Bubblegum Crisis Post 2040 File 5: World On A String
The Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 Continuation Fanfic Series
by P. Kristen Enos
Most of these stories take place AFTER the TV Series! So DON’T blame me if I ruin the ending for you because you read these stories first!
Lesbian/Yuri/Shoujo Ai Warning! (Non-explicit — at least in the “PG13″/”R” sort of way.) Just not written for children because they probably wouldn’t get half of it.
All rights belong to JVC/AIC, ADV Films and the other creative powers that be. I just want credit for writing the story.
Special BGC 2040 History Notes
The idea of doing this story, most of which takes place when Sylia and Reika were 15 years old, presented some challenges in that key events in Sylia’s past had some continuity problems within the anime itself.
Facts from the anime:
Henderson doesn’t know who Mackey is, much less the idea that Sylia had a “brother.” However, the picture of Sylia and Mackey is dated 2030, meaning Henderson had to have exited her life before then.
According to the bio Nene pulls up on him, Dr. Stingray is listed to have died in 2033, which Sylia would have been approximately seventeen.
HOWEVER, Henderson is the one who delivers the news to Sylia about her father’s apparent demise. This not only presents a timeline problem not only because of the “facts” listed above, but also that in the scene itself, Sylia is shown (admittedly from about the chin down) as still being a little girl.
Timeline for Post 2040 Universe:
So with the issues above, I’ve established the following key milestones to help flesh about Sylia’s past into some sort of logical and character development order.
• Sylia’s mother died when Sylia was about six years old, in the year 2023.
• Henderson was replaced as Sylia’s primary servant by a new couple, Mr. and Mrs. Sohma, shortly afterwards.
• Mackey created from Galatea in 2028.
• Dr. Stingray died and Tokyo earthquakes happened in 2029.
• Mackey moves in with Sylia in 2030.
• And boomers haven’t gone rogue yet.
• And the rest will be shown through the story…
* * * * *
Tuesday Afternoon, June 21st, 2026
Ten year old Reika Chang sat at the piano and let out a sigh as she waited for her music teacher, who was late as usual, even for a lesson with her star pupil.
She stared out the window at the view of the athletic grounds where the other girls were participating in their after school sports activities. She personally didn’t so much care to be part of the festivities as much as she envied being able to lounge outdoors in the sun and do whatever truly pleased her. If she were to choose between music or sports, music would win every time, but more and more she realized that there were other simple pleasures that she was missing out on that the other girls seemed to take for granted.
She then ran her hands through her short black hair and returned her attention to the piano before her.
Her parents had tried having a private tutor give her lessons when she was eight but she found no enjoyment in the supervised repetition of basic exercises. The lessons were quickly stopped to the relief of all involved.
Reika’s interest, however, changed shortly afterwards due to watching her mother perform for some guests. Reika thought it was an elegant piece, and her mother was absolutely beautiful while playing it. She also noticed the sheer enjoyment and pride that was evident on the faces of everyone in the room, especially her father’s.
So the little girl watched the performance like a hawk, wanting to imitate her mother in both the beauty she projected and the joy she gave to her listeners. When her parents and their guests moved to the other room, Reika sat down at the piano and played the same song, note for note. Five minutes later, her parents and guests came rushing back in in amazement when they realized what she had done.
Labels like “child prodigy” and “musical genius” were thrown around that night, words that she later looked up and was pleased by what she found. Her mother then asked Reika if she wanted to learn to play the piano in order to play more songs. Reika said yes because she enjoyed the pleased reaction she got from everyone, especially from her parents.
But playing was different than practicing. However, she was now more willing to put up with the latter on a limited basis.
Reika let out another sigh, and then realized there was another presence nearby.
She looked up to see Sylia Stingray standing in the doorway, watching her without any expression. Reika almost jumped in surprise at the other girl’s presence as well as at her attention.
Transfer students arriving at mid-year always cause a stir, and even more so at such an exclusive school as Shimizu Academy. So when Sylia had arrived two months ago, the entire student body was buzzing over the beautiful “American” girl, even though it was also known that she had been born and raised in Japan. The rumors flew fast over her famous scientist father and the tragic death by illness of her mother. And Sylia herself proved to be quite the tantalizing mystery, even for Reika, who was her assigned roommate.
On a casual level, Sylia was polite and proper, never speaking out of turn or indulging in side conversations with classmates. Her test scores and athletic abilities were exceptional, always rivaling those of the class leaders. Yet, at the same time, Reika noticed that Sylia remained aloof and private. She never spoke unless spoken to, and she never asked questions about others but would politely answer whatever was asked of her.
The other girls didn’t know whether to label Sylia as a snob or shy, knowing that neither one felt quite right. The faculty and staff were just pleased to have someone who showed such promise for cultivating prestige for the school, if she wasn’t destined to be married off upon graduation, as was half the student body.
Since Reika had no real friends in the study body with whom to secure her roommate assignment, she was always at the mercy of the school computers to determine who would share her living space for the year. Since her original roommate for the year had left the month before due to illness, she wasn’t particular surprised that the new transfer student would be paired with her.
In sharing their room, Reika noticed that even though Sylia never went out of her way to be sociable, there were little things that she did to show that she was indeed the conscientious roommate. She always cleaned up after herself, was quiet and kept reasonable hours. Whenever there was free time, Sylia was always alone, her nose buried in a book or a computer terminal, giving off the aura of someone who merely wanted to be left alone. Yet Sylia was always ready to give her a pleasant smile and nod of acknowledge without requiring any further interaction.
Personally, Reika loved the new arrangement, having been subjected to two previous years of nosy and overly chatty roommates, though they were pleasant girls otherwise. It was nice to have someone who also appreciated personal space and silence, since she didn’t like frivolous company either.
Reika had eventually developed the opinion that Sylia just didn’t care about people or things as long as she was left alone. So to now see this girl watching her was quite surprising indeed.
The girls stared at each other for a moment before Reika prompted, “Yes, Sylia?”
She took a few steps into the room and said simply, “You don’t seem to be enjoying yourself.”
Reika’s eyebrows shot up at the rather direct and accurate assessment, but it also triggered her curiosity that such a comment came from this almost anti-social girl.
She responded, “Well, I don’t like piano practice.”
“Then why play the piano if you don’t like it?” Sylia asked in a tone showing a genuine attempt to understand.
“Practicing is different than playing. And I like to play.” Reika paused as an idea hit her and then she asked, “Do you like piano music?”
Sylia shook her head. “I don’t care for any kind of music.”
“Oh,” Reika responded, feeling a little deflated, though she tried to hide her disappointment.
Sylia tilted her head curiously at her, her gray eyes never losing their intensity. Then she lowered her gaze and offered, “But it’s probably because no one has ever played for me before.”
Reika perked up at the statement and smiled. “If there’s something you want to hear, I’ll play it for you. I know quite a few songs. I can even do songs they play on the radio even if I don’t have the sheet music for it.”
Sylia smiled and sat down in the nearest chair. “I trust you to play something I’ll like.”
