Story: Sunflower Mama (all chapters)
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Title: Pure Sapling
1st Petal - Pure Sapling
"Bye father! Bye mother! Bye grandpa and grandma! And stay out of trouble Kenji!"
The cheerful Ichiko emerged from door of a large house standard of the likes of the upper-middle class. She was a relatively normal girl entering her first year of high school, albeit she was a little tomboyish due to her short black hair that was combed to the left. The red-lined yellow jacket shined brilliantly underneath the morning sun, and was further feminized by the brown plaid skirt and the rolled-down white socks.
She walked because the prestigious and unique Sunflower Academy was only about fifteen to twenty minutes away within the innards of the city of where she lived. Her heart was beating both anxiously and excitedly at the aspect of a new stage of her life, which she imagined to be a perpetually blooming sunflower unaffected and unshaken from any obstacle she has encountered. Her outlook was positively optimistic, which won her love from the all-girls middle school many months back, and had won a few awards in helping the environment of her home country. She wondered if there would be clubs similar to that in the Sunflower Academy. There had to be because of the school's uniqueness in style and academics.
Ichiko walked down a street that ran adjacent to not only the mall district but also a seedy place where illegal prostitution, pornographic sales, and gambling took place. Thanks to the local police, it was kept there, but she has heard that those who partake in such vices lived in the many low-rent apartments she was walking alongside. At first sight, those apartments didn't look particularly foreboding, but Ichiko felt her own sunflower in her soul being shaken. Nonetheless, she walked with her chin up and with pride.
Yet, something stopped her when she begun to pass by a three-level complex emerging from the far end apartment of the top floor was a tall and beautiful woman with long black hair that she pulled towards her back in a seductive manner. She was dressed in a loose yellow tank with no bra, and Ichiko glimpsed a good portion of her large breasts. To further her sultriness, the woman was also in her panties.
Ichiko gripped her black schoolbag as she froze staring at this dark and exhibitive beauty. She was most likely older than her, probably emerging into her thirties, and she smoked her cigarettes with no care of where the ashes fell. Why of all people? wondered Ichiko. She was probably a prostitute, or at the very least a high-class escort who was caught outside her usual wear.
Ichiko could not start for any longer, as the woman finally caught sight of her. When it happened, her heart was beating rapidly and her breath became shorter. Abruptly she regained her composure and sped-walk past the woman's view.
Somewhere in her sunflower, the first petal had fallen...
Before she knew it, Ichiko arrived in the grounds of the Sunflower Academy. It was the first time she went to a co-ed school, and she wasn't intimidated by the many handsome boys also in their shining yellow jackets and brown pants. Finally, she made it to her homeroom where her best friend, the very tall, handsome, and short brown-haired Kazuko leapt from her seat and hugged the receptive Ichiko.
"We're in the same class!" Kazuko cried.
"Just like always," smiled Ichiko.
"So you two are still 'husband' and 'wife'," said a familiar voice.
Kazuko moved so that she and Ichiko were now facing a dyed-blond and pigtailed girl surrounded by what seemed to be very snobby and elite girls and boys, most of who were snickering.
"Sumiko," said Ichiko. "I thought you were going to Chrysanthemum High."
"I was," said Sumiko. "Then I changed my mind and realized that I won't be meeting a lot of boys on a daily basis if I were to go to that school."
Sumiko rose and walked out of the classroom with her newfound friends following her.
"What a rotten girl," said Kazuko. "Already she's kissing up the sons and daughters of the corporations. I can't believe she used to be our friend back in middle school. What made her become like that?"
"I wonder too," said Ichiko.
Soon after, Ichiko and Kazuko then attended the opening ceremony in the gymnasium and listened to the speech given by the school's principal, Yukiko Himawari, whose words were calm, motherly, and overall uplifting. She seemed to exert a sense of airheadedness when she almost tripped on the microphone wire and nearly bumped into the chairs when she went down the stage to talk to one-on-one to many of the incoming students. Her personality was entirely likable, and despite the run-in with Sumiko, Ichiko felt that her years here would be the best.
Many of their teachers were very unorthodox in their teaching, and surprisingly they were effective in their job. For instance, the history teacher mostly taught his lessons using scaled-down action figure versions of giant robots from many popular children's anime. The literature teacher was actually a struggling manga (comic book) artist who simultaneous taught through both text and pictures. The boys' P.E. teacher once part of the CIA, while the girls' P.E. teacher used to be a KGB agent. The science teacher can be best described as mad, but very enjoyable although he seems to have penchant for destroying things with his almost-absurd inventions. The edgy home economics teacher had a prosthetic arm to replace the one she lost during a far-off war, and the English teacher was half-black and spoke almost entirely in rhyme. She instantly became the favorite amongst the first-year boys, much to the dismay of many girls.
"Planning on joining any clubs?" Kazuko asked Ichiko during their lunch period. "There's even that Society of the Study of Modern Visual Culture club I hear that's really popular."
"I may be an anime fan, but I'm not that obsessed," blushed Ichiko. "Besides, I plan to devote myself entirely to the Environmental Club."
"Still trying to save the world, huh?"
"Earth is in peril, and we all must do what we can. What about you Kazu?"
"Oh, I'm likely to get into basketball."
"You're going to be a shoe-in."
Their smiles dropped when Sumiko and her troupe approached the table.
"Hello my two classmates from my middle school," she greeted.
"Hello," grumbled Kazuko.
"I'm assuming dear Ichi is trying to save the world again. Let's face it--it's pointless to do so unless you're connected to all the high-ranking corporations of the world, and even if you conquer that hurdle it'll be tough to convince them to your vision."
"That's enough Sumiko!"
"All right, all right. I'll leave you and your wife alone. Oh, and Kazuko, I will obviously cheer you into the basketball team. You have my word."
Like last time, Sumiko left with her troupe sheepishly following behind her.
"I can't believe her," growled Sumiko. "She was never like this when we became friends with her."
"Something must have happened," Ichiko said. "Perhaps we should talk to her."
"That's not going to be possible. She would rather slit her own throat than talk with us."
"I'm sure she has a good reason..."
"Enough with the good reasons Ichiko. Sumiko had just finally awakened to her snobbery."
"I still wish to know why she has changed in such a short amount of time."
They finished their lunch and headed to their next classes together. However, Kazuko pulled Ichiko aside and hugged her tightly.
"I'll protect you as I always have," said Kazuko.
"Thanks," said Ichiko.
At the end of school, the front courtyard was filled with stalls and panhandlers from the many clubs and sports teams soliciting for new members. Kazuko went from one sport to the next, and Ichiko gravitated towards the Environmental Club to meet the club's male president and female vice president Motoko and Haruko, both 3rd year and 2nd year students respectively. She received an application that she would fill out once she got home.
"I'll be seeing you," Kazuko said. "The team captain wants to give me an extended on-the-spot interview."
So Ichiko went home alone, although that would soon be routine as Kazuko lived in a different neighborhood away from her. Ichiko had thought about taking a different route back home, but that woman she had saw at the three-level apartment allured her so much that she went the same way. Ichiko peered through the front entrance of the apartment and saw an expensive European sedan. Waiting at the woman's front door was what seemed to be a nervous short and balding man in a suit accompanied by two bodyguards.
The door opened, and out stepped a woman dressed in some kind of Chinese outfit and with her hair tied at the top. The short man was giggling happily, and the woman giggled back, although Ichiko knew that it was false. The woman caught sight of Ichiko again, causing the young girl to blush and scurry back home.
When she arrived, her little seven year-old brother hugged her lovingly, and responded in kind.
"Welcome home!" greeted Ichiko's grandmother, Michi. "Your mother and father have found the time come home for dinner today."
Ichiko had always seen Michi as a mother than a grandmother. After all, it was her who raised her while her father and mother went to college and eventually got job as lawyers in different law firms. Both her parents had to work to keep up paying off the expensive mortgage for the house and fund their children's tuition to prestigious schools.
Both her father and mother, the youthful and handsome Ken'ichi Nikkô and the older Rin, were still in their business suits when they were seated at the dining table. Sitting at the head of the table was Ichiko's grandfather Yoshiro Nikkô, a successful businessman but not profitable enough for him to live elsewhere other than his son's home. He was missing a good portion of his pinky finger on his left hand due to a machine accident, as Ichiko and Kenji were told.
"How was school you two?" asked Yoshiro.
"I made some new friends, and my teacher is really nice!" answered Kenji.
"My school is... unique," replied Ichiko. "I was surprised they would have that kind of teachers there."
"That why it is very hard to get there," said Ken'ichi, "even if you're rich."
"I find it surprising that no violent incident have taken place there yet," said Rin.
"Of course, having interesting people will make the most mundane subjects very interesting."
"Would you believe that over fifty-percent of the students who graduate easily get into the top colleges? And the numbers are still growing!"
"Perhaps they should start a college of their own."
"Anything else happened dear Ichiko?" Yoshiro asked.
Ichiko lowered her head to cover her slight blushing smile. It was too soon to tell them about her infatuation with the unsavory woman she had seen on her way to school. If she did tell them, it would mean that she would be forbidden to walk that route ever again.
With the days of the week passing, Ichiko walked down that street every time she came to and from school just so she could catch a glimpse of that woman. At every time she had done so, there was always a different "client", whether it be a young man or two, a young heterosexual couple, and even a couple of girls. The woman did not stare back at the gawking Ichiko, but perhaps she accepted her presence nonchalantly with a slight smile.
At the same time, she was inducted in the Environmental Club at its first meeting on Tuesday, and she was destined to meet with them again on Thursday. Ichiko also tried to watch her friend Kazuko go down some drills during the basketball tryouts, and her performance caught the eye of both girls' team and the boys' team. Even the captain of the boys team wanted her in since she looked very boyish.
On Friday, Ichiko walked home alone again on the same route. Right before she passed by the entrance to the three-level apartment, a shabby and thin man was thrown into the ground.
"Get the fuck out of here you worthless piece of shit!" yelled a woman's voice. "And take your fucking money! And your belt!"
The man took his belongings and ran off whimpering.
Then she appeared before her eyes, the woman Ichiko had been staring at from the ground to the third floor. Her hair was tied back into a ponytail, and she was wearing tight bell-bottom black jeans and a tight black blouse that was uniquely cut to expose a portion of her midriff and bellybutton and her cleavage. When she turned her dark eyes at Ichiko, Ichiko froze.
Ichiko couldn't speak as her body was too tense and her heart beating too fast to allow her so. Instead, she just gagged.
"Something in your throat?" asked woman.
Ichiko exhaled with a loud gasp. "I'm sorry!" she bowed. "I'll be on my way!"
The woman grabbed Ichiko's arm, causing her to freeze again.
"Hey, I've seen you before," said the woman.
"Sorry! It's none of my business!"
But the woman spun Ichiko so that she was holding her in mid-dancing. Ichiko's heart was beating so fast that it would explode. Not only that, Ichiko's body would simply shut down and melt.
"I have," said the woman. "You've been looking at me every morning and every afternoon since Monday. As a matter of fact, this coincides with the start of the school year. Sunflower Academy is nearby, and that means... fresh meat."
The woman lets go of Ichiko and trots over to the stairwell waiting and beckoning for her.
"Come on," she said.
Ichiko wasn't unsure of why she was following her timidly. The woman was strange, yet alluring, and there was high chance she might do something to her after what she had done to the man she just kicked out.
She made it to the third floor and entered the woman's apartment after her. The tiny place was an absolute mess with beer bottles and pornographic magazines lying strewn about. To Ichiko's surprise, the woman didn't even take off her shoes when she stepped onto the tatami mats. She eventually took them off and stuffed them into a bookshelf overflowing with pornographic DVD videos. When Ichiko closed the door, the living room became very dark until the woman turned on the lamp on the table. The bulb in the lamb was flickering and dim, so it was still somewhat dark.
"The name's Rei Cero," said the woman. "I usually charge ten thousand, but for you I'll take off twenty-five percent."
"You're getting a good deal little girl. Either you pay up or leave."
"I don't have that kind of money."
"You don't understand. I don't want your services."
"But dating you isn't free."
"I didn't want a date with you."
"Then why did you come with me?"
"You beckoned me here."
"I thought you were referred to from my clients."
"Then why were you staring up at me?"
Ichiko took a deep breath. "I just felt that you were a beautiful woman whose beauty cannot be tarnished whatever comes your way. You're just too alluring Rei."
Rei lit up a cigarette and puffed a large amount of smoke that made Ichiko's face twinge disapprovingly. Seeing that, Rei opened the blanket-draped window and tossed it out.
"You shouldn't have done that!" Ichiko cried.
"There's only trash on the bottom."
"You might cause a fire!"
"I've been doing that since I moved here."
"And really, this place is a mess. You might trip and hurt yourself."
"I know where my crap is. It is you who should watch out."
"Really Rei. If you want to make yourself more presentable to your 'clients', please clean up."
"It's not like they're dating my room. They're dating me."
"Why the hell are you still here? Are you my wife or something?"
"Well I... I'm sorry. I'll excuse myself."
Quickly Ichiko exited the apartment and lingered at the balcony railing as if she was expecting Rei to lunge after her. Her heart was still beating anxiously, and yet never before she felt so ashamed and embarrassed in talking to Rei like that. She paced around wondering if she should apologize, but then again, Rei was an unsavory woman and she wouldn't accept something as simple as that. Thus, Ichiko ran off home.
For the next week, Ichiko continued to pass by Rei's apartment and tried to get a glance at her. Sometimes she missed seeing her, and at the times she saw her, Ichiko only allowed herself one second to glance at the alluring Rei speaking to one of her clients.
Luckily, Ichiko kept her focus on her exciting school work and club duties when she was within the walls of the Sunflower Academy. As expected, Kazuko made the basketball team with flying colors, and Ichiko cheered her on. However, Kazuko was expected to have extra training for the upcoming first match against Chrysanthemum High, so she wouldn't have time to spend with Ichiko.
"Perhaps after the match we can go out together," said Kazuko. "I want to promise you that, but I feel that I will likely break it."
"It's all right," said Ichiko. "This is, after all, what you want to do."
"I'll make it up somehow."
"If you were more devoted," stepped in Sumiko, "you should have become her personal manager."
"Stop it Sumiko," said Kazuko. "Becoming a cheerleader won't curry any favor with me."
"I'm only showing my pride as a student of the Sunflower Academy--unlike miss lesbian otaku over there."
"Please no," said Ichiko as she stepped in front of Kazuko.
"That's right," grinned Sumiko. "Protect your husband like you always do."
Ichiko continually braved the rumors spread by Sumiko that she and Kazuko were going out, when in fact they were merely close childhood friends.
When Friday arrived again, Kazuko had to stay out late for extra practice for the upcoming match. Kazuko announced it at the last minute on the same day, and Ichiko was planning to spend the night at her house.
"Mother and father will be staying late at their work," said Ichiko. "Grandfather and grandmother are at a dinner party with an important business partner, and Kenji is staying with his friends."
"Can't you hang out with your little brother?" asked Kazuko.
"I could, but I don't want to impede with their slumber party."
"What will you do then?"
"I guess I'll go home again."
"I see. I'm sorry I couldn't be available. I mean, you could watch us practice, but that would get very boring for you."
"I know. I don't want to distract you either."
As the sun began to set, Ichiko lingered in the front courtyard deliberating on whether or not she should go home or not. She almost wished that the Environmental Club was taking place this late, but their first planned volunteer excursion won't take place in two weeks.
Sighing, Ichiko then decided to start walking before it got dark. She stopped at the front entrance of Rei's apartment lot and stared up to her room. She rummaged through her schoolbag and checked her wallet and realized that she had ten thousand in value of paper bills inside. Ichiko remember asking her father for money almost five days ago, to which he immediately gave her without question. He trusted her completely, and yet now she was about to do something that could break it forever.
When she stood in front of Rei's door, Ichiko saw her sunflower rocking back and forth against the wind, and its petals ruffling nervously. She knocked once, and there was no answer. She knocked the second time, and still there was no answer. On the third knock, the door was swung forcefully open, and staring at her was the loosely-dressed and hair-messy Rei dressed in a loose tank and panties.
"What?" she demanded.
"I-I've g-got money," said Ichiko.
Rei allowed her in. The room was even darker without the abundance of the mid-afternoon light.
"I cleaned up," said Rei.
Ichiko didn't believe her. Stuff was moved around since last time, but the place was still littered with bottles and magazines.
"I did!" interjected Rei. "Now there's a path for me to move around!"
Ichiko sighed. She took off her shoes and sat by the table across from Rei.
"Anyway, what do you want me to do?" Rei asked.
"I don't know," said Ichiko. "What do you usually do for clients for me?"
"It all depends. We could go out to bars and dancing clubs. And if you're willing, we could have sex right here and now."
"How about we talk?"
"Okay. What do you want to talk about?"
"Um, let's see..."
Ichiko took too long thinking of a question to ask the mysterious Rei, and she wasn't too prepared to talk about the things she had in the main living room of the apartment.
"How long have you been living here?"
"About four months so far. Don't know what happened to the previous tenant though, but I gladly accepted this place with all the junk she or he had here."
"Um, you don't mind if I did my homework here, would you?"
"Of course not. You don't mind if I watch some TV?"
"I won't mind."
"Okay. You're paying for being here."
Ichiko unloaded her schoolbag and made space on the messy table for her homework, and at the same time Rei did as she said and watched a comedy show on her small flat-panel TV. Ichiko did her best to ignore her swaggering laughs, and in a few hours she was finished.
"Now for some porn!" Rei announced.
"Maybe not," said Ichiko.
"Hey, this is my home."
"But you're my client. You're supposed to do what I tell you to."
"How much do you have right now? We probably went over the allotted time."
"That's not fair for you to say that right now!"
Suddenly, Rei's stomach growled.
"Whatever. Go make me some food."
"You shouldn't order me around like that. It's rude."
"But I'm hungry!"
Sighing, Ichiko headed into the kitchen to search both cupboards and fridge, only to find random bottles of alcoholic beverages and nothing edible.
"There's nothing here," said Ichiko. "How or where do you get your meals?"
"My clients treat me. Say, how about you treat me to some sushi? Not the cheap shit."
"I guess I'll have to cook for you."
Rei winced. "Like you're a master chef."
"Sure I have cooked two or three times, and all those times my father said that I can make a great wife."
"In other words, you suck."
"He was serious! Even my mother and brother said it was good!"
"I still say that you suck."
"I'll prove it to you! I'll be back in thirty minutes with the ingredients!"
Leaving her schoolbag and putting her shoes back on, Ichiko stepped and headed over the nearest supermarket. After buying a box of rice and a set of vegetables, Ichiko felt a chill on her back when she reached the poultry section. Turning around there was a grinning Rei now dressed in blue jeans and a leather jacket.
"You almost scared me," said Ichiko.
"I guess I failed."
"What are you doing here?"
"You're one to say that. Aren't you a little bold to go out here by yourself at night?"
"I didn't realize it. Thanks for caring for me."
"Oh, it's not about that. I didn't get the money for you. So if something were to happen, I won't get paid."
"I guess it was wrong for me to think that you're sincere."
"I'm just trying to eke out a living babe. Anyway, I've also come by to tell you that I might not have a rice cooker or some pans."
"Just kidding! Of course I do! They just need a little cleaning after the last wannabe cook of a client, and his food tasted like shit. I hope you won't end up like him."
Ichiko wondered if the man Rei physically kicked out was the cook in question.
As they waited at the checkout line, Ichiko noticed that Rei was getting unfavorable looks and whispers from normal and upstanding people, and that she was getting smiles from those who looked unscrupulous, like teenage delinquents, gang members, and yakuza bodyguards. Even the cashier was reluctant to ring up Ichiko's purchases, although Ichiko was almost made to pay for impulse snacks and a pack of imported beer cans.
"This doesn't count towards what you owe me," said Rei as she and Ichiko walked back to the apartment.
Along the way Ichiko caught sight of trio of twenty-something men who looked quite shady in her eyes. Almost unconsciously, Ichiko linked her arm with Rei's, and the two walked like this until they reached home.
Ichiko immediately set to cooking a quick meal once she arrived back at the apartment, and did her best to ignore Rei's groans and whining.
"Is it done yet?" Rei asked.
"The snacks weren't enough?"
"If it isn't finished, I'll eat you--literally."
"The food will be ready in a five minutes."
"Hurry it up!"
"God, you are the worst..."
Ichiko cleared and cleaned the table, and then set the dishes in front of Rei's eyes. She thought this would satisfy her, but it didn't initially. Rei was almost hesitant to taste it as if it were poisoned.
"Maybe I should starve," said Rei. "Got to watch my aging figure."
"I thought you were hungry."
"Yeah, but cooking like this looks very deceptive."
Ichiko was starting to become both frustrated and hurt by Rei's rude words, forcing the tall woman to taste the food before the girl before her eyes burst into tears. Rei picked up her rice bowl topped with chopped vegetables and teriyaki chicken. It was an amiable-smelling and simple home-cooked meal the likes of which she had not seen before. After one bite of rice-laden chicken, an overwhelming sense of euphoria overcame Rei that it nearly drove her into tears. In no time, she rapidly devoured at least half with gluttonous delight.
"Oh. My. God," she gasped. "I've never tasted such good shit for a long time!"
"Really?" said Ichiko.
"Eh? How come you're not eating?"
Ichiko covered her smiling mouth. "You look funny when you eat like that."
"Really? Now open your mouth."
"No, I can feed myself."
But Rei pulled Ichiko's jaw open and forced in the food from the bowl via chopsticks.
"You look so cute," smiled Rei. "Now open up again."
"This is so embarrassing."
Yet, Ichiko really liked it. Essentially, she had her dinner this way with food from Rei's bowl and her chopsticks. Ichiko was a little worried about germs, but she was too enamored by the sultry Rei to care. For some reason, there was a sense of longing nostalgia she had never felt before.
After doing the dishes, Ichiko sets off to clean Rei's living room as best as she could, and set out many bags of bottles, cans, and pornographic magazines for trash and recycling. As usual, Rei just lay on her back watching more TV.
"You could at least be kind enough to help me."
"That's not part of my job description," yawned Rei.
"You are so lazy."
Then Ichiko yawned. She then sat by the table and leaned against the wall.
"You're the one that's lazy," said Rei. "You only cleaned half of my apartment."
"I'm tired," said Ichiko.
"Do you need to go home?"
"I'll be home alone if I do."
Rei raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Then we should go there and hold ourselves a private party."
"Please Rei. I don't want you involved."
"I don't want to shame my family by bringing you there."
"You know, I'm not that slutty. Sure I like to drink, gamble, and flirt, but I don't overdo the sex part since prostitution is illegal in this district. I'm just a woman struggling to swim with the waves of normalcy. If you only knew the truth about me..."
By then, Ichiko was dozing off. Rei then picked her up and took her into the tiny bedroom, which was a little less messy than the living room she emerged from. The bathroom was nearby, and the dirty tub seemed too small to fit Rei.
Ichiko realized that she was plopped onto Rei's bed that was barely large enough to fit its owner.
"No, it's all right," said Ichiko. "I'll go home right now."
"You should rest a little," said Rei. "And... I want you to stay for a little while longer."
Rei sat on the floor with her back facing Ichiko.
"I was wondering when you'd come back to talk to me," said Rei. "Especially after my rude behavior towards you. I was waiting, in a sense, for the perfect opportunity to meet with you."
"What time do you need to get back home?"
"Okay. I'll be up to wake you..."
Rei slumped backwards so that her head was resting on the bed. Some of her long hair was on the sheets, thus allowing Ichiko quietly run her fingers through them. Despite Rei's disheveled looks, her hair was pleasantly silky that Ichiko held onto it as she began to doze off.
Right before she fell asleep, Ichiko saw on the nightstand amongst the ashtray and beer bottles photo spilling from an envelope. One of them had a picture of a young Rei, who was tall as she was now, in a black sailor schoolgirl uniform with her arm happily around a boy of a similar age in black school uniform. They were surrounded by other boys in front of a recently spray-painted graffiti wall as indicated by the spray cans in their hands.
I guess she caused trouble when she was young, thought Ichiko.
As she dozed off, her mind wandered onto the eerily familiar face of that boy Rei was embracing. A past boyfriend perhaps? He could be a potential rival, but then again Rei and that boy probably had broken up long ago. Then again, Ichiko shouldn't be thinking this way as she hadn't developed any romantic attachments to the woman. It was rather a short-term schoolgirl infatuation, so she believed...
Then came knock on the door. Rei bolted up and nearly stumbled onto her porn-filled bookshelf.
"Ah shit!" she cried. "We overslept!"
"Huh?" Ichiko checked her cellphone's clock and saw it was now 9:30 PM.
"Wait a minute. Let me see that phone. It's today? Shit!"
"What's going on?"
Rei quickly got dressed into something less disheveled and fixed up her hair. "Stay put for a while. This shouldn't take long."
The sliding door of the bedroom was shut once Rei stepped out. Ichiko sat up stiff and nervous as she heard introductory small talk between a man and Rei. He was probably a regular client as the two spoke in familiar terms, yet she worried deathly for Rei's sake. The man might do something perverse in the living room, and Ichiko imagined bursting to save her despite not knowing how. But why would she? She barely knew the woman. It could be that she didn't want whatever that transpired happen before her ears. If she did not see it or hear it, then it did not happen.
"I looks as if you've seduced another schoolgirl," said the man.
Ichiko tensed up and pulled her knees to her chest.
"Could be a schoolboy," corrected Rei.
"I can see the shoes."
"As a bisexual, I can't pass up the chance of feeling up a cute girl."
"You did break a lot of girls' hearts when we went out together."
"It was a phase. Anyway, make it quick."
Now heard was the sound of paper pills being transferred into Rei's hands. Ichiko was cringing more than ever, but she kept quiet as she deliberated on how she should interrupt the situation. She looked back at the photo to take her mind off her feelings, but the tactic didn't work.
"Still working at that law firm?" Rei asked.
"Yeah. Rin and I had to work in separate places because we had to put our children to school and pay for the mortgages. By the way, 'she's' going to the school just down the street. A ten to fifteen-minute walk from here."
"You still won't tell me her name, eh Ken'ichi?"
Rin? Ken'ichi? The names were to familiar, but even more familiar was the voice who uttered it. Why didn't she notice when the man entered?
Ichiko landed on her feet and slammed the sliding door open. There stood a mildly surprised Rei and Ichiko's father, Ken'ichi, staring back at her.
"Father?" Ichiko gasped. "Don't tell me you're..."
Rei's jaw dropped, and Ken'ichi lowered his head in order to contain his frowning rage.
