Chapter Four

CHAPTER FOUR
She thanked her driver, smiled, and then walked inside to find her mother waiting in the den.

“Saya, how is Takashi?” Yuriko asked at once.

“It looks like he’ll be okay, momma,” she sighed in relief as she sat down next to her mother. “We were afraid it was something bad, but. . .” she explained, as only she could, what the doctor had told them.

“I had thought that the Igou boy and Takashi were friends,” Yuriko frowned when Saya was finished. “What in the world would prompt him to attack Takashi.”

“It seems it’s rather complicated, momma,” Saya admitted. “And. . .and, I need to talk to you,” she admitted. A sculpted eyebrow rose on Yuriko’s forehead.

“Oh?” she asked, and Saya’s face reddened.

“Momma, I’m being serious,” she said without her usual explosion and Yuriko’s eyebrow threatened to climb off her head all together.

“I can see that, daughter,” she said carefully. “I take it this is about Takashi-kun, then?” she asked. Saya nodded, collecting her thoughts.

She started with her discussion with Takashi about his ‘new’ girl, and why he hadn’t said anything before now. She waited at the end of that part for her mother’s comment.

“A very honorable young man,” Yuriko mused, obviously impressed. “A very honor driven decision, as well. Something your generation does not have enough of, in my opinion.”

“I’m afraid that is true,” Saya admitted. “I still think it was stupid to consider himself bound by such a ridiculous thing as a pinky swear made at six years old, but. . .I also have to admire someone who would think that even that small promise meant something. You know?”

“Oh, I do indeed,” her mother assured her.

Saya then proceeded to tell her mother how Takashi had been trying to change himself, work to make himself better for this new girl he had his eyes on, ending with the attack by Hisashi Igou on the rooftop earlier that day.

“I don’t understand,” Yuriko unknowingly echoed Takashi’s mother. “I still can’t see why the Igou boy would attack Takashi-kun that way. Takashi hasn’t done anything untoward, so where is his complaint? It was Igou who betrayed his best friend, correct?”

“Yes,” Saya nodded. “We couldn’t understand it either, and Takashi didn’t even know what it was about until I told him.”

She then went on to tell her mother of her visit to the infirmary, then of what Takashi had reported about Miyamoto’s father, along with her discussion with him on the way back to class.

“It seems to me that Takashi is set on this new girl,” Yuriko said when Saya finished that part of the tale. “Even to the point that he wanted all of this kept quiet rather than it cause trouble. Now that is determination, daughter.”

“So I thought,” Saya nodded agreement. “So, anyway, as school let out, I told Takashi that I would be taking him home in the car and I didn’t intend to listen to any arguments.” Yuriko carefully hid a smile at that, making sure that Saya didn’t see it. “Believe it or not, he admitted that not only would he not argue, he appreciated it. That he was hurting more than he’d initially thought. I tried to get him to see Marikawa-sensei, but he wanted to go home and soak. He was so sure that he was just sore.”

She explained the confrontation with Rei, Takashi’s painfully correct repudiation of Miyamoto’s accusations, and the end result of his being carried to the hospital in her car.
“Well done,” Yuriko complimented. “I’ll be sure and commend Hari-san to your father for his service as well.”

“Thank you, Momma,” Saya smiled.

“So, is this what you needed to talk to me about?” he mother asked.

“Well, not . . . not exactly,” Saya admitted, squirming a bit now.

“Have you eaten, Saya?” Yuriko asked suddenly.

“No,” she admitted.

“Let us send for some food in here and we will continue then.” Her mother sent for a tray and when it arrived the two of them started eating. Since it was just the two of them, Saya kept talking even as she ate.

“So, we’re at the hospital, and I’m talking to Marikawa-sensei; who, by the way, is actually very intelligent, in case you didn’t know. Anyway. . . .” Saya moved on to share the revelation that Shizuka had made to her as they waited, and then the conversation with Takashi as she waited for her car to return. When she finished she was looking at her plate, her face red. Waiting.
“I see,” Yuriko said solemnly. “Saya, I may be presumptuous in saying this, and if I am you can feel free to correct me, but. . .daughter, are you hoping that you are the girl that Takashi-kun is trying to impress?” She didn’t know what reaction she was expecting from her daughter, not exactly, but the one she got wasn’t on the list.

“What if I was?” Saya was almost timid. “What would you think of that?” she inquired politely.

I’d jump for joy, Yuriko couldn’t allow herself to say.

“Saya dear, before my opinion matters in any way, I must know yours,” Yuriko said carefully. “Because unless you hope for that to be the case, then my opinion will be of no consequence whatsoever.”

“What do you mean?” Saya looked up. “Of course it matters!”