* * * * *
World On A String
Saturday Morning, July 21st, 2031
“Well, how about this one? Or even this one?” Reika asked as she held up the two dresses from the closet. The fifteen-year-old girl was trying to help her best friend prepare for the extended summer visit to California.
Sylia paused in her packing to look. After a moment of serious consideration, she answered, “Better to take them both. I have no idea how many social events Grandma has planned so I’d rather pack too much.”
“I don’t recall you packing this much the last time you visited her,” Reika mused as she handed the clothes over.
“I’ve only had to suffer a week at the most. This the first time I’m going to be gone a full month.”
Realizing that she would now be in the way, Reika sat down on the floor next to King, Sylia’s dog. The old Great Dane gladly took advantage of the sudden company by using the available lap as his new pillow, and was promptly rewarded with a gentle scratch behind the ears.
Sylia paused at the sight and smiled. Then she dropped down on her knees and hugged the other girl fiercely. “I wish you didn’t have that competition so you could come with me!”
“I assure you I wish I didn’t have the competition either. But it’s only two weeks away. Once it’s done, I’m free to come visit.” Reika returned the hug, concerned by how much stress her best friend was showing over the pending visit. “So you’ll only have to suffer half of your trip alone. Besides, Mackey’ll be with you.”
Sylia frowned as she sat down and remarked, “He’ll be absolutely no help! He’s more well-behaved than King when he’s around her.”
The dog in question lifted his head and whined.
She smiled and rubbed his muzzle. “That was a comment on Mackey, not you, King! I’m going to miss you too. You’re the best dog ever!”
Those words seemed to please the canine as he put his head back into Reika’s lap.
“So did you get any more information about why she wants you to come for such a long visit?” Reika finally asked.
Sylia shook her head. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s thinking she’s going to pander me off to any eligible bachelor that she feels would be appropriate to perpetuate the Stingray lineage.”
“Well, you are the beautiful and rich heiress after all,” Reika said with a half smirk. “And you’re at that age where all the boys should be swooning over you.”
Sylia narrowed her eyes at her and remarked, “I’m concerned Grandma may try to fix me up with someone like Densuke.”
Reika’s smile immediately disappeared. “Okay, you didn’t need to go there… But what if she does find a guy you might actually like? You shouldn’t close yourself off to possibilities like that.”
“Well, the first issue is that even if she is planning to fix me up, whoever he is will most likely be American, and therefore I’d have to leave Japan.”
“Oh,” Reika responded, suddenly not liking the idea if it meant losing her best friend.
“And second, the old woman is forgetting I only have to put up with her until I’m eighteen. Then I’m free to do whatever I like. If marriage means I have to submit myself to someone else’s authority like I’ve been doing to her all these years, then I’m certain I’ll be much happier without it. It’s amazing how much influence she has when she’s on another continent.”
“But what if you eventually fall in love with a man?”
Sylia stared at her for a moment before answering firmly, “Then he’ll have to realize that I’m not going to marry him. You don’t have to marry to be in love.”
“True,” Reika admitted after a thought. “Guess that’s one good thing about being in an arranged marriage: I’m spared all of that angst and heartache you hear about people who fall in love.”
“But what if you do fall in love with someone? You’ll be stuck married to Densuke instead.”
Reika shrugged and answered, “Who would I fall in love with? You’re the only one I really care about besides my family. And it’s not as if we’re going to fall in love, right?”
“You’ve got a point there,” Sylia said as she watched Reika pet the blissfully happy dog.
There was a brisk tap at the doorway as Mackey stood and peered into the room. He was dressed in simple pants and shirt, with his normally bushy hair neatly combed in place.
He frowned and said, “Hey, Sylia, Mr. Sohma’s finished putting all of my suitcases in the car. We’re just waiting for you.”
“Yes, yes!” Sylia said as she got back to her feet to return to her task.
“And, Reika, I want my headband back!” Mackey said, holding out his hand expectantly.
It was a regular game of theirs that Reika would snatch it from him when he least expected it, usually resulting in a wild chase around the house and yard, with Sylia occasionally jumping into the race. Once his big sister joined in, Mackey knew that was the sign to give up since he could never win against the girls’ teamwork.
The girl grinned and pulled the prize from her skirt pocket. Then she pointed to the fact that King was still blissfully settled on her lap. “I’d hand it back to you, Mackey, but as you can see, someone would be very disappointed if I got up right now. Besides, you look so handsome with your hair combed for a change!”
Sylia paused in her packing but then continued with her chore.
Mackey scowled at Reika and said, “Nice try! But I still want my headband!” He walked over to snatch his prized possession as well as to give the dog a pat. “Maybe we should have King stay with you while we’re gone.”
“I’ve already suggested that to Mrs. Sohma,” Sylia commented. “She said it wouldn’t do to move him out of his environment at his age. Besides, he won’t be alone with the Sohmas staying here.”
“I guess,” the boy mused as he pocketed his headband. He apparently only half-agreed with the rationale even though he didn’t say anything further. “So, Reika, you’re definitely coming out to visit in August?”
“Yep! Are you going to be my personal tour guide for Los Angeles?” Reika asked with a coquettish tilt to her head.
Sylia frowned but then brushed it off.
“Hey, you and Sylia like to do all that boring stuff like museums and art galleries,” Mackey said with a frown. “I can give you the directions to the beach and that’s about it.”
Reika then smirked and said, “Knowing you, we’ll probably end up in Mexico.”
“I’d rather go there than visit Grandma,” Sylia commented dryly, which drew a conspiratorial giggle from the other two.
* * *
Friday Night, August 3rd
Reika sat quietly in the dressing room, taking in deep breaths to keep herself from becoming nervous, or at least, more nervous.
The only things she hated more than practices were competitions. There was too much pressure and intensity to make it enjoyable for anybody. And having to dress up in the evening gown, make-up and jewelry made it even worse for her. She was grateful that her short hair made it easy to arrange it in a nice style.
She also tried not to be distracted even more by how much she missed Sylia. The other girl was usually her emotional support both before and after such events. And her absence was even more noticeable in that this was the first public performance of Reika’s she would miss.
There was a brisk knock at the door, which bewildered Reika. It shouldn’t be the coordinator informing her to get ready since the sound speakers were still projecting the performance of the boy who was three places ahead of her.
She opened the door to be greeted with the sight of a full bouquet of red roses.
“Yes?” she responded cautiously.
The roses then moved, revealing that the carrier was a tall and handsome teenage boy in a tuxedo. He grinned from ear to ear and said, “Hi!”
Before Reika could say or do anything, he leaned forward and planted a firm kiss on her mouth.
The girl immediately pushed him back and scowled. “Okay, even if you are my fiancé, I should belt you for that!”
He frowned at the reaction. “Is that an appropriate way to greet me?”
“Yes given that I’m about to go on stage!” she stated firmly as she turned on her heel to go check her lipstick in the vanity mirror.
“Humph!” he blurted as he walked in after her. “We haven’t seen each other in over a year and this is the welcome I get. I’d hate to see what you’re like when we’re finally married.”