"Ichiko," he said. "Get in the car. Now."
Ichiko gathered her schoolbag and puts on her shoes. She ashamedly ran down the stairs and stepped into her father's Lexus sedan at the passenger side. Then she waited in the worst minutes of her life. The revelation that her father and Rei knew each other and the fact they were former lovers had now driven her trembling to the edge.
Finally, the quiet and stoic Ken'ichi got into the car and drove off with her daughter. None of them talked until they parked inside the two-car garage. Even though the car had stopped none of them stepped out, as they were afraid to make the first move.
"Father, I'm sorry," said Ichiko.
Ken'ichi waved his hand in a vain gesture to reject the apology. He was breathing heavily and trembling in nervous shame.
"Ichiko," he said. "That woman... she's your real mother."
At that moment, Ichiko finally realized who that boy was in that photo.
Title: Errant Mother
2nd Petal - Errant Mother
Suitcase: check. Duffel bag of baby food and diapers: check. Two train tickets: check. One infant daughter: check.
Thus, Rei waited alone at the station very late at night cradling her sleeping nameless daughter. Despite her still-developing breasts and her age for fourteen years, Rei was essentially full-grown woman due to her height. She even looked the part as she was wrapped with a scarf and a brown trenchcoat.
She was full of hope and optimism. Even if their education was cut short, Rei was certain that she and her boyfriend would make it through the life if they supported each other as best they could on low wages.
An hour passed. He should have been here thirty minutes ago, and Rei's infant daughter was slowly waking up. Fifteen minutes Ken'ichi finally came coming down from the stairs from the street. Holding her daughter, Rei stood up with a smile that immediately disappeared when he recognized Ken'ichi's sad and regretful expression. The reason for that was because following him was his father, Yoshiro Nikkì, and where Yoshiro was at it was likely he had two bodyguards close by.
"Ken!" Rei cried. "I can't believe you told him!"
"I'm sorry," said Ken'ichi.
"My son had done the right thing in doing so Rei," said Yoshiro.
"Old man, not even you can stop us," cried Rei. "Ken and I are going to run off and start our family."
"I'm not going," said Ken'ichi as he raised his head to face his lover.
"Ken? Am I hearing this right? I thought we agreed to this!"
"What can we do at the outside world? Especially with our kind of reputation! Do you think we can survive? What about our daughter?"
"We can survive! You just have to be brave!"
"With what? That sunflower crest ring you have there isn't going to do us any good! Your family disowned you, and soon enough they'll be wiped out!"
"It's a symbol Ken. A symbol of my pride and my honor as the last who carries the bloodline. As long as I have that, I can get through anything."
"In other words, it's useless Rei."
"Fine. If you won't go, then I'll take my daughter with me."
"You will do no such thing," said Yoshiro.
"My son's genes, hence my own genes are within that girl. If you want her to have a good future, it would be best that I take her and raise as a Nikkì."
"Are you saying I'm not qualified to raise her?'
"Exactly. You have been a bad influence to my son who I worked so hard to raise in a proper and honorable fashion. I will not allow you to do the same with her."
"If you raise her alone, you'll be putting her in terrible danger," said Ken'ichi.
"Then what about me?" asked Rei. "What will happen to me?"
"I'd advise you to disappear and never insult us and your daughter with your presence," said Yoshiro
The infant finally woken up and started wailing, as if Rei's tears and reluctance to hand her over was the cause.
"You can't do this," wept Rei. "I'm her mother!"
"She's our child," said Ken'ichi.
"And my son has the right to take her from you," said Yoshiro.
"No!" yelled Rei. "Can't you listen? She doesn't want go with you! She wants to be with me!"
"Give up the child."
"Please Rei," said Ken'ichi. "For her sake."
There was a struggle for the wailing infant between Rei and Ken'ichi. Rei's maternal weakness and fatigue got the worse of her. Thus, she was pushed onto the ground right as Ken'ichi wrought his daughter from her ex-lover's arms. Ken'ichi hurried off up the stairs while the broken Rei was on her knees crying.
"You shouldn't despair Rei," said Yoshiro. "We will raise her in the best care possible."
Finally Yoshiro left. Rei was now alone with her tears unable to go after her daughter. It wasn't the physical fatigue that held her back; it was the reality of her position and the position of her ex-lover and his family. Her hopeful optimism was really empty. She was unable back it up, and she felt so wretched in the face of her own personal weakness. Yoshiro and Ken'ichi were right. She couldn't do anything good for her daughter, whether it would be now or in the future.
The house was dark and quiet, and even the dining room lamp did little to brighten the tense mood. Ichiko didn't change out of her school clothes, even though she was implicitly allowed to. Instead, she sat at the head of the dining table watching her father pace around nervously about the situation at hand.
"Who else knows?" Ichiko asked.
"Grandpa and grandma," replied Ken'ichi. "And your mother--your stepmother I mean."
"He doesn't know. I don't plan on telling him until he reaches your age."
"So Kenji's my half-brother then."
"Darn! I wish there was a better way to tell you! I never expected you to meet your real mother in that situation."
Ken'ichi finally stopped pacing and further loosened his tie.
"Ichiko, I am really sorry we kept all this from you," he said. "I hope that you can forgive us."
"What is there to forgive?" smiled Ichiko. "You, mom, grandpa, and grandma raised me with all your love and kindness. If you were a terrible family, I wouldn't be what I am right now."
"But it may seem to you that we were cold-hearted in prying you from Rei's arms."
"Perhaps that is so, but you had good intentions, right? It might have hurt Rei initially, but I'm sure she understood the reasoning behind your actions. After all, you two are still good friends."
"Not quite though. The reason I was there at her apartment was that I was supposed to give her 'salary' stipend to help support herself, although grandpa and I are thinking of cutting off entirely if she doesn't turn her behavior around."
"So you're not a client then."
"Of course not."
"What a relief."
"Ah, it's nothing! Um, I'll go and take a shower then."
During her shower, she could hear her stepmother and her grandparents finally coming home. She was a little worried about them lecturing her about Rei, but they did not have the chance to bother her as they too took their baths and showers and headed off to bed.
As she changed into her pajamas, her father knocked on the door and asked if he could come in for a short talk. Once she was fully dressed, Ichiko unlocked the door and allowed him in.
"Hey, Ichiko," said Ken'ichi. "Regarding Rei..."
"Look, I won't say that you are forbidden to see her, nor will I say that you are allowed to. In any case, it is entirely up to you if you want to see her or not since she is your real mother. I'm sure I can convince grandpa to allow you to have that choice. However, I warn you that Rei is an unsavory woman, and that you should watch out. If anything happens, run back home or to Kazuko's home, or call us."
Ken'ichi kissed his daughter on the forehead.
"Okay," said Ichiko. "Goodnight father."
Even with all of her father's comforting words, the weekend that transpired for Ichiko was filled with complete strangeness, as if she had awaken from a lucid dream. She began to see her entire family in a new light. She saw her grandfather as a stern man hiding behind his jolly exterior. Her stepmother, as Ichiko had somehow realized, had dyed brown hair cropped at mid-neck and was actually slightly shorter than her. No longer she felt the same kind of closeness to her dear little brother, who was only half-related to her. She still spent her time watching anime with him and his friends in the morning, but all the excitement in seeing her favorite characters had seemed to drain off.
Perhaps Ken'ichi was the only one who noticed this, if he didn't tell the rest of the adults of the Nikkô family household. Or perhaps he actually did and that Rin, Yoshiro, and Michi were pretending that they were ignorant of Ichiko meeting up with her real mother. Whatever the case, no one brought it up, not even Ichiko or Ken'ichi had the courage to do so.
During that time, Ichiko's mind wandered off to the alluring image of her real mother, and at times she thought about running away to see her. Then she decided to do it on the coming Monday.
When that day came, Ichiko stopped in front of Rei's apartment as always, but she wasn't outside, and no client was waiting as well. Resisting the temptation to knock and enter, Ichiko went off for school and waited until it ended. Again, she stopped in front of Rei's apartment and saw no trace of her or a client. It was the same case on the next morning of Tuesday.
She becoming worried, and she hid her worries from her overprotective friend, Kazuko. Luckily, Kazuko was too distracted about the upcoming game against the all-girls school Chrysanthemum High and trying to talk back at the bad-mouthing Sumiko. It was during the end of school that Ichiko told the Environmental Club president and vice president that she wouldn't be attending.
"But why?" asked the club's male president Motoko. "This meeting is discussing the operations of the creek clean up."
"I am so sorry!" bowed Ichiko. "But I have some personal problems to take of regarding your mother."
"Your mother?" said the female vice president Haruko. "I didn't know our family had problems."
"Of all the children at school--as well as the teachers--I expected yours to be the most stable," said Motoko.
"Really, I am very sorry. Do you think you can mail me the minutes of the meeting?"
"Okay," said Haruko. "It's too bad that you can't come. Motoko and I really like to have you around."
It wasn't exactly a lie, but Ichiko felt like it was one and felt terrible to skip out on her club duties for a personal matter. All that was on her mind was her real mother Rei as she ran down the halls towards the front gate. She dreaded to find out if Rei had left after meeting her.
To her surprise, Rei was there talking cordially, if not perversely to a couple from the school.
"And that," boasted Rei, "is how you get around the anti-prostitution laws. We just have to build up relationship as friends first. Any so-called payment is just purchase of my rare, if not legal, porn collection I hold. The cops don't know if they're valuable or not. What do you say?"
"I'm not so sure," said the girl.
"Come on Chika," said the boy. "This is a once in a lifetime offer for a threesome! It will be well worth it if we built up a relationship with this hip woman."
"Speaking of which, how old are you?"
Before Rei could speak, Ichiko interrupted them with a loud, "Ahem."
"Look what we have here," grinned Rei. "She might join us for a kinky foursome. I'm sure you're happy with that prospect, aren't ya Takahashi?"
"Yeah, well, hi," said Ichiko. "I take you two have been taken in by my mother."
"Your mother?" gasped Takahashi. "You're kidding!"
"Hey now," winced Rei. "What are you saying little girl?"
Ichiko linked her arm with her mother's and pulled her away from the couple.
"She is my mother," declared Ichiko. "See the resemblance?"
Chika and Takahashi looked back and forth between Ichiko and Rei, and finally the resemblance, or the apparent lack thereof, settled in.
"Wow, she is," smiled Chika. "She looks so young. How old are you?"
"Thirty," Rei answered sadly.
"Really? I have to confess that I do have fantasies of being touched by an older woman. What do you say Takahashi?"
Takahashi coughed. "Actually, I just realized that I have this project for science. I'd better be getting home."
"What? I thought you wanted to do this?"
"I have high standards."
At that moment, Ichiko pulled Rei away from the couple and towards the direction of the apartment. The couple's argument was still being heard.
"I don't do older women," said Takahashi. "Especially mothers or else I'll get attracted to my own."
"Oh?" grinned Chika. "It seems we have mother-complex going on here."
"I don't! I hate my mother! She scares the hell out of me!"
Rei chuckled, but Ichiko was still too angry at her and her purported job.
"You know I was only kidding back there," said Rei.
Then entered the apartment. There was now tall silvery floor lamp in the living room at the corner. Also, the room was even messier than before.
"Really, you ought to clean up," said Ichiko. "What have I told you before?"
"That you can't cook?"
Again, Ichiko took it upon herself to thoroughly clean up the place while Rei changed into her loose tank and panties so she could lazily lounge and watch TV.
"There," said Ichiko as she sat down by the table. "All done."
"You wasted your time," said Rei. "It's going to get messy again."
"You might get sick."
"I'm fine right now."
"God, I'm not sure if you're unsavory or a complete slob."
"I'm no slob! I am an alluring woman that woos both sexes!"
Ichiko blushed. "Well, that one is true."
After a moment of silence, Ichiko solemnly asked, "Where were you yesterday?"
"How about you answer this question: where were you Saturday and Sunday?"
"I was with my parents! I mean, I really couldn't do anything after I learned that you're my real mother."
"That was quite of shocker for me too."
"Father must have told you then."
Rei took a sip from her can of beer.
"To answer your question," she said, "I slept the entire day."
"Were you sick?"
"Massive hangover. Didn't stop until today. I wanted to be out to seduce you this morning, but I overslept. Instead, I waited at the front gate of your school."
"Stop saying that mother. It doesn't sound right."
"You did come to me because of that."
"All right, all right. I'll stop."
Ichiko sighed. "I was worried that you were gone."
"Why would I be? Because I found out that you're my daughter?"
Then Rei laughed. "Do you really think I could up and move when I just settled here?"
"I just had a feeling that you did, or that my father and grandfather made you move."
"If they wanted me to, they would have paid me a hell lot more money to do so. You may think you're upper-middle class, but you and your family are struggling. Especially your grandfather."
"So what did Ken say about me?"
"That you're unscrupulous."
"That's it? Did he tell you that you're not allowed to see me?"
"He didn't say that explicitly. Rather, he allowed me the choice to see you or not."
"Really? I gotta give that guy more credit."
"Do you still hold a grudge against them?"
"Initially, yes. But after a couple of minutes from being separated from you, no."
"You really got over me that fast."
" 'Always look on the bright side of life!' says a British film whose name I can't quite remember. On that moment of separation I understood why they did what they did after what your grandfather went through."
"He went through a similar situation?"
"Let's just say that something woke him up to reality."
"So you must know more about my family."
"What they didn't tell you? Gee, you know you could ask them."
"I don't ask because it would be rude for me to do so. I believe they have good reasons."
"Hmm, you just seem to have too much of a positive outlook. It doesn't go well with your nagging by the way."
Rei lay down and looked up to Ichiko from the floor.
"So what will you do now?" she asked.
"I don't know," replied Ichiko. "At the very least, can I stay here and do my homework? I don't have much money on me right now..."
"No, it's all right. If you gave me money right now, people will start talking about us. Neither us don't want that, obviously."
Ichiko took her time to settle in at the table and even took longer than usual to do her homework. She finished most of it when Rei ordered her to cook her something as indicated by the loud stomach growl.
"Cook me something will ya?"
"It's that time already?" asked Ichiko. "I should get home."
"Get home? What about my needs?"
"You survived before without me right? I'm sorry, but I can't cook for you today."
Rei sprang up and leaped into the kitchen. From all her rummaging of the fridge and cupboards, she procured many bags of groceries to which she used to block Ichiko's way to the door.
"Cook something with this," said Rei.
"Mother, I have to get home for my own dinner."
"You should be able to cook something with this quickly. Please? You're cooking is the best I've ever tasted!"
"I don't know..."
Rei straightened her back. "As your mama, I order you to cook something for me."
"All right already. I'll cook for you, but you have to help me so you could learn."
"Can't now. Mama has to take a bath."
Rei had already locked herself in the small bathroom and started the faucet. Ichiko was tempted to walk off, but she didn't want to distress her mother. To do so would be very unbecoming.
She almost had some setbacks due to Rei's haphazardly poor choice of food ingredients, and many that were supposed to be refrigerated were almost spoiled. Her frustrations were soon eased when Rei was singing a soft and soulful tone that Ichiko moved towards. In the end, she cooked something of a hybrid of ramen and soba noodles.
Upon setting the food on the table, Rei wetly emerged in a damp bathrobe and gluttonously devoured her meal. That act didn't even stain her alluring nature, as Ichiko rested her chin on her head as she stared longingly at her beautiful mother.
"Something wrong?" Rei asked.
"You're not eating."
"I can eat at home."
"I'm not intending to keep this feast in the fridge for too long. Takes up too much room for my booze. Besides, I think you need it at that particular spot."
Rei pointed at Ichiko's breasts, to which the owner promptly covered.
"It's not all about the breasts mother," pouted Ichiko.
"You look so cute. Now eat up!"
"Mama orders that you need to be fed and bulk up your breasts."
"Fine then. But I'm eating from my own bowl."
She ate--slowly. Ichiko knew that she was taking too much time on things that should have been done in half the time. She could not help herself but exchange glances at the stranger her father claimed to be her real mother. And there were also many questions she wanted to ask her about regarding her genesis.
"You seem to like looking at me," said Rei.
"I can't help it. It's just that... I inadvertently became attracted to you before I knew that you were my mother."
Ichiko blushed and lowered her face.
"What time is it?" she asked.
"Dunno. I'm not looking at the clock right now."
Ichiko looked at her cellphone. "It's 7:30! I have to go!"
Without saying goodbye she left.
She reached her home right as her grandmother was cleaning up the table.
"Grandma," said Ichiko. "I'm sorry I'm so late!"
"It's all right," smiled Michi. "I'm sure you were with your friends."
"Is mother and father home?"
"They're still at work, unfortunately, and grandfather and Kenji had gone off for their bath."
"So you three were alone..."
"Don't worry Ichiko. We had a detailed discussion on Kenji's schoolwork."
"Have you eaten yet dear?"
Ichiko went to her room and threw herself on the bed confused and wondering about her grandmother's unusual leniency. No one was angry with her for being late. Ichiko forgot to ask them why they didn't call her on her cellular. Did they trust her too much? Or did they really know that she was over at Rei's house.
Although she loved and trusted her father at the utmost, there was a gut skeptical feeling that Rei might not be her real mother. Then again, Ichiko didn't even get a stepmother until she was five years old, and such knowledge didn't occur to her as she was mainly raised by her grandparents.
She had to be sure though. Ichiko took her usual bath and changed to her pajamas. She waited, and kept herself awake by reading books or watching anime DVDs on her desktop computer. The time was now 11:30, and her parents finally arrived home.
Ichiko hurried downstairs and inadvertently interrupted her mother and father's work-related conversations.
"Is something wrong?" Ken'ichi asked.
Sensing the worry in her stepdaughter's face, Rin excused herself to the master bedroom upstairs. Ken'ichi then prepared some green tea as his daughter sat down at the dining table.
"It's about Rei, right?" said Ken'ichi as he served himself and Ichiko their filled cups. "That's not her real name by the way."
"And she doesn't want anyone to know her real name. There is a reason for that."
"Father, I know I can trust you, but I am not entirely convinced that Rei is my mother."
"Did she do something wrong?"
"It's nothing like that!"
"I see. It's still too much of a shock for you."
"Very well," he said. Ken'ichi procured his wallet and handed a business card to Ichiko.
"You know about our family doctor Hazama right? He's one of the few people outside our family who know about your genesis. If you wish, you and Rei can give yourself a DNA test to see if you are daughter and mother."
"Hazama has my blood in storage too as well. So you can check if I'm your father as well."
"I trust you father. I know you are who you are."
Ken'ichi had set up the appointment for Friday. On that morning of Wednesday, Ichiko walked with all anxiety in the face of the upcoming hard facts of her and Rei. At the same time, she also had very strong feelings that Rei was her real mother anyway.
She was a little disappointed to not see her at the railing in front of her apartment, but she was surprised that to find Rei hanging out in the front of the gate humoring the students. To Ichiko's dismay, she was humoring her fellow club members Motoko and Haruko.
"In conclusion," said Rei, "men are not really gay unless they go sleep with their sex partner after hot gay sex. At least that's what the Christian Bible says."
"Rei!" Ichiko cried.
"Ah, there's my darling daughter!"
"Your mother is so cool Ichiko!" cried Haruko.
"No, wait," stuttered Ichiko. "This woman... she's--"
Rei wrapped her arms around Ichiko and rubbed her face into her hair.
"My daughter is embarrassed over her dear mama!" cried Rei.
The bell rang. The students bade their farewells to Rei, and Ichiko tried to run off. Rei held on tighter and pulled her back so that her lips were extremely close to Ichiko's ear.
"Mother, let go!" Ichiko whelped. "I have to get to class."
"That was rude of you."
"You shouldn't have left me without saying goodbye."
"I'm really sorry. I didn't want to anger my family. You understand, right?"
Ichiko was let go, although it felt like she was pushed away.
"I understand," said Rei. "Your family has a few things against me."
"I'll see you after school. And don't forget about my dinner."
And so Ichiko then faced the embarrassment of the wide talks about her "wild" mother, though it was not as bad as she had thought. Everyone wanted to know more about Red, and Ichiko was reluctant to tell them. Even if she could she knew very little of what Rei really did.
It was fortunate that the great majority of school did meet her stepmother, Rin, but her dread came when her best friend Kazuko approached her upon entering their homeroom.
"People around here are talking about your mother," began Kazuko. "I didn't realize that Rin could be so wild."
"They're talking about a different woman," said Ichiko.
"A case of mistaken identity huh? Why didn't tell these people otherwise?"
Ichiko could have lied, but she knew well that truths have a tendency to surface sooner or later. She pulled her best friend into the corner and whispered the reality of the situation.
"SHE'S YOUR REAL MOTHER?" gasped Kazuko.
"Not so loud!"
"Wow, I don't know what to say about this. This is a big shocker, although it would have been bigger for you. It seems that you're taking this quite well."
"Or I could still be in the aftershock."
"Anyway, do you think I could meet her just once?"
"I'm not so sure."
"Too embarrassed about her?"
"I'm just afraid you'll develop a bad opinion of me."
"How can I? You and your real mother are different people, thus I should have separate opinions on you two."
"But we are linked."
"Ho-ho?" said a haughty voice. "Did I hear something about Ichiko being a bastard child?"
Kazuko and Ichiko turned and saw Sumiko and her clique crowding around the doorway.
"So what?" Kazuko retorted. "I know for certain some of you are sons and daughters of mistresses."
"But you don't have any proof of that, do you?" grinned Sumiko. "I suppose you could dig up some information, but that would be very unbecoming of your reputation. It doesn't matter anyway because most of us are going to be part of our family businesses, particularly Ichiko."
"What are you getting at?"
Sumiko advanced right in front of Kazuko and faced Ichiko.
"So that woman everyone was talking about was your real mother, huh?" said Sumiko. "For some reason I find that hard to believe as I find no similarities between you two. Perhaps she is an extortionist after your family's fortune as small as it is. Then again, there might be similarities that I don't see. I think I might be interested in this woman who is supposedly your real mother. I hear that she is lusted by both girls as well as boys."
"Can it Sumiko," said Kazuko. "You're supposed to be straight, remember?"
"Only if I do not sleep with girls on a regular basis. Ho, this will be an interesting development."
Sumiko walked away with the same haughty air as she as appeared and took her seat for homeroom session was about to begin.
"Ichiko, you shouldn't have confessed that Rei was your real mother," said Kazuko. "Sumiko will jump on it and spread nasty rumors about you two."
"She would have found out anyway."
"At the very least defend yourself. Heck, tell them that she's not your real mother."
"I'm getting both our DNA analyzed on Friday."
"That's great! You can stave them off and make them uncertain of your relation."
The school day started. Ichiko was not in full concentration even though she paid full attention and took down proper notes for all her classes. Her thoughts went back to her supposed relation to the woman her father claimed was her real mother. During lunch, Kazuko mentioned her father could be lying, but Ichiko didn't want to believe it.
Yet, there was a deep fear of the definite answer she would find after the test. She was worried that Rei would not be her mother, and she was worried that she was her mother. The two outcomes had advantages and disadvantages in Ichiko's heart. She realized that Rei was starting to expose her unscrupulous behavior much to Ichiko's chagrin, and that Ichiko might want to distance from her. Then again, if she weren't her real mother, there would be no reason to see her.
The feeling became worse when she spotted her mother at the front gate after school. This time, she was talking to a pair of police officers, an older man and younger man who was younger than Rei herself. The latter officer was entirely smitten by her and thus silenced, for he allowed his older partner to do most of the talking.
Embarrassed, Ichiko dared not to look Rei and walked past her.
"Hey, I'm not done talking," barked the older officer.
"But that's my daughter! I have told you before, I was waiting here to pick up my daughter."
"Is that the truth? Then why doesn't she respond?"
"She's embarrassed. Hold on a sec."
Rei caught Ichiko in an embrace and brought her before the aroused young officer and the frowning older officer.
"There is a resemblance I tell you," smirked Rei.
The older officer bent over to Ichiko. "Miss, are you this woman's daughter?"
Ichiko lowered her head. "Yes."
"Are you sure? This woman isn't coercing you in anyway, is she?"
"She is my mother...unfortunately."
"I see then."
The older officer straightened his back and his hat, and bowed towards Rei.
"I apologize for the misunderstanding ma'am," he said. "Togashi, let's go."
"Yes sir!" acknowledged the younger officer.
The officers boarded their bicycles and pedaled off.
"Whew, that was close," said Rei. "You're a life-saver Ichiko."
Ichiko flung her arm away and started off home while ignoring the pursuing Rei.
"Isn't that a little unjust on their part?" asked Rei. "Here I was waiting for you, and in no time some concerned parent calls up and says that there's some whore hanging before the school gate. Come on, I'm a concerned parent as well. Just because I dress like this doesn't mean I am one, I mean hell, lots of teens go out around the shady districts and dress even way skankier than I do. I'm willing to bet some of your classmates hang out at that street that's close by."
Ichiko stopped moving. "Are you finished?"
"You're embarrassed about me, aren't you?"
"It's hard to believe that you're my real mother. We're not alike."
"We're not supposed to be. We're two different people. You take more after your father, but inside your personality takes after me."
"I do not!"
"Okay, it doesn't then. Now let's go back to my place to hang out and cook dinner for me."
A stomach growled. "Okay, how about a late lunch?" said Rei.
"I'm going home," said Ichiko.
"You can't! What will I do without you?"
"You're supposed to be my mother. Act like one!"
"I wasn't exactly given that opportunity you know."
Rei hugged Ichiko from behind.
"Please? Make lunch and dinner for dear mama."
Ichiko sighed, indicating that she gave in. Almost carrying her sloth-like mother on her shoulders, she headed back to the apartment where a heavy snack took the place of lunch. She bothered not to go home until she made dinner for Rei, to which she shared.
"Going so soon?" asked Rei as she lay down after a hearty desert.
"You know my family will be worried if I don't come home."
"Just tell them you're staying at my place."
"I have to take a bath."
"Why not here? I'll have it clean in half-an-hour."
"Am I not your family?"
"I understand. You don't want to be associated with a tramp like me."
"That's not true! It's just that... I'm sorry, but I just learned of your existence, and it's taking me a while to sink in. It's hard to believe that you're my real mother."
"It is true you know. I shagged your dad when we were young."
"Okay, go home little Ichiko. Make sure you come back here after school."
"I'm sorry, but I have a club meeting."
"A club meeting?"
"You know that it's all a bunch of bullshit. They're merely sorting the plastics, papers, glass, and aluminum from each other."
"That's recycling mother, and I already know about the issues."
"Whatever. So you'll cancel the meeting and come here, right?"
