted by my bringing attention to him, he glances over and makes eye contact with me, his amber gaze digging up memories that should have been put to rest already.

What is he doing here?

The question isn't given much time to ferment before Akira is nudging me in the side, no doubt trying to get my attention off of the man across the room. She succeeds in getting me to stop staring, but the thoughts still race through my head, overshadowing what could barely be considered passing interest in the presentation.

Mr. Setou said that Tetsuo had been moving up in the company, but just a little over a month ago he was talking about how it would be a long time before he ever got promoted again. There was a ton of drama involving his father and the company, but...

Does it even matter? I've already got front row seats for one corporate family drama, I don't need to go getting a season pass for another. Maybe the company he's trying to get to the top of is involved with the Satous; it wouldn't surprise me, maybe that's how he met Akira in the first place. Either way, it's no more than a coincidence.

“Might I ask what has you two sounding so worried?” Lilly interrupts my train of thought, fingers clasped together in concern.

Akira meets my gaze for just a moment, shaking her head and giving a low groan as she decides to give the answer. “Tetsuo.”

“Ah.” Lilly says, going silent as the information sinks in. A brief look of discomfort washes over her features as she perks up, no doubt trying to listen out for him.

Before the situation can get any worse, Mr. Satou finally arrives and begins moving through the crowd while issuing a generic greeting to anyone he passes. He’s carrying a laptop under one arm with a briefcase in the same hand, his appearance perfectly groomed despite the hastiness of his actions.

Our small trio is the last place he thinks to stop, lightly nodding at the three of us as if to ‘approve’ of our presence. “I’m glad you accepted my invitation.”

Then, without another word, he begins getting set up in the conference room, shifting his laptop around on the big podium while he plugs in a few cables. During that time, the rest of the crowd files in, with the big-shots taking seats at the big table in the middle and… everyone else trying to cram into the chairs set up against the wall.

“Well, I guess all we can do is just go along with it for now.” I remark, following everyone else into the rather cramped chamber. Lilly is the first to take a seat, followed by Akira and myself, thankfully grabbing the spots closest to the exit.

“Alright, looks like that's everyone.” Mr. Satou begins, his arms folded behind his back. Although he talks with a collected tone, his voice carries throughout the room and he seems to have a great deal more presence now than ever before. He doesn't seem the least bit stressed, showing both good posture and total relaxation at the same time.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for my two companions. Lilly has resigned herself to listening and waiting for the event to end, which gives me the impression that she’s sat through this kind of thing before -- either that or she’s just not inclined toward business ideas of any sort. Akira sits up and rests her hands in her lap, our shoulders lightly brushing while she keeps her attention focused at the front of the room, an uncertain look on her face.

With everyone properly adjusted, Mr. Satou takes a deep breath and then pulls a small clicker out of his suit pocket, a 'beep' sounding as the projector begins to warm up. “Well, it's certainly been a while since I've gotten to see all of you in Japan, hasn't it?” He says, giving one of those dull business smiles in an attempt to fill space.

The rest of the members give assorted ‘heh’s and ‘hah’s, as if they couldn't afford to laugh any more than that. Although they seem focused on the speaker, they've all brought some sort of distraction; open briefcases and papers lie in organized sections in front of each of the old men, accompanied by laptops, phones, and other such things.

“It's great to be back, I have to say. It's been wonderful seeing what the Japanese branch has been up to first-hand.” He continues, glancing back and forth at the projector screen as if waiting for the right timing. “And to our guests, I would like to extend a personal ‘thank you.’ It's always great to see family and friends taking an interest in what we do here at the company.”

I'm going to assume that the regular number of attendees hovers somewhere in the single digits, because there can't be more than twenty people crowded in here behind the 'important' people. For good reason, no doubt, because the very minute the actual report starts, everyone in the room - aside from those who have a personal stake in the matter - seems to shut down, as if falling asleep with their eyes closed.

I can’t say I blame them.


“Well, that was... informative.” I note, letting out a shameless yawn and somehow appreciating the gesture more than ever before. “I haven’t felt this overloaded with words I don’t know ever since I went to a presentation on string theory.”

Lilly rubs her eyes in fatigue before straightening her dress, clearly relieved to be out of the meeting. “Certainly. It would seem that Father has been rather busy as of late.”