“Not until I know what you think,” Yuriko insisted. “If you like him, if you want to be the ‘girl’ in question, then yes; your father’s and my opinion will enter into it. If you do not want that, then what we think will not matter either way. We would not force someone on you because we like him, if you didn’t care for him, Saya.”

Saya considered that for a few seconds and then nodded her understanding, remembering something then,

“Takashi said almost exactly the same thing,” she murmured aloud, and Yuriko felt another surge of hope, but remained silent. She waited patiently for Saya to continue.

“I can see what you mean, but . . . what I want to know, I guess, it what is your opinion of Takashi, Momma?”

Yuriko sat back, considering that question carefully. She had known Takashi Komuro almost as long as her daughter had. She and Souichiro Takagi, Saya’s father, had more than once discussed their daughter’s apparent fondness for Takashi, and what it could mean for the future. Neither of them were in any way opposed to their daughter seeking a closer relationship with Takashi Komuro.

But she could not simply come right out and say that. To do so would be to invite Saya’s innate stubbornness to rear its ugly head and demand that she reject him out of hand as being suitable in her parent’s view.

And that simply would not do.

Yuriko and Souichiro Takagi loved their daughter. She was their only heir and would one day rule the fortune the two of them had built, as well as hold the family name, history, and title. While it was true that Souichiro would have been pleased to have a young man with samurai lineage win Saya’s hand, he had for some reason never raised any objection to Yuriko’s casual mentions of Takashi as a potential suitor at some point in the future. She didn’t know why, and he had never said. Nor had she asked.

And of course, he was not here tonight to help her with this delicate matter.

“Daughter,” she tried to adopt a formal tone. “Your father and I watched you grow close to Takashi from an early age, so we know him fairly well. We also, through both your schooling and other means, know his parents. Again, quite well. You will recall that they have in fact been received here on more than one occasion over the years.”

“Yes, Momma,” Saya nodded.

“It’s important that you understand that as I reply,” her mother stressed. “Your father and I do not get to spend enough time with you. You know that. You also, I hope, know that we both regret deeply that our commitments cut into our family time. That being said, your happiness is of the highest importance to us. So much so that, yes, we keep an eye on those you associate with.”

“I know,” Saya nodded calmly once more.

“You do?” Yuriko was surprised and it showed.

“Momma, I’m not stupid,” Saya rolled her eyes. “Are you trying to go the long way around telling me that you had Takashi investigated?”

“There was no need,” she replied. “Your father happens to know Takashi’s quite well. I know Nobiki enough to converse with and we do exchange calls once in a while. The point I was making the long way around to, as you put it, is that your father and I, whenever we can, do talk about you, your present, and your future. One of those things we discuss are young men who would make acceptable suitors for you. For your hand, in other words,” she clarified and Saya’s face reddened as she realized what her mother meant.

“Not choosing for you,” Yuriko stressed. “Merely discussing our opinions of those who are currently around you. What we see in them. Takashi has been the subject of more than one of those discussions,” she flat out said, finally.

The hell with it, she said to herself. We were supposed to do this together. I’ll blame Souichiro.

“Really?” Saya actually perked up at that, and Yuriko felt a glimmer of hope return.

Or, I’ll take credit for it, she amended on the fly. Either way works.

“Yes, really,” she said aloud. “Takashi is a fine boy, Saya. Trustworthy and loyal. Yes, he’s prone to minor trouble making, but I assure you, your father has no room to complain about that. Don’t ask me to elaborate, either,” she warned as Saya’s ears seem to perk up.

“Anyway,” Yuriko continued. “Minor mischief aside, the only real concern we saw in Takashi was his lack of drive. He was obviously smart, he was simply unmotivated. We worried, frankly, that he would hold you back if that continued, but when you showed no signs of detriment, we did not try to separate you. The risk was worth your having a true and loyal friend, we judged.”

“To hear you talk tonight, the one true issue we ever had where Takashi was concerned is being taken care of by Takashi himself. And, if you are correct, or at least if what I suspect about you is correct,” she allowed a glimmer of a smile, “then you might very well be the reason he has changed.”

Saya sat back, in no way surprised by these revelations, despite what her mother thought. She was smart enough to know that no one was allowed to get as close to her as Takashi had without her parents knowing everything there was to know about them.

“But why now?” she asked her mother, finally getting to the root of her dilemma, without even knowing it. Yuriko knew, however, and again fought to keep a smile from blossoming on her face.

“Saya, have you looked in a mirror, lately?” she asked gently.

“Of course I have!” Saya shot back.

“No, dear,” her mother shook her head. “I mean really, honestly, seen yourself? Saya, you are blooming into a beautiful young woman. I know that you casually dismiss suitors out of hand fearing they are merely after the Takagi name, but dear, some of them are undoubtedly drawn to your beauty.”