"Mother, I can't just do that on a whim like you. Look, I'll come over to cook you dinner at least."
"If you were to do that, what will I do until then?"
"Just buy some lunch outside, or have some leftovers."
"I don't want leftovers."
"You do have some money, don't you?"
"Er, about that--I sort of blew it off."
"But I'll scrounge some cash somehow! After all I am a flexible woman."
That did not sound good. Ichiko marched up to Rei, bent down, and put some paper bills into her hand.
"If you're wise, you can get a decent meal or two with this."
"No, that's all right. It's your money."
"I insist. And please don't spend the money on beer or anything like that."
"This looks like I sold my services for cheap."
"I don't care. I don't want to do the things that you do."
"You know what I mean."
"Ichiko, I don't need charity."
"I'm lending this to you. You can pay it back when you earned your money through legitimate means."
"With interest of course."
"You don't have to go that far."
"Very well. I shall take this money. Satisfied?"
"I am. Now then, I shall be going."
Ichiko went home and again encountered her grandmother and her brother who were finishing putting away the dishes from the dinner.
"I'm sorry that I didn't come home in time again," bowed Ichiko.
"I suppose that is all part of growing up," said Michi.
"I'll try to make it back in time! I promise!"
"That would be nice, but wouldn't it be better if you would come back when your mother and father have some time off? We haven't eaten together for quite a while. Besides we're not terribly lonely, aren't we Kenji?"
Ichiko bowed down towards her little half-brother. "Kenji, I'll make it up to you by watching some cartoons with you. Even better, I'll take you out."
"Grandpa is going to take me and my friends out," said Kenji.
"I'll find a way to be with you."
"Don't push yourself Ichiko," said Michi. "It's nice that you devote yourself to us, but you also have your own personal life."
"I have to grandma. It is my way of repaying all of you for you kindness towards me."
"You are such a sweet girl."
Ichiko had her bath and had herself a bit of leisure time on reading a book and browsing the internet on her home computer. Then she went to bed feeling both anxious and dreadful on her next encounter with her supposed real and lazy mother who seemed to sap most of her precious time from her. Rei was awfully possessive, and she had a feeling it would get worse. Rei might monopolize Ichiko all to herself.
It wasn't out of love she did this, but out of obligation. She had to obey her real mother for whatever the reason. Wasn't that how things went in the real world? Then again, Ichiko was too idealistic. Still, Ichiko had to find some way to change her lifestyle, and she then started planning on her head on staying with her "second family".
"Books and some DVDs," she muttered. "Maybe some writing supplies as well. I guess I need to get her some cleaning supplies too. I'll ask father to get me a laptop computer and enable internet connectivity with my mobile phone."
Thursday came. Ichiko began her day as usual and walked down the same street where Rei's apartment lied. Stopping in front, she looked up to the third floor to see if she was there with another client or simply basking the morning air with loose clothes.
"Miss me already?" said a voice.
Ichiko nearly jumped when she saw her mother emerging from the wall of the complex dress almost in all black.
"It is Rei or mother? Or after what happened yesterday do you want to call me Miss Cero?"
"I didn't mean to hurt you like that."
"Of course you didn't. I'm here to remind you about today. You'll be here, right?"
"Yes, yes I will."
"Okay then. So, do you want your dear mother to walk you to school?"
"I don't know..."
"I guess not. You're still embarrassed about me."
"Maybe a little."
"Very well! I shall be on my way!"
But Rei had already marched away at the opposite direction. What Ichiko wanted from her she did not know. Perhaps she didn't want to part in such a brusque manner.
Regardless, Ichiko had to concentrate on getting through her school day, which went without a hitch despite one snide comment from Sumiko. There was a bit of worry for Rei when school ended, but she quickly put it to the back of her mind.
She sat in the designated classroom for the club at the front-most row, but not too far from the window. The president and vice president, Motoko and Haruko, ran down the final requirements for the creek clean up that was slated for the coming Sunday. Ichiko was absorbed well into their discussion, until she heard something rubbing against the glass. She turned to her left and saw Rei making a scary and silly face on the window, while her breasts rubbed up against it. On her surprise, Ichiko didn't scream. She just fell out of her chair.
"Ichiko!" cried Haruko. "Are you all right?"
Motoko and the other students finally noticed Rei. "Oh, it's Ichiko's mother," he said.
Before anyone could do anything, Ichiko went ahead and opened up the window.
"What are you doing?" she hissed.
"What are you doing?" Rei retorted. "You're supposed to be at my place."
"It's not yet the time?"
"Eh? What time is it?"
"It's only three o' clock!"
"Oh. Well, I'm still hungry. Can you come over now?"
"Okay. I'll wait at in this classroom."
Ichiko prevented Rei from climbing in.
"No!" Ichiko cried.
"Ichiko, we'd like to continue," said Motoko.
"Aha, I'm sorry." She turned to her mother, and told her, "Wait for me in the front."
Ichiko slammed the window shut. She bowed and apologized to the club's vice president and president, and ran off to meet Rei at the front entrance.
"Please leave," said Ichiko.
"Am I not welcome here?"
"Not with that attitude."
"You hate me, don't you?"
"I don't hate you! You're embarrassing me!"
Rei was thunderstruck, and she lowered her face in shame.
"I see then," she said. "You're now treating me like a stranger. I suppose you're going through that phase."
Ichiko sighed. "I treat you like this is because... you're not the mother who I want you to be."
"Well fine! I don't need to be lectured by a brat like you!"
Rei hurried off. Ichiko again was left with something she wanted to say to her supposed real mother, but she held back.
"She should learn," she said. "To act properly."
Thus, Ichiko went back and attended the last minutes of the club meeting.
Afterwards, she walked down the same street and looked back up to Rei's apartment. No lights were lit, apparently. She moved her foot towards the grounds, but pulled it back.
"She'll take care of herself," she grumbled as she walked home.
Once home, she was glad to have a real meal with her grandparents and her half-brother. Again, her parents were not around because of work, but her grandfather had said that Saturday would be the day that they would appear.
"Is there something wrong dear?" asked Michi.
"Nothing's wrong grandma," smiled Ichiko. "I'm just glad that I could be back to eat with you guys."
"Oh, that's nice. I hope you didn't have a fight with one of your friends."
"It's nothing of that sort! Honest!"
Unless she considered Rei a friend, but she was more like a pest to her.
"Oh, your father wanted to remind you about your appointment with the doctor tomorrow," said Yoshiro.
The genetic test! Ichiko nearly forgot.
"Are you sick sis?" asked Kenji.
"Oh it's nothing of that sort," said Yoshiro. "It's just a regular check-up."
They were still keeping the secret from him.
Friday morning came. Ichiko walked down the usual street and stopped in front of Rei's apartment. There seemed to be no activity apparently. Ichiko resisted all temptation to go in and check on her mother.
"She'll be fine," she said to herself.
As for Ichiko, she wasn't herself today. Throughout her school day, her mind constantly wandered off to the current condition of Rei, and the wandered ended up causing a bit of a concern from her eccentric teachers.
What would Rei be doing? She would likely be getting drunk and lounging around her apartment, or if worse went out for a meal at a seedy bar and took an unsavory man or two back home. Worse still, she could be killed, but that was outlandish. Rei didn't look like the kind of woman who would fall into that kind of situation.
Realizing that she was still in school, Ichiko shrugged all thoughts of Rei. However, it was all in vain. Her intention to check on her made her take flight right as school ended.
She jogged as best as she could down the street and ran up the stairs to the apartment. Ichiko was shaking, or jogging in place as if she had to go the bathroom when banged on the door.
"Mother!" she called. "Rei! Are you there?"
There was some low moaning. Ichiko slid to the window and found it blocked by budge draperies--a faded blanket to be exact. But an opening crack gave her hope and the initiative to slide the window open enough to climb through. In a short moment she was through the mess of piled pots, pans, beer bottles, and mugs, at least half of which fell and clanged on the dirty tiled floor.
When she finally emerged fully into the apartment, Ichiko discovered it was in sordid mess worse than the first time she came here. The floor was almost covered in beer bottles and cans, and there was a repugnant smell of combined cigarette smoke, standing water, and perhaps urine. She crawled through, looking for any sign of Rei, and found the small bedroom and bathroom in a similar state.
"Where are you?"
A hand rose from the corner of the living room next to the television. Ichiko swam through the bottles and pulled her mother from underneath the pile of bottles, which apparently fell from the shelves next to her.
Rei emerged into a complete mess. Her already-worn clothes, which there was a lack thereof, was soiled, and her long black hair was a frizzled mess. Her eyes were sullen, and her makeup was smeared about. She even looked a bit famished.
She fell into the pile again, and Ichiko mustered her strength to pull out her tall and heavier mother.
"God, what happened to you?"
Rei answered with a burp, which smelled so bad that tears fell from Ichiko's squinting eyes.
"You weren't raped weren't you? No, that can't be. You just stayed at home and got drunk. Anyway, we're about to run late if you don't fix yourself up. We have that DNA testing to do, remember?"
"Why do you care?" Rei slurred. "You don't like being with me anyway."
"I have to know."
"You want to find out that we're not related so you'll stop seeing me. Is that it?"
Ichiko felt a pang in her heart.
"Or maybe you secretly want me to not be related so you'll shag me?"
"Come on!" Ichiko cried as she pulled Rei towards the bedroom.
"I don't feel like it," Rei groaned.
Ichiko cleared the total mess off the bed and plopped Rei onto it. She then rummaged through the closet, which was every bit as messy as the rest of the apartment, but at the very least it wasn't filled with beer bottles. Ichiko found most the clothes in need of washing, and even the clean ones were too risquÇ to wear in public.
The only thing she could find was Rei's dark sailor schoolgirl uniform preserved in a plastic wrapping. It reminded her of the photo she saw with her father.
Rei fell asleep. Ichiko took that opportunity to strip of her all her clothes (a lack thereof). Her heart skipped a beat when she beheld her mother's nude body. It was surprisingly smooth and beautiful, as no bones were showing and there weren't too much gross fat or flab. Her breasts were expectedly large, and her nipples looked pink and innocent.
Ichiko was forced to shake her head from her distraction, so she put on her mother the only set of clean underwear and bra she could find from the drawers. With water from a sprayer, she combed and applied gel to her mother's hair as best as she could, and tied it into a ponytail. She cleaned her face and applied neutral makeup.
Rei still smelled in both breath and body. Ichiko could not worry about the former; she had to find some kind of perfume for the latter. All she could find was a half-filled bottle of musk-scented cologne scent, probably left behind by one of Rei's clients or was planning to be given away or used. She wasn't sure if the seal was broken off or not, and if it hadn't probably the liquid leaked out very slowly through the pores of the bottle or through the cap since it was on its side all this time.
"Better than nothing," Ichiko muttered as she popped off the cap.
She poured a good dab into her palm and rubbed it about the skin of Rei's shoulders, which caused Rei to moan and even giggle sensually. It made Ichiko uncomfortable, so she quickly ceased and then proceeded to put on Rei's school uniform. It barely fit her, and the skirt, Ichiko realized, reached close to her ankles.
Ichiko quickly cleared a pathway to the door. Once doing so she hoisted Rei onto her back and walked her out the door. She didn't bother locking it since she had not key, for after all there didn't seem to be many things that would be stolen. If there was, she hoped that it no robbery would happen while they were out and that the neighbors would be vigilant in keeping an eye on the apartment.
Once at the sidewalk, Ichiko leaned Rei against the wall.
"Can you stand up?" she asked her.
Rei shook her head, but it wasn't much of a yes or even a no. She just shook to shake her drunkenness out of her head, and soon Ichiko realized that it didn't work. One step forward Rei stumbled about, and Ichiko had to catch her.
It was about that time that they were receiving stares. She no longer cared, so Ichiko took and Rei to the bus stop. Minutes later, they took a short bus trip to the Ohtori Hospital where they would be having their DNA analyzed. Rei had continued to lean on Ichiko's back as she was transported. To Ichiko and outside observers, it was amazing that she could essentially carry a tall woman.
"I'm here for my appointment," Ichiko huffed at the nurse at the front desk.
"You're just in time," said the nurse. "Ah, here's the doctor Hazama."
The doctor appeared before her from the double doors. He had somewhat of a wild haircut that stuck up and towards the back, and beard trimmed close to the skin.
"Hello Ichiko," he smiled. "I see you're getting stronger by the day."
"I apologize for this scene doctor," said Ichiko.
"Hazama?" Rei stirred.
Bounced off Ichiko's back and rubbed her eyes.
"Jackie?" Rei said. "No shit, I can't believe it's you!"
"Yo Lady Lucifer," Hazama waved.
Rei went up to Hazama and both performed an elaborate and jiving handshake in perfect synchronization.
"You two know each other?" Ichiko asked.
Rei nodded. "We used to call him Jackie the Ripper, 'cause he always rips a bad one out of his ass."
"And she used to be called Lady Lucifer 'cause she was the devil," said Hazama.
"Not that kind, of course."
Hazama led Rei and Ichiko through the clean hallways and into a reserved room where the doctor seated his two patients. With the assistance of a young and pretty female nurse, the blood was drawn into a test tube that was corked and taken away.
"Did see that hot ass?" Hazama asked.
"Oh yeah," grinned Rei.
"I'd hit it, but my wife will find out and there'll be ass-kicking, which I'll be in the receiving end. And threats of divorce might loom afterwards."
"Wife? You're married?"
"She's a looker?"
"Met her during med school. It was enough for us to have one boy brat and two sweet girls."
"Never expected to settle down after all the shit you pulled."
"If Ken'ichi could settle down, so could I."
"Um, how long will the analysis process take?" Ichiko asked.
"Around four hours. It's about two right now, so it will be until six. If you want, you can come back tomorrow for the results."
"I guess we'll have to wait until then."
"No way," said Rei. "I want the results now."
"This ain't magic," said Hazama. "It takes a while, and it so happens the equipment is the fastest around in this city."
"Then we'll wait here."
"But I really have to get home," said Ichiko.
"Why do you insist on going back? You're eventually going to leave when you graduate."
"I know, but I feel so truant as of late."
"Jackie, call the brat's grandparents and tell them she'll be back after we get the results."
"Okay," replied Hazama.
"Now then, let's say we get some lunch; or dinner."
"It's too late for the first and too early for the second," said Ichiko.
Rei bear-hugged Ichiko and rubbed her face against hers.
"Dear mama is hungry!" Rei whined. "I haven't eaten since this morning. Or was it yesterday night? I forget which."
"There is a good sushi place at the corner of the nearby shopping district," said Hazama. "A bit expensive though."
"We're there! Thanks a bunch Jackie Ripper!"
"Why me?" sighed Ichiko.
The ecstatic Rei prominently dragged her daughter to the place in question and the two prominently sat at barstools amidst receiving discrete stares from the other patrons. She gleefully ordered roll after roll amidst sake after sake, much to Ichiko's dismay for apparently Rei did not have any money on her. There went Ichiko's generous allowance, and it would be difficult to explain this to her father and the rest of the family. Her exasperating expression garnered sympathy by the sushi chef, who approached her when Rei went to the restroom.
"You should stand up to a girl like her," he said. "If you want, I can call your parents about this."
"Huh? No, she's not blackmailing me for anything. She's my mother."
Ichiko covered her mouth. She didn't realize that Rei was wearing a long-skirted schoolgirl uniform that reminded passer-bys as one of those gang girls. However, the chef and his apprentice was just as surprised, but the situation was now misinterpreted in a different direction.
"At her age?" whispered the apprentice.
"There's a lot of teenage pregnancies lately," said the chef.
"But they don't look that far apart in years."
"Then again, the mother could have fallen behind."
"Um," said Ichiko.
"Sorry!" said the chef. "We were wondering how old are you and your mother."
"I'm sixteen, and my mother's thirty."
"Oh! She looks pretty young."
"I get that a lot."
"Why is she in a schoolgirl outfit?" wondered the apprentice.
The answer could not be answered, as Rei jovially emerged from the restroom for seconds, which the chef and the apprentice gladly served amidst Ichiko's further dismay.
They daughter and mother then did some window shopping as the stores began to close, and they returned to the quieting Ohtori Hospital so that Rei could snore off her meal an hour before the analysis of the results could be finished. Forty-five minutes later, Doctor Hazama came by to announce that it was announced early, and Ichiko dragged a drowsy Rei into a quiet checkup room. There, he presented the printouts of the daughter and mother's DNA, which looked complex, but the doctor explained it as best as he could.
"So there you have it," he said. "You two are truly mother and daughter."
Ichiko felt stunned, but she should have expected it. Even after repeat confirmations, her heart was beating in full anxiety as it oscillated between relief and forlorn disappointment. Why would she feel this way? She should be glad that she finally met her real mother, or disappointed that Rei would depend too much her. The weight should be lifted off her chest, but now it felt heavier.
Amidst the deliberation of these feelings in silence, there came a ripping fart that broke the mood. Rei waved her nose due to the stink, while Hazama blushed in total embarrassment.
"Sorry," he said. "I had a couple of burritos for a snack."
"I'll say," said Rei. "The stink's so bad that it's making Ichiko cry."
That wasn't the reason why there were tears forming on the girl's eyelids.
"I'm not crying!" Ichiko cried.
Whether accurately read her daughter's expression or not, Rei averted her face and immediately dropped her jovial personality.
"So I guess I'll escort you two out," said Hazama.
"Yeah," said Rei. "Thanks a lot Jackie."
"Thank you very much doctor," Ichiko bowed.
It was a brisk pace from the room to the entrance, and once outside they walked slowly yet their distance between them grew. Ichiko walked almost in a daze, and she occasionally kicked the ground whilst she looked in the ground. Rei was not far behind with a concerned look.
"Now that you know for sure that I'm your real mother, you'll still visit me, right?"
Ichiko shook her head, but it wasn't a nod of any sort.
"You'll make me dinner and lunch, correct?"
"Of course," said Ichiko, turning around. "I'll try to make you lunch and dinner. I'll even make you breakfast at every chance I get."
Rei smiled. "I'm glad I have finally met you."
The heart in Ichiko skipped a beat, and the words caused her to smile.
"Thanks," she said.
"I should be thanking you--for that wonderful sushi dinner!"
"You're going to owe me on that."
"Eventually. The Cero family always pays back what they owe."
The two chuckled. When the bus appeared before them, they realized that they had stopped in front of the bus stop. Once in, there was barely enough standing room to fit the two. It was the end of a business day, so there were many office workers packed in. Ichiko and Rei rode home close to another, shoulder to shoulder.
The daughter dwelt further on her anxiety before her mother, and she was still confused if she was glad or disappointed. Nonetheless, it was comforting to be with her. Without hesitation, she firmly held Rei's left hand for the remainder of the trip, and the mother allowed.
The sunflower in the girl was shaking against a strong breeze, with its petals becoming looser with each gust...
Rei clutched her scarf. "Why the hell am I in a schoolgirl outfit?"
Title: Family Ties
3rd Petal - Family Ties
"Yoo-hoo!" Rei cried. "Here I am again."
"Again, you look like a thief sneaking through the window," said Ichiko as she unfolded her box lunches on her desk.
"Oh my darling daughter. I had no choice since they started increasing school security."
"Fine, whatever. Get inside so we can eat."
It was customary for Rei to sneak into school just so she could have lunch with her daughter only because there was no other way for her to receive a free meal. Ichiko had initially and grudgingly agreed to let her errant mother come to eat the meal her daughter cooked for the two of them. Initially, Kazuko thought her friend wanted to share her lunch, which was a big meal even for her. Alas, Rei was a glutton, and Ichiko a glutton for punishment.
But eventually, Ichiko tolerated her mother's presence, and soon Kazuko and the rest of her classmates became very welcoming of Rei. In fact, they almost always looked forward to meeting her as the youths wanted to listen to her adult wisdom on how to please their lovers romantically and sexually. None, at least on the surface, gave any thought of what she really did back at her home. Many assumed that she was a lazy housewife with nothing better to do than to playfully bother her petite daughter.
"And that's why I know for certain that those so-called ideal housewives are running brothels behind their husbands' backs," Rei finished after she finished her meal. "Though I'm not sure how those men would react, though my guess is that they won't mind if they get in on the action. Or the money, whichever is more important."
"Mother," grumbled Ichiko.
"Of course, I'm too lazy and antisocial to do those kind of things."
Ichiko sighed. "Please don't believe her. She likes to make up these stories."
"Oh, don't worry," said Motoko. "They may be outrageous lies, but we love to listen to them."
"They're not lies!" Rei exclaimed. "If you only knew what lies behind every household, then--"
"You again!" cried the history teacher who liked mecha anime. "I thought I told you to not to come again without a pass!"
"Busted," grinned Rei. "Well, see you tomorrow!"
"Wait! Come back!"
Despite the teachers' eccentricities, they were very strict on who could be let in on school grounds, for each had the pride and arrogance that only they were chosen to exert their influence their students in their crucial moments of life--during school hours. Although some of them felt that they were chosen to "corrupt" them, which was in their view was the same thing as teaching.
Once again, Rei jumped out of the window in the same fashion as she entered, with the history teacher trying to catch her. The chase would continue on the school grounds for everyone to see. It was such entertainment that the students and even the teachers would drop what they were doing and watch the plucky student security and a few adult guards try to catch the slippery Rei as she gracefully jumped the wall and disappeared down the streets. To this day, she had not been caught, and a betting pool was building up for day she would be.
Ichiko was then scolded again, but the teachers and the staff would just forget about it and resume the normal day as if nothing happened. Admittedly, the appearance of Rei did brighten the day at this unique school that was now made more unique because of this.
Ichiko did not know why she allowed her mother to continue this for almost a month. She couldn't say no because Rei would throw tantrums and arrive drunk after school. Or perhaps she didn't want to say no. Then Ichiko realized that she still had to cook dinner for her mother.
Rei would not be waiting for Ichiko at the end of school, which was wise for she would immediately be apprehended if she did. Ichiko even requested this, but Rei countered that Ichiko should always return to her apartment immediately after school, not counting the days where attended her environmental club. On those days, Rei would always sneak back into school and give her input on the agenda at hand. Rei even became a regular chaperon on their field trips to clean up parks, beaches, and rural lands, albeit a terrible one as there were numerous occasions where not only she set bad examples, she sometimes put the students in mortal peril involving rabid animals, runaway exotic creatures, precarious cliffs, sharks, jellyfish, and biker gangs. Still, she was always asked to come because the club members always enjoyed her company.
Ichiko did mention to her dad that she would be spending a lot of time with Rei. Though Ken'ichi always approved, he did so with an uncomfortable wince that made his daughter worry, but nonetheless she was always anxious to arrive at Rei's house lest she caused trouble for others or herself.
When she came by today, almost the entire apartment was filled with boxes of videotapes.
"Check this out!" Rei cried. "The video store was dumping all their VHS tapes out in the back!"
"First it was old manga," said Ichiko. "Then it was obsolete computers. Now you have these tapes that have--wait, these are porn!"
"Throw them out."
"Or else I won't cook for you."
Grumbling, Rei performed most of the work of putting the boxes of videocassette pornography in the apartment complex's dumpster in plain view. Small scores of horny middle-aged men, teens, and a few dirty women began searching through for the rare gem, and a few, particularly the transsexual landlady (who was once a male) joked to Rei about being tied down by Ichiko.
"She's most certainly the perfect wife for you," grinned the landlady Akemi.
"Oh yes she is," winced Rei. "She's also the Goddess of Porn Destruction."
"Yet her appearance did indeed made your life better hasn't it?"
"I don't know. I was doing all right before she came around."
"Perhaps, but you weren't exactly happy and alive when you first moved here. You were, in some sense half dead."
And she was right. Rei may have lived, but she didn't live for herself.
"At the very least," she sighed, "I can get porn off of her computer."
But Rei had to be careful on how to browse on Ichiko's notebook computer, which used her cellular phone as a modem to connect to the Internet. She never really learned how to use a computer until Ichiko settled in her apartment as her "second home". Rei had the same excitement rush like a child when she used the computer, yet she had the flaws of a hormonal and perverted adult neophyte.
When she first used Ichiko's computer, Rei immediately went to the pornography sites, which through viruses called trojan horses immediately slowed the computer to a useless crawl. Ichiko, as usual, got angry, and since she was too embarrassed to take her computer to a repair store, she solicited the help of her younger brother Kenji and his friends who were surprisingly quite understandable about her situation and she was surprised to learn that they fix similar problems at the behest of their parents.
"In fact," said one of them, "my dad doesn't realize that my mom browses for porn on the home computer and vice versa. They have to thank separate user accounts for that."
They then gave her technical precautions on how to guard her computer against viruses and related nasties by using anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall programs, which went over her head. So they just handed her a pirated copy of a popular security suite for her to install on her notebook computer.
So she installed it with a set-it-and-forget-it mentality, but she did however made the occasional update and checked her hard drive to see if her mother had downloaded any porn, viruses or both. Unbeknownst to her, Rei was steadily learning how to cover her tracks by downloading all her content on something called a USB flash drive and clearing all her Internet search histories. Also, she began to distinguish between the free and virus-free porn sites and the bad ones that just recursively lead to top-ten sites with no actual content.
Eventually though, Ichiko, at one glance discovered her mother's habits, but decided not to act on it as it didn't compromise her computer. Rei still owed her for buying the USB flash drive.
Since Ichiko's semi-permanent arrival, the apartment was now much cleaner than usual, although the junk, most of which were porn and beer bottles, had to be thrown out. However, some porn remained after Rei convinced Ichiko that they were artistic and romantic, but Ichiko mostly approved the softcore lesbian ones, which raised an eyebrow for Rei.
Rei would have expected that Ichiko's computer would have a wallpaper of a handsome male pop artist or a buff beach boy in a speedo, but she ever saw was just anime girls, often with a pair of them in a suggestive embrace. There was nothing that was sexual implicit or explicit on Ichiko's computer, but then again she had another, a home-type, back at her real home. Ichiko never really talked about boys, even with her tomboyish friend Kazuko. Kazuko also made Ichiko look more suspicious.
So it was today during dinner that she decided to test her daughter's sexuality.
"Say Ichiko," Rei started. "What do you think of the boys at school?"
"What do you think of the boys at school?"
Ichiko blushed red and her heart began beating fast. "Oh! Um, I guess almost all of them are handsome given that they come prestigious families. They are nice, but they can be hormonal jerks when they're with one another--or when they're hitting you. But in the end they all mean well."
"Why do you ask?"
"You don't talk about such things when you're at school."
"Because you're there."
"I occasionally eavesdrop, and not once you and Kazuko talk about boys. Are you two lovers?"