“I’ve got eight years to come up with something.” She reached into her purse to touch up her make-up. “By the way, nice growth spurt, Densuke. I’m glad I don’t have to look down at you anymore.”
The thirteen-year-old boy reddened but then shoved the bouquet out to her. “Here!”
She paused in her touch-up and glanced at the flowers. She looked at him skeptically as she carefully took the proffered bouquet. “Were these honestly your idea or did you have to have pointers from Largo or Ryo again?”
He turned even redder and shoved his hands into his pocket as he glanced around the room. “So where’s your girlfriend? Did you two finally break up?”
Reika scowled at him and said, “She’s visiting her grandmother in California. Otherwise, she would be here.”
“Actually, she would still show up despite that,” Sylia said from the doorway as she carried her own bouquet of roses.
Reika immediately lit up with a pleased smile and she greeted the other girl with a hug. “Oh my god! Sylia! When did you arrive? You should have told me you were coming!”
“The point of a surprise is that you’re not supposed to know!” Sylia teased. “I see you already have flowers but here are some more. And by the way, your lipstick is smeared a bit.”
“Hello, Sylia,” Densuke greeted coolly. “Aren’t you ever the gallant one?”
She scanned him from head to toe and responded in kind, “Hello, Densuke. Height looks good on you.”
The boy narrowed his eyes to make a retort but was more distracted by the fact that the two girls firmly held each other’s hand even while Reika reapplied her lipstick.
“So, do you actually have a ticket to watch the performance?” Reika asked her best friend.
Sylia shook her head. “Didn’t want one since I’m only here to support you and I didn’t want to have to sit through the other performers. Your dad arranged it so I’d be allowed to watch from the wings.”
“Dad knew?!” Reika blurted at the even more pleasant surprise.
Densuke scowled. He then gave a stiff bow and said, “Well, it’s obvious I’m not needed here so I’m going to return to my seat. Good luck, Reika!”
Once they were left alone again in the dressing room, Reika looked at Sylia with genuine concern. “How’s the visit been so far?”
“You’ll be able to experience it on your own soon enough,” she answered cryptically. “Let’s worry about one thing at a time, okay? We’ve got to get you through the rest of the evening.”
Reika made a face and muttered, “It’s going to be interesting with Densuke being here. He actually kissed me.”
She suddenly felt Sylia’s fingers clench in a way that indicated a reflexive response rather than an act of communication. But as soon as it happened, the hand relaxed, followed by an exaggerated sigh from the other girl.
“Well, you knew it would happen sooner or later,” Sylia remarked with a roll of her eyes. “He is your fiancé, after all!”
“I was hoping that it would be much later. Blech!” she added with an expression as if she had a bad taste in her mouth.
Sylia arched her eyebrow and smirked. “Are you saying that the earth and stars didn’t move for you? I thought that happened for all girls when they get their first kiss.”
Reika giggled. “Consider that one more myth shot to the ground!”
“Now I really can’t wait for mine!” Sylia added with a laugh.
* * *
Sunday Evening, August 5th
Reika sat down at the dining table as Sylia and Mackey silently took their seats. She glanced over at her best friend to find the other girl sitting quietly in her seat, her attention seemingly focused on the tensely folded hands on her lap. Reika reached over and placed her hand gently on Sylia’s, causing the latter girl to jump in surprise. Keeping their hands together, they exchanged a supportive smile before being interrupted by the inquiries of the butler on how large a portion they would want of the entrée.
After giving her preference for a light meal, Reika looked around the large living room with the view of the Pacific Ocean. The entire mansion was spacious and elegantly decorated, adding more to the elusive picture of its matriarch, whom the girl hadn’t yet met even though she had arrived earlier that morning.
“Ah! So you must be Reika!” declared a rich voice from the elegant woman who appeared at the doorway.
Reika’s eyes widened at the tall and poised woman whose appearance gave no doubts about which side of the family Sylia inherited her beauty from. Dressed in an elegant gown with sparkling jewelry, Samantha Stingray was a commanding presence. Even though her pinned up hair was white and sparse wrinkles creased her complexion, she seemed much younger than her 69 years of age.
In the next moment, the other teenagers immediately rose from their chairs and bowed in greeting. Reika quickly did the same, noting that Sylia had also let go of her hand in the process.
“Thank you for letting me stay at your home for the next two weeks, Mrs. Stingray,” Reika greeted graciously.
“My pleasure, Child,” the woman answered as she approached, her sharp eyes clearly sizing up her guest. “I welcome the opportunity to finally meet my granddaughter’s best friend.”
Without another word, she reached out and placed the hook of her finger under the girl’s chin, coaxing her head up so her profile could be clearly visible.
Despite feeling extremely self-conscious and awkward, Reika tried to keep a passive expression under the scrutiny.
Finally, Mrs. Stingray let out a chuckle and turned her attention to seating herself in her own chair at the head of the table. “My granddaughter hadn’t told me you were so beautiful. Now I understand why she doesn’t talk about anyone else, boy or girl.”
Reika glanced over to see that Sylia’s face had reddened but she kept her attention down as they all resumed their seats.
“-Of course, Mackey, your company is a given,” Mrs. Stingray said as she took the fresh glass of wine poured to her by one of her servants.
The boy gave a weak smile in response as he waited in his chair, trying to occupy himself with watching the staff go through the motions of serving food for the dinner.
“-So tell me about yourself, Reika. My granddaughter has only mentioned that you’ve been roommates at school for five years now. And that you play the piano. In fact, didn’t you have some sort of public performance Friday night that she flew back for?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Reika answered earnestly. “It was a national competition. My school asked me to represent them.”
“I see. And did you win?”
“I placed third,” Reika said, feeling strangely pressured by the woman’s intense focus.
“She would have placed higher if she wanted to,” Sylia added simply. “She doesn’t like to compete, that’s all.”
Reika broke out into an embarrassed but pleased blush.
Mrs. Stingray looked at both girls for a moment and then asked, “Reika, do you plan to play professionally?”
Reika shook her head. “I have no interest in that. I play because I like it when other people enjoy it.”
“Then what do you have an interest in?”
The girl blinked and thought for a moment. “I don’t have any other hobbies if that’s what you’re asking. I just do whatever is interesting at the moment.”
Mrs. Stingray’s eyes narrowed slightly at her. “Hmm, I can see why you and my granddaughter get along so well. I trust you must have some sort of plans for after you graduate high school, which isn’t too far away.”
“Well,” Reika began hesitantly, suddenly wondering what was okay to say and what wasn’t. “Sylia and I have talked about traveling the world for a couple of years.”
The woman’s eyebrows arched a bit to show surprise but the expression was quickly concealed with plain interest. “And then?”
“Well, then I’m supposed to come back and marry my fiancé after I turn twenty-three and he turns twenty-one.”
“Fiancé?” the elder woman repeated, obviously pleasantly surprised by the news. “My granddaughter never mentioned you were betrothed!”
Reika blushed at the woman’s reaction and added quickly, “It’s not really that special. He and I have been in an arranged engagement since we were children. He’s really more of a – a brother than a fiancé most of the time.”