“I’m sure,” Saya snorted, a very undignified sound that Yuriko suddenly had an irrational desire to have a recording of, if for no other reason than the potential as blackmail material at some later date.

“I assure you it’s true,” Yuriko told her. “I won’t bother trying to convince you of it, except to answer your question; in my opinion, until recently, Takashi still saw you as the little girl he became friends with in kindergarten.”

“What?” Saya almost screeched.

“Not as a child, dear,” her mother shook her head. “No, I mean that he still thought of you as simply his friend. Perhaps his best friend, even. But he didn’t see you as a young woman. At some point in recent times, he has seen you. He’s realized the same thing I have. That you are growing into a beautiful young lady, and he is captivated by you. I suspect there was already love of a familial nature there,” she decided to confide. “Without that and your long history together, consider this; would Takashi approach you at all?”

“Probably not,” Saya admitted.

“If he did, would you receive him in any manner?” Yuriko pressed.

“Probably not,” she admitted again, slower this time, as if getting the point.

“So, were it not for the closeness you developed as children, he would not have the potential courage to approach you now as more than that. I tell you that so that you don’t disregard that history between you, or think that it somehow sours, or could be soured by, a different kind of relationship between you at this age or in the future.”

“Instead, look at that history as a solid foundation on which to build whatever might happen between the two of you now. There is nothing better to base it on, Saya. Nothing.”

“Not even love?” Saya asked.

“Saya, dear, what do you think love is, if not a connection between two people that runs so deeply?” her mother smiled beautifully.

Saya didn’t speak for a minute longer, then asked;

“Momma, do you think I could stay home from school tomorrow? I have something I need to do. And I might need your help.”

*****

Across town, a similar discussion was taking place in the hospital room Takashi had found himself in.

“You’ll be released some time tomorrow, Takashi,” his mother was saying.

“Good,” he nodded, positioning himself in the bed a little better. “I don’t like it here.”

“It’s just for one night, and for my peace of mind you can bear it,” she ordered.

“Yes, mother,” he grinned. “And I’m sorry this happened. I promise you, faithfully, that I was trying to be on my best behavior.”

“So I’ve been told,” Nobiki nodded. “I’m proud of you for that, too,” she smiled. “Tell me, though, Takashi. What in the world has led to this instance? Why would Hisashi Igou, of all people, attack you like this?”

“According to what Miyamoto-san told us this afternoon, the two of them believe that I have been spreading rumors about them,” he shrugged.

“And have you?”

“No,” he replied firmly. “I have not spoken to them or about them in any manner. Not even to those who wanted to talk to me about why Miyamoto-san dumped me, and why Igou-san was ‘dating’ her behind my back. I have avoided any and all such discussions.”

“And today?” she asked, then held up a hand. “Wait, you said ‘Miyamoto-san’ and ‘Igou-san’?” she sought clarification.

“I did,” he nodded. “I have revoked their right to refer to me by my given name, and will no longer refer to them in such a way. I want nothing to do with them, especially after today.”

“Takashi, what in the world has happened here?” she wanted to know. “I thought you and Rei, Miyamoto-san, were. . .well, going steady at the least.”

“As did I,” he agreed. “She has become increasingly irritable lately, over the last two or three months especially. Refuses to tell me what’s wrong other than ‘you wouldn’t understand, Takashi’, yet places blame for all her ills on me. I was growing weary of that. I had stayed with her so long because of my promise, but. . .the truth is I was going to break up with her. Was about to tell her, in fact, when she informed me that she and Hisashi had already been dating for two months and then dumped me. Loudly, and in a public place, where she tried to make a public spectacle out of the whole thing. I suppose that backfired and people are talking. Well, I know they’re talking, because some of them have talked to me, but I don’t talk back. I simply refuse to discuss it, saying it is a private matter.”

“That is only proper,” his mother agreed. “I was surprised when Re-Miyamoto-san broke up with you, and you surprised me now saying you were going to do so with her, though after hearing your explanation I’m more surprised that you waited so long.”

“I had made a promise,” Takashi shrugged. “But now I’m free of it.”

“I sense more to it than that,” Nobiki’s eyebrow rose.

“There might be,” Takashi stirred a bit. “The thing is, there’s another girl that I had noticed, but I couldn’t say anything to her because I would have had to dump Miyamoto-san for that, and this girl, she wouldn’t have wanted any part of that. But since my best friend and my girl friend decided to get together behind my back, I’m in good shape,” he smiled slightly.

“Takashi, you’re laying in a hospital bed,” his mother snorted. “I don’t think ‘good shape’ is really appropriate here.”

