- POV Switch -
There was a knock at the door and the gentleman stood up from his comfortable spot in a large armchair. He opened the door a crack and peeked through to see his late night visitor. His eyes widened in surprise as recognition dawned upon him and he held the door wide open for the small figure to step through.
“Elisabeth!” he exclaimed in shock. “It’s been so long! How are you? Come in, please!”
Her heart shaped face looked up into his and she smiled.
“Yes, it has been quite a while, huh? I’m doing fine, business is great, and I feel like I’m slowly becoming a vampire.” She covered her mouth and giggled quietly.
“What do you mean?” he asked her, his eyebrows rose in question.
“I’ve been getting the latest fashion inspirations at like two or three in the morning,” she sighed, seating herself in the chair he had just inhabited.
“Ah,” he replied, nodding his head. “I understand how you feel. So, what brings you here to my temporary home?”
“I met her today,” she whispered. “She’s quite ordinary but there’s something about her that shines brighter than everyone else. I can see why you like her so much. But, how long has it been since you last met her? Does she even remember or even know you?”
He was silent as he stared at the flickering fire in the fireplace.
“It’s been quite a long time since we last met. I’m positive she doesn’t remember me, let alone know me. I think, after all this time, I was the only one in love with her.” He sighed and pressed on, “How did you meet her? How is she?”
“She’s looking well, so grown up from the last time I saw her. She’s working at my grandpa’s café. I was stopping by to give my hello when I saw her there.”
“Should I tell her?” he murmured, to no one in particular.
“Your choice, my friend,” she answered, snuggling deep into the armchair. “You two are engaged, right? You’ll have to tell her eventually, sooner or later.”
“I know,” he sighed. “I just don’t think she’ll-”
“You worry too much,” Elisabeth interrupted, holding up a hand. “Just let what will happen play its course.”
“I feel that something very wrong will happen,” he mumbled.
“You were always a pessimistic person,” she chuckled.
“Better to look out for the bad so you know what to change when the moment comes,” he reasoned, sitting in an opposite couch from hers.
“When do you think is the right time?”
“Her father said tomorrow,” he replied, rubbing his eyes with his fingers.
“That’s so soon! Isn’t it a bit too rash to tell her so suddenly?” she exclaimed in surprise.
“That’s what I thought as well, but her father is eager to have her back home,” he paused in thought. “It’s been more than ten years since she’s been living in that life.”
“That’s far too long,” Elisabeth pursed her lips and frowned. “She’s not going to take this situation to heart. She’ll think it’s all a big prank or something.”
“Why wait further,” he asked, shrugging his shoulders.
“Why didn’t he do it earlier?” she asked, leaning forward in her chair.
“There were too many problems with the company at that time and even now. Back then, her life was in danger. She still is, but things are moving too swiftly and her presence is needed more than ever.”
“The Serizawa Incident?”
“Yes,” he confirmed, nodding his head.
“What does that have to do with her?”
“Like you said, we are engaged. Her marriage to me will secure the Renkai Corporation’s position at the top, eliminating all threats to the top position.”
“Wait, that’s it?” Elisabeth swung her legs to the floor and stood up abruptly. “That’s all you need her for? A marriage to seal a contract between the top two families is all you need her for?”
“Now Elisabeth, calm down!” he stood up as well.
“I can’t calm down! She’s a sweet girl! You’re bringing all this trouble into her peaceful life!”
“She has to come back eventually Elisabeth! You know that!”
“I do! But can’t you bring her back when things are back to normal? This is too sudden! I object to this plan!”
“This isn’t your concern Elisabeth,” he replied slowly. “You don’t even have to worry about it.”
“I know I don’t. But as your friend, I am very worried!”
He sank back into the seat and placed his head in his hands. Elisabeth walked over to him and laid a hand on his shoulders.
“I don’t think this is a good idea. She’ll only come to hate her own family. Her own family that she never knew existed. She’s been living a lie all her life! How do you think she’ll react when you tell her that? Huh? Tell me!”
He groaned inwardly and leaned back in the chair, his head thrown back and eyes staring unseeingly at the ceiling.
“Tell me!” she screamed hysterically, shaking his shoulders roughly.
He grabbed her hand and held it loosely before him.
“I can’t explain it, Elisabeth, and I’m sorry that she has to go through all of this. I really am.”
She yanked her hand away and turned her back on him. “Tell this to her. If she doesn’t destroy the whole entire Renkai Corporation when she hears about this, then I will do it for her.”
He sighed heavily and replied, “If you do, then your own family would be in jeopardy, Elisabeth, please don’t do anything rash because of your own feelings.”