Sylia coughed on breathing in her sip of water but then recovered herself.
“Yet, you seem rather accepting of your pending marriage,” Mrs. Stingray pointed out.
“I’ve, uh, always had this expectation before me, so I’ve never thought that things could be different,” Reika answered, suddenly not liking the words that were coming out of her mouth no matter how true they were.
“Some people have been spoiled by having too many choices,” the woman commented. “Seeing how well-adjusted you are in the matter, I now think it’s wise to pursue a similar arrangement for my granddaughter after all.”
Sylia slammed her fist on the table, her face red with anger even though she never lifted her gaze from her plate. “I refuse! I’ll be eighteen by then, so you won’t be able to make me!”
Mrs. Stingray stared at her, the steel clear in her dark gaze. “Girl, I’m going to ignore that rude tone of yours for the moment and point out that you know damn well your father trusted my judgment on your upbringing after your mother’s death! This matter would be no different!”
“You only care about money and your reputation!” Sylia yelled back at her, jumping to her feet in rage. “I’m not some mindless doll for you parade for your friends! They don’t realize I’m the sole heir to Papa’s estate, and you’re only my guardian until I’m eighteen! I’d put King on my will before I’d ever list you!”
Surprised and unnerved by the outburst, Reika looked over and noticed that Mackey kept his head low and his attention focused on his meal. She had never seen Sylia lose her temper before but she wondered if it was a regular occurrence in this environment.
Mrs. Stingray never took her eyes from her granddaughter. Then she stated in a low, firm tone, “You obviously inherited your mother’s mouthiness, Girl. Eighteen is still a couple of years away! That’s plenty of time for you to learn some humility and gratitude once and for all! There are plenty of fine quality private schools here in America that I can transfer you to as soon as this month’s over. I allowed you to be raised in Japan so you would be taught better manners than that. Don’t prove to me that was a mistake!”
Sylia matched the cold stare, but she was breathing heavily and trembling with barely controlled rage. She then swallowed and lowered her gaze back to her plate. “Excuse my outburst, Grandmother. I’m no longer hungry. May I be excused from the table?”
With a triumphant gleam in her eye, the woman answered coolly, “No, you may not, Girl. You have a guest and I will not let you abandon her.”
Sylia was silent for a moment as she calmed herself down. Then she sat down in her chair and quietly took a sip of water, before saying, “Reika, I’m sorry for my rude outburst. Please continue with your conversation.”
Before she could respond, Reika was suddenly distracted by another question from the elder woman.
“So, Reika, how many children do you plan to have?” Mrs. Stingray asked in the most pleasant tone possible. “I would assume at least one?”
Realizing the best option for the moment was to answer the question as if the tension in the room wasn’t there, Reika smiled at her and said, “I would like a boy and a girl…”
* * *
Midnight that night…
Sylia stood out on the beach and felt the waves rush up and cover her bare feet before rolling back into the ocean. With her sandals in one hand and a flashlight in the other, she was dressed in shorts and a tank top as the warm breeze enveloped her.
Having given up on trying to sleep, she decided to go for the impromptu walk. She would rather have woken up Reika but she knew the other girl would be suffering from jetlag. Mackey was already adjusted to the local time zone, and would therefore be sound asleep as well.
A pair of slender arms embraced her from behind, causing her to start a bit in surprise but then she calmed down when she realized who it was.
“I had a hunch you were out here,” Reika said as she rested her chin on the other girl’s shoulder, relishing the warmth of the slender body before her.
“You’re supposed to be asleep,” Sylia gently chastised even as she covered the embracing arms with her own.
“I can’t help it. I’m still on Japan time… So that was Grandma, hm? Now I see why you wanted to go to Mexico.”
The girls shared a giggle before Sylia remarked, “I didn’t realize you had given so much thought to your upcoming marriage.”
“I hadn’t,” Reika answered with a grin in her voice. “She’s not the first one to grill me like that. I make up whatever sounds nice at the time. The trick is to sound sincere.”
“I’ll have to keep that one in mind…”
Then Reika asked seriously, “So what do you plan to do after graduation?”
Sylia shrugged. “I don’t know. Traveling with you still sounds interesting. I could continue to travel the world even after you come back to settle down. But I can’t imagine I’d find it interesting if you weren’t with me. I suppose this means I need to find a publicly acceptable hobby to explore.”
“Like what?” her friend teased. “You do sports, books and computer-stuff.”
“I do more than that!” Sylia replied with joking indignation. “I also shop for clothes.”
“Now, wouldn’t that just annoy your grandmother if you shopped all day long?”
“Oh, the shopping part is acceptable since that’s what she does. She’d be scandalized if I did something ‘common’ like open a clothing store.”
“Not if you’re planning to turn it into an international clothing chain,” Reika pointed out.
“Okay, fine. Then it’ll be just one store and I’ll be the only shop girl! That would definitely send the old bat to her grave!”
The girls laughed but it quickly died, showing they were trying to avoid heavy emotions that were still there.
Sylia let out an exasperated sigh. “It’s never going to end, Reika. She’s right in that she could make life hell for me before I turn eighteen. And I’m sure she’s got a trick or two up her sleeve to ensure my continued misery after that.”
“Well, perhaps it’s time to just play her game – Now, hear me out,” Reika said firmly when she felt Sylia stiffen in her embrace. “People like that are fine as long as you let them think they have control. Smile and kiss-up to her. And when she’s turned in the other direction, do whatever you damn well want. After all, what Grandma doesn’t know…”
The other girl giggled and said, “Is this part of the Chang Family Values?”
“Blame it on the Hou Bang Clan.”
Sylia was quiet for a moment before saying, “Then again, her decisions weren’t all bad. After all, it was her recommendation that I go to Shimizu Academy. We wouldn’t have met otherwise.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I’m sure we would have run into each other somehow, somewhere. I would’ve immediately pick you out from the crowd, and would have to find out more about the beautiful girl with the bewitching gaze.”
Sylia silently watched the moonlit waves. “That almost sounds romantic.”
“I suppose it does,” Reika said, after giving it a thought. “Well, I guess I’m just saying that I believe we would have ran into each other eventually and become friends. So your grandmother can’t take all of the credit for bringing the two of us together.”
Sylia gently eased out of the embrace and turned to face Reika. With just inches between them, the girls said nothing as they stared at each other in the glow of the moon and the flashlight.
After a minute of this silence, Sylia grinned and reached for the other girl’s hand. “Let’s go back inside. We should try to get some sleep tonight…”
* * *
Friday Evening, August 10th
“– I can’t stand it anymore!” Reika declared as she reached over and undid Mackey’s bowtie, not caring that they were in the middle of a large party in the mansion’s living room. “Are you purposefully trying to show how crooked you can do this?”
“It’s not like I wear tuxedos every day!” the boy blurted as he passively let the girl redo his tie.
“I thought you had one of those faultless memory things that once you’ve done something, you can do it again.”
