You are my support, my confidant.
Warning: see chapter 1 and a cold calculating Tezuka.
Goodness, the original characters wouldn't stop coming! I tried to stop them, but they kept coming back. It's the invasion! I blame it on the fangirl quality of tenipuri.
Sorry for the delay. Atobe just wouldn't write himself. He kept coming back to me in different forms and styles. There was a time the I wrote the scene as him trying to get out of an illicit relationship with some whore. You read that right. Not some girl. Some blackmailing whore. Anyway I like how this turned out. But Tezuka's giving too much fanservice. I'm going to cut down on his scenes next time.
1) /Ren'ai and Omiai /- Omiai is a is a Japanese custom whereby unattached individuals are introduced to each other to consider the possibility of marriage. It's the Japanese version of an arranged marriage, but the couples here have the power to veto the idea of their union. They are set up by a nakodo or a go-between. Its more literal translation would be love born from meetings as opposed to ren'ai which means romantic love. There is considerable debate on which is better of the two. Though more than half of the marriages in Japan are now ren'ai marriages it has been said that it isn't half as lasting as omiai ones.
2) for anyone who didn't see it, check the prologue for the revisions.
The rest of this a/n is written below.
This is for Fightingdreamer5, Yamatoforever, Aleana Flame Dragonstar, Badluck-ngprod, TezukaEiri and to all my past reviewers. Thank you for your words of encouragement. You kept me writing.
Thank you too, dear reader.
European Studies:Chapter 5
"For the record, Atobe," Tezuka said matter-of-factly as he fixed the cufflinks of his suit and the collar of his coat. "I didn't think you were a ren'ai believer." He didn't have to look at his companion who was across him to know he was glowering.
The former Hyotei captain who was dressed in the same fashion (except they were more expensive by a million yen or so) retorted, but it was lost as the train entered a tunnel and nothing could be heard except for the wind, steel and speed. When they had gotten out, he rolled his eyes. "Ore-sama doesn't believe in what you call ai."
Tezuka grunted and looked almost smug. It was an interesting experience to watch the vain man bristle with annoyance. He checked the time, 7:48, and an announcement over the speakers soon came. (/We'll be arriving in Urawa Station in 10 minutes.) /Barely anyone was on the Keihintohoku line at this hour with the holiday coming in. There were only two or three in the same car as theirs, and Atobe still looked pissed.
"Stop hissing." The sharp glare sent his way nearly made Tezuka flinch. Turning away and gripping one of the train's railings, he mumbled. "If you wanted a jet to get there you should have told me a week before. I would have reserved it for this special Thursday, /Atobe-sama/."
For a moment, if Tezuka had cared to look he would have seen the shock Atobe had not been able to mask. Atobe stood, grabbed the railing as well and stated. "This isn't about transportation."
"So you say."
"It isn't!" If there was an emotion Atobe vowed he was not going to get caught with it was guilt and helplessness. He was having a problem in keeping that.
Tezuka returned his gaze from the outside and to the man who held his job and livelihood intact. "Then you should tell me what I'm getting into." He paused awhile and let the other know full well the amount of sincerity he put into anything. "I'm here as your cohort and you haven't explained anything aside from this elaborate plan to destroy your omiai. I should at least know your reasons."
The severity of Tezuka's voice made Atobe recoil. Two weeks prior when he had seen Tezuka looking for lodgings for some out-of-town-trip in the office, he dropped the proverbial bomb. He asked what Tezuka would do if he had needed help in getting out of a really bad tangle. Tezuka immediately replied he'd help. After that, he'd effectively if not easily, sidestepped all questions, requested Tezuka to come when the office closed for the holiday, bribed him when there was no need to and promised to explain everything in due time and in his mind, just one day before the big event.
Regaining his regal, Atobe smirked. "Let's just say, strays have happier days." /(Arriving in Urawa Station, 7:58 AM) /Tezuka appeared skeptical but would still go with the plan.
They walked the small distance to the Ryokan Ikeda, and Tezuka commented Oshitari would probably have done a better job at this. Atobe agreed but didn't bother explaining why he didn't get him in the first place. That was the last they talked of their plan that morning. What small talk they did was mostly about work which neither really wanted to think about in their break. Upon entering the homely inn all conversation stopped. Kabaji and the owner greeted them, led the way to a private room then left to get the would-be fiancÃƒÂ©e.