“Goodbye,” she snapped, turning toward the door.
As she pulled it open and stepped outside, she paused to say, “Don’t treat her badly. She doesn’t deserve all this drama she’s about to face. Be there for her, if not, I’m going to find you and rip you to shreds.”
As the door slammed shut, he muttered, “How did our friendly reunion turn into something so depressing?”
He got up from his chair and walked over to the kitchen. He poured himself a cup of lukewarm coffee and stared at the wall opposite of him, sipping mechanically from the cup every now and then.
- POV Switch -
It was early in the morning when Issik opened the door to Elisabeth’s apartment. He stepped inside and closed the door behind him quietly. His eyes roamed the room, interestedly. He dropped the plastic bag he held in his hand onto the floor beside a low glass coffee table and walked toward the far end of the room. He pulled the white curtains aside, sunlight pouring in. He glanced out at the city below and whistled in amazement.
“What a place,” he muttered to himself, opening the curtains all the way to the side.
Turning around, he noticed a small form beside the patio door. He slowly crept toward it and realized it was Hiro’s sleeping form. He nudged her with his toe and when she didn’t make a move, he leaned back on his heels and stared down at her.
“You shouldn’t be sleeping there,” he whispered. “That looks really uncomfortable.”
He squatted down beside her and glanced at her sleeping face, leaning in closer than he should have. His nose touched her cheek and he leaned back a bit. He folded his arms and placed them on his knee, leaning his head down into the crook of his arm.
“She’s kind of pretty,” he murmured, tilting his head to the side.
He stood up quickly and scolded himself for staring at her. He paused for a fraction of a second before bending over and picking her up in a princess hold. Her head rested against his chest as he carried her over to the couch and laid her down.
“There, much better.”
He retrieved a blanket from a nearby room and draped it over her curled up frame. He padded over to the discarded bag and placed it atop the table and pushed it toward her.
“I hope she’ll understand that this is from Elisabeth,” he paused in dilemma. “Should I write a note?”
He continued to look at her sleeping face until he shivered and turned to leave.
He rubbed the back of his head and muttered under his breath, “What’s gotten into me.”
He opened the door and left, closing it softly behind him.
- Hiro -
The sunlight trickled into the room from the open curtain and Hiro awoke with a start. She sat up abruptly and groaned in pain as her muscles tightened. She massaged her back and swung her feet down from the couch and stood up, bending her back with her hands on her hips. She sighed as her spine cracked painful yet satisfyingly.
“What is this?” she asked, opening a plastic bag that lay on the table.
She held the clothing before her and frowned in thought. It was a dress that had one inch straps that were white. As you look down, the dress steadily turned blue. The ends of the dress came to her knees in the front and came to the middle of her calves in the back. It fell down in loose folds that billowed as she swung the dress back and forth before her.
“I’m guessing Elisabeth left it here for me before she left for who knows where,” she said to herself. “But why did it have to be dress?”
She sighed and her shoulders slumped in mild disappointment. She trudged to the bathroom and began to brush her teeth. After rinsing her mouth of the toothpaste and drying her face on a towel, she slipped out of her clothes from the night before and pulled on the dress. It was a bit too big around the waist area, but other than that it fit her pretty well.
She carried the clothes out of the bathroom and folded it when she seated herself upon the couch. She looked into the bag again and pulled out a pair of black flats. She exhaled and slipped the shoes on anyways. Standing up, she placed the clothes she had worn atop the bag and stepped toward the door. After adjusting the dress and tapping her toes against the floor to make the shoes comfortable for her, she opened the door and closed it behind her as she turned and walked down the hallway.
Once the elevator opened and she was on her way down to the first floor, Hiro closed her eyes tight to avoid looking at the height through the glass elevator. To her relief, no one else needed to board the elevator down and when it finally opened its doors to let her out, she jumped out from between the doors and hurried out of the building and into the busy streets.
Without knowing where to go, she made her way through the throng of people to the little café. She opened the door and the little bell attached to the top of the door announced her arrival.
“Good morning, Hiro!” Issik called out to her as he laid down two cups of coffee for his customers.
His hair was spiked up into a small mohawk and he wore clothing of similar color to hers. His dress shirt was white at the top and gradually darkened as it went down to a navy blue. He wore shorts that were dark blue and had on a pair of black sneakers.
“Good morning,” she replied, meekly as several eyes were turned to her.
They met together behind the counter and Issik whispered over to her, “Elisabeth made us matching outfits today!”