“That’s assuming he’s tied a bowtie correctly once before,” Sylia commented with a sip of her drink. The dry comment helped to diffuse some of the uncomfortable emotional tightness she was feeling as she watched the interaction.
“Granddaughter!” Mrs. Stingray called out as she approached the teenagers. A couple of steps behind her was a handsome, blond-haired, blue-eyed American boy in a perfectly polished tuxedo of his own. “I’d like to introduce you to Jonathan Atheron II, son of the President and CEO of Platinum Oil.”
Sylia barely contained the rolling of her eyes at what was clearly a matchmaking introduction while both Reika and Mackey watched wide-eyed as they were frozen in their task.
“A pleasure to meet you, Jonathan,” Sylia said with a slight curtsey.
He bowed and kissed her hand. “Your grandmother suggested that this would be the perfect opportunity to talk. I’ve been wanting to meet you for some time and I’m glad it’s finally happened.”
“Perhaps you two would prefer to talk out in the music room, where it’s private,” Mrs. Stingray suggested, steering them into that direction.
A minute later, the two teenagers were indeed alone in the elegantly furnished as Sylia took a seat at the couch and the boy sat down beside her. All the way to the room, he had delivered a speech giving the basic details of his family lineage and status.
After a pause in realizing that the girl hadn’t uttered one word, Jonathan then cleared his throat and said, “So, what would you like to tell me about yourself?”
Sylia gave him a pleasant smile and answered, “Nothing.”
“… I see…”
* * *
Saturday Evening, August 11th
“-And I’ve been the captain of the football team ever since I was a sophomore,” James Carlyle declared, as he sat on the couch in the music room. “I have offers to go to all of the top schools on a full athletic scholarship, even though my family can afford ANY school I want to go to.”
“So are you planning to turn professional?” Sylia asked, glad that the window with the view of the ocean was just beyond him so she had something interesting to look at.
“Oh yeah! Some pro teams are already sending scouts my way,” he said with a grin. “It’s like I’m the king of the world!”
Sylia broke out into a bright smile and declared, “You may be the man I’m looking for at last!”
James blinked and then grinned. “Really? I had heard you had pretty high standards.”
“Oh, I definitely do!” she said as she got to her feet. She then rolled up the sleeves and brushed out the hem of her dress. “I can only respect a boy who can best me two out of three throws. It’s judo, but with your size and football experience, you should be able to adjust quickly. Shall we begin?”
“… I beg your pardon?”
* * *
Reika could barely contain her laughter as she dabbed at the cut on Sylia’s shoulder with the cotton ball. “You know, you didn’t have to break his arm to make your point.”
“If I hadn’t, he would’ve won!” she retorted, with joking seriousness. “I was surprised he actually took me up on it.”
“Well, you’re a prize that’s worth it. Even if it meant the risk of damaging you a little.”
“I misjudged how close that coffee table was.”
The sound of a throat clearing from the doorway got the girls’ attention. A clearly displeased Mrs. Stingray looked at her granddaughter and said, “I just heard from the hospital that he’s going to be fine. The break was a clean one and he should be able to recover quickly, even if he misses the beginning of the school football season.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” Sylia answered with a look of sincerity.
The older woman narrowed her eyes and said, “I’ll just bet you are.”
* * *
Sunday Afternoon, August 12th
“Wow,” Charles Moore murmured as he sat on the bench, which was the center of the pavilion. The son of the Governor of California tried not to fidget as he sat in his suit and tie in the summer heat. “When they told me you were beautiful, I honestly had no idea you really were beautiful! People tend to exaggerate when it comes to things like this.”
There was something about the seventeen-year-old boy’s tone that pulled Sylia’s attention from the view of the ocean before them.
“It sounds like you’ve had some experience with this kind of meeting before,” Sylia commented.
The redheaded boy with the freckles shrugged sheepishly and answered, “Well, my parents have never really approved of the girls I’ve liked before. And, um, I’ve never really clicked with the ones they’ve introduced me to… at least I haven’t before.”
“And you think I would be different?”
“You don’t seem to care that my family has a prominent political history or that we’re incredibly rich. I feel like you’re the type of girl who’s going to judge me for who I really am,” he said softly. “And now I feel all thumbs because I don’t know what I have to offer you other than that.”
Sylia narrowed her eyes at him for a moment before she let out a sigh and returned her attention to the ocean. “You’re right in that I would judge you based on who you really seem to be. The problem is that the standards were set by someone who’s out of your league… and who’s probably out of mine… I’ll accept the responsibility for making myself unhappy, but I won’t accept taking someone like you down with me. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?”
“… Yes. Thank you.”
* * *
Later that night…
Sylia paused before the oak door of the study and took a fortifying breath. Resolving herself to her plan, she knocked with as much briskness and firmness as possible.
“Enter,” called out her grandmother.
The girl opened the door to find the woman sitting on the chair before the fireplace with a thick book in her lap.
The two of them stared at each other as Sylia took a step in and closed the door behind her.
“Are you here to make some proclamation that you think you’ve won?” Mrs. Stingray remarked dryly, showing no humor in her expression. “We haven’t even begun to fight, Girl.”
“And I don’t want to. That’s why I’m here,” Sylia answered firmly. “I don’t want to make an enemy of you. I’ve got more than enough problems that fighting with you just takes away from, preventing both of us being more productive with our lives. Papa’s been dead for a year and it seems to have made matters worse between us. So I’m here to propose a deal.”
“… I’m listening…”
“I’m willing to establish all of the necessary paperwork to ensure that you get a good percentage of Papa’s inheritance to do with as you please, even after I’ve turned eighteen. In exchange, we leave each other alone, and I want to have complete access to my share of the inheritance, starting now. No more visits, no pretenses that we actually mean or care about what’s going on in each other’s lives.”
Mrs. Stingray arched an eyebrow as an amused smirk curled her lips. “Trying to buy me off, Sylia?”
The girl blinked at the sound of her name actually leaving the woman’s lips for the first time she could ever remember. Then she stated firmly, “I’m doing whatever it takes to give us both peace. I’m here for another week. That’s plenty of time to start work with your lawyers so that they draw up the appropriate documents.”
Her grandmother stared at her for another a minute and then opened her book, “If you accept the responsibility for Mackey staying at your mother’s place permanently, then you have a deal.”
Sylia watched the woman start to read as if she wasn’t there. Then she smiled and stated, “I think that’s acceptable. Good night, Grandmother.”
* * *
Wednesday Afternoon, August 15th
Dressed in a bikini and a pair of sunglasses, Reika remained stretched out in the lawn chair by the pool. Her eyes were closed as she enjoyed the bright sunlight above and the relaxing ocean breeze.
She heard the sound of someone getting out of the pool and walking over. There was a moment of silence, as the other person seemed to be staring down at her.
“Finally done with your laps?” she asked without opening her eyes.
“Half but I could be persuaded to postpone the others if you want to go do something.” Sylia chuckled and commented, “But it doesn’t look like you’re planning to move any time soon. You seem to be the typical Southern California girl in that position.”