"What? No! I told you before that Kazuko and I are best friends since childhood. She wouldn't have time due to her basketball schedule."
"I don't know. She always has that look that says, 'I wanna rape you so bad'."
"That's a disgusting thing to say!"
Ichiko quickly cleaned her plate and bowl and stood up.
"You'll be doing clean up because I'm leaving."
Ichiko grabbed her bag and hurried off home. Today wasn't the day that she would be doing her homework as she was too angry to be in her perverted mother's presence.
Once home, Michi tried to call back Ichiko back down for dinner.
"I'm not hungry," Ichiko said to her grandmother. Then she slammed the door shut in her room, and jumped onto the bed.
Mother's thinking the wrong things, said Ichiko. I'm not a lesbian.
Then she looked at the posters, the wallscrolls, the books, and the DVDs that prominently featured female protagonists who were known to have strong friendship with other girls, with some having overt lesbian relationships.
"Just because I like looking at girls doesn't mean I am one," Ichiko said to herself. "I'm not interested in any of them."
She sauntered off her bed and into the chair of her desk to turn on her computer. There, she navigated her way to a nest of folders and opened up the one that was password protected. In it contained digital pictures that were exclusively of pretty anime girls or women kissing, embracing, and having sex. It was nothing hardcore, and every few involved sexual toys of that sort. She would always have a pleasant arousal looking at the pictures, especially the ones where they rub their vulvae against each other for mutual and explosive orgasm. Ichiko would indeed get wet, but she never resorted to touching herself.
"Mother's a pervert," Ichiko winced. "And I'm no different."
Yet today she was close. She pulled up her skirt and but stopped when she heard her father and stepmother arguing just outside the door. She banged her hand at the bottom of the desk and covered her mouth to prevent screaming.
"She has been spending too much time with that woman," said Rin.
"She is her mother after all," said Ken'ichi.
"But too much is too much! She has been missing all the dinners, especially the ones where we eat together."
"So what you're really saying that you don't approve of Rei's influence."
"It's not just that I'm worried about. You do realize the hole that she lives in? Having a transsexual as a landlord for goodness sake."
"Rin, you do remember where I came from."
"You're different, and your father has changed for the better. Ken, you must make Ichiko stop."
"All right. I'll tell her this Friday when we're all together."
Ichiko remained quiet until she was sure that her parents were in their room. She pushed her skirt back to her legs and then closed all the images on her computer.
"I guess I should warn Rei," she said.
On the next day, Thursday, Ken'ichi reminded Ichiko, under Rin's watchful eyes, that she needed to be at the family dinner tomorrow.
"For sure," she added. "And Rei could take care of herself."
Ichiko headed off to school with a lot in her mind. She left her mother in an abrupt fashion and had to make to time apologize to her. But she also had another problem of not having made lunch for the two of them.
She arrived at the three-floor apartment complex ready to bang on Rei's door, but Rei anticipated her arrival and hugged her from behind.
"Good morning my little girl!" Rei greeted.
Ichiko lost her breath, and her heart was beating faster than usual due to Rei's inadvertent groping of her breasts. Ichiko broke free from her grasp and punched her own mother on the shoulder.
"Stop doing that!" Ichiko yelled.
"What? I'm not allowed to hug my own daughter?"
"Not in that way!"
"Not in that way?"
"I came all the way here to apologize for my abrupt leaving, and you ruined the mood!"
"Jeez, what has gotten into you?"
"Oh forget it!"
Ichiko marched away, but Rei pulled her back.
"Tell me what's wrong?" Rei asked.
"Then can we talk about this during lunch?"
"I'm sorry, but there won't be any."
"I didn't get a chance to make any."
"It isn't because of what I said last night, was it?"
"It's not! I was in a rush."
Rei snatched her schoolbag and peeked inside. "So you're telling the truth then."
Ichiko snatched her bag back. "We'll have to call off today."
"But you'll still cook dinner for me, right?"
Ichiko sighed. "My parents are thinking of forbidding me from seeing you."
"Do you have to listen to what they say?"
Ichiko sniffed. "I have to. Rei, I'm going to be late for school."
She then ran away.
"So it's back to Rei then," said Rei as she rubbed her shoulder. "Damn, she hits hard."
Ichiko stopped at the front gate to not only gather her breath, but the compose her sadness back inside her. She could not let her feelings get in the way of her schoolwork, and she could not let anyone worry about her.
But Kazuko was perceptive, and she moved right up to her during lunch period.
"You didn't bring any lunch?" she asked her.
"No," Ichiko replied.
"Did you have a fight with Rei?"
"It's nothing like that."
"It would seem like that you did."
"I guess it did. But we always make up sooner or later."
"And for the second question: what happened to your hand?"
Ichiko realized the bandage around the right hand in question, and quickly hid her blushing face.
"I hit it on the desk," she replied.
The decided to eat in the cafeteria, with Ichiko eating a light lunch and Kazuko eating what her single father cooked. Ichiko remained distracted in her thoughts throughout until her best friend poked her with her utensil.
"Um, Ichiko," said Kazuko. "Look to your right."
Ichiko turned and saw--in close proximity because she was sitting by the window--Rei with her face and breasts pressed against the glass.
"Ack!" Ichiko gagged.
Kazuko opened the window. "Good afternoon Miss Cero."
"It's Ichiko's mom!" cried a student.
"Hello everybody," said Rei. "Oh, and Ichiko, I brought a present."
Ichiko lit up upon the sight of the colored bag in Rei's hand. "You have?"
"But don't open it up until I'm done eating. Now, have you brought me food?"
"I told you earlier, I forgot to make lunch."
"What are you, my daughter? You're not supposed to slack like that. I guess I'll have to purchase some here. They'll allow me, right?"
Rei walked up to the counter, and then she came back backwards.
"Can you lend me some money?" Rei asked. "I don't want my fans to think that I'm a poor slut."
Grumbling, Ichiko slipped Rei enough bills for a large meal, or else Rei would throw a tantrum and ridicule on how her daughter was being so cheap.
"Either way, I get paid by your father," said Rei.
"If you only knew how to manage your finances better," said Ichiko.
"If you only knew how to masturbate properly, your hand would be in better shape."
Rei waltzed off to purchase her lunch.
"She's just joking!" Ichiko said to Kazuko. "I really did hit my hand on the desk."
"That's an excuse nerds say," said Rei as she came back with her tray full of food to sit with Ichiko and Kazuko. "She clearly was masturbating."
"So this is the source of all this commotion," said Sumiko as her clique marched closed behind her.
"Hello girl," Rei greeted.
"Hello Rei Cero. You attachment to your daughter never ceases to amaze me."
"I have to make sure she lands a rich husband so I can retire in luxury."
"Don't we all? Say, that is a nice ring. May I see it?"
Sumiko grabbed Rei's left hand and inspected the sunflower crest on the face of the ring with deep interest. She let go, and began walking off.
"I look forward to meeting you again Rei," she grinned.
"You too Sumiko," waved Rei.
Kazuko looked uncomfortable every time the ring was waved around in broad daylight, and was even more so when Sumiko looked at it.
"This food's okay," said Rei, eating. "But I wouldn't really know since I usually have cooks prepare it for me."
"Were you rich once?" asked Kazuko.
"Yeah, but I ran off due to my bitchy stepmom. Man, I could not put up another second with her."
"So is it possible that your she and your father are still alive."
"My father passed away when I was in my early teens, and I'm certain my stepmom is dead by now."
"You again!" cried the history teacher from the cafeteria entrance. "Now I got you now!"
"I guess you have to bail again," said Kazuko.
"Not quite," grinned Rei.
"I don't care if you are popular at this school," said the history teacher. "You're coming with me!"
Just then, Rei pulled the contents out of the bag, which happened to be a detailed model of a giant robot mecha from a children's show mounted on its own pedestal in a badass pose.
"Oh, that's a pity," said Rei. "Now I won't have a place to put this. I was going to put it in a trash since poor me have no room in my home."
"Wait that's a master grade 1/100 scale model of Great Destroyer Gunboy," said the teacher. "And it's beautifully hand painted!"
"So that's what this is? I bought it on a whim not knowing how valuable it is, but it really isn't. Well, I guess I'll--whoops!"
Pretending, Rei stumbled forward, which caused the model to shake and nearly tip from the base. The history teacher flinched every time it swayed until Rei finally regained her balance.
"I guess I'm clumsy with this," she giggled. "I know! Can you hold on to this until I figure out what to do with it?"
The teacher knew it was a bribe, but he could not resist not keeping the model for himself.
"Very well," he said. "I'll let you off this time, so..."
He took the model and walked off with a smile, and it was possible that he was muttering on how he could use it for his lessons--if he chose to use it.
"That..." said Ichiko, "was supposed to be my gift."
"I didn't say it was yours," said Rei. "It looks I'm done. There's a club meeting after school, correct?"
"I'll see you there. Bye for now."
Rei exited the way she came, and she disappeared as she waved goodbye to her fans.
"Ichiko," said Kazuko. "Have you ever asked where Rei got that ring from?"
"A couple of times," replied Ichiko. "She said it was a family heirloom."
"What's with the sigh?" asked Ichiko. "It almost sounds like you find something wrong with it."
"Well," began Kazuko. "Has your real mother been involved with the mob?"
"Not that I know of."
"I sure hope that ring she has was bought or at least stolen. You should tell her to stop wearing it when she goes to school again. Something tells me that someone who I shall not name openly will try to dig up your past or at the very least spread nasty rumors about you."
"I see then."
"Ichiko, please stop trying be so innocently naive about these things. Not everyone is who you want them to be."
For the rest of the day, Ichiko tried her best to put the idea that her biological mother was attributed to the mob. Rei always wore the Sunflower Crest Ring prominently like some trophy, and throughout the time Ichiko hung out with her there hadn't been any sudden visitations from the Yakuza and similar. Unless Rei was in hiding. Maybe that was the reason why Rei was barred from associating too closely with Ichiko and her family.
Then again, there were the secretive talks between her father and Rin... No! There had to be a better explanation for all this! But even bright and brilliant Ichiko could not think of one. Should she ask directly? Someday she would be forced to.
She attended the club meeting after school, but Rei didn't come. Instead, she was waiting at the front gate the whole time, and when Ichiko approached her neither said anything. Solemnly and without talking they headed to the second home that was the apartment. Rei watched television but did not laugh as usual. The volume was low, and it was too quiet for Ichiko to concentrate on her homework.
Ichiko cooked dinner at around the same time as usual, and the two ate it as if it was lacking.
"Something's different about this meal," remarked Rei.
"Hey, you're supposed to sass back. Say something like, 'I've always cooked it like this!' Or, 'My family likes my cooking!'"
"Really, you have to speak what's on your mind."
Ichiko looked towards her mother. "Were you part of the mob?"
"But the Sunflower Group has been destroyed after you were born. I'm the last of it."
"Surely there are other descendants."
"I'm the only one. I came back to the city looking for the operatives. Either they are dead or hiding under aliases. Actually, I'm not really the last of it."
"I must be."
Rei looked at her ring, and tried to pull it off. "I'll try not to flaunt this thing around anymore. Sure it gets me free food and sometimes cunnilingus, but I know for certain it would only embarrass you."
"It's all right because... we won't see each other anymore."
Ichiko sniffed, and soon she burst into tears.
"Hey now," said Rei. She went around the table to tightly embrace her daughter.
"I'm such an idiot!" Ichiko wailed. "I shouldn't have visited you back then! I wouldn't be feeling this in the first place!"
"Don't say that. At least you finally got to know your real mother."
"This is wrong! Who cares if you used to be a mob boss's daughter! You're still you!"
"Therein lies the problem. I still act as if I am one."
"Finish your food dear Ichiko. Before it gets cold."
Rei helped Ichiko eat. For some reason, the food tasted better.
Ichiko took her time packing, and took even longer to step out of the door.
"Think of it this way," said Rei, calmly. "I won't be a bother to you or your school."
"What if I still want to see you?" sniffed Ichiko.
"Ichiko, you don't you have to follow the orders of your parents all the time. Think of yourself for a change."
Rei lovingly kissed her daughter in the cheek. The tears stopped flowing.
"Now hurry home," said Rei. "You shouldn't worry your parents any longer."
Ichiko safely arrived. Again, she apologized to her grandmother and grandfather for arriving so late. She then did her usual shower and went to bed.
The next morning she prepared no lunch nor did she anticipated meeting her real mother. In fact, she just went right past the tri-level apartment complex and into school grounds.
Her somber mood made her somewhat oblivious to the fact that her classmates were acting strangely to her. People who were on friendly terms with her were doing everything to avoid her eyes and her presence. They talked to her less, and they talked in negative whispers behind her back. A few times during passing periods she was struck by wads of crumpled paper, and if not for Kazuko's defense she would have nearly been pushed down the stairs or tripped to the floor.
"Something is going on," said Ichiko.
Kazuko said nothing. She had been sticking by her since the strange alienation started, but she was reluctantly to tell the bad news.
At lunch, she wanted to greet the president and the vice president of the environmental club Motoko and Haruko, but they weren't too happy to see her. Haruko abruptly left without saying hello.
"There is something going on, is there president?" said Ichiko.
Motoko gulped. "Say, are you feeling all right?"
"Not really, but I can still work the city cleanup this Sunday."
"About that... Maybe you should take a break."
"But I feel fine!"
"Ichiko, I know you are a devoted member, but the other members seem to be scared of you for some reason."
Motoko pulled from his pocket a folded paper flyer and handed it to Ichiko. He then hurried off to meet up with Haruko.
The flyer printed in a black-and-white through a laser printer ran a headline that a daughter of an infamous mobster was attending the school by the name of Ichiko Nikkô of the Nikkô Syndicate. Names were named, including that of her grandfather Yoshiro, and the flyer detailed their crimes, most of which involved corruption in the local governments and businesses as well as a ring of prostitution, drugs, and illegal pirating of consumer goods.
"Who would do this to me?" Ichiko gasped.
"I have an idea," said Kazuko.
Ichiko followed her tall friend outside where Sumiko was sitting underneath a tree with her clique. She and her clique had stopped laughing and talking when Ichiko and Kazuko stood before them.
"Oh, hello," smiled Sumiko. "May I help you?"
"You were behind this, aren't you?" asked Kazuko.
"Now why would I do that? I am not one to spread rumor flyers and littering all over them place. In fact, we made an extra effort to clean them up off of school grounds. Haven't we guys?"
Sumiko's clique nodded in agreement. Then Kazuko pulled Sumiko off the ground by the collar.
"You're lying," Kazuko growled.
"Lying is too crass," said Sumiko. "Even if I did do this, what proof do you have?"
"Stop it you two!" Ichiko yelled.
"What's going on here?" cried the principal. "Miss Sakamoto, put Miss Kanno down."
Principal Yukiko Himawari and two teachers arrived to stop a situation from rising. She was carrying another copy of the flyer in her hands.
"I want you three to come with me to the office," said Himawari.
"But I wasn't responsible!" exclaimed Sumiko.
"I insist that you come."
Himawari usually had a relaxed attitude, and even when she was serious she still retained her motherly attitude. Sumiko, Kazuko, and Ichiko were then escorted to her personal office few had really seen, and to their surprise it was decorated with cuteness. There were shelves of bright and fuzzy stuffed animals, and one wall had all sorts of Sanrio paraphernalia, particularly from the Hello Kitty line.
The pink guest chairs were cute, although it was clearly made for little children, and that made it comfortable. Himawari's desk was pure white, and each desk accessory were also bought and collected from the Sanrio line. The only thing that could be mismatching to the office was the paperwork and the infamous flyer.
"Like Miss Nikkô," started Himawari, "I dislike the sight of fights over something trivially libelous. That is why Sakamoto and Kanno are brought here. Instigating trouble as well as prolonging it is just as bad as distributing these things."
"I'm telling you," said Sumiko, "I wasn't the one who did this! Ask my friends; we even picked them up and threw them in the trash."
"I will not discount your good deed and your testimony, but if you cared for Nikkô's well being you should have come to me. The same goes for you Sakamoto."
"I apologize," said Kazuko.
"Now please excuse us. I would like to talk to Nikkô alone."
Sumiko and Kazuko left the office. Then Himawari stood up from her wood-white desk chair and held one of her stuffed animals that were sitting on top of a shelf next to the window.
"Those allegations aren't true, are they Ichiko?" asked the principal.
"No they're not," replied Ichiko. "Actually, I really don't know."
Himawari sighed. "This school allows a lot of freedoms others don't have, particularly free speech. I dislike libel and slander, but I also dislike facts that put down people. A good number of the students, to be frank, are also sons and daughters of mob bosses, both former and active. I firmly believe that such facts does not determine in what they will become in future. It is my dream that they will become better people without having to follow in their parents' footsteps. This school was built to accept such wonderful students. I am sure that your father and grandfather was well aware of our hidden reputation."
"Anyway, I apologize if I made you worry. If you wish, I can excuse for the rest of the day."
"No principal! I have to..."
Then Ichiko remembered Rei giving her advice on not having to follow her parents' orders. Himawari wasn't exactly her parent, but surely she acted on her best interest.
"I think I'll do that," said Ichiko.
"That's good," said Himawari. "I'll ask your teachers to hand your homework to Kazuko. They'll take care of the rest."
"Will you tell my parents?"
"If you want me to."
"You'd rather not to."
"I won't tell. At least not now. I'll have the school take care of the problem as soon as possible. I'll keep you in touch."
Ichiko met up with a worried Kazuko in the hallway, and informed that she would be leaving.
"Are you going home?" asked Kazuko.
Ichiko nodded. "I'm sorry, but I'll have to miss your practice."
"It's all right. You should take a break from all this shit. I know for sure it was Sumiko."
"Please don't fault her. I just don't like it to see you guys like this."
"Sorry. Please take care."
Ichiko gathered her schoolbag and some books for her homework in her previous classes. The lone guard opened the gate for her and closed it locked when she stepped out. Not much chance for her to reenter since the guard was walking away, although she wouldn't want to put up with more abuse at the school.
Then she realized that she would be heading home early, and that would arouse suspicion to her grandmother who would be there. She could feign sickness, but she hated being dishonest. If she told Michi that she was let out, it was likely that even she would press more questions.
There was one last option, and that was for her to run to the tri-level apartment. She banged at the door hoping that she was there. She had to be. Rei wasn't known to work.
"Please," Ichiko cried.
"Huh?" Rei said.
Ichiko turned around and saw Rei dressed in a leather jacket, tight denim jeans, and American-style cowboy boots. The daughter then ran into her mother's bosom and embraced her.
"Is it true?" Ichiko asked. "Is my grandfather part of the mob?"
"Of course," replied Rei.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I thought you knew. Or you didn't ask. Did something happen at school?"
"Kettle black," said Rei, "those students are."
"Okay. We've made our decision. We're going on a field trip!"
Rei opened her apartment door only to put away her shopping bags. Taking Ichiko's hand, they boarded a bus at the bus stop, and with each transfer Ichiko realized where they were going.
They were now standing before the Nikkô Flower Shop, and when they entered, she recognized all the workers. There were three pretty middle-aged women by the name of Tsumi, Lala, and Koko, and one very tall and effeminate man named Frankie.
"Oh it's Ichiko!" Frankie greeted. "Welcome! And what are you doing here?"
"Yo Frankie," said Rei.
"Oh my goddesss... Rei!"
"You two know each other?" asked Ichiko. "Why do I even bother asking? I'm sure you two knew each other when you were kids."
"Of course Ichi-chan!"
"Here is a little secret," Rei smiled. "Frankie had a serious crush on your dad."
"Really?" asked Ichiko. "But..."
"Oh, I'm cool with Rei and Ken'ichi being together back then," said Frankie. "I should go and tell the boss--I mean the manager."
"You say my granddaughter's here?" boomed Yoshiro, who appeared wearing an apron with store logo on it. First he was smiling when he saw his granddaughter. Then his face turned serious when Rei was present.
"Oh," said Yoshiro. "Hello--"
"Rei," said Rei. "Just Rei Cero."
"Right. Frankie, could you take over for me."
"Right away sir!" acknowledged Frankie.
Yoshiro gestured Rei and Ichiko to follow him into the office, which was just as sweet smelling as the showroom and the messy warehouse section. This quaint yet small place was a place Ichiko frequented when she was younger, and even had a summer job on a few occasions. The workers were like her family, and the floors they cultivated and arranged were bestsellers. Being that they were a small business, their success was only modest and humble.
Prominent on the office wall were family pictures, but they were only of Ichiko's grandmother, her legal parents, her brother, and herself. There was also a thin vase on the desk that had a single sunflower stem that would expectedly be replaced in a couple of days due to natural age and withering.
Yoshiro served his guests tea, and sat on his desk chair with lots on his mind.
"I have heard you come back," said Yoshiro. "Through my son."
"I assure you that it was no coincidence," said Rei. "It just happened to be the cheapest and most accessible place in the city."
"And you are doing quite well I take it."
"Thanks to you."
"Um, grandfather," said Ichiko. "Something happened at my school. Someone spread flyers saying that I'm a granddaughter of a mob boss."
Yoshiro took a deep breath and sighed. "That is true. What did it say about the Nikkô Syndicate?"
From memory, Ichiko told him the supposed crimes the syndicate had committed, and Yoshiro nodded to each of them.
"Yes, we have done such things," he said. "And worse. That's why I left."
"Oh..." said Ichiko.
"Frankie used to be a boy toy for one of our enforces. Tsumi, Lala, and Koko used to be prostitutes. And I was a pretty ruthless boss myself. Then when Ken'ichi was born, I realized the depths of my fear I had for him. He would likely be inheriting my position even though my brother would attempt to usurp him. He was in danger, and so I forfeited my position so I could raise my son in an honest matter. I did not lose a finger by accident Ichiko. I severed it as a price for leaving the syndicate."
The electronic bell on the entrance door chimed. Yoshiro looked through the office window, which was also a one-way mirror. The three customers he saw come in looked unsavory despite wearing expensive suits and being well manicured.
"Again," muttered Yoshiro. "You two stay here. Especially you Rei."
"Gotcha," saluted Rei.
Yoshiro straightened himself as he stepped into the showroom floor. He immediately dismissed the three women, who were already hit on by an old man, and Frankie led them to warehouse.
"That man," said Ichiko. "He looks like grandfather. Is he is brother?"
"Yep," replied Rei. "That's Minoru Nikkô, Yoshiro's younger brother by one year. Also known as The Macabre."
Minoru was flanked from behind by two bodyguards who were a compromise of burliness and quick agility. They did not take off their dark sunglasses and stood by with their hands over their crotches. Minoru himself looked like a slicker and slimier version of Yoshiro. Just by looking at him Ichiko could understand why her grandfather declined to mention anything about him.
The two brothers hugged one another after an uneasy greeting.
"Flower shop doing well I take it," smiled Minoru. "Mind if I lend a helping hand?"
"No, I have things under control," said Yoshiro. "What's going on with the syndicate?"
"Bad times. We just recently executed a rat from the police. And there's the pesky Kurobara Gang making trouble for us. Bunch of young turks don't know respect."
"I am sorry to hear."
"Yeah, the times have been changing. That's why our men are thinking of ousting me for my ineffectiveness."
"The answer is still no."
"We really need you back Yoshiro. You had things together back then!"
A vase fell from its shelf. Minoru and Yoshiro turned and saw one of the guards bending over to attempt to pick it up.
"You fool!" Minoru cried. He gave one swift kick to the guard, but Yoshiro could see through the ruse. The other guard was inching towards a bucket filled with roses, but Yoshiro's glare prevented him from intentionally causing another accident.
"I am very sorry," said Minoru. "I'll make sure he receives his punishment."
"Sure," said Yoshiro.
"By the way, I heard from one of my men that your granddaughter was a victim of libel. Some jealous girl printed about a thousand or so copies and spread it all over her school."
"If you want me to," said Minoru. "We'll figure out who did this and teach them a lesson. You do realize some of daughters and sons and rival gangs."
"I already know. That's why I persuaded Ken'ichi to enroll her here."
"She won't be safe. Those rich kids have a knack of making parents get what they want."
"The school won't allow such thing."
"You may think you're protecting your family, but you're not. But I find you so hypocritical that you'd suddenly distance from your own flesh and blood. Your own brother!"
"I thought you were happy when you became the boss."
"But I'm not anymore. Yoshiro, please. You're all I got."
The office door burst open, and standing in the doorway was Rei.
"Who's this woman?" asked Minoru. "A new flame?"
"Rei, no," said Yoshiro.
Rei marched up to Minoru, who, just like Yoshiro, was a half a head shorter than her. With a seductive smile, she stroked his cheek and his chest. Then she headbutted him.
The bodyguards drew their guns, but now their boss was facedown on the floor with Rei's foot on his neck.
"He'll get his neck snapped before you fire," Rei said.
"Everyone!" Yoshiro cried. "Stop this immediately!"
Rei kicked Minoru up and held him by the collar.
"You bitch," growled Minoru. "How dare you--"
He gasped. His eyes were focused on the Sunflower Crest Ring Rei had in her hand.
"You," he said. "It's you! I thought we destroyed your kind!"
"No, you only killed my double," said Rei. "And with the help of your brother, it was covered up at the national level. Pretty shrewd of you spread those flyers to both discredit Yoshi's granddaughter and to coax him into coming back."
"You can't prove a thing."
"I know I can't. I just hit you because I don't like you."
Rei threw Minoru to the ground, and his two bodyguards ran to his aid.
"Let's not cause trouble in broad daylight," said Rei. "We wouldn't want to ruin your brother's shop would we?"
"Just what I would expect from the descendant of the Sunflower King," Minoru winced. "Let's go boys."
Minoru and his men left. Both Yoshiro and Rei and made sure that they went inside their white Cadillac sedan that drove off.
"Really, you didn't have to do that," said Yoshiro. "Eventually my brother would get tired and go home to his mistress."
"Am I hearing things right?" asked Rei. "Have you become pacifist?"
"If I have to set an example to my son and my grandchildren, then yes."
"If I were you, I would have grabbed Minoru by the balls until they turned purple, blue, and then dark green. They I'd say 'bitch go home!' Or something more eloquently."
Yoshiro smiled and chuckled. "I do miss the pleasure of being an enforcer."
"I can't believe you," said Ichiko.
Ichiko was now before them, with the flower shop workers behind her back. She marched up to Rei, and then held her hands in hers.
"Thank you," said Ichiko.
"Ah, it's no problem," said Rei. "I just wanted to protect you and your grandfather."
"Frankly, I was impressed."
"Ichiko," said Yoshiro. "I am really sorry about this.'