“See, that's why I will never do top-level management.” Akira says, stretching her arms over her head and checking down the hallway, as if paranoid that someone might try and come retrieve us. “I can do little meetings. Big groups of important people are nothing but a pain in the ass.”

“Well, at least that's the worst of it, right? I mean, that's what you wanted us to be here for, isn't it?” I shrug, trying not to grimace as I glance over her shoulder to see Tetsuo walking down the hallway alongside a few other suited figures. He doesn't seem to notice the three of us; either that or he's trying not to.

Akira shakes her head. “No, there's still dinner and all that crap to take care of. Originally there was a big event set up for the entire branch, but it got pushed back a few weeks so that they could open up for the old man to do this.” She sighs, trying to think about what to do next before cracking a tiny smile. “Were you listening at all during that entire thing?”

“Well...” I trail off, giving a nervous chuckle. “Not really, no. None of it made sense to me. It was all numbers and graphs and other stuff that I can't imagine would make sense to anyone who wasn't in the company.”

Lilly steps up beside me and gives the same answer. “It all seemed rather interesting, but I couldn't follow along very well either. It's admirable that you and father are able to keep up with such things.”

At this, Akira laughs and gives a small shrug. “Yeah, I guess there's some stuff you just learn over time. You're right about one thing, though; the only information that gets released to 'outsiders' is general things like figures, growth, and employee direction.” She explains, giving Lilly her arm as we begin walking. “That's the only reason I decided to show up, honestly. I want to know what he's saying about my people when there's no familial bias involved.”

The fact that anyone was paying attention during that entire mess appalls me. I suppose that's why you have to go to school for a long time to even get into this kind of business, and... well, I suppose that's why most of the guests seemed like people with backgrounds in things like this, even if they all looked bored in the first place -- aside from Lilly and me, there wasn’t anyone who was there just for the sake of being there or for supporting someone else.

“There were a few... distractions in there, though.” I add to my previous answer.

The thought is met by a tinge of curiosity from Lilly and a complete grimace from Akira. “Can we not mention that? It would be better for everyone if we just didn’t bring it up.”

“Ah, Mr. Shuugetsu.” Lilly says, wrinkling her nose in slight annoyance. “It’s a concern, certainly, but… you two are adults. Surely it isn’t worth getting so worked up over?”

“It's nothing to worry about, hopefully.” I reply.

My words immediately come back to bite me in the ass when we enter the banquet room only to find the person in question standing mere meters away from us. On top of that, he’s already facing us, to the point that it would look suspicious or even absurd to ignore it, considering the two people he’s standing with; a dark-haired lady who appears to be in her mid-thirties and an even older businessman in a generic grey suit.

An awkward silence ensues and Tetsuo becomes disconnected from the two people he was previously talking with, both of which have taken notice of us as well. At this point it's not so much a question of whether or not we'll be meeting him, but when, and the answer depends purely on when he and Akira decide to break the 'god dammit it's you again' stare and speak up.

At first, Tetsuo does attempt to ignore it and carries on the conversation with the other two people. Akira seems content to let things go along like this and we begin to make our way to another side of the room, only to be cut short by one of his acquaintances.

“Ah, are you Mr. Satou’s daughters?” The lady to the right asks with a bright grin as she follows after us, a pin on her chest indicating that she’s from some kind of computer store.

Akira nods and bows her head once again while putting up another smile. “Pleased to meet you too, Mrs. Heng.” Her mouth twitches with discontent the second Tetsuo approaches, one hand in his pocket and the other idly playing with a flip-phone.

“Your father does such a good job of handling these meetings. I took notes for the next time I get to present like that!” The lady continues, her giddy attitude the first semi-genuine thing I’ve seen all night.

“Yes, that’s always been one of his strong suits. It’s something I still have to come a long way to reach.” Akira says, the look in her eye making it seem like she wants to throw up just from uttering those words.

This time, it’s the other person that nods and bows their head. “Mr. Shuugetsu thought that the way he handled the meeting was very admirable as well.” The woman replies, which only causes Tetsuo to put on a smile so fake that you could put it in a costume shop.

He approaches the group with caution, rolling his eyes and sighing as soon as both of his acquaintances go after someone or something else.