“I’m merely enjoying the sun without the Japanese humidity. Can’t blame a girl for indulging in that.”
“True,” Sylia agreed as she took her own towel from the nearby chair to wipe off the excess water. “However, that side of you is looking a little well-done. You need to turn over before you become red.”
Reika grinned and did what was recommended. However, she also reached for the suntan lotion on the table and held it up for the other girl. “That’s why I like having you around. You’re such a good alarm clock.”
Sylia seemed to pause for a moment before taking the bottle. Then she sat on the edge of Reika’s lawn chair and undid the other girl’s top bikini strings to get them out of the way of the tan.
“Hey, Sylia? Reika? Are you guys out here?” Mackey’s voice called out from the direction of the mansion behind them.
He came out to the pool area and stopped in his tracks at the sight of the two girls in their swimsuits. His face immediately reddened and he looked up at the blue sky, trying to avoid any remote chance at looking at them from the neck down. “Um, are you guys interested in going to the Santa Monica pier later on? It might be something interesting to do if you want to get out of this place for a while. And I know you haven’t been there, Reika.”
Reika declared to the boy, “Why, Mackey, are you proposing a date? It might be awkward with your sister along!”
Sylia merely arched her eyebrow but said nothing as she applied lotion to Reika’s back.
Mackey’s eyes immediately widened as he blurted nervously, trying to look anywhere but at them. “No! Not at all! Ju-Just if you want to go sight-seeing or something.”
“He’s bored because he doesn’t have his roomful of gadgets to tinker with,” Sylia commented accurately. “I’d be interested if you are, Reika.”
“Sure! But give us another hour for me to finish my tan and for Sylia to put in her daily jock time.” She jumped slightly at the finger that suddenly poked her in the side. She quickly realized it was only a warning because normally she would receive a stronger poke, which would have been a lot more dangerous since her bikini top was undone.
They agreed on a time to go and Mackey hastily made his way back to the house, to get away from the sight of too much female flesh.
A silence settled between the girls as Reika closed her eyes and enjoyed the sun as well as the gentle hand applying lotion to her legs.
“So, if Mackey were a real boy, and you didn’t have Densuke, would you be interested in him?” Sylia asked quietly.
Reika’s eyes popped open in surprise. “The thought never crossed my mind. I’m always aware of the fact he’s a boomer.“
“Why do you ask? Are you trying to fix him up?” she asked with a grin.
“Hardly.” Reika didn’t have to look to hear the scowl in Sylia’s voice. “People say that you tease someone too much, it might mean you’re harboring deeper feelings.”
“Not in this case,” the other girl answered. “I only tease him because he’s your brother, and he’s such an easy target. Otherwise, I’ve long since accepted the fact that romantic love just isn’t for me. — I believe we’ve had this conversation already.”
“Yes, I suppose we have.”
* * *
Sunday Afternoon, August 19th
“So California was that much fun?” eleven year old Irene Chang asked of her sister as they sat in the back of the limo.
Reika nodded enthusiastically as she stared out the window at the airport traffic. “It’s so different over there. It’s like you can blend into the crowd without worrying about having security guards around you.”
“I hope you’re not going to tell your parents that you walked around without any bodyguard protection,” Kou their driver and escort said through the opening in the partition between the cabs.
“I won’t tell if neither of you two do,” Reika retorted back with a grin. “But it was so nice just to walk down the street just like a regular girl and do regular girl things.”
“Like check out boys?” Irene asked eagerly.
Reika rolled her eyes at her younger sister’s immaturity. “Luckily we had Mackey with us when we were in public so it kept the wolves at bay. And it didn’t hurt that Sylia and I could pretend we didn’t speak a word of English if someone tried to pick us up…. But I wouldn’t mind going back and spending more time there because everything was just so – “ The sound of her cell-phone ringing interrupted the girl, causing her to wonder if her parents couldn’t wait for her to be delivered from the airport since they couldn’t get away to pick her up themselves.
She pulled it out and answered, “Hello?”
“Reika? It’s me,” came Sylia’s response. Her tone sounded thick, as if she had been crying.
“Sylia? What’s wrong?” Reika immediately demanded, realizing the girl must be calling from home by now.
Sylia was quiet for a moment as she tried to compose herself. Then she said, “I just found out King was put to sleep while we were in America…” She drifted off into a choked silence.
“Kou,” Reika said immediately, “I need to back to the airport! I have to go see Sylia!”
He steered the car into the lane for a U-turn. “Yes, Miss Reika.”
* * *
Later that night…
Reika sat quietly on the bed with Sylia curled up in her arms. Even though everyone else in the house was still up, Sylia’s bedroom was dark, with the only light coming from the moon through the window.
The girls were still fully dressed and wide-awake, but neither one spoke, not feeling the need when only the nearness of the other mattered.
Reika held her breath and hoped Sylia wouldn’t sink into the same depression that had consumed her when her father had died in the accident at his lab two years before. It was the first time she had seen from beginning to end how much Sylia tried to bottle up her feelings, even though her hurt would show in other ways that the average person wouldn’t notice. Reika could see clearly what other people overlooked or ignored when it came to the other girl, and that’s probably what drew her early on in their friendship. The challenge of trying to help heal someone, who had suffered such incredible internal pain, was too powerful a draw for someone who had never suffered loss or heartache in her own life.
It made Reika wonder how much, if at all, Sylia had truly resolved her feelings over her mother’s early death, which had happened three years before they had met. She knew that King represented the last of Sylia’s original family life from when her mother was alive, and the dog’s passing meant the death of that as well.
She could tell the Sohmas and Mackey were worried but they kept a polite distance, knowing it would just be a matter of time before Sylia sorted through this. Mackey had mentioned briefly to Reika that the Sohmas thought he and Sylia knew since their grandmother had called and ordered them to put the dog to sleep “before he suffered too much from old age,” as she had put it to them. It happened the Monday following that first night when Reika witnessed the argument between Sylia and her grandmother.
The teenagers didn’t need to comment any further on the matter since there was no way to change what had happened.
“Thank you for coming,” Sylia softly said.
Reika blinked at the words. Then she squeezed the other girl tighter and commented, “Of course I came. I’m always going to be here for you.”
“No, you won’t,” she responded simply. “You’ll eventually have a husband and children who’ll come before me. And they should. I won’t stand in the way of that.”
“Sylia, you will always have me to rely on,” Reika said fiercely. “True, I’m going to get married and have children. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want you in my life. As far as I’m concerned, my children will know you as ‘Aunt Sylia’. You’ll be a second mother to them.”
She was quiet for a moment and then remarked, “Just don’t say I’m going to be a second wife to Densuke.”
Reika laughed at the dry comment. “I would break his fingers if he ever tried to lay a hand on you.”
“I wish I could say the same,” Sylia commented softly. “I know this is stupid, but promise me you won’t ever leave me. I just need to hear something like that from you right now.”
“I promise,” she said firmly, “I will always be by your side, Sylia Stingray. And I won’t ever leave, even if you tell me to go.”
“Not even if I tell you you’re freed of the promise?” Sylia asked.