"Don't worry grandfather. I feel a lot better that I know the truth."
"But knowing that you're the granddaughter of a former mob boss..."
"You now I shouldn't let that determine the future. I am who I am. Your past shouldn't reflect upon me."
"I see. You are such a strong girl. I often worry that you're too naive and optimistic."
"I'll be fine grandfather. I know I will."
"This does call for a bit of a celebration. Frankie, take Ichiko and the girls for ice cream or something."
"Will do boss!" Frankie saluted. "I mean, manager."
"Boss... that sure brings back memories."
"Are you coming mother?" Ichiko asked.
"I'll catch up," said Rei.
Frankie led the Ichiko and rest of the workers out. Yoshiro put the closed sign up, and returned to the office procure something.
The old man and the woman hung out at the back for a while. Yoshiro lit up a cigarette from the pack that he locked deep in the confines of the desk drawer. He took a drag, and breathed a sigh of relief.
"You still smoke?" Rei asked.
"I quit," Yoshiro replied. "These are organic cigarettes. Not the modified ones the produced in America."
"Organic cigarettes. What will they think of next?"
"You didn't come here on behalf of your daughter. Was it that you want from me?"
"I don't want anything."
"Don't lie. Do want to take revenge on us taking Ichiko away from your? Or do you want revenge for destroying the Sunflower Group? I'll accept whatever punishment as long as it does not involve harming my family."
"Actually, I'm pretty glad that you destroyed my group. It was falling apart, and the bitch of my stepmother was losing sight of reality. Things never went right since my father died."
"The last Sunflower King. He was a good man, but it was too bad he had to take over when the group was on its last legs."
"I think he was a reluctant leader. Kind of like you in some ways, but he was too scared to do kind of thing you did."
"I'm just a coward running away."
"Even admitting to being a runaway coward takes insurmountable bravery."
Yoshiro chuckled again. "Man, it feels like I am talking to him right now."
"You know I was pissed at losing Ichiko. I even thought about exacting tenfold revenge against you."
The cigarette hovered before Yoshiro's mouth, and his eye towards the sinister grin on Rei.
"But what would Ichiko think of me if something had been done to father and grandfather?" she continued. "I was really happy to see her again."
Rei began walking towards the street.
"I just want to see my daughter," said Rei. "She's the only family I have left."
And then Rei joined Ichiko and the others for ice cream.
By now, his cigarette had fallen from his fingers, and put out by the impact to the ground and by time. Yoshiro was blinking and shook his head. He had instant moment that if provoked, Rei would have actually exacted bloody revenge him on his family, but even she was smart enough to restrain herself. Her coincidental appearance in the city could have been an act of cunning, but there was no way to politely tell her to leave. Yoshiro didn't have money to force her to move, nor did he have the mob connections to do so. He almost wished he were a mob boss again.
Then he fell back into reality, and realized that being a good father and grandfather of high morals was his true duty.
He and Ichiko came home at separate times and through separate methods so they would not arouse suspicion amongst the family members. It was Friday night, and it was a once-a-week time where all the family members were present.
They had their talks of what was going in their life, whether it be their work, school, the flower shop, or just the home. Everything was fine and normal as it could be. But Ichiko could see it in her stepmother's face that she was egging Ken'ichi to make his announcement.
Michi took Kenji upstairs for his bath, and with the rest of the family members cleaning up, Ken'ichi opened his mouth to pop his statement.
"Say, that Rei Cero has changed a lot," said Yoshiro.
"Father?" said Ken'ichi.
"I think our dear Ichiko should be able to visit her anytime she wants to. Heck, she can even sleep at her place if things get noisy here."
"What do you say Ichiko?"
"Really?" beamed Ichiko. "You'll let me be with her?"
"Well, let's see what the parents have to say."
He looked at Ken'ichi and Rin with somber eyes, and inferring from her looks they readily agreed by nodding.
"Thank you so much!"
Ichiko hugged her grandfather and kissed on the cheek. After finishing her chore duties she rushed upstairs so she could log on to her computer to chat with Rei, who held on to the laptop and Ichiko's cell phone.
"Father," said Ken'ichi.
"It's the right thing do," said Yoshiro, sitting down. "Nothing more."
Title: The Dawn Breeze
Petal 04 - The Dawn Breeze
Sunflower Academy down by two points against Chrysanthemum High with less than ten seconds to go. Six seconds had passed with Sunflower now at the ball. Kazuko received the basketball from her teammate, but she was at the other half of the court away from her teams designated net. From behind the center line she launched the ball with only two seconds left on the clock on the final quarter.
It went in! Sunflower had now secured a top spot in the prefectural tournament. The roar of cheers came from the fans on Sunflower's sides, and the cheerleaders ran to lovingly congratulate their team with hugs no less.
Sumiko was the first to hug their rookie star player, Kazuko. Kazuko, however, waded through her mostly female admirers to meet up with her dearest friend, Ichiko Nikkô.
"Good game," smiled Ichiko.
It was simple, but it was enough. Kazuko just wanted to hear her voice, even if they were just a few words.
She met up with Ichiko again after she changed into her jumpsuit. They walked together towards the school's buses trying to discuss the nuances of basketball, but even if Ichiko flubbed her lines and mixed up sports terms, it was still pleasant for them to be together like they always used to.
"Don't doubt the all-girl schools," said Kazuko. "I am surprised that Chrysanthemum have such powerful and tall players."
"You guys are just lucky!" said Ichiko.
Kazuko stopped, and right in front and very close to Ichiko.
"Is something wrong?"
"Why don't you consider trying out?" Kazuko asked.
"I can't. I'm not that tall."
"By the time next season arrives, you will be. Haven't you noticed Ichiko? You're still growing up."
"Considering that your mother is tall."
"Speaking of which," said Sumiko, when she stepped into their personal space, "your mother is hitting on the other team."
"What the hell?" grumbled Ichiko.
Sumiko grinned as she watched Ichiko marched up to entrance to the locker rooms, where outside the girls of the other team were blushing in embarrassment, and a few looking up and pining with starry eyes to Rei.
"That's right!" Rei continued on. "You can be as dyke as you want in the WNBA. I know of a female agent and a female player who share a very special bond."
Ichiko tugged Rei by the ear and dragged her off, during which she bowed in apology to the Chrysanthemum High's players. Then she said goodbye to Kazuko, and went off with her mother to the bus stop.
"You promised me that you'd be on your best behavior," growled Ichiko. "This is the fifth time you have done this!"
"Then don't allow me to go," said Rei.
"I don't have a choice. Father and grandfather say that I need an escort, and everyone is busy."
"Oh, I think it's something else. You're lonely without me."
Ichiko sighed. "Let's drop it and plan on what we're going to have for dinner."
Then the phone in her handbag rang.
"Oh, Ichiko," said Kazuko's voice. "I forgot to tell that the team and I are going to go out partying tonight since it's the end of the week. Are you up for it?"
Before Ichiko could formulate her response in her head, let alone open her mouth to answer, Rei snatched the phone and held it to her ears.
"We'd love to come!" Rei cried. "Ichiko has her full approval!"
"Is that you Rei? You can come as well."
"Thanks a lot girl! You're the best!"
Rei hung up the phone and tossed it over her head and into Ichiko's bag as if it was a basketball move.
"Damn it Rei!" Ichiko cried.
"Why are you so bummed? It just means you won't have to cook tonight."
"I have a project to do!"
"If it takes you three days to complete a project, then there is something wrong with your personal timekeeping. At least that's my opinion. Besides, we can't pass up this opportunity! They'll be food, karaoke, cute gals, and maybe cute guys if we run into them."
"You just don't want to pay for your fun."
"Oh, and you'll foot my part of my bill. Won't you my darling Ichiko?"
Ichiko made a grumbling "yes", but since she looked so cute when angry Rei embraced her with her bosom.
They took the bus to the busy Circle Street, a place of pedestrian-friendly shops and access to many bars and a few malls. Thirty minutes later, Ichiko and Rei met with Kazuko and most of the members of the Sunflower Academy basketball team dressed in their mid-priced street clothes. To their surprise, Sumiko and half of the cheerleading squad was with them as well, also in street clothes.
"I didn't realize you were coming," said Sumiko.
"Me too," observed Ichiko.
"Isn't this a large group," grinned Rei. "A large and sexy group if you ask me. Well then, since you girls are inexperienced, then I Rei Cero shall show around this wonderful city of ours."
"But we go here a lot of times," said a girl from the cheerleading squad.
"Oh. Didn't realize that. Then let me show you how to command the storeowners to give you sharp discounts. Come my pretty ladies!"
It was always fun when Rei was around, and like hens the group followed behind her smiling and giggling. Ichiko pulled up from behind, blushing in sheer embarrassment. She could have opted out, but she had to come and prevent her mother from causing further trouble.
"Hey, Ichiko," said Kazuko, who walked alongside her.
Kazuko was silent so she could make sure the rest of the girls, including Sumiko, were too engrossed in listening to Rei's stories.
"I hope your mother doesn't do anything illegal."
"I hope not," said Ichiko.
It had been months since the incident where libelous flyers accused Ichiko of being a granddaughter of a mob boss. Though true, the ostracism disappeared eventually when it gave way to another scandal concerning a high-profile divorce of a student's father and mother, which revealed that the father was secretly keeping a boy slave for his personal needs. Ichiko felt really bad for the student in question, but there was not much she can do since he was a third-year high school student she hardly knew about.
That worry gave rise to another worry concerning Sumiko. Almost her entire family had ties to the police, with her father the chief of police and her granduncle the district attorney. Beneath her trendy city-gal appearance, she had the capability of accessing highly secretive police files to finger criminal offenders of the perverted kind. It was said that she had a groundskeeper arrested for such a charge, but that was just a bobbing rumor.
Thus Ichiko had to bank on the fact that Sumiko Kanno would not be taken seriously due to her spoiled personality. Surely her parents would not give in to finding a way to arrest Ichiko and her family due to an unjust grudge. Ichiko had no personal hatred against Sumiko, but she often wondered why she had earned her ire.
Their evening of partying went on like other groups of young teens, and to their fortune they had an adult and cool chaperoned accompanying them. They shopped, they ate, and they played games at the arcade. They had a quick dance at a rave, and had an exciting karaoke moment.
In the middle of these moments, the group was almost always approached by a group of young men also out in the prowl for fun. Rei humored and teased them appropriately, and tired to ask one out until Ichiko told them that she was her mother. There were times that a rowdy group tried to force their hands on the girls' bodies on the street, but were swiftly slapped away by Rei herself.
"Who the hell are you?" one of them asked.
"For your information," said Rei. "I am... their pimp!"
The girls' mouths dropped, and Ichiko could be frothing angrily.
"That's right!" Rei exclaimed as she pulled two girls to her side. "You tryin' to cop a feel on my merchandise? That's gonna cost you. Oh, and don't forget the viewing fee. That'll also cost you. And there's also a boner fee. Some of you have one, so that's gonna cost you. I have to take care of my gals, because they'll get a jump on me if I don't. And with all those sex diseases floatin' around, it has gotten prohibitively expensive.
"By the looks of things, I think these guys are cheap bastards. What do you say?"
"Oh, they're cheap," grinned one of the cheerleaders.
"If they weren't," said a female basketball player, "they wouldn't be single, would they?"
"Now, despite you all being semi-burly handsome men," Rei grinned sinisterly, "we outnumber you all, and are at our physical peak. Plus, I used to be a daughter of a well-known mob boss and know enough martial arts to pull your balls through your anus and out of your mouth."
"Ah, forget it," said the leader of the young men. "This isn't worth it."
"What do you mean?" said his friend.
"We're out of her league."
When the men left, the girls cheered and embraced Rei as if she was one. As it turned out though, they also played along on having Rei as their pimp, and begged her to act as one again.
Ichiko wasn't too pleased. She just slapped her forehead in shame.
"She's quite unorthodox," said Sumiko. "And something as well. The Alpha Lesbian Effect is starting to work on me."
"Alpha Lesbian Effect?" asked Ichiko.
"You don't remember your own mother's lectures to us?"
"I'd rather not remember."
"It is something like this: given a woman of high position and power, even by appearance, she'll inevitably sexually attract other women, many of whom were normally straight."
"My mother is just a clown."
"She is one heck of a clown."
Sumiko then forced her way through the group and grabbed Rei's arm. Ichiko saw the eyes Sumiko had for Rei, and suddenly she felt her heart pounding sharply.
"Mother," said Ichiko. "We should get home. It's late."
"I have to escort these girls home," said Rei. "You can go ahead."
"I want you to take me home."
"I'll do that when I'm finished with them."
"I WANT TO GO HOME NOW!"
The smiling and laughter stopped, and now all eyes were on Ichiko.
"I hope I don't smell a mother complex going on," said Sumiko.
"No, it's nothing like that," said Ichiko. "I mean, I have this project to do and..."
"I'll take you home," said Kazuko. "It's on the way, right?"
"Statistically speaking," said Sumiko, "Miss Nikkô won't run into serious trouble."
"After that encounter with those perverts, we shouldn't take any chances."
"Oh, fine. I'll have Rei here take me home."
"Wait," said Ichiko.
"What now? You still need mommy to hold your hand?"
"I'll come along. I'll see everyone off."
Now, Ichiko initially thought that they were just going by bus route and seeing off each individual girl or at least a few at a time. Instead, however, Rei personally escorted them right in front of their house and gave them a kiss on the cheek after she retrieved their cell phone numbers. They all wanted the same after the first one, and so the process took many hours.
It formally ended with Sumiko, and standing by her large house made Ichiko and Kazuko nervous. It was made worse when Sumiko pretended to trip and fall into Rei, forcing the mother to wrap her arms around the girl.
"Thank you," said Sumiko. "You know, I could invite you in."
"No thanks," said Rei. "I have to take these two home."
"That's too bad."
Unlike the other girls, Sumiko was bold enough to kiss Rei on the cheek. Again, that made Ichiko's heart pound uncomfortably.
Kazuko was technically Rei's last stop, but no kisses were exchanged.
"I'm okay," said Kazuko. She stared at Ichiko, smiled, and waved a silent goodnight.
Ichiko had been yawning throughout the night, and with her movements so slow she acted as if she was a drunkard on the way home.
"You want me to carry you?" Rei asked.
"You'll do something inappropriate," said Ichiko.
"When I carry you on my back, I have no choice but to touch your butt."
At the corner, Ichiko let a big yawn. It was then Rei hoisted her daughter on her back, and carried her down the street.
They didn't go to Ichiko's house. Instead they were at the apartment, and Rei gently laid her on her bed.
"I'll be in the other room so you could change," said Rei.
Rei headed off, but a hand pulled her back.
"You need something?" Rei asked.
"I didn't know you were strong," said Ichiko.
Rei blushed. "I didn't know you were cute."
They let go, yet they remained smiling. Ichiko was too tired to change, so instead she just fell asleep in the bed too small to fit her mother.
Ichiko spent half the time in her house and Rei's apartment working on her homework, and focused primarily on her science project, which involved constructing a building-like structure from household materials that could withstand her teacher's "Air Gun of Ragnarök". Rei assisted Ichiko in her own orthodox fashion, and when Ichiko unveiled it on Monday, it was the only one left standing. That was, until the science teacher collapsed it with one chop of his hand.
Otherwise, her time at school couldn't have gone better. Sunflower was leading ahead in various sports tournaments, which meant that Kazuko was not able to spend more time with her best friend. Kazuko's Russian-Japanese coach compelled her and the rest of the team to leave time to watch "battle videos" of the opposing team. At the very least, she made up with the Environmental Club president and vice president Motoko and Haruko, and resumed her normal duties. In fact, she was offered a position of secretary since the last one had to quit due to conflicting scheduling.
After school, Ichiko could not wait to go over to Rei's to cook and merely occupy space, despite her becoming constantly annoyed by Rei's laziness and perverted antics.
Tuesday suddenly became different. Lunchtime was when Ichiko would eat alone with Rei on the roof of the school, but when fifteen minutes had passed Ichiko declared her mother to be late.
She stared eating alone, and during which she wandered about the fenced perimeter of the roof looking down at the school grounds. There were so many couples eating together in a love-like bliss, and it was still a ways until Valentine's Day. But underneath a cherry blossom tree she saw Sumiko eating and conversing with someone who appeared to be Rei. Ichiko shook her head. It must be someone else, someone who looked remarkably like her mother.
Alas, she lost her appetite already. Ichiko discarded the rest of her lunch, including Rei's uneaten share.
She plodded through the rest of the school day oscillating from concentration and into internal distraction. It was rare for her to do so, and she was partially aware of the laughs she received when the teachers called her back to attention--after they threw random objects to her head.
Ichiko then told Motoko and Haruko that she would not be attending the club meeting. She was not feeling well.
She then merged with the crowd as they herded their way past the school gate. Ichiko chose not to react to Rei's surprised emergence from her hiding, even when she outright groped her breasts.
"Usually you slap me," said Rei.
Ichiko turned around and stared up into her mother's eyes. "Where were you?"
"I was eating with that Sumiko chick."
"I made you lunch."
"I know. Sorry, but that Sumiko was pretty insistent. It's almost as if she'd blackmail me if I didn't eat with her."
"She is like that. Don't let her get to you, even if she is the chief's daughter."
"I assure you that will never happen."
"I am glad that you are honest. Now, shall we shop for ingredients for our next meal?"
It was always an embarrassing moment to shop with her mother at the local supermarket, for she kept on hitting on the male cashiers. But Ichiko had gotten used to it, and grudgingly she admitted that Rei's wiles with the married manager earned discounts on the food. It did seem that everyone liked her despite her suspected unsavory reputation, and it would not be a stretch that they all knew her. Ichiko had lost count on how many times people recognized her as Lady Lucifer.
The next day, Ichiko decided that she would be buying a small lunch at the school cafeteria, and expected Rei to be crawling in to dine in and entertain the students. That never happened. It was reported to her that she was eating lunch again with Sumiko again. Her performance in school suffered once more.
After classes, Rei surprised Ichiko again, but Ichiko pressed the issue regarding Sumiko.
"I don't see what's wrong with me seeing a younger girl," said Rei.
"You could get arrested," said Ichiko.
"I didn't commit any crimes... yet. Unless there were those I did when I was sleepwalking."
"I just want you to be careful."
"That should be something I should say to you my cutie."
Thursday came. For the third time, Ichiko ate alone, and even if she wasn't told so, she knew that Rei was eating with Sumiko. Sumiko, on the other hand, had been carrying herself quite proudly, and in her unusual three-day streak she did not belittle anyone, not even Ichiko. Even Ichiko began to admit that she was on her best behavior.
She had the muster to attend Thursday's Environmental Club meeting. Rei was honest, if not brutally so, and if Ichiko were to meet up with her she could get every information regarding what happened during the meeting. Today, Rei didn't attend, and universally the club members missed her.
"I say it is good for us," said Ichiko. "She won't interrupt us with her outrageous comments."
"I admit that does distract us," said Motoko, "but you do realize that your mother has some very keen insight. If not for her, we wouldn't had made the progress compared to the years before."
"What is she doing Ichiko?" asked Haruko.
"If I know her," said Ichiko, "she's probably fooling around the town or at home drunk."
"I sure hope she is feeling well for the park renovation," said Motoko. "We'd love to have her around."
Everyone loves Rei, Ichiko thought. She isn't that perfect of a person.
Upon the club meeting's end she immediately hurried to the apartment. The lights were on. Rei was home. Good.
"Ah, Rei!" cried a girl from the inside.
"It can't be," muttered Ichiko.
"Aren't you being a playful minx, eh Sumi-chan?" spoke Rei.
"Aw, stop that!" said the girl.
Ichiko turned the door handle. Locked. In her frustration she kicked open the door, and stepped into see both of them on all fours, with Rei on top of Sumiko.
"No worries," grinned Sumiko. "I still have my panties on."
"What were you doing?" Ichiko growled.
"I can explain," Rei said as she stood up. She couldn't explain, for Ichiko promptly punched her own mother in the face, upon which Rei flew into the next room. Shrieking, Sumiko ran to aid Rei and stop the bleeding on her nose.
"What are you doing?" Sumiko cried. "What's wrong with you?"
Sumiko was clearly crying over Rei, and the genuine tears made Ichiko even more furious. Then she started to cry, and to control her whimpering she paced out of the apartment.
She never wailed or hiccupped as she walked down the streets in the evening. A vacant phone booth provided a temporary solitary confinement for Ichiko when she slid inside. She struck her back against the side, noisily rattling hard enough for the lights inside to flicker. Then she slowly slid herself down to the ground and stared off into her projected nothingness.
Ichiko wiped her tears, and none followed. Minutes later she procured her cell phone and speed-dialed a specific number.
"Kazuko," said Ichiko. "Are you home?"
"I am about to leave practice."
"I'm heading over."
"My place or the school?"
"I'll call dad to tell him to expect company. See you soon."
"Yeah. See you."
When she hung up, her hand fell limp and the phone crashed onto the ground. Ichiko took one deep breath, and closed her eyes.
There, she saw the girl's lone sunflower with additional petals missing from before.
Title: The Twilight Breeze
Petal 05 - The Twilight Breeze
Kazuko never quite questioned or pried into why Rei stopped coming to school or why Ichiko had suddenly become very distant from her own biological mother. Yet she was happy, because Ichiko had gone to every late practice and game, and she even volunteered to be her own personal manager. Whether or not Ichiko was the cause, the Sunflower Academy's girls' basketball team was now at the top four in the semifinals.
Strangely, Ichiko became more social and made friends with the rest of the team and the cheerleaders. Even to Sumiko she was coldly cordial, and thus Ichiko treated her as if she was just a friendly stranger.
"I can see why you're happy," huffed Sumiko. "You're essentially dating our star player."
Ichiko merely smiled at the accusation, and it was frightening. "Yes I am," she had said.
They weren't really dating, per se, but Ichiko and Kazuko had been hanging out exclusively with each other, but considering exam schedules and tournaments, they could only make their best time at school and at Kazuko's house.
She loved the motherly company of Kazuki Sakamoto, Kazuko's beautifully handsome father who was so prone to effeminacy that he was accused of being gay, but he was also mistaken as a woman due to his long flowing brown hair. He did not mind, as he giggled in his vain flattery. He lived in a small house with his only daughter, the offspring of a wife who had succumbed to cancer when Kazuko was young. Though a single father, he carried the weight of the household by being a department store salesman and a homemaker. He would not allow his daughter to perform straining housework, and insisted on cooking, which to everyone who sampled his wares tasted very good. Numerous women had confessed their love to him, but he rejected them all because his late wife would be the only perfect woman for him for all eternity.
Ichiko never stepped into Rei's apartment since the incident. She had been going home right after school to eat with her grandparents and little brother, and spent more time with her father and stepmother, the latter of whom was well relieved that her legal daughter would not be hanging out in a dump of an apartment.
When asked about Rei after family dinner Friday night--when Kenji was sent off to bed--Ichiko put up a smile and replied:
"I just found out first hand that she was an unsavory whore."
"Language please Ichiko," said Michi, her grandmother.
"Certainly something had happen between you two," said Ken'ichi, her father.
"I say it was better late than never," exclaimed Rin, her stepmother. "Ichiko, we are your family right now, and it is our duty to nurture you against the nature Rei had left within you."
"Are you sure that is what you want?" asked Yoshiro, the grandfather.
"It is exactly what I want," said Ichiko, calmly. "Mother will have to live without relying on me."
Unfortunately, everyone realized that Ichiko could not hide the strain she was feeling in her heart. She would not let it out for everyone to see, and that was done quietly in the darkness of her own room as she slept. Or rather, she could not sleep.
Since that incident, Ichiko wept bitterly every night, and cursed her own mother for breaking her heart. She wanted to forget her. She needed to forget her. So on that Friday night, she reached for her cell phone to send a text message to the one and only best friend she could trust.
Ichiko felt nervous wearing makeup her stepmother happily helped apply, and since she wanted to dress nicely, Rin took her stepdaughter for a quick shop at the department store to buy expensive name-brand clothes of the latest label.
She didn't tell Rin that it was a date, but that what it was exactly. Ichiko waited alone at the bus stop in her best look, and soon enough Kazuko gallantly arrived in her tight blue jeans, a denim black jacket, and a t-shirt that accentuated her breasts. Her glazed hair was combed neatly to the left side, and her lips were coated with luscious read.
"Oh wow," said Ichiko. "You're wearing makeup."
"Well, I am still a girl," smiled Kazuko. "And you look pretty cute yourself."
Ichiko was more feminine, for she wore a long skirt and had pink lipstick.
On their general itinerary, they first went off to see a movie, but found out that the latest romance one was sold out. There happened to be many seats for a horror one, and not wanting to waste their moment they went and saw that.
Not realizing it, Ichiko still hated horror movies, and as she shrieked, she grabbed Kazuko's arms. She didn't even like the out-of-place nudity and sex. She was still clinging onto Kazuko's arm when they walked out.
"It wasn't even that scary," said Kazuko. "Ichiko, you said that you got over it."
"Don't apologize. You should have told me so and we could have walked out before the end."
"I don't like leaving the plot in my mind unresolved."
Second on their itinerary was lunch at a popular fast food restaurant, and though they sat at a far corner away from the rest of the customers they did not escape a trio of boys interested in them. Kazuko was flattered by their comments about her, but in her mind at least two of them weren't so flattering to Ichiko. They would not leave when told off, and so Kazuko took Ichiko's hand and went outside to finish their meal.
"Kazuko, that was really rude of you," said Ichiko.
"I just don't like the likes of those two looking at you like that," said Kazuko.
"They seemed pretty nice though."
"You know those types. And I have a feeling that they were over twenty."
"But you didn't have to go so far just to leave the restaurant. If Rei was here..."
And then Ichiko went silent.
"Maybe," said Ichiko, "we could have eaten at a classier restaurant."
"I don't know."
"Then let's do it at sundown before we go home. We must not waste every moment of our lives together!"
"You seem happy."
"I am because you're with me."
Ichiko suddenly shivered.
"Did I say something wrong?" asked Kazuko.
"No, you didn't," said Ichiko. "It just felt like someone was following us."
They looked and saw someone shorter than them ducking into an alleyway.
"Sumiko," winced Kazuko. "I should have known."
"You know something?"
"She did call me up yesterday for a date like this, but I declined as usual."
"Maybe we should invite her..."
Then Ichiko remembered sharply her transgression with Rei.
"You shouldn't," said Kazuko. "We need her to learn the extent of her punishment for treating you so badly."
"You're right," said Ichiko.
"But that should not let our date be dampened by things like that. Come Ichiko!"