The two of them - Akira and Tetsuo - both engage in something of a stare-off, stepping forward and opening their mouths to speak before cutting off and making mixed hand gestures as if to say 'no, you first.' This holds out for a few moments before the process repeats itself, running a full cycle before Lilly picks up on the situation and jumps in with “Oh, Mr. Shuugetsu, we weren't expecting to find you here.”

He tilts his head and crosses his arms, still unsure of what to say. “Yes, imagine my surprise as well. I thought you and your dad didn’t get along too well?”

“It’s a long story.” Akira says, also crossing her arms and not even trying to hide the look of discontent on her features. “Been a while, hasn’t it?”

“Oh, yeah, it’s been a few weeks. Up to much these days?” He answers. His words are stale and forced, making it seem like he's about as engaged in the conversation as, well, Akira.

Which is to say, not at all. The amount of time between their responses makes me wonder if he thinks a fire might break out should he wait long enough. Akira doesn't seem too keen on breaking the trend either.

She scratches her head and looks him in the eye, clearly uncomfortable. “A lot of stuff, yeah. What about you?”

“Just dealing with business as usual.” He responds, attempting to give one of those fake business smiles. The notion is short-lived and soon he's back to the same uncomfortable posture, adjusting his tie, sleeves, or anything else that could distract him from the current topic. “So I guess all those family issues got patched up, then?”

Akira gives him a dull frown, as if to ask 'you don't actually think that, do you?' “Something like that, yeah. He's in town for a few weeks and I've gotten invited to some things like this.”

Lilly and I remain silent during the entire endeavor, the sheer amount of awkward floating through the air making it hard to even breathe, much less speak up. She lightly pinches the cuff of my shirt as if trying to pull me away and give them some privacy, but I can’t get myself to move from the spot.

The situation only continues to grow more and more distant and uncomfortable, to the point that Akira outright asks “So what are you doing here, then?”

“Oh, well...” He begins before fully thinking out his words, stopping short and groaning as he tries to get the right ideas in order. “Upper management knows that I've been in the market for a branch oversight position that just opened up, so I'm having dinner and attending a few events with Mr. Arima, who is, well, the owner of the company. He flew in from Indonesia just last night.”

The only answer Akira is able to muster up is “Oh, well that's pretty exciting,” with about as much enthusiasm as a sedated koala.

“You mean pretty boring, right? It's just a matter of playing the waiting game, y'know.” Tetsuo doesn't even try to play along, glancing around the room and likely searching for an excuse to get away. “I've been getting job offerings overseas, mostly in China and England.” He adds, giving something of a half-smile before letting his expression fade even more as he seems to remember something.

Lilly makes no attempt to step into the painful silence that follows, although it's certainly obvious that there are things she'd like to say. Akira shares the same facial expression, avoiding eye contact for one reason or another.

Finally, Tetsuo shakes his head, seeming disappointed in the way the conversation has gone. “I'd rather not make the move, though. Not just for a different job, anyway.” He mulls the words over for a while before continuing, a dejected look on his face from the fact that Akira doesn't even seem interested in what he has to say. “Anything like that would just be a detour.”

“I'm glad to hear that you're still going strong.” Akira says, although the expected hint of sarcasm seems to be missing from her voice.

He perks up a little, if only out of surprise. “Yeah, well...” Tetsuo's voice goes silent while he tilts his head back and forth, trying to think of how to say the right words. “I did a lot of thinking after we split up, and I decided that I'm going to focus on my goals right now. It helped me realize that romance isn't one of my priorities.”

With that, he shoots an idle glance in my direction, as if able to discern anything that needs to be said from my face alone. “I'm gonna work so hard that people have no choice but to be impressed with me.” He adds, that same aura of confidence sneaking its way back into his posture.

The gesture alone is enough to pull Akira along as well. She puts one hand on her hip in faux-amusement and gives something of a cocky smile, “I'd be a little disappointed if you gave up after everything that happened.”

“I'm not in the business of changing. No need to fix what isn't broken.” He boasts, although it begins to feel empty as he regains that same weathered expression.

At this, I can’t help but open my mouth again. “So all those problems that you two were having were all her fault?”