Atobe headed for the bath, blocked the door with a stool and waited. The seconds seemed to tick by slowly, and while he wanted to get this over sooner, Time it seemed wasn't being as cooperative now when it had made two weeks pass by all to fast. He recalled his earlier conversation with the man behind the divider and smiled bitterly. There were many things he considered Tezuka as and though they would never admit it to each other; they were friends in an odd way. He truly wanted to let him know why all this meandering, but he wasn't so sure himself. If it were as simple as he made it to be then he would have gone through with it for the sake of his mother's happiness. His parents were from an omiai, and at twenty-three and a new addition to the too few rich, young and worshiped, it was expected that he have one too. But something inside him rebelled at the thought. Every time he was stuck in that oh so extravagant house something struck a chord. Every time he saw certain people it came back with a vengeance. He slinked to the floor and tapped the shoji. "Tezuka, Ore-sama has something to say." Heavy and hurried footfalls reached their ears. "Don't mess it up."
Tezuka pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and tensed. "Keep quiet, /wanko/."
Kabaji returned with the two as promised but did not enter. They wore traditional kimonos and the elder of the two held a fan, more for upholding customs than being needy. They had their long black hair tied in a bun and their slow movement spoke of grace and elegance. The girl took the seat directly opposite of him. She was pretty to say the least and was very polite. She bowed low to him, as much as one can while kneeling in front of a table, and her chaperone took the seat beside her. "I am Suzuki, Michie. It is an honor to meet you."
He bowed in reply. "Likewise. My name is Tezuka, Kunimitsu. I am Atobe, Keigo's friend. Please address me as you wish, Suzuki-san." The girls' reactions were identical. They didn't know of the slight change in the agenda. "Forgive us for not having informed you earlier, but Keigo is indisposed at the moment."
The mother-daughter pair had a face that was akin to disappointment and sadness. The girl's lips trembled a bit, and her hand sought her mother's for support which she was readily given. "May I ask what it is that keeps him?"
In the background, Tezuka could almost hear Atobe cursing him for taking so much time. He readjusted his glasses and frowned. "I am sorry but..."
The mother, he supposed, slammed her fan onto the table emphatically and roared. "We have been here since yesterday night waiting for this particular hour to come. If that boy Keigo is man enough then he should come here and tell this to us himself. He should not send some," She eyed him and snorted. "Some friend whose origins we do not know."
That was low. Even for a crossed mother. Tezuka bowed again, and attempted to calm them. "If I may be allowed to speak?" Michie stopped her mother from saying anything, smiled and signaled for him to continue. "These things I will say are things I have sworn to take with me to the grave. By doing this I will not only be betraying my /dear /friend Keigo but also be destroying the world he has created for himself."
Michie looked confused on what he was saying. He was surprised himself. "Keigo is," Tezuka looked faraway and squinted. "Very sick."
The girls gasped. Michie covered her mouth in surprise. "Is he doing fine? Maybe we should visit him. If traveling isn't very good for him then I will go."
Tezuka shook his head. "It is not what you think. It can't be cured."
The older Suzuki didn't buy it. "I haven't heard of this from the nakodo, and for your information, Tezuka-san, we happen to know he's a healthy athlete who plays tennis every now and then." She got her fan from the table and drew the wind to herself as if it were summer.
"I am aware of that." He stared at the two and did not falter. "I have played against him, and I know he is a strong player. But that doesn't mean something isn't eating him away. It seems to be slow acting. No one knew of it until it was too late."
Michie gasped a second time that hour. Her face spoke of a fear that she would rather not put into words. "Keigo has cancer?"
The question was left hanging. Tezuka removed his glasses, set them on the table, pushed away from it and bent over with his head nearly touching the floor. "He says it would be best that this won't push through. His intentions are good. He only acquiesced to this because of his mother." He straightened himself and spoke more softly. "I'm sure though if it were to have happened, he would have told you that you are very beautiful."
The girl could no longer hold the tears back. Her mother looked regretful for everything she accused them of. She held her daughter and looked at him sternly. "Why haven't his parents told us anything?"