Into the department stores they went with smiles and did their window-shopping. Originally they were going to buy some clothes they would pick out for each other, but their money was saved for the candlelit dinner at an expensive restaurant. They spent frugally as much as possible, and that involved spending little time at the arcades, watching street performers, and doing more window-shopping.
It became apparent that it was Sumiko following them, and she was not doing a too good job hiding her existence despite her effort in her disguise. Her hair was tied up underneath a baseball cap, and she wore large-rimmed glasses. Turns out that the glasses were prescription, and although Sumiko never wore them recently, she had since the end of middle school wore contacts and dyed her hair blond.
"She's definitely not like the rest of her family," said Kazuko as she and Ichiko were standing in the middle of the overpass walkway.
"It is a bother that she's around," said Ichiko.
"You are right though. It seems that we have no choice but to ditch her."
"Where do you suggest?"
"Although I thought of forgoing it, but I say we sing ourselves a beat by going to a karaoke booth."
"We may not have enough money for dinner."
"I know, but I think we can squeeze in by ordering one big dish the two of us can share."
"I suppose you're right."
Their smiles were put on once again, and with linked arms they marched into the karaoke booth rentals, which then shut Sumiko out right at the front entrance.
In their own personal booth for just the two of them, Ichiko and Kazuko sang all of the songs they knew well and some of the songs they did know together with laughter. Sometimes they went solo, but mostly they sang in duets. They ordered one round of snacks towards the end of their allotted time they purchased.
"It's really nice that we are able to do this," said Kazuko.
"Ichiko, you still won't consider joining the team? You know, that's fine. You can tag along as my personal manager or a helper for the team."
Ichiko looked away and sighed.
"Something must have happened between you and Rei."
"What are you talking about?" asked Ichiko.
"I can see it in your face. You've finally had it up with your mother."
"It was too good to be true."
"Considering her reputation of course. She will surely be missed."
"I hope so."
"At least you finally got to find out about her."
"I wish I hadn't."
"But I think you still not over her."
"I am over her! Will you drop it?"
Ichiko took a breath and calmed down.
"Sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to yell at you."
"I love you," said Kazuko.
"I said I love you."
"Oh. I love you too Kazuko."
"I don't mean it that way."
"I see. I am flattered though."
Ichiko felt her head pulled for a long kiss from Kazuko, and eventually she was laying on her back with her best friend on top of her.
"Kazuko, let's not do this."
"I know you still like girls Ichiko. I'm a girl too. How am I any different?"
"I just can't respond the same way towards you. You're my best friend."
"I don't want to be your best friend! I want to be your lover, and I want you to share your body with mine! I have loved you ever since we were children!"
"Kazuko stop. You're hurting me."
The booth door was kicked open, and to the girls' surprise Rei was standing breathing furiously with a bandage over her nose.
"Rei?" Kazuko said.
"Date's over," said Rei. She pulled Kazuko off her daughter and punched her hard in the stomach.
With a tight grip on her daughter's hand, Rei pulled Ichiko out of the building and was hurrying through the streets in a blurred pace. Ichiko wrestled to break free but the grip on her only got tighter.
Then she realized she was on the street where Rei's apartment was located. In no time they were back in the second home, which had now been riddled with a mess due to the lack of Ichiko being around. Rei locked the front door, and then shoved Ichiko down to the floor.
"I knew some shit like this would happen," said Rei as she moved towards the kitchen counter for the phone. "I'm calling your father, and then I'm calling that girl's father on what she had done."
That feeling of being followed, Ichiko realized, didn't come from the apparently jealous Sumiko. Rather, it was from Rei who skillfully evaded their senses.
But she didn't want to lay blame on anyone's personal desires, nor did she want to face the embarrassment coming down from her father and stepmother. Ichiko sprang up to her feet, jumped across the mess on the floor, and grabbed hold of the telephone receiver.
"Please don't call him!" Ichiko cried.
"I have to! It's his right to know!"
"I can handle this!"
"She's not the right friend for you!"
"That's our problem! Will you stop protecting me?"
"I'm not letting you get sullied by the likes of her!"
The two wrestled with the phone until the two slammed into the wall. Ichiko mustered all her strength to hold back her mother, and struck her hands to prevent her from snatching her cell phone from her pockets.
And then, Ichiko furiously thrusts her lips onto her own Rei's, and continued to do so which each kiss nearly suffocated each other. Ichiko held her weight against the woman on the wall, with her knee going up her crotch, her right hand on Rei's left shoulder, and her left hand furiously groping her right breast. She wanted to continue kissing as long as she wanted, which was forever. But she eventually realized that the person she was kissing was her own mother.
So she pushed herself away, shocked and utterly disgusted by her own sudden actions that Ichiko was crying.
"Mother," she wept. "I'm sorry!"
Ichiko grabbed her purse and ran as fast she could back to her house. She ignored her grandparents, parents, and her little brother so she could lock herself in her room. Discarding her purse, she threw herself on her bed and pulled her pillow to her face so it could absorb the profuse tears falling out of her eyes and the sound of her wails.
The sunflower in the girl has less than quarter of its petals left, and it was starting to whither...
Back at the apartment, a blushing Rei had eventually slid from standing down to the floor in a heavy state of shock. She brushed the tips of her fingers on her lips, and could feel the pink lipstick of her daughter's still lingering on her.
Title: Dawn\'s Light
Petal 06 - Dawn's Light
Ichiko did not change much out of her clothes since that day, for all she had done was wallow in her room curled underneath the covers of her bed. She ignored all cries of her family until she yelled out to them that she demanded utter loneliness. She refused all manner of food, but realistically she could not refuse water. Still, she would not allow her parents and grandparents to take advantage of that. By the grace and goodwill of her little brother whose room was next to hers, she requested that he transferred bottled water either through late night exchanges through the windows or by cracking open the door.
In her delirious lethargy she tried everything to forget about her mother, but even when she looked at pictures of naked girls or naked men she downloaded off her computer, the lovely image of her was still so fresh that she felt sick enough to throw up. Yet she didn't actually throw up, for she had no food in her stomach.
It's not right, she kept on repeating to herself. It's not right. I'm not supposed to be in love with my own mother. But who am I really in love with? Rei the unsavory woman, or Rei my mother? Mother or Rei?
"Hey sister," said Kenji.
Ichiko bolted up, and saw the shadow of her brother filling the bottom crack of her door. It was late at night, and she knew that a few days had passed. She also knew that that had now just missed a school day on Monday.
"Kenji," said Ichiko. "I'm sorry I put you up to this."
"It's all right," said her younger brother. "The female mind is quiet an interesting specimen, if you pardon my comments."
"Even I don't understand myself. How is everyone?"
"Still worried about you."
"Has anyone come and visited this house?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Kenji, please answer my question."
"None that I know of."
"Did you have an argument with someone?"
"You can say that?"
"Was it a girl?"
"And is she your girlfriend?"
Ichiko bit her lip. She was not expecting her young brother to be so direct, if not perceptive.
"I don't mind if you're a lesbian," said Kenji. "Just to let you know. I think it's wonderful that you do. Maybe you're tired of hearing this, or that you don't want to hear it, but you can't stay here forever. You're going to have to come out and apologize to your girlfriend sooner or later. You may break up but that doesn't mean you have to end it on a bad note. You may even be friends again."
"I guess you're right."
"Good. Judging by your growling stomach that keeps distracting me even up until now, I brought you some snacks for you to eat."
The snacks were shoved through the crack. They were breakfast bars.
"Thanks Kenji," said Ichiko.
"It's no problem."
"Please tell everyone I'm sorry. It hurts me to know that I am troubling them greatly."
"Oh, I think they know already."
She wasn't yet ready to come out, but at the very least she changed out of her clothes she wore from the date. It was now Wednesday morning, and she had accepted a regular breakfast cooked by her grandmother that she ate on her desk.
Yet even with her emotions settled, she was still not over the gross act she had committed, and even her lust for her own mother still lingered. It was frightening to her, yet she felt so eerily calm.
The window was being tapped at the outside, and Ichiko slid it open.
"Kenji," said Ichiko, "you don't have to give water to me this way anymore."
Kenji's window was closed. Then Ichiko felt a stick poking her breasts. She turned and was startled to see Rei, still with a bandaged nose, perched on a tree branch like a cat while holding a long stick in her hand.
"Yo," said Rei. Suddenly, she lost balance and slipped from the branch. She fell on her butt, and looked up to see her daughter looking down with an anxious face.
"What are you doing here?" Ichiko asked.
"I've come to talk to you," said Rei. "I know I'm not allowed inside, so I thought I'd sneak in. But I don't want to risk cracking my butt again, so instead I'll have you jump into my arms."
"I'm not going to!"
"I'm not dressed!"
"I won't drop you! I promise!"
She had enough hesitating. Otherwise Kenji and the rest of her family would discover a tall and strange woman standing in their yard. Ichiko timidly braved stepping out of the windowsill of the second floor and fell.
Rei cradled lovingly with a smile, and it made Ichiko's cheeks blush red and her heart flutter rapidly. But no! If she remained, the attraction would increase and the situation made worse. She slapped Rei, and Rei pulled her arms away, allowing her daughter to plop onto the ground, thereby hurting her butt on some rock.
"Damn it," grunted Ichiko as she rubbed her behind. "Why did you do that?"
"Are you trying to break my nose again?" Rei complained. "I come here for the second time and I get this shit?"
"You were here before?"
"Well, yeah. I walked right up to the front door to have a talk with you, but I couldn't get any further. I didn't like the way your stepmother was looking at me the entire time."
"Did you have to use the tree to get to me?"
"Either that or I storm in with guns blazin'."
"You have guns?"
Rei extended her hand out to her fallen daughter. Instead of taking it, Ichiko brushed it aside and got up on her own.
"I'm not as weak as I appear to be," Ichiko huffed.
"I'll say," said Rei as she touched the tip of her bandaged nose.
They walked the streets with distance and silence between them. Sometimes Ichiko was ahead, and sometimes it was Rei. Within them were the uneasy thoughts that formulated into the uneasy questions and statements they could say to one another if they mustered the courage.
They realized that they were at the beach, the sight of which excited Ichiko that ran onto the sands barefooted and dressed in her sweater and sweatpants. Rei kept her distance behind her as Ichiko stepped into the water.
"Cold," said Ichiko.
"It's still winter," said Rei.
No one was around, and it was the perfect time.
"I'm sorry," said Rei. "I didn't mean to upset you regarding Sumiko. It really was a misunderstanding, for I was showing her a takedown move she had not been trained with by her family. Really, she should have known that.
"Also, I apologize for interrupting your date with Kazuko. Maybe you could have handled it, but I felt a little overprotective... and jealous.
"But perhaps my true crime was seducing you in the first place. I guess overdid the Alpha Lesbian Effect."
Ichiko turned around. "It's not your fault!"
"It's not! I'm the one at fault because I am in love with you."
"You know that's wrong."
"I know it is! The feeling won't go away no matter what I do. I can't stop thinking of you. My heart beats fast for you. I get wet when I see you, and my nipples harden when I think of you. I can't stop touching myself when you're in my mind, and now they you're here with me... you're making me cry."
Ichiko fell to her knees with her face buried in her hands to wipe off the tears.
"Why does it have to be you?" wept Ichiko. "I wish I hadn't find out about our relation to each other."
"Then I shall leave," said Rei.
Ichiko sprang up and grabbed onto Rei's bosom.
"I don't want to leave you either!" Ichiko cried. "It'll only make it worse!"
"Then what should we do?" sniffed Rei, who was also beginning to cry.
"I am a rational being Rei. I can get over this if we work this out slowly. Admitting the problem is the first step, so now all we have to do is restrain ourselves both physically and mentally."
"It's not going to work."
"It will work! That is why you can't leave me, because I know I'll find you."
Rei wrapped her arms around her daughter and held her tighter.
"I don't want to leave either," said Rei. "That's the truth. That is because you're the only family I have left. That's why... that's why I keep bothering you."
"I don't care if you bother me every minute," said Ichiko. "I don't want you to leave. Never!"
Apologies were in order, and so on the same day after normal school hours, Rei and Ichiko dropped by at Kazuko's house where Kazuki greeted them at the front door.
"Whoa, you're one hot mama!" Rei cried.
"That's Kazuko's father," Ichiko corrected.
"He is? Marry me."
Kazuki giggled. "I am flattered, but my late wife is the only one for me, and that would betray her, my daughter, and me. Besides, I am seeing someone at the moment."
"Kazuko! Ichiko is here!"
Coming from the room was the tall and tomboyish Kazuko, but to Ichiko's surprise Sumiko accompanied her.
"Sumiko?" asked Ichiko.
"Well, we were friends," said Sumiko. "Kazuko had been feeling down since you ditched her, so I'm here to cheer her up. And to help her with her homework that you are sorely missing."
They decided to have their conversation at the park, and to their fortune it was empty since the sun was dipping down the horizon. No young children and their parents were present, and luckily there were no street gangs prowling about.
During their walk, Sumiko confirmed to Ichiko that the situation that she found her and Rei in was in fact true.
"That's the kind of move serial rapists like to use," said Sumiko. "I had your mother teach me that so that I can tell my older brother who is investigating such a case."
"But it's still a perverted takedown move."
"Well sorry! I thought you would have known since you hang out so much that you're practically girlfriends. Also, I wanted to apologize to you about the incident, and maybe to apologize for taking her away from her. I never chance thought because you're always shunning me off."
"Could that be why you were stalking me?"
"Of course! But you're also at fault at punching your own mother right in the face. I find that really appalling, and you should apologize to her right now if you haven't already."
"I will make a note of that."
"Oh, and before we forget..."
Sumiko rummaged through her bag and procured make-up schoolwork for Ichiko.
"Kazuko's been collecting that since that day," said Sumiko. "Please don't let it go to waste."
Ichiko and Kazuko sat at the ends of the same bench facing the playground and sandbox where Rei and Sumiko were happily conversing as they climbed the geodesic monkey bars. Five minutes had passed when they did not talk.
"I did not mean to do that Ichiko," said Kazuko. "I was very frustrated at that time... and horny."
"You're forgiven," said Ichiko.
"It's a good thing your mother came along."
"I could have handled it. I would have punched you just like what I did to Rei."
"I heard from Sumiko that it was painful."
"That incident was the reason I clung onto you. I wanted to forget about it."
"I suspected that it was the case, but no matter how much I convinced myself I was so happy that you were by my side. I do not mean to change the subject...
"Do you consider me to be beautiful?"
"You are a woman after all."
"I still do love you Ichiko, and I intend to win your love no matter what."
"You have a chance," said Ichiko, looking at Rei. "I'm not seeing any girl at the moment."
"Any girl huh? That is a relief."
"But I feel that we have to spend some time apart, a week maybe."
"We can still talk at school, and I can still assist in the basketball team. We just can't be intimate."
"That's impossible for me."
"Kazuko, you don't have to protect me from the world and make every decision for me. I can fight for myself."
Ichiko stood up. "I think that is the reason why I can't return your feelings."
"One week then..."
"Yes. One week."
Despite making up with her real mother, Ichiko did not resume her regular schedule to her apartment. Like a good daughter, she came right home to her parents' and grandparents' home, and had her dinner meals almost every night. To their relief, she resumed school and caught up with her schoolwork and her club duties.
But when her parents were out and when her grandparents and her brother sleeping at night, Ichiko, in her best street clothes--which wasn't too reserved or too whorish--climbed out of her bedroom window and descended through the use of a collapsible emergency ladder that could be purchased from the store. She cleverly used a branch cutter pole to put the ladder back into her room and close the window. On the method on how she would get back in--that was something she would have to figure out once she got back home before dawn.
She took the bus to the edge of the seedy red light district, which did not turn out to be full of crime. Instead, it just had drunkards, prostitutes, a couple of small groups of street gang members loitering about, and a few mob goons on the lookout. No one was on the lookout for Ichiko, but even though she seemed like easy prey she was confident that she could defend herself from all the training she received from her mother.
To see her mother waiting at the corner in her black leather jacket made her even more confident. Happily she ran to her, but did not embrace one another upon sight. The restraint they imposed on themselves still existed, but it was still not wrong for them to be together.
"Are you ready?" asked Rei, who had finally gotten out of bandage. She was fortunate that the punch she received fro her daughter did nothing to harm her beauty, and she used that incident to boast about Ichiko's strength and aggression.
"I am already used to going here," said Ichiko.
"Then let's have some fun."
The remaining petals of the girl's sunflower remained, but the stem was now bent and crooked.
Petal 07 - Deflower
She was struck at the head once. And then twice. At the third time she woke up in a confused daze, and Ichiko looked down to see three cartoony "super-deformed" versions of popular giant robots or mecha toys on the floor. The mecha-loving history teacher was fuming, and after a brief fit of laughter from the other students he finally resumed the lesson until the end of the class period.
Alas, Ichiko went back to sleep. Kazuko to her left sighed in exasperation, while Sumiko sitting at the head of the class rolled her eyes.
The three of them sat together during lunch in the classroom. Ichiko reviewed the notes Kazuko took down and while she ate the lunch cooked by her grandmother she furiously began completing her homework assigned to from previous class periods.
"There is a reason why they call it homework," said Sumiko.
"I don't want to waste a minute of my life," said Ichiko.
"So you can sleep in the evening and sneak out in the middle of midnight?"
"Sumiko!" snapped Kazuko.
"I'm not saying that she does this. I am merely giving fair warning of the rash of vigilantism happening the unsavory parts of our lovely city. I heard from my brothers that members of the local gangs and mob groups were found beaten up in the alleyways and their women--prostitutes most likely--vanishing in thin air. Not that I care for their lot. If you think about it though, it's al good for us since they would be policing their own rat hole."
"You can't really mean that."
"It is my opinion, even if it is wrong. Well anyway, my time limit is up for you guys. I have to meet my clique before they start to get suspicious."
"I think they already are."
"I'll be the judge of that."
Sumiko coolly waved goodbye as she left the classroom.
"How long has it been since Sumiko been hanging out with us?" Kazuko asked.
"More than a week," yawned Ichiko.
"I guess you are right about her still being friends with us, and it's almost as if we never broke up. Maybe I should apologize to her."
"She does not expect it."
"You're right. She has that kind of attitude handling such things, which I still don't like."
Ichiko yawned again.
"I really don't want to complain about you," said Kazuko, "and that's because you're still at the top of our class. But Ichiko, Sumiko and I are getting suspicious about you. Are you really sneaking out at night?"
Ichiko grinned. "Of course I am. I am a costumed crime fighter protecting our city from evil and bad womanizing from every damsel in distress to much success."
Kazuko chuckled. "You're kidding?"
"All right, all right, it's a joke. I admit though that even though you're still shorter you're starting to become like your mother Rei."
"I suppose I am."
"How is she doing anyway? We haven't seen her during lunch or after school. And your environmental club president and vice president say she stopped attending their excursions. Everyone misses her."
"Considering her reputation, she has a good reason to not come."
"I guess you're right."
Ichiko closed up her notebooks and books, and stuff them into her bag.
"I'm starting make good timing," she said. "Now I can sleep... In the next class."
Ichiko cleared off her desk and leaned forward to bury her head into her arms. She didn't fall asleep right away, for she felt a hand holding hers.
"I still love you," said Kazuko.
Ichiko sighed, and moved her eyes to her friend's face.
"Would you still love me if I was dating a different girl every night?"
"You know you would never do that. I know you. You're the purest girl I have ever laid my eyes on."
"You shouldn't love a monster like me."
"I'm the monster!"
"You could get corrupted."
"Then I'll become corrupted for you!"
"But you have so much going on for you. You're the star player of the team, everyone likes you, and after me you have the best grades. You also have to study to become a lawyer in college and there's your father to take care of."
"Ichiko, I'll give up everything for you. I am sure my father can take of himself."
Ichiko gently pushed her friend's hand away, and then she stood up to head over to the bathroom. She stopped at the doorway to say this:
"Another week then."
"I won't give up on you," said Kazuko.
"You know I don't like doing this to you."
"I am a patient woman."
When school ended, Ichiko nearly missed her Environmental Club. She politely rejected the secretary position offered by the president and vice president due to her own supposed problems at home, and the fact that every meeting since she made up with Rei she focuses solely on finishing her homework and sleeping intermittently.
This was the eighth time, and Motoko and Haruko had enough. When they adjourned their meeting, they took Ichiko aside as the rest of their members had been going home.
"I have been hearing from Kazuko that you have been staying up at night," said Motoko.
"Yeah," yawned Ichiko. "Fighting evil in the moonlight and winning love in the daylight is no cakewalk."
The club president and vice president looked at each other with uneasy frowns.
"We're not amused," said Haruko. "We appreciate you coming here every meeting, but if you don't stay awake and stop doing your homework you'll make our club look bad."
"Just as long as I do my volunteer work I should be well awake," said Ichiko.
"I find your change in behavior a bit appalling," said Motoko. "If you're not going to be serious about this, I may have to ask you to resign from the club."
"When my mother was here, she wasn't serious."
"True," said Haruko, "but at least she wasn't sleepy."
"And also," added Motoko, "you were there to keep her in line, kind of a yin-yang relationship. It has become apparent to the both of us her personality is manifesting within you, and there is no other 'Ichiko' to correct it."
"So you're saying that you can't function without my mother being around?" asked Ichiko. "You realize that she nearly got us killed once when she took for our drunk bus driver."
"No, I don't mean that. It's just you that's causing our current problem."
"In that case, I apologize for my behavior. I shall resign effective immediately."
"You didn't have to go that far," said Haruko. "Maybe you can take a break from your duties for a month, or join the club next year."
"You know Ichiko," said Motoko, "Haruko and I were planning on making you the president."
Ichiko wasn't too surprised. The president and vice president fawned over since her induction, and the very reason they had confronted her like this was that they really cared.
"I shouldn't really," said Ichiko. "There many second year students vying for the top positions."
"You are the most qualified," said Motoko.
"I am flattered, but I prefer to wait until I am in final year to become president. Chances are I'll be the school council president if I work hard enough. In any case, I'll take your advice and take a break."
"Even though it wouldn't be permanent, we'll miss you," said Haruko.
"Say hello to your mother for us, will you?" said Motoko.
"I will," grinned Ichiko.
Feigning normalcy, Ichiko went directly home and had dinner with her little brother and her grandparents. She had her shower and then pretended to do her already finished homework by sleeping for a few hours until everyone was asleep. At around 10:10 PM, she snuck out of the house through the front door all dressed up for another night out.
Such was not the case when Ichiko would meet her mother at the bus stop, for Rei decided to surprise her daughter at the corner of the street not far from the house. However, Ichiko had already spotted the long shadow of Rei cast by the street lamp, and continued to walk normally as if she had not seen her mother. Rei, however, got ready to pounce and hug her daughter, but she quickly prevented herself from doing so, knowing well that her breasts would rub onto her daughter's back and her neck. Ichiko stopped right there so she could turn towards her mother, who stood stupidly frozen as if she was trying to scare someone.
"You almost forgot," said Ichiko.
Rei finally moved and scratched the side of her head. "Yeah, I know. I'm not supposed to do that kind of thing since you have a fondness for boobs."
"That doesn't mean we still can't hug. On second that, we'd better not. Our breasts would rub. I mean, I'll get hot. I mean, let's just go."
Ichiko knew well that she really wasn't supposed to hang out with her mother, especially when the attraction was still residual. The very reason she was with her was because Rei in her street wisdom knew of many places that were secret, public, and in-between where women who have a romantic or sexual interest with other women would gather. And Rei, in all her responsibility, was obligated to have her daughter meet these women in order to wean off the attraction she held for her. Rei was quite open of her daughter's sexuality, for after all both liked beautiful creatures, and in particular it would be women. She wasn't too anxious about Ichiko meeting older women, some of whom were older than thirty years of age. Ichiko herself would not be allowed into such adult-only occasions without Rei's sponsorship and supervision. She only attended these meetings to look after her daughter. Plus, she would have some fun with the other women attracted to her.
"So are we going to the same place?" Ichiko asked when they waited for a taxi.
"We can't since those mob thugs were found beaten to near-death at that alleyway."
"I see. We'd better watch ourselves next time."
"It'll be at a mansion up north. The wife of a well-known businessman is holding a women-only party in the guise of a baby shower for her daughter."
"I hope her husband doesn't find out."
"Oh, he already knows. He won't tell though in exchange that she doesn't tell anyone outside of his frequent fling with foreign mistresses--some of which are actually cross dressers and transsexuals."
"The richer people are, the more their eccentricities show."
"It what makes live interesting."
The mansion they arrived in was a blend of western and eastern architectural styling. Ichiko and Rei's taxi rode around a roundabout surrounding a fountain and dropped them off at the front door. The cross-dressing maids in butler uniforms opened the doors, and a special announcement of their arrival was made especially for them although it was mostly done for Rei's sake and ego. Rei's appearance was always a sign that the party truly started, and the addition of her biological was a welcome addition, for Ichiko was viewed as a beautiful, budding, and coveted flower.
For this occasion, live music and dancing was offered in the cavernous dining hall, and special dancing shoes were offered for all guests so as not to dirty up the pristine white carpets, tatami mats, and the white marble tiles.
At that point of their entrance, Rei and Ichiko would immediately split up. Then, two groups of women would gravitate towards them. Rei would entertain her group of younger women with dirty jokes and exaggerated stories of her exploits, and in contrast Ichiko would discuss with the older and more powerful women about her political ideals and her thoughts of the nation's role in the world stage, particularly in her strong views in protecting the world's environment. It was fortunate for her that Rei had introduced her to such women, many who had connections to the country's government and major business conglomerates through their husbands, relatives, clients, and constituents. Half at least assured Ichiko that her wishes for a better world would be brought to the people in power, but even Ichiko knew well that it would come to fruit. Still though, Ichiko had to keep trying for someday her ideals might pass through.
Despite being fifteen turning sixteen, Ichiko carried herself like an adult, and even had the intelligence that surpassed at least half the party guests twice or three times her age in the various gatherings she attended. All the women knew about her age and relation to her mother, but it did not prevent them in courting her, and in some instances grope her discreetly. Not once though did Rei come to her rescue, because Ichiko insisted that she should keep her distance. "I can defend myself, thank you very much," Ichiko had said. Then she remembered that she said a similar thing before to her estranged best friend.
She was often asked out to dance, and inevitably asked out on dates that she agreed to on occasion. A few professed their love for her, and unfortunately for them she would smile in a flattery and thank them for their honesty. She would then say to them that the feeling was mutual, and Rei had often stated that her daughter was such a blunt heart breaker.