“You’d have to kick me out with combat boots on.”
Reika smiled when she could feel the chuckle rise out of the other girl.
“Thank you for that, Reika Chang.”
* * *
Saturday Night, August 24th
Sylia stood quietly against the wall as she passively watched the crowd of elegantly dressed people milling around the ballroom of the hotel. Dressed in a ball gown herself, she would have been the perfect picture of a beautiful debutante if not for the dark look on her face, showing that she clearly did not want to be there. And for the thousandth time she wondered why she was even there, which was immediately countered with guilt in the fact that she was there to keep Reika company.
“Here you go,” Reika said as she walked up and held out a glass of soda for the other girl. “I think I’m going to stick with you for now on. Just walking to the bar got me five requests to dance.”
Sylia had received the same amount of requests in Reika’s brief absence, and also turned them down. She would have anyway, even if she wasn’t in such a bad mood, since she didn’t dance outside of the ballroom dance classes that were required at school.
“How are you feeling?” Reika asked, trying to fish out more information than the obvious.
“I’m finding I have less tolerance for pretending these days,” she commented stiffly.
“I know what you mean,” Reika commented as she casually watched the couples waltzing before them. “Well, then why don’t we leave for a couple of hours? The city is still lively at this time.”
Sylia blinked in surprise. “Reika! This party is to celebrate the Clan’s prosperity! You can’t leave!”
Reika rolled her eyes. “The Clan will have more than enough of me in the future. They had me for the last three hours. The rest of the night is my own time.”
“Yes, but this place is crawling with bodyguards!”
“To keep people out. Not to keep them in! I’ve already scoped out the perfect exit for us to go upstairs and change clothes. And since we have rooms here, it just makes it more convenient that no one will notice us being gone for the rest of the night.”
Sylia gave her a devilishly-pleased smiled and said, “Well, if you insi-“
“Reika? May I have this dance?” interrupted Densuke with a bow and a proffered hand.
Reika paused and stared at him. She clearly wasn’t enthused about the prospect but he was her fiancé, after all. And she could see both sets of parents watching them with proud faces from across the room.
She gave Sylia an apologetic look and stepped forward. “Okay, Densuke, but just one!”
Densuke gave the other girl a triumphant smile before her led Reika to the dance floor.
Sylia stared after them with a look much darker than before.
“I see you’ve been taking dance lessons, too,” Reika commented as they settled themselves into position for a waltz in time with the rest of the crowd. “Did you learn at the all-boys academy? Was he taller than you?”
“They had female instructors,” he countered. “You know, you could treat me with a little bit of respect instead of ragging on me all the time. It’s not like I deserve being greeted by you every time with potshots!”
Reika weighed his words with the hurt look on his face.
“All right, you have a point,” she conceded softly. Then she added sternly, “But no more lesbian cracks about me and Sylia!”
He lit up with a genuine smile and answered, “Okay, okay. You’ve got a deal. You know, this is the second time we’ve seen each other and I’ve been back for a few weeks now. I’d like to see more of you but you’re always with Sylia. Wait! -“ Reika immediately started to walk away but he pulled her back into his embrace. “That wasn’t a lesbian crack! I was just stating a fact.”
She looked at him suspiciously at first, as if to judge how sincere he was being. She was also partly disturbed by how close he held her, proving that underneath his tuxedo, his body had filled out with muscles as well as height.
“Well, if we were to hang out together, what would we do?” she asked carefully as she tried to ease some space between them while still maintaining the rhythm of the waltz.
“We can go on a date for once,” he offered, not letting her move away. “Do things real couples do. We’re going to be married after all. And everyone would approve.”
Reika’s eyes widen when she suddenly felt a bulge below that wasn’t there before. She shoved him back a step and stated fiercely through gritted teeth, “But we’re not married yet! And until then, you can point that thing somewhere else!”
Densuke scowled and retorted in an equally low hiss, “Don’t tell me you’re a prude!”
Reika was about to make an scathing comment when she suddenly noticed out of the corner of her eye that Sylia had disappeared from her spot by the wall and was nowhere to be seen.
Seeing where Reika’s attention had suddenly been drawn to, Densuke commented, “She’ll be fine. She’s a big girl… Unless she’s the reason why you can wait until we’re married to fool around.”
Reika stopped in her tracks, causing Densuke to almost collide into her. She shook his hands from her and walked off the floor, not caring what impressions she made upon her exit.
* * *
Not bothering to take off her dress or even her shoes, Sylia curled up on the hotel bed in the dark. She stared blankly at the space before her, which held the bed Reika was to occupy later that night, similar to their arrangement in the school dorms.
She found it to be rather cruel irony.
She was actually surprised to hear the sounds of the door unlocking from the living room of the suite. She had guessed that Reika would have a couple more dances to suffer through.
Reika paused at the bedroom doorway and stared in, not having to turn on the lights to know Sylia was there. She let out a sigh and walked over to the other girl’s bed and sat down on the edge.
They wordlessly reached for each other’s hands and gripped tightly.
“That was cruel of you to abandon me like that,” Reika said, trying to add some humor to the moment.
“It was crueler to watch,” was the soft reply. “I don’t like seeing the two of you together.”
“Well, neither do I -“
“I’m serious, Reika. I can’t deny the fact that I feel jealous every time he’s around you and commands your attention. And it’s reached the point of being unbearable.”
Reika was quiet for a moment. “Densuke kind of admitted he’s jealous about how much time the two of us spend together… Then again, I guess that’s what he’s been trying to say all these years when he refers to you as my girlfriend. In a weird sort of way, he’s more honest than most people when it comes to expressing how he feels.”
“You never told me he calls me that.”
Reika blushed and answered, “It’s not exactly something appropriate to be passed on. Even if you are my best friend.”
Sylia was quiet for a moment and then let out a sigh. “We claim to be extremely honest with each other yet we’re both guilty of hiding things that are directly related to each other.”
“What could you possibly be hiding from me that affects me?” Reika asked. She felt the nasty twinge of discomfort at the idea of Sylia hiding such a substantial part of herself, especially if it was something someone else knew. She didn’t like the idea of someone knowing more about Sylia than her.
Sylia reached over and turned on the lamp on the nightstand. She had a very tired and drained expression on her face as she sat up with her back against the headboard.
She kept her gaze focused on their embracing hands. “I’ve been seriously contemplating transferring over to an American school. I’ve got a week to make a decision if I want to enroll in one by the time their school year begins.”
Reika felt her heart drop down to the pit of her stomach at the news. She felt everything start to crash around her so she immediately blurted, “Th – then I’ll go with you! I really liked America and I wouldn’t mind the change. And -“
“No, Reika, I need to go alone,” Sylia stated clearly as she locked gazes with her. The sadness in her eyes was painfully evident. “I think I was fooling myself with thinking we’ll be as close in the future as we are now. We’re destined to lead separate lives, Reika. And it’s reached the point where… where I’m feeling things about you that mean more than just friendship. I don’t like myself when I’m jealous, and I’ve been feeling that a lot lately around you…. Besides, I’ve lost everyone I’ve ever loved. And I’m feeling like I can’t be just friends with you anymore so I need to say good-bye to you now, when it’s a hurt I can handle. To say good-bye to you later would devastate me…”
Reika didn’t say anything but tears clearly started to brim at her eyes. “I feel horribly selfish and weak,” she said softly in a shaky voice. “I’m the one who has the picture perfect family and upbringing… yet… I’m begging you not to leave me. I need you, Sylia. You’re the only one who makes everything feel real to me.”