“Depends on how you look at it.” He gives a faint shrug, shooting me little more than a blank ‘hm.’ “I regret the way I handled the situation, but if you’re here to guilt trip me for it, then you can try somewhere else.”

The remark doesn’t even faze Akira, who has turned to face me. “There’s not much of a reason to go back to any of that. We both made our decisions.” With that, she steps up beside me, her hand lightly brushing against mine while she locks eyes with him again. “And I hope you’re not regretting it, because I’m certainly not.”

Another silence follows while he tries to figure out what else there is to say. The same sense of distance remains while he scrutinizes both Akira and myself. It isn't until the 'important people' begin to file into the room from their meeting that she decides to tie things up.

“No hard feelings, then?” She says in a tired voice, scratching her head out of a lack of anything else to say or do.

He takes a deep breath and tries to smile, already in the process of walking over to meet his boss. “Yeah. No hard feelings. See you at the top, Akira.”

She says nothing more, only adjusting her shirt and straightening out her cloth pants as soon as Mr. Satou walks in. My gaze meets Tetsuo as he passes me, which only warrants the small gesture of him briefly placing a hand on my shoulder and muttering “Good luck with that, Nakai” and walking off.

I want to say that he sounds bitter or spiteful, but it really doesn't seem that way, for some reason. It raises too many questions in my head, like how he managed to move on so easily, or what he meant by pursuing his current goals and priorities, or just... him in general. It's a really strange time to be wondering about a guy who, for all intents and purposes, should never appear again in my life. Especially with the main issue - Mr. Satou - now standing right across the room.

It isn't even a minute before we’re swamped with bigger concerns, as a few of the stockholders approach Akira. She exchanges bows with each of them and tries to keep up the best 'everything is fine' face she can muster.

The first is a man about a foot taller than Akira, who doesn't seem too pleased with the situation but tries to be engaging nonetheless. “Congratulations, Ms. Satou. We're all looking forward to working with you in the future.”

The phrase itself is enough to send my paranoid mind running wild. She plays it off as surprise before tending to the next person, receiving much of the same controlled praise and expectation and being faced with the same skeptical expression.

I don't even wait for the group of men to move on before asking “What is there to be congratulated for?”

“Akira, you don't think that Father would...?” Lilly continues, her hands clasped together in concern.

She shakes her head and looks around the room in alarm, a contorted frown on her face in what is definitely the most worried I've ever seen her. The three of us begin to feel more and more exposed as everyone else in the room starts to take a seat and small trays of food are brought out, all while Mr. Satou slowly draws closer.

“It’s something else, definitely. There’s no way he’d go that far with it.” Akira states, quickly getting a hold of herself and adjusting her posture, holding her head high as she goes to meet her father. She almost stands at his height, and isn't afraid to show it.

“Why were those men congratulating Akira, Father?” Lilly asks, delivering each word with caution.

Mr. Satou meets Lilly's eyes... to the best of his ability, before turning and facing Akira, a steely look on his face. “They were congratulating her on her promotion.”

While the rest of the room has already begun to buzz with the returning of all the VIPs, the four of us remain silent, suspended in a mixture of shock and bewilderment. Akira's posture remains totally frozen, not shifting even a millimeter as she stares down the eldest Satou.

“You seriously went and did it.” Akira states, her voice a barely-audible hum.

He adjusts his glasses and gives an annoyed 'hm,' also refusing to budge from his place. “I have done nothing other than secure your future.”

“Is that what they're calling it now?” She crosses her arms, clearly trying to stay calm but unable to keep the impatient tapping out of her foot. “The only thing I can see you doing is trying to force your shitty nepotism on me when I've plainly stated that I want nothing to do with it.”

“Language, Akira.”

“I think she has every right to be upset. What are you trying to do?” I interrupt, prompting a nod of agreement from Lilly.

The entire situation keeps getting worse and worse. While the social gathering behind us doesn't seem very concerned with what we're doing, the same can't be said in reverse with Mr. Satou. He continually glances over our heads to make sure that no one is paying attention or saying anything behind our backs, almost as if he had already detached himself from the current chat.

“I don't have anything to say to you, boy. Please learn some manners.” He counters, brushing me aside in his head before I even have a chance to speak.