"I still haven't broken many hearts than you have," Ichiko said to Rei.
"True though," winced Rei. "I guess mine is double since a lot of boys are after me and my boobs."
Despite Rei's best efforts, Ichiko wasn't happy. Was it because she had not found the perfect woman for herself? Was Rei too imposing? Or is it that she was still attracted to her own mother? In truth, Ichiko forced herself to attend these women-only gatherings so she could forget her forbidden lust, but with Rei so close it was becoming impossible. Even if she wasn't present, the feeling would still linger almost dangerously. She was worried, and she wondered if she should date boys instead of girls.
With her throat so parched from talking, Ichiko retreated to a bar for a glass of juice. As she drank, she noticed a sad woman sitting at the end, and in her pity she shuffled over to comfort her.
"Are you okay miss?" Ichiko asked.
The woman sighed. "I'm still not over her."
"I guess we're in the same boat. I'm not over the woman I'm in love with, but I can't be with her due to great barrier separating us."
"Indeed. Mine dumped me because she was getting to some rich man. The gall of her. She said that we'd be together forever. We stuck it out since high school!"
"I don't think we have talked yet. My name is Ichiko Nikkô."
The woman lifted her head and faced Ichiko with utter shock.
"Is something wrong ma'am."
"Ah, no! It's nothing! Will you excuse me?"
"Yo Yukiko!" Rei called out.
"Fancy seeing you here. I thought you dropped off the face of the planet since your breakup."
"Technically I didn't since I am a public figure. It's just that I wanted to meet someone, but instead I see my own student here."
"Yukiko..." said Ichiko. "Principal Himawari?"
"Hello Ichiko," said Himawari.
Ichiko completely didn't recognize her. Her hair was a different color, and she had on makeup and clothing that contrasted her reserved look at Sunflower Academy. Then again, Ichiko didn't exactly see the Principal on a daily basis, and it was likely she washed off the reddish dye beforehand to reveal her dark hair.
"Let me guess," frowned Ichiko. "You knew her since you were kids."
"Of course not," said Rei. "We met in a gathering like this a few years ago."
"And what exactly did you do with them?"
"Nothing! Okay, so I helped make a sex video of them."
"Sachiko!" whined Himawari. "Why do you do this to me?"
"Surely you didn't watch that video over and over when she got married."
Himawari sniffed. "I have."
"If you want, I can hand my daughter over to you."
"No, you can't," said Himawari. "It's improper for me to have relations with a student."
"This is a private gathering Yukiko, and you and Ichiko know this. You have to throw out your public personas and have fun with one another."
"But this is your own daughter you're talking about. I'm just as old as you."
"I don't mind having a daughter-in-law the same age as me. Ichiko, you should ask the woman for a dance. That way, you'll get to know the real Yukiko."
"Um, okay," said Ichiko.
Taking her principal's hand, Ichiko led Himawari to the dance floor where there was enough space for two of them to slow dance in their world to the sounds of half-disco ballads. Nervously they held one another, hands and bosoms and all.
"Principal," said Ichiko.
"Just call me Yukiko."
"Okay. Are you doing okay?"
"I want to do all that I can to make you feel better."
"You don't have to push yourself dear Ichiko."
"I am really sorry that you broke up. When did it happen?"
"Before you entered high school."
"You didn't look depressed whenever I saw you."
"I hid it well, for despite my orientation I had obligation to take care of the students. It was the responsibility handed over from the one who founded the school. I am in debt to his never-ending charity that continues even after his death. That man happens to be your grandfather. As in, Rei's mother."
"My grandfather founded the school?"
Himawari nodded. "It was his best intention to have a school where students are not encumbered by familial reputation and lineages. I found it ironic that you entered, though at first I did not believe Rei had a daughter like yourself."
"Then my father and grandfather had their best intentions when they enrolled me here."
"I believe their reason was selfish on their part since they cannot erase their ties to the syndicate, but in the end they did it for you."
"Then perhaps my mother moving here was no coincidence."
"Perhaps, but when I met her she carried a heavy weight of sadness behind her facade. She may get along with everyone, and she may be universally loved, but your mother is very lonely."
"She has been traveling a lot, but I don't know where she had gone ever since she left me in my father's hands."
"She is still a mysterious woman. If I hadn't been so into my lover, I might have fallen for her. Speaking of which, do I happen to know the person you're trying to get over?"
"I think you know."
"So it's Kazuko then. You two were quite close."
"You two do look perfect."
"I just can't explain it, but I feel that I feel so smothered when I am around her. Maybe that's why I can't return her feelings."
"I am sorry to say."
"I have to confess that I had a crush on you when I first saw you."
"I didn't know."
"And if you don't mind, I'd like to ask you out for a date."
"I don't mind."
Himawari hugged Ichiko tighter. "I think I'm falling for you."
Ichiko heard it many times from a different woman during past parties and dances, all of which she turned down in the end. She had to follow through though, in order to give Himawari a chance, and to give herself another chance at a new potential lover.
They continued their slow dance into the night, and it was then she saw Rei's sad eyes gleaming back at her. Rei looked away ashamedly, and asked the female bartender for another drink that she began drinking down. She was looking pale, lifeless even, and she brushed away all the young women who tried to talk to her.
It was too much for Ichiko to bear. Suddenly, but gently, she pushed Himawari away.
"I am sorry Principal," said Ichiko. "I don't think it'll work out."
"I see. It probably isn't a good idea anyway."
"At least I got to know you better, and I don't mind if we just became friends."
"That would be sufficient."
"I have to go home now, and you should too considering we both have school tomorrow."
"You are right about that. I still have to set an example for the students."
"I will see you then."
Ichiko swiftly flew over to the bar and tapped the shoulder of a resting Rei.
"I want to go home," said Ichiko.
"Did something happen?" Rei asked. "Did she touch you inappropriately? Or asked for sex?"
"It's none of the above. I just want to go home."
"Go on ahead."
"I want to go home with you."
Rei blinked. "Okay."
Taking their purses and their shoes, they boarded a waiting taxi and head back to their neighborhood. As they got off though, the pace of their walking was slow, and the distance between them, however short, was too far in their hearts.
"At the very least you can fake being happy and perverted," said Ichiko. "Maybe even get drunk off your ass."
"What do you mean?" asked Rei.
"You know what I mean. You looked pathetic back there."
"What do you expect? My daughter is growing up, right? A parent, especially a mother, is bound to be sad when they are to be taken away by their significant other."
Ichiko stopped and turned around.
"You've been acting this way since we started this thing."
"Not initially though."
"If you're not going to enjoy this through and through then don't bother coming with me. I can get into those gatherings by myself. As a matter of fact, I'm considering dropping it all together and become a normal straight girl by dating boys."
"I know I wouldn't, because what I'm really doing is threatening you. Mother, I don't like seeing you like this. You're not shedding tears of joy because I am growing up. You're only sad because you don't want to let me go."
Rei turned away, but she cannot take off her eyes from her daughter's face.
"The truth is mother, I miss those times we shared in that apartment, even if you were perverse slob. I had a sense of purpose. No, it was a love from me when we were together. I want to return to that time."
"Ichiko," said Rei, "that's the very thing we're trying to avoid."
"I know, but I know I can fight the attraction. I am a rational being."
"You keep saying that Ichiko, but it's impossible to rationalize everything. The truth is that both of us are irrational monkeys. Sooner or later we are going to cross the line. Are you prepared for that consequence?"
Ichiko kept silent.
"Good. Wow, the way we talked felt like we were going into a battle something."
"Doesn't really match the mood."
"In any case bring your computer back when you visit. I have to catch up with all the porn videos I have missed. Don't worry though; it'll go on in my USB keychain thing. Oh, and bring some snacks. And some cleaning supplies."
"I'm coming back for that?"
"Hey you wanted to."
"Okay, okay, I'll try to get what I can for tomorrow. I guess I can bring my anime video discs there when I got bored."
"Not anime again! You've seen that New Era thing like two times."
"I have, but you haven't."
"Of course I have!"
"Then do you remember all the girls who had crushes on the main characters?"
"I can name a few... but that's geek knowledge!"
"If I have to put with you, you have to put with me."
"Don't whine! Now go home and clean your place up for my arrival, but why do I bother telling you this? You'll just fall asleep instead, and I end up doing the majority of the work."
"Well, I'll see you."
Ichiko walked off, but sensed that her mother was still steps behind her. She turned around and faced a somber Rei instead of the happy Rei.
"Did I forget something?" Ichiko asked.
All of a sudden, Rei drew her into a tight intimate hug that increased her heartbeat tenfold. Rei was essentially sniffing up Ichiko's being from her hair, neck, her shoulders, and her breasts collided with her daughter's. Ichiko was blushing. She could smell her mother, which was sweet and addicting. Her mother's knee was up her groin, as was Ichiko's knee up her mother's. She was becoming wet, but slowly though, and though they shouldn't have done this, she wanted to prolong the embrace by gripping her mother's shoulders and back.
Eventually they snapped back into reality, and after separating smiled uneasily at the awkwardness of their hug.
"Sorry," said Rei. "I shouldn't have done that."
"Spur of the moment thing?"
"Yeah. Um, I guess I'll go now."
Resuming her regular visit to her mother meant that she didn't have to do her homework in class or right after school. Since that also meant she had dropped all her attendance to the women-only gatherings in various parts of the city, she didn't have to resort to sleeping right after dinner or sleeping during school.
Rei visited her daughter at school sporadically, but not enough to make it a full return. Ichiko didn't even resume her environmental club duties even though Motoko and Haruko insisted on the account of Rei. Ichiko was now acting normally, yet happier.
But she had become somewhat of a truant to her own family. Almost everyday she did not eat with her parents during dinner, and often times during breakfast, including on weekends. On the questions to where she was going, she replied truthfully, albeit brusquely, that she was visiting her real mother.
It became more distressing to her stepmother, Rin. On one Saturday, she wanted to go shopping at the eastern part of the city with Ichiko and no one else.
"I have been planning this for so long," said Rin. "This may not come again given the amount of work piling up on me."
"Sorry, but I don't think I can go."
Rin's face twitched, but forced herself to keep her smile. "Oh, I see. You're going to that woman's apartment again."
"She has a name, and she's my mother."
"But I'm your mother now!"
"I'm sorry, but shopping just to spend money on corporate greed no longer interest me. I'm going now."
Right as Ichiko left the house's premises, Rin would sometimes throw herself into fit, and just once she shattered a vase against the wall. She voiced her complaints to Ken'ichi and her grandparents-in-law, but in reality they could do nothing but say that Ichiko was growing up. Even after calling her own stepdaughter and ungrateful ingrate, she continued her attempts to befriend her.
It did hurt Ichiko knowing that she was causing distress to her stepmother, but at least she was assured by the fact that Kenji was now keeping Rin company considering that he was biologically her son. Her little brother still had no idea that her older sister was only half-related to her, but she began to have some thoughts that he had already found out but had kept his mouth shut for the sake of the family.
Currently her only desire was to see her mother, and such a desire was strong ever since the revisits resumed. The plan for today, besides making lunch and dinner, was to watch all thirteen episodes of an anime called Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito, roughly translated to The Traveler of Darkness, Hats, and Books. They used a second hand LCD TV Rei had finally managed to buy using Ken'ichi's money combined with Ichiko's allowance money.
While Ichiko watched the program intently, Rei slept through most of it save for an infamous masturbation scene and the sad kiss in the end. At the very least, she understood the general plot of the anime and thought it sucked based on the fact that main character, a girl, doesn't quite get the girl, who is an immortal deity.
"Getting her virgin-pregnant by her lover to give birth to her lover is a fucking cop-out," remarked Rei.
"You do have to consider the audience they are making this for," said Ichiko.
"Horny fanboys and whatnot. That last one, Somethingzuki no Miko wasn't all too pleasing."
"You weren't awake after the end credits. I keep telling you that they do reunite in the end."
"All these lesbian anime are a bore. Now the Angel of Depression series is awesome."
"Then why didn't you insist on watching that instead?"
"We already seen it again! And every time we see it you'll always burst into sappy tears, and I end up having to comfort you--without groping you.
"Ah jeez. Watching Yamisomething is gonna have my head spinning if I don't get something to drink. I mean, is that girl gonna shag her own daughter when she grows up?"
The two looked at each other silently, and then turned away in embarrassment.
"Um, in any case, I'm going to start up the shower. You wanna go in first?"
"You go. I'll, um, begin preparing dinner."
Within the limited space of the apartment home, Ichiko and Rei went their separate ways, with the former arranging the kitchen and starting the oven, and Rei stripping herself in the bedroom not so far off. She had bought a bead curtain to replace the door Ichiko destroyed when she punched her mother, but it did nothing to obscure her beautiful silhouette Ichiko could not take her eyes off.
"Are you in the bathroom now?" Ichiko yelled.
"Okay. I'm going into the room to wait."
She left the pot on the on the burner, and went in the room to sit in the bed to wait. It should have been wiser for her to just wait in the living room, but she couldn't move from her spot. Ichiko remained only to listen to the shower falling in the bathtub, and imagining the beads of water rolling over Rei's perfect-smooth curves, particularly her breasts onto her nipples, and down across her butt. Her hair would be drenched, and she would be exhaling as if she was in ecstasy.
Ichiko was already wet in her panties, and her nipples were hard. Her arms wrapped around her own body in her attempt to restrain her own illicit thoughts of her mother, and it was closer in becoming useless. She had to fight it off, just for another day, just like all the days before.
I shouldn't even be here, Ichiko thought.
Ichiko looked up, and her mother loomed over drenched, but with a robe loosely covering her.
"The shower's all yours."
Ichiko nodded. She got off the bed and began taking of her clothes right down to her underwear. She could feel her mother staring at her, stunned maybe, at her nubile body, and yet neither did nothing to avoid each other's presence.
"Mother," said Ichiko. "I need help."
Ichiko faced away, and allowed her mother to unhook her bra. She then covered her breasts, and slowly turned around.
I just need to get past her. It's all I need to do.
"You want me to move?" Rei asked.
Ichiko stared up to her mother, and the two were now frozen in their moment. Taking one step forward, Ichiko craned her mother's head down and locked her lips with her. Their tongues wrestled, their hands moved across their backs and down to their butts, and their naked breasts cushioned one another as they moved towards the bed.
Ichiko was on her back, and her mother continued to kiss her and fondle her left breast. Ichiko mustered all her strength to push her away, and stare in her desperate eyes.
"You don't have to satisfy me just to make me happy," said Ichiko.
"What if I want to do this?" asked Rei. "So that I can be happy."
"I won't forgive you if you hold back."
Rei pressed her body onto Ichiko so that their breasts wrestled with one another, and resumed kissing. A minute of making out had passed. Rei threw off her robe and pulled the panties of Ichiko's body. With no space on the bed to do proper cunnilingus, Rei propped Ichiko up so that she was on her shoulders and that her vulva and legs were in the air. Her butt was now comfortably resting on Rei's breasts, and Rei proceeded to lick and suck the entirety of Ichiko's labia and clitoris. Ichiko wailed, and thrashed within herself in all her pleasurable trembling. She rubbed her own breasts to increase the overall pleasure in her own body, but she wanted Rei's hand to touch her. She forced at least one onto her breasts, and finally smiled.
Rei eventually finished, and she scooted back to spread her legs for Ichiko to see.
"Now you do me," said Rei. "It's just like those videos we saw--and those anime lesbian pictures."
Ichiko nodded. She bent over and began licking.
"That's good!" Rei moaned. "It's perfect!"
Sometime in her midst of pleasing Rei's vagina with her tongue, Ichiko thought, deep in the back of her head, that this was where she came from, for there was no sign of cesarean scars on Rei's pure body. The place of her origin, she soon realized, was the most beautiful sight, and she sensually devoured it with gusto.
Just like how she came into Rei's mouth, Rei also came similarly into Ichiko's mouth. She scooped up every thread of her ejaculate into her mouth before she shared it with Rei in one long sloppy kiss. Then Ichiko spun Rei and pounced her onto her back on the bed, where she proceeded to suck at each of her breast and her nipples.
This is where she fed me from, Ichiko thought. She did not bite, as it would be improper, but she used her tongue to give it a proper cleaning as well as pleasure. Rei did not lactate on the spot, fortunately, and Ichiko was grown up enough to survive without the life-giving milk her mother bestowed on her.
Amidst heavy kissing, the two sat up, and then they wrapped their legs around each other in a way that their vulvas and their breasts were pressed against one another. Tightly they held each other, and their kissing continued as they began their final stages of their lovemaking where they would come together by rubbing their vaginas in mutual pleasure.
They kept on humping, and soon Rei's back against the wall to absorb the shock for Ichiko. Even as they kissed they continued to stare deeply into each other's moaning and pleasuring faces, and did not want to break eye contact lest they lose intimate sight of each other. Both knew what they were doing was wrong in the society at large, and yet they couldn't stop. Or rather, they did not want to stop. The relationship between mother and daughter and girlfriend and girlfriend were dissolved into each other, and the two individuals who were once one body became one again after years of separation.
"Don't ever leave me again!" Rei moaned.
"I love you so much!"
"I love you too Rei... mother!"
And finally they ejaculated into one another in unified cry. The continued kissing as they slowly fell onto to the bed with their bodies still in full contact. Then they allowed themselves to stare lovingly at one another, with Ichiko stroking her mother's long damp hair on occasion.
Ichiko closed her eyes, and saw the sunflower within her, totally deflowered, and has withered and passed away.
Petal 08 - Fertilization
"My father married my stepmother a few years after my real mother died," began Rei. "At first I thought she was a sweet woman who could rival my mother's kindness, but shortly after my father died she revealed her true colors.
"She took over the Sunflower Group and ran it against my father's principles as if she was spitting on it. She purposely incited conflict between gangs, the youths, and the police, creating an unprecedented wave of violence, drug trafficking, people trafficking, and racketeering of almost half of the city. She whored herself to her own subordinates and rival groups for the sole purpose of gaining favor and power, and what's worse she whored me to others.
"I was treated like a plaything to both men and women, and it was fortunate that I didn't suffer permanent injuries since my stepmother wanted to keep my body pure for herself. I suffered the worst under her, and she had staged accidents that killed anyone who I had a remote romantic interest in.
"I realized I had enough when I gave birth to you. My boyfriend at the time, your father, had decided to runaway with me from all the shit our families put us through. But he chickened out at the last minute under the influence of your grandfather. Separated from you, I spent your fifteen years wandering around, scheming, planning, and seeking to reunite with you. Through some of my contacts, I ended up here much to your father and grandfather's surprise. I just wanted to see you at least once, and perhaps hold you. Now look at me. I ended up doing the same thing my stepmother did to me by making love with her own daughter. This time, it's my own flesh and blood."
"We certainly crossed the line," said Ichiko.
"But after hearing this, I must ask you... am I related to my father?"
"No. You're a stranger living with strangers."
"Then why would he allow me to check our relation at the clinic when he knows he's not related to me?"
"He wanted you to find out and face the truth. If you did, you would have immediately lived with me as your only blood relative. But I think he knew you wouldn't check because you wouldn't immediately leave the safety of your current home."
"At that time, did he think he was my father?"
"Initially, but he soon found out. Even if he already did, he and your grandfather would have took you in anyway, possibly as a sign of penance for what their relatives did to the Sunflower Group. As it so happens, my stepmother was once your grand-uncle's mistress, and I have a feeling that my father dying of a heart attack was no coincidence.
"Your grandfather is a good man. It's his brother who is the true instigator of all this."
"His behavior really did show back at the flower shop."
"Minoru knows that you have no relation him and his brother. He has always hated the Sunflower Group, but I think that hatred stems from the fact that he wanted to please his father since he focused on Yoshiro."
"I am not in danger, am I?"
"Not at the moment though. As I said before, my group is destroyed or in permanent hiding."
"But your influence still lingers."
"Because I'm the Sunflower Princess."
Rei stirred and stroked Ichiko's cheek. "I didn't mean for all this happen."
"It's all right. I should have found out."
"No, I meant..."
"Oh. The sex thing."
Ichiko kissed the tip of Rei's nose. "I have been prepared for it, haven't I?"
"Can't tell if you are."
"I am still here pressing my body against yours."
Playfully they brushed their faces and especially their lips with one another until they locked once more for another kiss.
"Ichiko," said Rei. "I have to tell you something."
"I hear a gurgling sound."
Throwing her own personal robe over her body, Ichiko bolted off into the kitchen and was saddened to see the overflowing broth of gravy spilling from the pot and onto the poor. The oven was turned off, and Ichiko faced a whiff of steam and burning to see her cooking ruined in the name of sex.
"Ruined," lamented Ichiko.
"Take out then?" said Rei, who emerged from the bedroom in her silk robe.
Ichiko nodded. She quickly returned to the room to dress up and head out to the supermarket to buy two box meals from the deli, which didn't taste as good as her cooking but it was sufficient enough for a quiet and enjoyable experience between mother and daughter. They would stare longingly at one another, and even giggled as they consumed their dinner. Even after they finished, they did not turn on the television, radio, or the Internet-enabled notebook computer. They just sat with elbows on their table and chins resting on their palms staring at each other's beauty.
"Oh, what time is it?" Ichiko asked. "I should be going."
"Going back to your own foster family?" asked Rei.
"They're still legally my guardians. I don't want to throw away their love and generosity they showered onto me."
Rei helped Ichiko gather her things into her backpack, but the notebook computer was left for the mother's pleasure.
"Hey," said Rei when Ichiko stepped out of the door. "Did you forget something?"
"You can use the laptop and my extra phone."
"A kiss then?"
"Yeah. If you want to."
Ichiko spun around and gave a titillating peck in the cheek. Then after staring at one another for a moment, they merged their lips for a long kiss and a passionate embrace.
"They could be watching," said Rei.
"I don't care."
Ichiko kissed Rei again, and finally hurried off home to sleep.
Her family became foster and even stranger to her in the morning, more so than the revelation of her real mother's existence. Despite all her apparent delinquency, they all remained nice to her, and even Rin forgave her stepdaughter for refusing her offer of a shopping date. Today though she persisted, and even suggested that they bring along the whole family.
In her smile, Ichiko replied, "I'm visiting someone."
"Is it your girlfriend?" asked Kenji, her little brother.
"Something like that."
In all immediacy, she headed out of the house with her key belongings and with her family's worried eyes following her until she disappeared from view. She was literally running to Rei's apartment with elated urgency, and did not hesitate to enter using the key given to her.
The apartment interior was a bit of a mess, but it could not spoil the sight of beautiful Rei who emerged from the bedroom in a cyan blouse and jeans. After closing the door, Ichiko dropped her bag, kicked away her shoes, and then met her mother in the small living room in a loving and kissing embrace. Even if had been almost twelve hours ago, Ichiko had missed Rei very much.
Practically the entire day was spent with Rei. From breakfast to sleep, Ichiko did not bother to go home and fortunately no phone call from her other family beckoned her to go back. Between meals, she spent her time in Rei's embrace, and sometimes it was the other way around. Sometime after dinner they attempted to make love only to find difficulty in the discomfort of the tiny bedroom and the crowded living room. Twice each Ichiko and Rei had accidentally bumped their heads, and with the mood destroyed the simply lay down with one another half-naked.
"This place feels more like those coffin rooms downtown," said Ichiko.
"I did stay in one of those," said Rei. "It's comfy if you use a fluffy mattress. The downside is you can't keep a lot of porn, and when you masturbate someone's bound to watch you."
"It might be risky, but we can go to a Love Hotel."
"A lot of people know us."
"I know, but maybe if we drive out to the next town no one will recognize us."
"You don't have a car."
"I don't, but I have ways of acquiring transportation."
Rei enlisted the assistance of the transgendered landlordess's motorcycle she was granted permission to use however she wished due to the untold favors Rei had instilled to her. Dressed for the road, Rei and Ichiko headed west at high speeds whilst narrowly avoiding accidents, rival bike gangs, and the police. Such a dangerous stimulus was actually arousing to Ichiko, especially when she was granted to grip Rei's breasts if needed.
They arrived in an idyllic small city or large town too nice for their own good, and went straight into the only Love Hotel they had. Or rather, the majority of the citizens would deny they had a love hotel or simply were not aware they had one. No one had recognized them so far, and to further obscure their identities, both wore jackets with hoods and dark sunglasses and paid in cash. Due to Ichiko's tomboyish looks, Rei would convince the receptionist that "he" was really eighteen. Then again, Ichiko was somewhat tall for her age, and growing still.
They couldn't hold it within them any longer. Right as they entered they immediately threw off their jackets and began making out. One of them, it was hard to tell which, pushed the other onto the bed and furiously began running each other's hands and fingers under their shirts or blouses and panties. With so much room to make love in, they had no qualms rolling over and about, and even tossed away their clothes they stripped from each other with expected disregard.
Ichiko took the aggressive edge in pleasing her Rei through and through, and made sure that she pleasured her as well. Hours later they ended with Ichiko on top straddling and riding Rei's pelvis so that their vulvae were in full contact. She had a perverse grin when she saw her lover scream out in orgasm, and likewise Ichiko followed suit. She threw herself onto Rei's body, clutching her shoulders and then her breasts as she shared more kisses. They wrapped their legs and arms around each other and lay on their sides staring once more at their beautiful eyes.
"Shouldn't you be home?" asked Rei.
"I'd rather be with you," said Ichiko.
"I am surprised we did it again. Knowing that we're..."
"Yes, it is wrong, and yet I don't feel any fear or worry. Rather, it's just this numbness in the back of my head prodding me once in a while that our love for each other is wrong in the face of society. And yet when I am with you, all worries are thrown off and feel a sense of warmth that's just too heavenly. Tell me, why did you fall in love with me?"
"I just thought you're just a beautiful flower. And you?"
"A rough yet beautiful gem." Ichiko stirred so that she was resting on Rei's breasts. "I have always been lesbian as long as I can remember. You're not exactly the first. It happened at my last year in middle school when I confessed my feelings to a girl in the same class as me."
"Was it Kazuko?"
"No, it was someone different. Kazuko caught us when we were making out in the gym storage, and she told everyone, including my father. We were then lectured by everyone about how it was just a phase that it was woman's responsibility to bear children and become the pillar of the nuclear family. The girl I fell in love with was transferred way out of my reach, and went into a fit of depression for weeks until Kazuko comforted me. Back then, I should have realized that Kazuko was in love with me the whole time, and yet why didn't she confess her feelings to me? Now that I think about it, it was also the same time we stopped being friends with Sumiko, and..."
"Perhaps she liked one of you?"
"Honestly, I would have been relieved if you settled with Kazuko if it hadn't been with her 'problem'."