“Ah,” he waved away her concern. “You already said I’d be released tomorrow. And this won’t happen again. Not just like this, anyway. I won’t turn my back on Igou-san again. I told Saya I had a feeling he might do this very thing, but didn’t want to believe it. Before he and Miyamoto-san did what they did, there’s no way you could have convinced me he would, but. . .afterward, well.” He shrugged helplessly. “I suppose you never really know anyone, mom.”

“Well, I think you can say you know Saya,” she smiled. “She took good care of you.”

“Yeah, she did didn’t she?” Takashi couldn’t help the smile that came to his face. Nobiki heard bells ringing in her mind when she saw that look.

“Takashi,” she almost sang. “Are you. . .is Saya-chan the one you’re thinking about?” she asked.

“Maybe,” he surprised her, having expected a round of denials even if he eventually caved in and admitted it. “What if she is?”

“I’d say I’m thrilled to hear it,” Nobiki replied at once. “And that I expected it long ago,” she added with a grin. “I’ve known for a long time that you two belonged together.”

“You think Saya might think that?” Takashi asked. “Or her parents?”

“I can’t speak for Saya-chan,” Nobiki shook her head. “But I know Yuriko won’t have a problem with it, so long as you are proper about courting her. I suspect that Souichiro will act like he does, if for no other reason than because it’s something fathers with pretty daughters seem honor bound to do, but. . .I feel reasonably confident that he would not object. Again, so long as you went about it in a proper fashion,” he warned.

“I intend to,” he told her, confirming without meaning to that Saya was indeed the one he was thinking of.

“Well, well,” Nobiki mused. “It would seem that your former best friend may have done you a good turn after all, Takashi.”

“I had that same thought myself earlier today,” Takashi nodded. “We’ll have to see, I guess.”

“Try and get some rest, dear,” his mother stood, kissing his forehead. “I’m going home. I have some work to do and I’ll have to arrange for a replacement for tomorrow.”

“You don’t have to take off work, mom,” Takashi shook his head. “If I’m really fine, then when I’m released I’ll head home.”

“I’m pretty sure they’ll want me to be here, Takashi, if for no other reason than to sign-” she was interrupted by the phone ringing. Puzzled, she picked it up.
“Yes?”

Nobiki?” she heard Yuriko’s voice on the other end.

“Yes,” she smiled in spite of herself and the situation. “How are you, Yuriko?”

I’m well, thank you. How is Takashi-kun?”

“He’s going to live, I think,” Nobiki told her, looking to where he son was suddenly sitting up straight. “A little worse for wear, but you know how it is. Young men will go to great lengths to impress young women.”

Mom!” Takashi hissed, only to be ignored. “This is why I never tell you anything!” he sat back, arms crossing over his chest despite the discomfort. He could hear Saya’s mom’s voice, but not make out the rest of what she said.

“Yes, I am,” his mother said. “I was about to try and arrange for someone to fill in for me as a matter of-” she paused. “I couldn’t ask you to do that,” she said after a minute. “Oh. Oh I see,” she bit her lip to keep from smiling. “Well, yes, she did. And I can’t thank you or her enough for that, either, now that I’m thinking about it.”

“What?” Takashi looked at her, suddenly concerned.
“Well, I don’t see why not,” his mother ignored him, speaking into the phone. “No, I see no reason they wouldn’t, so long as I clear it ahead of time. Tonight, in fact. I’ll see to it on my way out.”

“I’ll tell him that,” she allowed Takashi to see her smile this time. “Yes. Yes I will. All right. And thank you. I will, and soon. Probably another week. Ten days at most I’d guess, but he should be home at least four days. I think he’d love to. Then let’s do that. Yes, of course. All right. Good night, Yuriko.” She hung up the phone and looked at her son.

“It would seem, Takashi, that Saya wants to come and take you home herself, tomorrow,” she managed to say without any sign of gloating whatsoever. “And Yuriko will come and sign you out, assuming that I can fix it so that the hospital can release you into her care. Or more accurately into Saya’s care,” she lost her battle with the grin that bloomed across her face.

“What?” Takashi’s face was red but inside his heart was hammering. “She said that?”

“She imposed upon her mother to allow her to do this, including staying home from school,” Nobiki said, an eyebrow raised. “Takashi,” she grew serious. “I’m starting to think that Saya just may be very seriously thinking about you, as well. You will not do anything that might hurt her, young man. Do I make myself clear?”
“Mom!” he protested. “I’d never do that!”

“I suspect not, but I felt it better to have it said and out in the open,” his mother nodded. “Now, I need to go and have a word with the doctor, and then probably the administrator, after which I’m going home and get some work done. Please behave yourself. Tonight and tomorrow,” she added, kissing his cheek this time. “And do duck, next time. Won’t you?”

“Count on it,” he nodded.