Sylia had a stricken expression as she watched the tears start to trickle down the other girl’s cheek. Whatever resolve she had to leave quickly melted as she reached over and gently wiped the tears away.
She looked Reika earnestly in the eye and whispered, “I’m yours. You’d have to kick me out with combat boots to make me go.”
Reika broke out into a painful smile but then felt herself drawn in by that bewitching gaze. Letting herself be completely guided by her heart for the first time in her life, she leaned forward and pressed her lips gently against Sylia’s. She was pleased to feel Sylia kiss her back.
* * *
Reika’s eyes fluttered open as she woke up from her peaceful sleep. She smiled when she saw Sylia had been looking at her from her side of the bed, apparently having watched her for a while. They were wrapped only in sheets, having discarded all of their clothing on the floor the night before.
Reika glanced around to take in the unfamiliar surroundings of the hotel room that was lit by the glow of the early dawn.
She cleared her throat and rubbed her eyes. “How long do you think we have before someone will come check on us?”
“Given that many people will probably have hangovers, I think we’re got until noon,” Sylia answered with a wry grin. “Why do you ask?”
Reika smiled and rolled over into the other girl’s arms, placing her head on her shoulder. “I could say something extremely crude like we should get a head start on your daily jock hours.”
“But – ?“ she prompted with a giggle.
“I still need to recover from last night,” Reika answered with a sleepy yawn.
“We need to work on your endurance.”
“We’ve got time for that,” was the fading reply.
“Eight years worth?”
“More than that…”
Sylia arched her eyebrow at the comment. But then her expression broke out with a look of immense pleasure. She closed her eyes to drift back to sleep, satisfying herself with the thought that this was the first time in her life she honestly felt happy.
* * * * *
Monday Morning, August 26th
“ – Because he’s a disgusting worm, Daddy!” Reika stated fiercely as they sat at the dining table. “Do I need another reason?”
Richard Chang let out a sigh and finally dropped his morning paper while his wife Mitsune hid her smirk behind a sip of coffee. Already done with her breakfast, Irene sat and watched with anticipation to see how this conversation was going to end.
“Now, Reika,” her father said, trying to sound as patient as possible, “Do you honestly expect me to tell that to Mr. Watanabe?”
“Why not? It’s true!” Irene insisted, more than willing to put in her two cents.
At her fifth-year birthday party, the younger Chang sister had suffered through Densuke teasing her by flipping up her dress. She had retaliated by jumping on the seven-year-old boy and knocking out his already loose front teeth. He had steered clear of her since then because she didn’t have any issues with tackling the now taller boy to deliver another pounding if it came down to it.
“Young lady,” interrupted her mother, “don’t you have flute practice to prepare for?”
The young girl dropped her head in disappointment as she answered, “Yes, Mama!”
Obviously disgruntled, Irene left the table and muttered, “This isn’t like you were talking about sex!”
Richard rubbed his temples as he shot his wife a glare for her to jump into the original conversation.
“Reika,” Mitsune said to her daughter once the younger one left, “we realize you and Densuke have been having issues getting along ever since you started going through puberty. I know it doesn’t help that girls generally mature faster than boys on top of the fact you’re already two years older than him. Give him an opportunity to mature both emotionally and mentally as well.”
“Fine! I can deal with him then!” Reika stated as she crossed her arms. “But I don’t have to suffer through it!”
“So, does this mean you’re fine with keeping the engagement?”
The girl narrowed her eyes shrewdly and asked, “What’s his incentive to mature if he thinks I’m a guaranteed thing?”
Her mother opened her mouth to respond, but stopped and blinked. Then she sat back in her chair and gave her husband a look, which was her way of communicating ‘This one’s yours.’
Richard swallowed a sigh and said with a firm voice, “Reika, it’s a matter of having faith and trust in him. Just as he’s expected to have in you. That’s the foundation of a good marriage.”
The girl looked at him, then at her mother and then back to him. She tilted her head curiously and asked, “Dad? Mom? Do you two you love each other?”
They both hesitantly nodded, each getting the creeping suspicion that she was playing the one trump card they had hoped she would never use.
“And was your marriage an arranged one?”
They both shook their heads, realizing she was going there.
“Then all I’m asking for is that same opportunity,” Reika stated with the firmness back in her voice. “It’s not like I’m shirking my duties to the Clan. Even if I’m not married when the time comes for me to take over, I’ll still take on that responsibility. And when that happens, if I’m still single, then I’ll marry Densuke and have children with him, just like you want me to. I’m just asking you to let me live my life my own way until I have to be responsible to the family and the Clan.”
Mitsune arched her eyebrow curiously and asked, “But what if he’s not single by then? Then what’ll you do?”
Reika grinned and countered, “If that’s the case, then I’ll find someone. But I’ll make sure he’s someone suitable to be the husband and father of my children.”
Richard chuckled and shook his head. “All right, all right! Let’s compromise, Reika. I’ll find some way to dissolve the engagement. In exchange, you go to university. I don’t care how you get in, even if it’s on a music scholarship. When you turn thirty-five, we’re going to prepare you for taking over the Clan as well as all other responsibilities with it. Absolutely no arguments when that time comes. Agreed?” He held out his hand to formalize the deal.
Reika smiled from ear to ear as she reached over and shook. “Deal!”
“Excuse me,” the maid interrupted as she held a phone on the tray, “Miss Reika? It’s Miss Sylia for you.”
“Am I excused?” the girl asked anxiously, clearly wanting to take the call.
Her father nodded and she was gone two seconds later with phone in hand.
Richard then sighed and looked at his wife. “We walked right into that one, didn’t we?”
Mitsune smiled and stood so she could wrap her arms around his shoulders from behind. “I think we just saw the true spirit of the Clan Head in her.”
“I think she takes too much after her mother sometimes,” he grumbled. “But I think this pretty much confirms our suspicions about her and Sylia. They certainly acted differently yesterday.”
His wife shrugged. “They’re allowed to be young and in love. The cruel realities of adulthood will be hitting them soon enough. They should enjoy what they can while they can.”
“Still,” he murmured, “how am I going to tell the most powerful Yakuza in Japan that my daughter doesn’t want to marry his son, unless she absolutely has to twenty years from now?”
“That’s why you’re the big, bad Clan Head and I’m just the trophy wife,” she answered with a ruffle of his hair. She then snatched away his newspaper to go read it out on the patio.
Now empty-handed and sitting by himself at the table, Richard watched her walk away and decided there were certain secrets that belonged in the underworld.
— The End —