The action only serves to drive Akira further up the wall, an exasperated groan emphasizing her contorted frown. “Well you'd better find something to say, old man, because I'm about to ask the same question.” Before he has a chance to respond, however, she continues on with “If you're so worried about your image, then we can talk about this in the hallway. I'm not letting you get away with this, though.”

He thinks over the suggestion, his brow furrowing in growing anger at the repeated mention of 'old man.' “Very well. You should know that there isn't anything to talk about, though. The paperwork has already gone through, including the transfer files you recalled at the last minute.”

“You know I'm not going to do this. I told you that I made my decision.” She asserts as we begin to step out of the room, Lilly guiding off of the cuff of my shirt sleeve and Akira walking side-by-side with Mr. Satou.

He shoos away a few assistants that have gathered in the hallway before turning to face his daughter, his expression less than pleased with the moment. “And I told you that if you care even the tiniest bit about your future and in your standing with this company, you will stop this childish stubbornness and come with me.”

She gives an exhausted sigh and shakes her head, rolling her eyes in the process. “Do you really think so little of me that this is the best I'll ever have?”

“So little?” He repeats, taken back by the accusation. “I believe that you have more potential than you seem to want to acknowledge, as anyone could assume by your sub-par output.”

“Why do you always have such a rotten attitude about these things? It’s one thing to offer criticism, but this is downright wrong.” I say, stepping up beside Akira. “Is it even possible for you to say anything without putting her down?”

“I'm not putting anyone down. If you two would just listen and think, then there wouldn't be so many misunderstandings like this.” Mr. Satou furrows his brow in discontent and proceeds to check his watch. “I don't like this, what you two are trying to do. I am not the bad guy here, and I will not have you forming the wrong impression about me.”

I don't buy it at all, and neither does Akira. Lilly expresses the most skepticism, however, “Father, you are always rather brash in your criticisms. Perhaps it would be better if you could calm down and talk things out in a more... level manner?”

“I am perfectly calm, Lilly. Your concern is reasonable, but you would do well to stay out of matters like this.” He says while shutting his eyes and trying to take a deep breath. “I have given you nothing but help. Both of you. I don't think it's wrong of me to expect a little effort in return.”

Akira rejects the notion altogether, practically seething at this point. “I'm twenty-four years old and she's eighteen! Stop trying to treat us like we're still in grade school.” She argues, clenching her fists in anger in an attempt to remain calm. “You always say this crap but you don't even understand what you're saying. You're trying to tie me down to this damned job that you know I don’t want, and that you know I won't be able to move up from. You're even trying to marry off Lilly, for fuck's sake!”

“Language, Akira!” His voice rises for just a moment, echoing throughout the hallway to the point that he has to turn around and begin pacing up and down the corridor to cool down.

It's such an infuriating thing to watch. Lilly's face is flush with skepticism and worry, Akira looks like she wants to punch a wall, the old man is on the verge of just walking away, and I'm having trouble even holding my voice in. “Their futures are the topic of discussion and you're more worried about curse words?”

Rather than the usual surprised reactions my voice has always warranted, he merely glances over his shoulder. “Someday, when you have kids, you'll understand.” He turns to face all three of us, anger dripping from his features. “That goes for all of you. I've been on this earth long enough to know better than any of you what's for the best.”

“Is that really how it's going to go?” Akira asks. At this point her outrage is being converted into more of a slow burn, no doubt held at bay by her incredible fatigue. “You're not even going to reason it out with us, you're just going to play the 'adult' card and walk away?”

“I'm not walking away. In fact, there's something I've wanted to address for a very long time.” He states, meeting her gaze head-on and picking his words carefully. “What do you think this is about, Akira? What kind of sinister image have you slapped on me in all these years? What have I done to make you repeatedly refuse my advice, denounce my authority, and outright insult my legacy? Because this has gone on for long enough.”

As expected, Akira can't help but give a sarcastic grin, a fire still brewing in her ruby eyes. “Oh, wow, where do I even start?” She drifts through her thoughts silently while she begins to pace around the room, followed by Mr. Satou's hawk-eyed glare. “Maybe you could explain the 'abandoning me and Lilly' thing, because I still don't forgive you for that.”