"I do not know, madam, but I believe they all wish for the best. I have never heard them talking about it." Tezuka's throat felt parched. He thought his voice sounded hoarse and uneven. He wore his glasses again, taking the time to fix it, and dragged his hand to his throat as he coughed it out.
Michie wasn't bawling like he expected. She was weeping to her mother's robes and asked so quietly he almost missed it. "What should we do now?"
He frowned and considered the things presented to him. The question hadn't meant to be answered, but he thought she deserved more. "I believe we should ask that himself."
Michie looked up almost immediately, her hair-tie had come loose and the ebony strands fell to her pallid face, covering half of it.
The bathroom door slid open, and Atobe came out. He looked grave and ashen. "Suzuki-san," The room stood frozen for awhile, then like a spell he broke it. He loomed behind her, turned her around to face him. "you're beautiful."
Tezuka exited the scene and nodded to Kabaji. Atobe would handle the rest.
A boy no older than five sat on a tree stump that served as a seat in their backyard. His brown hair went every which way except the direction they were supposed to. His brown eyes were gleaming with a concentration that normal five year olds shouldn't have. And his clothes were simply horrid - mud all over and so early in the morning too.
His attention did not waver when he had heard his mother calling out for him. He continued carving the piece of wood he had found just outside their gates. He would finish it before that man comes and give it to him!
Someone snatched the small carving knife and wood from his hands, his first instinct was to jump and grab it, but someone held him back. He focused his eyes on the dark figure above him that cast a shadow on him. It had long black curly hair that was tied back, a tall, thin frame and yellow eyes. He realized it was his mom.
"Yukio! How many times have I told you not to get your father's tools without permission?" Kaiya Sato questioned. She waited for the boy to stop reaching out for the sharp object before squatting down to meet him eye to eye. She took one of his hands in hers then pricked it ever so gently with the knife. He retracted his hand almost instantly and cried out in pain. He had been about to complain when she grabbed it again and kissed it away. She grinned. "See? It'll hurt much more if I weren't here."
Yukio blinked many times then looked at his mother guiltily. "I'm sorry mama." She gave him the wood carving, held the knife securely and stood.
"You make really a good mother, Kaiya-basan." A voice behind Yukio said. Yukio maneuvered himself to face the voice and found his cousin holding him in place.
"Mitsu-niichan!" Yukio lunged for Tezuka's neck and fastened himself to him.
Kaiya giggled. "I told you he'd glomp you."
Tezuka shrugged and hauled the kid up to the air with him squealing, caught him then let him sit on his shoulders. He frowned. "You're heavier."
"Of course! I'm taller!"
Tezuka chuckled. "You're also a lot dirtier."
Kaiya realized the state of her son's clothes and all but screamed bloody murder. "YU-KI-O!"
The little rascal on Tezuka's shoulders slid from the high position and was caught by his cousin, securely. "Mitsu-niichan, run!"
An order which Tezuka gladly complied to. The little boy in his arms squeed with laughter all the way - in the house, up the stairs and into the boy's room. Locking the door behind them, he put the boy down and stared at him hard. "Your mother's going to be really angry once we come out of this room."
"Mama's not really angry, but Yukio will still have to clean his clothes first so mama won't have a hard time." The boy beamed at him then walked to his drawer for a new set of clothes. "I'll take a bath first!" he announced and sneaked to the bathroom across the hall.
Tezuka shrugged off his trench coat and helped himself to the bed. He stared at the mud stain he'd have to wash. He was only glad none of it got to his suit. There was a knock on the door. It was Kaiya.
"Here, the soap he usually uses for cleaning his dirty work." She explained amusedly and handed him a box. The brown cloth held in Tezuka's hands caught her attention, and she examined the red stain it was already making. She fingered it gingerly then patted his back. "You'll have to bleach that, but I just ran out of the color safe ones."
He sighed and nodded. It was his fault for playing in such a manner. "I'll ask for some from mom then. Thank you."
His aunt sat beside him and took the coat from his hands. "On second thought, leave it to us. We'll clean it. I'll just lend you one of my husband's for now."
Tezuka was adamantly against it and tried retrieving the coat in question several times only to be swatted by his aunt's hand. "It's fine Kaiya-basan. You don't need to bother."