He chuckled as he reloaded his tray full of pastries and coffee cups. He hefted the tray up and reached out for a coffee pot. Balancing the tray precariously on his hand and shoulder, he made his way to the designated table.
Hiro stepped toward the kitchen and greeted the chef.
He paused from mixing up a batch of muffin batter and looked up at her.
“Hello my dear, how are you this morning?”
“A bit hungry,” she admitted. “Other than that it was a good morning.”
He tossed her a newly baked chocolate muffin and chuckled heartily.
“Go ahead and have something to eat. Pick anything on the tray, just don’t eat all of it or the customers won’t have anything.”
She thanked him and nibbled on the muffin she caught in her hand.
Issik walked in and picked up an apple cinnamon muffin and chomped on it. He held it in his mouth as he opened up the large refrigerator and pulled out a small milk bottle.
As he handed it to Hiro, he said, “It’s not really morning until you’ve drank milk. At least that’s for me, anyways.”
He waved behind him and walked out to continue serving the patrons. She bit into her muffin and opened the bottle, taking a sip from it. She sighed contentedly and finished up her breakfast. She thanked the chef and returned to the front of the café.
Issik stood bent over the counter and turned to look at her as she approached him. He smirked at her and raised his apron up to her face when she was close enough. He wiped at a chocolate smudge on her face and laughed softly.
“You look like a mess,” he told her.
Ignoring him, she asked, “Can I help with anything?”
“The breakfast rush has slowed down for a bit now that everyone’s had their food on their table,” he answered. “You can just chill here with me as we wait for the first regular to raise their hand for the bill.”
As soon as he said this, someone raised their hand and he quickly dispatched to hand them their bill. Hiro followed after the table had been empty of its occupants and cleared the table. They cleared out several tables and finally the café was empty.
“Empty already?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he answered. “That usually happens a lot. After the breakfast rush, it’s usually empty until the lunch rush hour. Then after the lunch hour, the next rush hour is the late night one.”
“What do you usually do during the wait?”
He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Eat some of Grandpa’s snacks.”
At that moment, the door jingled and both Hiro and Issik turned to look at their customer. He was extremely tall and had to duck low to avoid banging his head against the top of the door.
He made his way to a booth in a corner and sat down, taking his top hat from his head and placing it beside him on the table. He loosened his scarf a bit before turning to the duo and raising a hand for either of them to come to him.
Issik gave Hiro a small nudge and smiled encouragingly at her. Hiro stared at him balefully before taking a menu in her hand and heading over to the shivering form.
She laid the menu down before him but took it back up as he said, “Coffee, please.”
She sauntered back to the counter and replaced the menu back into its neat stack.
“What did he want?” Issik asked, reaching for a small coffee cup and platter.
“Coffee,” she replied, taking a coffee pot from its place from the burner.
He handed her the cup upturned on the little plate and smirked at her. She took it from him and made her way back to the table. She placed it before the customer and righted the cup, pouring coffee into it. When she turned to leave, a cold hand snaked around her wrist, stopping her from moving any further away. She turned to look at him in surprise and gasped as she recognized his face.
“You’re that guy from the other day!” she exclaimed in shock, nudging in his direction with the coffee pot in her other hand.
He smiled and replied, “It is me. Come and sit down, I want to talk to you.”
She stared uncertainly at him and turned her head to look at Issik for guidance. He raised his eyebrows in question and responded with a shrug of his shoulders. He motioned her to sit with his finger and she turned back to look at the booth’s occupant warily.
She slid into the booth and placed the coffee pot on the table. Linking her fingers together, she laid them on her lap and looked at her hands, her head bowed low.
The young man before her gazed at the coffee cup in front of him and traced the edges of the cup with a finger. He slipped his finger through the handle and took a sip of the coffee and placed it back down on its platter.
“Hiro,” he whispered, looking directly at the cup.
Her head came up and she looked at him in surprise. Her mouth opened to ask something but he continued to speak.
“What is your last name?” he asked.
Befuddled, she answered, “Kanazaki. Hiro Kanazaki.”
“Kanazaki,” he repeated, slowly and amusedly. “No, I’m afraid that’s not right. I believe you’re wrong.”
“What are you talking about? Of course it is. How can I not know my own last name?” she exclaimed heatedly. “It’s Kanazaki!”
“Renkai,” he interrupted. “You’re last name is Renkai and you are the daughter of the owner and head of the Renkai Corporations.”
Hiro stared at the man in disbelief.
“No way,” she murmured. “You don’t mean Renkai, as in the top business-”
“Yes,” he replied.