His expression drops. “I didn't abandon you. I would never abandon you.” He says, adjusting his glasses while the anger begins to drain out of his voice, if only slightly. “I told you very clearly what the move was for and why things had to happen the way they did. I did everything in my power to support you and Lilly.” It's only a short moment before he goes back to being mad, though. “That is, until you decided that you didn't need me anymore and stopped returning calls.”

“What were you expecting?” Akira returns, crossing her arms. “I was an eighteen year-old girl trying to get a blind twelve year-old to school and back safely every day, while taking college courses and working. Sorry if I couldn't find time to return calls to a guy whose approach to his problems was to throw money at them.”

“You've been holding a grudge over that this entire time?” Are the only words that come out of his mouth, much to the bewilderment of his daughter.

At this, my heart drops and I feel blood rushing to my head. “That seems like a pretty reasonable thing to hold a grudge over. What was stopping you from taking them with you?”

“Akira was supposed to come with me.” He returns, his voice dripping with bitterness. “Lilly was to remain in Japan for a few years because things were going to be too chaotic in Inverness. Akira stayed behind of her own choice.” He steps up even closer, to the point that he's staring both of them down. “I did everything in my power for you. I paid rent on the house, I sent money for groceries, I offered to hire assistants, but naturally you weren't having any of that. You're too damned proud!”

I've heard this story before. Akira wasn't going to leave Lilly with their grandparents, people who were scarcely capable of taking care of her, so she chose to remain behind. It's understandable, so I don't really get where Mr. Satou is coming from on getting mad about that.

He stops to take a breath before continuing. “I'm not going to comment on what you've done. I don't mind that you sold my house to move closer to her school. I don't care about the men you've been dating. This is about your future!” He argues, keeping that professional posture. “I want you to advance your career! I want you two to play a bigger part in the company! Why won't you get it through your thick head that I'm not out to get you?!”

A long silence follows his words, which only causes him to become impatient and begin pacing up and down the hallway again.

“Because all you're doing is holding them back.” I assert, wincing in pain as my heart jumps just from the sensation of letting those words leave my mouth. Before he can add anything else, Akira and Lilly both nod in agreement, the former with enthusiasm and the latter with a bit of apprehension.

“You know I don’t want this.” Akira says, her eyes following his every movement. “There’s no point in me having this job that you’ve been desperately trying to force on me ever since I visited a few months back.”

He stops and clasps his hands together, shoulders rising and falling with his deep breaths as he tries to keep calm. “You and Lilly are all I have left.”

With that, he turns around, a grave frown hanging from his expression. He walks past us and shuts the banquet room doors, making sure that there’s no one listening. “I just need you to trust me. If you two are gone, then so is the company. It will be devoured by some greedy megalomaniac with more money than he knows what to do with. My family legacy - our family legacy - will get turned into an asset for some billionaire overseas.”

The look on both Akira’s and Lilly’s faces fade into one of melancholy while each word passes through their ears. It’s clear in her eyes that Akira wants so badly to fight the notion, but she can’t seem to find the right words.

I’m still not buying it either. “Does that really justify selling away their futures like that, though?”

“I’m not selling anyone’s future, young man.” He says, shutting his eyes in thought. “I’m helping them find the future that’s right, both for them and for the family.”

“How can you justify that, though? What kind of a person could look forward to that or accept that? A career or dream that’s been set up for them by someone else?” I argue, trying to keep from yelling it out in frustration.

This seems to awaken something, and soon I’m left standing face to face with him - practically able to see my reflection in his glasses. “You have no sense of honor or experience, young man. I would strongly suggest that you stop questioning things that are far greater than you.”

“Does owning a company give you the right to dodge around explaining yourself beyond cryptic nonsense?” Akira interjects, balling up her fists in frustration. “You always do this. Every single time. You’ve spent more time evading the subject than if you had just explained everything from the very beginning.”

“Because you won’t understand!” He counters, his brow twitching in anger. “I could explain the ‘concept’ to you a million times, and still you would not understand. You work for a stagnating company, Akira!”

Even Lilly shows skepticism at this. “Father, you sounded rather optimistic in the meeting. If everything is growing, then what is the problem?”

The sound of her voice is enough to make him slap his forehead in exasperation. “You have to think ahead; this is bigger than just the next year, or the next five years, or even the next ten. Without you, this company is going to die. It’s going to fall into the hands of someone else. Our legacy is going to be nothing more than a toy for some Fortune-100 moron!”