"Yes, but I want to." She murmured, folded it on her lap while blocking the attacking nephew and mussed up his hair. "Let me be the aunt you can't say no to for once, ne, Kunimitsu? You're doing so much for us already."
He opened his mouth to protest, but nothing would come out except a croaked. 'Aa'
"Something wrong Kunimitsu?"
He brushed it off as nothing, and smiled. "Thank you Kaiya-basan." Changing the subject quickly, he fumbled with the box that had been given to him. "He still calls himself in the third person sometimes."
She laughed; her expression was of a very proud mother. "Yes, but it's improving." As an afterthought she added. "I'll miss it though. My Yukio is just adorable when he talks in the third person."
Tezuka would have grunted, but that would have been rude. He stood shaking the soap box and motioned to the bathroom. "I'll have to give this to him, then, Kaiya-san. If you'll excuse me." After hearing her agree, he headed for the direction Yukio disappeared to.
He knocked on the wooden door and pronounced his intentions to the young boy. Upon receiving approval, he entered the changing room and set the soap box down on one of the baskets. There was a yelp that carried over from the main furo, and he cracked the sliding door open slightly. "Need help?"
Yukio had slipped and was nursing a red bottom. Tezuka fought the urge to laugh. He took off his clothes hastily and concerned himself with the sporting kid, crouching low and helping him up. "Wish your father was here?" Yukio looked sheepish and dipped his head. Tezuka glanced at the tub, scooped some hot water and splashed it over them. With the formalities done, he dropped the boy into the tub and began tickling him.
"Stop! I give up! Wai"
Tezuka smirked. "I thought I taught you better than that." He was in mid-rise when he was unexpectedly pulled into the hot water. "Why you - " but the threat died out when he had been splashed on the face. That was the start of a rather long water fight. Under normal circumstances, they would have been scolded by the adults of the house, but Kaiya turned a deaf ear towards it all.
"Check." Tezuka finished packing the things with a smile. "It seems like someone was excited."
Kaiya blew hard and patted her son's head. "Had to threaten him into sleep last night." She packed a few extra snacks for the trip and zipped the bag up. "I'll send your clothes to your mother." She hugged him, and he mumbled a word of thanks.
When he been let go of, he declared. "I'll go hail a cab." He slung the small pack on his shoulder and proceeded to the gates, deciding to give the family some private time for their farewells.
Yukio clambered onto the tall stool then to the counter top, pecked his mother's cheek, and hugged her neck. His voice was so tiny and weak that it tore at her heart. "We'll see each other again, right mama?" He pulled away and had a look of fear, terror even.
She ruffled his hair and hugged him again. "Of course we will, dear." She stroked his hair tenderly and added. "I'm sorry for not explaining very well." She felt her shirt dampen and comforted her son the best way she knew. She kissed his forehead.
"I'm okay...It's okay, mama. I love you."
Tezuka was calling from the gates. A cab had arrived.
She straightened his stance and gazed at his eyes. "You had better go. You're going to enjoy the vacation with Kunimitsu-kun aren't you?" Yukio bobbed his head rapidly that she was scared it would come off. He laughed and kissed Kaiya again. He hopped from the counter and ran towards his cousin.
End Chapter 5A/N:
Kaiya Sato - Sweet Clear Elegance
Yukio Sato - God will nourish sweetness
Michie Suzuki - gracefully drooping flower
wanko - common name for a dog
4)/Ofuro/ - is the Japanese bath. There are certain etiquette to observe here. One of which is not playing in the bathtub. Also there is something called /Hadaka no Tsukiai /(naked companionship), one where no one has to hide anything. Lastly, towels aren't allowed in the tub.
5) Places- The places are real. They're all located in the Saitama Prefecture north of Tokyo. Ryokan Ikeda, is cheap nice and cozy and is really just a 5 minute walk from the Urawa station and I checked with Jorudan ltd co. the schedule of their trains. They have one for those times (on April 22, 2006 hehe :p) One of the shortest and most direct routes to Urawa from (somewhere in) Tokyo is a 44 minute ride.
Anything else I forgot, leave a message, better yet review :)
Constructive criticisms much appreciated.