“You’re joking. There’s no way! My father is Rei Kanazaki!”
He pulled out a thin folder and laid it down before her. She turned it around to face her and with shaking hands, opened it. Pictures of people she knew and didn’t know spilled out onto the table. She gathered them all together and looked at the first page. It was a picture of her father. Underneath his picture was a large box that had a long paragraph labeled “description”.
“This is him!” she cried, pointing at the picture with her forefinger. “This man here is my father!”
He wrapped his fingers around the cup and held it up to his face.
“Read the description,” he said before taking a sip of the drink and putting his hands back down to the table.
She looked at his face and glanced down at the page in front of her. For some reason, Hiro felt scared. Trepidation filled her as she lifted the first page and began to read.
Reading aloud, she said, “‘Rei Kanazaki. Sir Renkai’s right hand man, secretary and head after Sir Renkai himself. There are no known family members and no direct family members that can be found. It was rumored that Sir Renkai took him in after an accident that left him with a disabled left leg. Kanazaki was found dead in apartment 736 in a pool of blood. He was severely injured in several places along the body, but he most likely died from a blow to the head. No other information can be found or is known.’.”
She stopped short and gawked at the page before her, crumbling it as her hands clenched. He eyed her hands and said nothing.
“No, this isn’t right,” she stammered. “My father is dead, yes, but I’m his daughter! How can they say he has no one, no family?”
Without waiting for him to say anything, and he wasn’t going to offer his share of words, she slid the picture to the side and found two more. One was a picture of a very beautiful woman and another was a picture of her mother.
“This one right here is my mom! She-” Hiro stopped short and stared at the picture of the woman she didn’t know. “But, this lady looks so much like me.”
“That’s you biological mother,” he muttered.
She frowned and read the description: “‘Wife of Sir Renkai and the Lady of the Renkai Corporation. She was very loved by Sir Renkai and the people that worked under him. She died from childbirth. The child remains unknown. Search is underway for the child and investigations have begun to locate her. Whether child is dead or alive is unknown, but the fact remains that the child is of interest to many families’.”
“That child is you,” he said, pointing at the picture then to her.
“But that can’t be, my mother is her,” she said, touching the picture of her mother. “Myoko Kanazaki.”
She read the name off the paper and her frown deepened. She shook her head in denial as she read report.
“Myoko Tetsuba. She is second after Rei Kanazaki under Sir Renkai’s jurisdiction. She is widowed and has no children of which can be found. Latest update tells that she cannot bear children due to an accident that happened in her early years. After the death of Rei Kanazaki, she took over his spot as the lead Director and will be head after Sir Renkai until an heir for Sir Renkai can be found’.”
She sank back in the booth and shook her head.
“These people,” she whispered. “These reports, they’re all lies you wrote to get me confused! This is some sort of trick, some joke! Alright, where’s the camera? This joke isn’t funny and I’m beginning to get very scared.”
“There is no camera, no tricks. I don’t mean to frighten you but I’m telling you the truth,” he pressed earnestly.
“I don’t believe you,” she snapped, getting up from her seat.
He leaned across the table and grabbed ahold of her arm, pulling her back into the booth.
“Let me explain.”
“Please do,” she cried, tears coming into her eyes. “Are you saying I’ve been living a life of lies all this time?”
“You were in danger, Hiro. Your father had to give you to Mr. Kanazaki to protect you. When his wife died from giving birth to you, he was heartbroken and nearly gave up on living. You were the last thread that he clung on to, to keep alive. When other companies found out about this, they wanted to harm you, even kill you. They’d do anything to see Sir Renkai topple from his perch at the top.”
Hiro sat stoned face and shook her head slowly in denial.
“I don’t believe you,” she repeated softly to herself again and again.
“He gave you to Mr. Kanazaki to keep you from harm. He was able to protect you for seven years until the mercenaries sent for you finally found you. He was killed protecting you and they were going to kill you too if the police hadn’t arrived in time and saved you. You were traumatized and placed into the custody of Ms. Tetsuba, where you remained until this day.”
“No,” she stammered. “There is no way all this is true.”
She stood up from the table and looked the gentleman in the face. The door jingled as it opened, but she ignored it and continued to stare angrily at the man’s face.
“You’re lying. I don’t believe you one bit!”
“Your father,” he continued, pointing to his side. “He’s right there.”
Footsteps were heard approaching the table and Hiro turned her head slowly, following where the young man was pointing. To her utter amazement and shock, her very own principal stood before her. Her eyes widened in surprise and she felt her legs give way as she fainted from disbelief.