“I don’t get what’s so hard to understand about that, though -- what you just said.” I say, raising a brow in bewilderment. “You keep talking about the grand scheme of things, but all you’re looking for is someone else in the family to carry the company once you’re gone.”

“Yes. That’s it.” He returns, giving a low groan as he thinks of his next words. “But until you have stood in my shoes and been faced with my issues, you will never truly see what there is to see and understand the weight of the decisions that have to be made here.”

Akira rolls her eyes and puts both hands on her hips. “There are plenty of ways out of this, and you know that. Just because there isn’t someone named ‘Satou’ sitting in the CEO chair doesn’t mean that the company is going to magically disappear into thin air.”

He opens his mouth to speak, shuts it, and then faces away from us, taking a few minutes to calm down before checking his watch again. It's uncertain whether or not the words got through to him until he begins to walk towards us, and... then past us, heading for the banquet room. “I will be at the Jazz club on Thursday, for your birthday.”

“Are you really just going to walk away? Again?” Akira says, her voice almost rising to a yell.

Her voice stops him in his place, just before he turns to open the door. He glances back at us with those same fiery red eyes, now dimmed with exhaustion. “No, I am postponing this discussion. I need time to think about how I want to answer that, and you need time to calm down. I refuse to speak to people who will only twist my words against me no matter what I say.”

With that, the three of us are left standing in the hallway, any chance of going back and enjoying the banquet now shot in the foot. All of the tension flows out of the situation as Akira lets out a deep, weary sigh. Without a word, we all begin walking back toward the elevator, my head abuzz with thought despite being unable to think of anything to add.

“What’s got you two so down?” Akira asks while we wait for the elevator to arrive.

Lilly heaves a deep sigh and tries to shake the thoughts from her head. “I was hoping that tonight wouldn’t go the way it did. There were things that I wanted to say that I couldn’t, and it was… quite embarrassing. I apologize that I couldn’t be there for you.”

“Yeah, it’s the same here. There’s too much going on, and it’s getting really hard to stay in step with.” I say, trying to stand up straight only to find that my back is starting to get sore.

She tilts her head in thought, a light frown on her lips. Before long, it curves up into a smile and she steps between Lilly and me, throwing an arm over each of our shoulders. “Oh c’mon now, this is nothing to get worked up over. It’s all gonna turn out fine.”

I lay one hand on her back to try and hold her up as she leans against me. “Who said we were giving up?”

The gesture manages to get Lilly to cheer up as well, chiming with a short giggle while she attempts to keep Akira on her feet.

“He’s only in town for a few more days. Just gotta get everything sorted out.” Akira says, shutting her eyes and leaning her head against my shoulder, taking a deep breath.

“What do you wanna do when this is all over?” I ask, refusing to budge from the spot even though the elevator has already arrived.

She shrugs and begins to stand up straight again, pulling from what little strength hasn’t been consumed by stress and drama. “We should load up the car and head to the beach before summer’s over.”

“That would be lovely, I think.” Lilly smiles and guides off of Akira as we step into the elevator. “Perhaps we could bring Hisao and Hanako along this time.”

I press the button for the parking lot, stretching my arms over my head in relief as we start to drift away from this floor. “Yeah, that gives me something to look forward to.”
Last edited by Thanatos02 on Sat Oct 18, 2014 12:54 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 4/12]

Post by YourFavAnon » Sat Apr 12, 2014 7:33 pm

Enjoyed this chapter. The multiple person conversation wasn't all that badly written, had some moments where it felt like someone was talking at an inappropriate time, but other than that it was well done. I'm excited to see how you wrap this all up.
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Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 4/12]

Post by Deadpool021 » Sun Apr 13, 2014 12:10 am

I can't believe it took me this long to notice but Tetsuo and Mr. Satou are very similar. They both put their business as priority over everything and everyone else. I'm sure Akira at some point probably noticed she was going to end up with someone that is just like her father and is glad their relationship ended. I really liked how you described the event. I've attended events pretty similar to that and you nailed it in how fake everyone acts towards on another.

Once again nice chapter, always worth the wait. Keep up the good writing

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