"Mother, I don't just fall in love with the gender. It's the person I am after."
"I'm not that different from Kazuko. I want to protect you as well."
"That is true, but you at least allow me the freedom to become what I want."
"A sexy girl sexing her own sexy mother."
"That was very blunt."
"Yeah, I know."
"And I don't care. I want to be with you forever if I must."
It worried Rei a bit, and she wondered if this was a roundabout way for she and her daughter to become one again. But as Ichiko had implied, Rei had fallen in love with the person instead of the gender, let alone the blood. The infant she had given up and the girl she held in her arms were in all senses different people.
Rei gripped her Ichiko's cheek and pulled up for a long kiss, and then they slept for the night.
Hand-in-hand, she escorted her daughter down the street closer to her house of her foster family, but not so close or that any of the Nikkì family would notice the presence of Rei.
"I don't want to let you go," said Ichiko.
"I don't want to either."
"But people will find out."
Their hands parted and lingered in the sunrise morning. Finally, Ichiko turned around and after a stroke of Rei's cheek and hair she kissed her.
"I am still a rational being," Ichiko declared. "And what I rationalize is that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with our relationship."
There was a strong and determined fearsomeness in Ichiko's eyes the likes of which impressed Rei so much that she grinned perversely.
Title: Reckless Revelation
Petal 09 - Reckless Revelation
Slowly but surely, Ichiko began live fully within Rei's apartment, and only came back to her home for the occasional item she needed from her bedroom. It was very disconcerting to the whole family, especially with Rin constantly bombarding Ichiko with pressures and incentives to come back. At one point, Ichiko had been cut off from her cellular phone privileges, and yet she did not retaliate or care.
"I can just buy a prepaid set," she would say. "Or use a landline. Sure the copper quality isn't too good..."
"Rin is thinking we should cut off your allowance," said her father, Ken'ichi.
"Then that is fine by me. I'll simply get a after-school job, or leech off the allowance you give to mother every day."
"We're thinking off cutting hers off too."
"I don't care."
Ken'ichi sighed. "Rei doesn't work. All she does is lounge around buying pornography, gamble, and hit on random everyday people."
"I'm with her everyday. I make sure she doesn't do anything damaging."
"Does she even have a job right now?"
"A few temp ones. Nothing permanent."
"Ichiko, I with your mother on this one. You're better off staying with us."
"Rei is my mother, and my real family."
"Don't buy into her lies! I'm sure she has told you on generous her father was, but in reality he was bloodthirsty under the surface. She knows who your real father is, and she's only using the sexual abuse story just to entrap you."
"I can't believe what I am hearing. I thought of you to be a decent man."
"This is exactly what she wants Ichiko. She plans to take you away from a decent livelihood and back into the underworld."
"Then what if I want to be corrupted? What if I want to delve into the underworld in order to understand my mother better?"
Ken'ichi frowned. "What exactly are you two doing?"
"It's none of your business. If you'll excuse me, I have to make dinner for my real mother."
"Then what should I tell Kenji then?"
"I have a feeling he already knows."
It was not long that both Rei and Ichiko's allowance stipend were cut off. Thus, Ken'ichi ended his monthly visits and resumed focusing on the family related to him by blood. Yet the mother and daughter were not hindered by their new poverty. As a matter of fact, it only increased their determination to pull through and make the most of every cent or penny by selling off some of their unused wares, which had the added bonus of cleaning up Rei's apartment. Rei struggled each day in her various temp jobs that barely lasted a week due to a combination of her reputation and her flirtatious behavior. Ichiko was more stable at her part-time job as a waitress.
The new situation was no cause for her to miss school, let alone fall behind in her grades. She consistently remained at top, and that allowed her a chance to earn scholarships from prestigious and charitable institutions. She declined though, for although she had friends besides Kazuko and Sumiko, Ichiko remained alone throughout her school days pondering about her lack of goals and the isolation caused by her she had for her mother.
She often ate alone during lunches, and did her best to avoid Kazuko weeks after their prescribed separation. Ichiko and Rei had to work very hard to keep their relationship a secret, and if anyone was too close to finding out they had plan to retort that the outside party were having illicit and disgusting thoughts. They could no longer have lunch together on school grounds, have the fun outings with their friends, and they couldn't even go to the women's only parties. Even so, Ichiko's heart beat anxiously every school day for the warm embrace of Rei, and her worries would often disappear right when she arrived home. They would kiss, and sometimes they would make love on the spot. For them at least, they threw away the world for themselves, and that was what they wanted.
"Ichiko," asked Rei during their bedtime, in which they slept naked in each other's arms. "Have you ever thought about the future?"
"You know, like college, or a career. You could hook up with some rich schmuck in a sham marriage, and then kill him off."
"Let's not do that."
"Then what do you want?"
"I just want you. Just you."
"You did say that everyone or at least someone would find out. Then boom--our fun time is over."
"Rei... Mother... I intend for us to stay together forever."
"I'm working on it."
They saved enough money to have one fun excursion at the shopping district good for one weekend afternoon. They had to relieve their stress of struggling to pay for the school fees and apartment rent, the latter of which was already heavily discounted through the generosity of their transgendered landlordess.
"You know that going out is risky," said Rei. "How then we explain to the people about our constantly fondling?"
"Tell them the truth and say it's our way of showing our love for one another as mother and daughter."
"Gotcha. Man, your answers are so to the point Ichiko."
In their best street clothes they struck out after leaving the bus stop trotting with linked arms and hands, and along the way they received compliments on how cute they looked. No one questioned the closeness of their relationship as they assumed to be normal and platonic for a mother and a daughter who had not seen each other in one decade and five years.
Hunger struck them, and they went to the closest fast food restaurant for a cheap eat. Since the day was a weekend, even finding a seat for just the two of them was a challenge due to the sheer crowd, at least half of which were couples on a date. They did find two vacant seats, but there was a problem.
It was booth and table for four next to the window. Sitting across from each other were Kazuko and Sumiko, also dressed in a date.
"Hello," said Ichiko.
"Hold on," said Kazuko. She pushed her food tray to the other side and sat right next to Sumiko. This allowed Ichiko and Rei to finally sit, but for Rei's size and height it was a tight fit.
"Thank you," said Ichiko. "Although..."
"I guess you can call it a date," said Sumiko. "Got something against it?"
"Kazuko and I are still friends, even if I drifted apart. What's your case? Going out with your mother?"
"We are," smiled Rei.
Then there were silent and uneasy stares from the girls.
"I kid," said Rei, finally. "Of course, I am her mother and I have every right to have fun with my daughter, correct?"
"Indeed," said Sumiko.
Even amidst such background noise of the restaurant and the streets, Ichiko, Rei, Kazuko, and Sumiko ate with uneasy silence, and after they finished their meals they found themselves unwittingly hanging out with each other as they walked to the mall. Sumiko pulled ahead and linked her arm with Rei, for the two broke the fragile ice and began talking flirtatiously. It irked Ichiko, but she couldn't show her jealously that would be so indicative of her lust for her own mother. Kazuko was walking right next to her, and to let her find out would be disastrous.
"Sumiko comes back to us, and then you drift away," said Kazuko. "Would I be doing the same?"
"I didn't mean to hurt you that way," said Ichiko.
"No you didn't. We only hurt ourselves. We have been avoiding each other a lot lately, and it looks like you're having problems at home."
"I moved in with Rei."
"And I'm holding a part time job. I didn't mean to miss your final game."
"That's okay. We lost badly, but I'm confident we can take the national championship next year. But why have you moved? Were there problems at home?"
"Not really. I just wanted to live with my own mother."
"So there were no fights."
"I am dating Sumiko by the way, even if isn't apparent."
"And yet... I still can't get over you."
Ichiko sighed. "If you only knew what kind of person I really am, I'm sure you'll get over me."
"I'm not giving up."
"Then what about Sumiko?"
"You told her?"
"She would have found out anyway."
They both stopped by the escalators.
"Ichiko, what happening between us?" Kazuko asked. "We used to be so close!"
"Hey guys," Sumiko called from the upper level. "Hurry up! We don't want people finding out that Rei's stripping just to take off her clothes."
Ichiko turned away and joined up with Rei and Sumiko. Kazuko was behind, and in some ways so far behind from her heart. Ichiko knew the exact reason why they grew so distant, and it really wasn't Kazuko's gallant chivalry. Yet there would be no way to confess to her the relationship of a certain mother and daughter.
The childhood friends feigned their happiness in their browsing of clothes, the trying of shoes, and the smelling of cologne and perfumes. They went to many stores, yet they bought nothing. Rather, they preferred to imagine themselves moving in world in such wares however uncomfortable they might be, and they even gave each other a few joking comments.
Rei took the three girls straight into the lingerie section, and urged them to choose freely or not at all from the generous selection before their eyes. Nervously they browsed and dragged their feet as if they were shuffling on a hardwood floor, but it was Rei with her leering perverted eyes who piled onto their arms numerous underwear. Almost all were kinky, and some were flashy. Further still, Rei pushed them into the fitting rooms close to where they were, but nestled deep within the building and protected by one lone and stern female salesperson.
There were four stalls only, and they were occupied by Rei's party. It was neither comfortable nor uncomfortable for them to dress down to bare nakedness. Rei was there to protect them, but there was no protection from Rei for she slid underneath the stall walls to peek up the changing schoolgirls. Luckily, none of them were exposed when she snuck in, but although Rei would give off flattering comments every girl she saw.
"You don't seem to have any sense of shame, do you?" asked Sumiko, who had remained calm throughout Rei's sudden appearance. "You even peep at your own daughter."
"Is there something wrong with that?" Rei asked.
"I merely would like to point that out, although you seem to shower with a lot of flattering comments."
"Of course. She is my daughter."
"They're not flattering at all!" Ichiko yelled. "Mother, get back at your own stall this instant!"
"Gotta go. I won't get dinner if I don't behave."
Rei then slid from everyone's view.
"I'm finished," announced Sumiko. "Kazuko, are you coming?"
"Ooh, you two an item?" danced Rei.
"It's nothing of that sort, really!" Kazuko answered. "I mean, since Ichiko has been avoiding me and hanging out with you very often."
"I am a police officer's daughter," said Sumiko. "I'm tough, so I don't care what you say about us. You should really be more worried about how you and your daughter treat each other."
"I shall keep that in mind," saluted Rei.
Dressed back into their clothes, Sumiko and Kazuko exited the fitting rooms feeling positively embarrassed.
"That Ichiko is one lucky girl to have Rei," said Sumiko.
"If she hadn't met Rei..."
Sumiko stopped in the main aisle to turn around and face her friend.
"Kazuko," said she. "Why won't you get over her? If not me, then some other girl or boy. Hell, I wouldn't mind if you went out with Rei."
"I cannot just give up all those years I had with Ichiko."
"She's not the sweet girl you want her to be. She will be like her mother sooner or later."
"Let's have their own fun in their own little world back there. So where to next? By now there should be seats left for that one romance movie I keep hearing about."
"I left my purse back at the fitting room."
"Okay. Hurry up."
Leaving Sumiko, Kazuko ran past the stern and yawning saleswoman and back into the fitting rooms by the lingerie section. It seemed to be quiet when she walked down the narrow hall, but she could hear slight moaning from two. In the stall that Ichiko occupied, Kazuko could see the naked feet of two women caressing one another amidst a mess of lingerie thrown on the floor.
Ichiko and Rei must have left already, she told herself. She tiptoed through the yellow curtain into the stall she had used to retrieve her purse, and heard one burst of orgasm.
What is with these two?
Kazuko froze. Surely this was a joke, or that Ichiko and Rei really had left. If they did, then she should have seen them coming out. It wasn't even that long ago since Kazuko and Sumiko left.
The girl attempted to tiptoe out, and at the same time convinced herself that what was really happening in the first stall was simply her imagination, and that those two women were not Ichiko and Rei. Yet the passion between to those two was increasing as well as their muffled pleasure cries, and their voices were unmistakably recognizable.
It's a joke! Kazuko thought. She dearly wanted to run away, or at least interrupt the homosexual lovemaking, but doing so would confirm a worse fear than Ichiko falling in love with another woman. Yet there she stood, frozen and voyeuristically listening to their moaning.
Knowing this would change her life forever, if not destroy all sense of innocence she held for her Ichiko, Kazuko dared herself to peek through the crack of the stall's curtain.
There, the daughter and mother were nude, with the mother pushed to the wall. They were kissing and groping for one smooth and sensual moment, and would stare lovingly into each other's eyes. Then, Ichiko kissed her way down to Rei's vulva, and began to lick it.
Kazuko covered her mouth to prevent herself from screaming and throwing up. Taking advantage of the miracle that she was not noticed, she quietly walked backwards out of the fitting room hallway and quickened once she was out. With her purse in hand, she stormed out, unknowingly passing Sumiko.
"Is something wrong?" asked Sumiko.
"I feel sick," said Kazuko.
Title: Cirrus Confrontation
Petal 10 - Cirrus Confrontation
"I'm coming in."
The beautifully feminine Kazuki entered in to his daughter's bedroom with a tray of a hot meal balanced on his right hand. He ceremoniously placed on the desk, and then turned around to see Kazuko underneath the comforter staring back at him.
"You still won't tell me?" he asked.
Kazuko shook her head.
"I see. Remember, that I am always here for you, no matter what."
Kazuko smiled, but her father could not see. He then left the darkened room and returned to the kitchen to attend to his current fling taller yet a bit older than him.
"Still no go?" asked Frankie.
"No," said Kazuki, sitting down next to Frankie to drink his tea.
"It's been a couple of days since she hadn't left the room, almost as if she was taking a vow of silence. I wish I could be more help since I know her friend, Ichiko. Are you sure she wasn't raped?"
Kazuki shook his head. "I don't believe so, but Kazuko must have seen something that horrified her in way we can't even imagine."
The call won't go through. Ichiko dialed twelve hours later during her lunch break at school when she alone occupied the fenced-off roof. Once more after just one ring, Kazuko's carrier indicated that she could not be reached, which surely indicated that her phone had switched off. That, or the battery had run dry.
Ichiko had called her house. Only her father answered, and at subsequent callings the symptoms were the same. Kazuko was suddenly mute and psychologically attacked by something she had seen. She would not get out of her room save for regular bathroom breaks.
Ichiko now felt at fault for being so harsh towards Kazuko, but telling herself that it was her fault could not erase the guilt. Before running into her on that weekend, she had mused severing all ties for the good of them. Now, she was at a loss on how she could bring her childhood friend from the pit of depression. She would hate herself for all eternity if there were no positive resolve if they were to part.
"You hang out here very often," said a voice. It was Sumiko, and Ichiko had already felt her presence emerging right behind her in this cloudy afternoon.
"I have a thing for high places," said Ichiko.
"You and Kazuko sure do love to climb trees back then. Can't believe I wetted myself that day when I tagged along with you two at that field trip."
"Although this is fairly high, something else is bothering me so much that my agoraphobia is of no concern."
"Kazuko's still absent."
"And it's all your fault."
Sumiko forced Ichiko to turn around so she could receive on hard slap across the face. It wasn't strong, but it was enough to leave a mark.
"Why do you persist on hurting her like this?" demanded Sumiko.
"I didn't intend to," said Ichiko. "If you know, she's been doing this to herself."
"I don't care about that! One of you has to fix things! Do you realize how much she has loved you since I joined your group? You don't know the pain of seeing the one you admire go through much pain when she could not confess her feelings to the one she loves, and that object of desire does nothing but give her the run around. Right now, that object is just torturing her!
"You know, I would be glad if Kazuko was happy with you, but it seems that you're just like that girl I met in middle school. No, you're no rival. You've turned into something worse."
There were clearly tears in her eyes, and Sumiko did everything to restrain it. She wiped all remnants with her handkerchief, and walked away just as the school bell rang.
Later, her other classmates Motoko and Haruko asked Ichiko where she got the mark on her cheek.
"She's still moping about?" asked Rei at the other line.
"It's the third day already," replied Ichiko, who spoke on the cellular phone just outside the school gates.
"If she's still alive, then there's no urgent problem, right? Unless she's planning on shooting up the school, then we have to take her out beforehand."
"Kazuko wouldn't do that. She would rather kill herself before she would ever do, but I am going there now to make sure."
"Don't worry. I'll make it back just in time to cook dinner. Or at the very least cook a late one."
"I should accompany you."
"Just wait. I'm closer to her house than you are."
"It's not even that far from my place."
"You really want to come, don't you?"
"I have to. I have to protect my daughter."
"I can protect myself."
"...If you so choose, then meet me over there. Just notify me before you arrive."
It was indeed arrogant for her to say such things, but then again having company and a traveling companion, if one was their own blood relative and lover, was welcome. In some way, being with her lover increased Ichiko's strength tenfold, even if it meant she would have to protect herself and her mother.
Thankfully, Rei was not there at Kazuko's house, so Ichiko was allowed to settle the problem from one childhood friend to the other. She knocked politely at the front door, and Kazuki answered. He mumbled a hello, for he well understood the reason Ichiko was here.
He stepped aside to let her pass. "I'll bring in some tea later," he said.
Ichiko went down the hallway, and caught an instant glance of Frankie sitting by the kitchen table reading the newspaper. Frankie noticed her, and made a subtle wave at her that caught Ichiko surprise. She had heard from her adoptive grandfather that Frankie was seeing someone, but she did not expect it was Kazuko's father (of course, Ichiko had lessened her visits to the flower shop and her former home). She smiled and waved back, and went on her way to approach Kazuko's bedroom door.
"I am here Kazuko," Ichiko announced.
She could knock, and she could even walk right in since the door had no lock installed. She looked back at the end of the hallway towards the entrance and sought Kazuki's approval.
"It's fine," he said.
Ichiko nodded. She cracked open the door enough for to slip in quietly. The room darkened once more right when she closed the door, for the curtains of the lone window were closed and pressed against the wall as much as possible. It was still bright enough for Ichiko to see that nothing had changed much since she last spent her time here save for the general mood. Kazuko was stirring underneath her covers with her short hair messed up wearing but a loose tank. She squinted once at Ichiko, and then rolled away from her.
"Please don't do this to yourself," said Ichiko.
"Face it," said Kazuko. "I've been dropped."
"You're my friend. How can I ever drop you?"
"Your mother's your friend... and your lover."
Ichiko's lips twisted. Had she been found out? At least that was her thought.
"That's absurd," Ichiko lied. "I would never have sexual relations with my own mother."
Kazuko turned back around and stared dead-on at her friend. "I know, Ichiko. I know."
The eyes were telling the truth, and it made Ichiko back away until she sat on the desk chair.
"How could I have been blind?" winced Kazuko. "Then again, it wouldn't be absurd that you've only gotten friendly with your real mother since she came back to your life. Now that I realize it, it was her that caused us to drift apart."
"No, it wasn't," said Ichiko. "It was really my fault. I confessed my love to Rei, and she reciprocated in kind."
"Stop calling her Rei! She's your mother! She should have been the one responsible for restraining your feelings and hers as well!"
"I'm sorry I did this to you. Truly, I did not mean to this happen, but even you are somewhat at fault."
"Am I now? How is it that I have driven you to fall in love with your own mother? I've done nothing but love you and take care of you!"
"Please stop. I still can't return the feelings you have for me, but as your friend I want to help."
"Kazuko! I am not giving up!"
"You really think I am going to kill myself? Is that it? If I did that, it would be quite convenient for you two since the secret your share with your mother will be sealed."
"Don't say such things! Besides, even if you were gone somebody will find out eventually."
There was a knock, but it didn't sound like it came from the door. Ichiko was slightly startled to see a tall silhouette of a longhaired woman past the covered window. She drew open the curtains and faced Rei. Then she opened the window.
"Why are you here?" hissed Ichiko.
"You told me to come, didn't I?" Rei smiled as she climbed inside.
"But you look like a thief right now. Why can't you just use the front door?"
"Not my style. Didn't want to disturb Frankie and Kazuki's moment anyway. So this is where she was holed up?"
"Well, I have no clue how to get her out of her depression besides force and sex. I'm starving Ichiko. Let's go home."
"Is dinner all you can think about?"
"But I miss your meals!"
"I can't. I need to spend time with Kazuko."
"Then let's invite her over. How about that?"
Rei moved over and pulled the sheets off of Kazuko, who had been overwhelmed by the sudden light of twilight and outside air entering her room. Ichiko blushed in embarrassment when she saw that Kazuko was half-naked in her tank top and panties.
"My, you look sexy," grinned Rei.
"Hey," mumbled Kazuko.
"Get up. You do not want to miss my daughter's wonderful cooking. Especially the dinner part."
"You cook dinner for Rei as well?"
"I do," said Ichiko. "Didn't I tell you that before?"
Kazuki was almost in happy tears to see his daughter up and dressed, yet Kazuko was still somber.
"Don't worry pretty man," said Rei. "Ichiko and I will cheer her up."
Or perhaps silence her. Ichiko kept a close eye on her mother and her best friend, as if she would strike them if they were ever to blurt out the secret they all shared. They bade a farewell to the effeminate father and his male companion, and then took a short bus trip to the apartment home that was still small as ever. It was fortunately enough to fit three people in the living room that doubled as a dining room, and nothing more.
Kazuko took the hour of cooking to observe this mysterious place she had often heard about but had never traversed in. It was cramped yet homely, and cleaned as best as possible. Sure evidence of Ichiko's presence was present in the anime video discs and manga books stuffed into the few bookshelves, and contrasting that was Rei's collection of lesbian porn she had often watched with her daughter.
Right now, Rei was laying down watching a comedy variety show and laughed as she drank her beer. At the same time, Ichiko diligently tossed up stir-fry vegetables and noodles from the range cooker as part of her multitasking routine. The scene was excruciating idyllic, and Kazuko could only wonder if this was just an act or the daily life of a mother and her daughter.
Food was served Asian-style, complete with a crackpot filled with the main meal inside a bubbling broth in addition to small casserole of rice. Food was eaten using bowls and chopsticks of amiable yet inexpensive quality.
Even the meal transpired like an idyllic dream for Kazuko, and she even felt she wasn't even there. Both Rei and Ichiko talked with another with complete frankness about their lives and their daily lives. They were somewhat like a comedy duo, with Rei playing the fool and Ichiko as the straight man, especially manners of Rei's constant flirtations with men and women, her perverseness, and her general laziness. In the end, as usual, they would always make up and blatantly talked in front of Kazuko on how they were going to have sex.
"At this rate, we'll put a hole in the wall again," said Rei.
"Oh, yes," nodded Ichiko. "We really got to move to a bigger place for our romps."
"We could always do it here though."
"I might knock over the TV. We really can't break things when we're on a limited budget."
"So a love hotel then?"
"How is it that you can laugh like this?" cringed Kazuko. "Are you even fully aware the sins you have committed?"
Rei and Ichiko stopped smiling, and then set their bowls back down.
"Um, would you like more rice?" asked Ichiko.
Kazuko pushed her own bowl away. "No thank you. I am finished."
Somberly, Ichiko and Rei cleaned the table and set off to hand-wash the dishes.
"Why have you brought me here?" asked Kazuko.
"Ichiko wanted to watch after you," said Rei. "She is a good friend."
"Are you planning on silencing me?"
"If you think we are, then you shouldn't have tagged along. Or is it that you want to say something to me?"
Rei was right. Kazuko clenched her fists and stared at the empty table as she controlled her fury and sadness. It was then that Rei finally sat across from her.
"So?" she asked. "What is it that you want to say to my face?"
"Why didn't you do anything about it?" Kazuko asked. "You're supposed to be the responsible one."
"Oh, I don't know. I don't see myself as such. That's why I have Ichiko around."
"How? How is it that you two fell in love?"
Rei shrugged her shoulders. "It just sort of happened."
"It's the truth," said Ichiko. "Then again, I sort of fell in love with her before I knew she was my real mother."
"We both know it's wrong, but we have accepted each other as we have wanted. This is a decision we both made."
"A mother and daughter in love with each other is a disgusting thing!" Kazuko yelled.
"Is it any more disgusting as two women having a consensual sexual relationship?" asked Rei.
"Stop spinning it your way Rei! This is not about blood relations. You're destroying the sacred role of mother and daughter. There are responsibilities you should have carried. Lesbian incest is something no one but you two can stomach."
Rei grinned, and then she chuckled.
"What's so funny?" asked Kazuko.
"Is that it? You're scared because me humping Ichiko is scary?"
"I am serious! How can you face Ichiko's father and her family?"
"You mean Ichiko's foster father?"
"You're not related? Ichiko, this is no reason to have sexual relations with your mother!"
"Why don't you drop the act girl? I don't believe that you're offended by what's going on here."
"Of course I am!"
"You're only venting your anger at me because you lost to me. That's the real reason why you're frustrated."
In some ways, she was right. Kazuko cringed even further inside, and she would not admit that was the reason for her depression.
"I have known Ichiko longer than you," said Kazuko. "What gives you the right?"
"Because I am her mother, and that we get along," said Rei.
"It's not fair."
"No, you just lost your chance. If you confessed your feelings when you were in middle school, then maybe I wouldn't have put my moves on Ichiko."
"Back then, I was afraid of being taken out of the team, and that my father would be disgusted. I didn't want to ruin Ichiko as well."
"No, you're just rationalizing. Oh hell, you even had your first year of high school to tell her."
"So? You two are rationalizing your own relationship as well."
"That may be the case, but we chose to have it because we are in love. This isn't something we can brush aside easily you know. I mean, we get very anxious when we're apart, and we're so comforted when we're embracing. This could be a heightened act of a love between love and daughter, and despite all the sex it could still be platonic."
"Kazuko," said Ichiko, "I am truly in love with Rei. That is something that even I can't change."
"So there is no convincing you otherwise?" asked Kazuko.
Kazuko wiped what little tears she shed as she rose to her feet. "The food was good though."
Slowly the mother and daughter escorted Kazuko at the bus stop and waited with her.
"I don't really care if you tell others or not," said Rei.
"Mother?" said Ichiko.
"You're not worried at all?" asked Kazuko.
"No," said Rei. "We will deal it when we receive a response."
"I won't do anything to jeopardize your livelihoods, even if it is immoral. I am only keeping my mouth shut in the hopes that you'll cease this fantasy."
"I don't see it as such," said Ichiko.
"I know. Then again, I am not you, and I never had a real experience with a mother. You're lucky because you have two."
Ichiko hugged her childhood friend, and it was a possibility that would be last time she would be doing so. Then they parted solemnly, but an earnest smile remained on their faces.
"Ichiko," said Kazuko. "I still believe that your relationship with your mother is wrong, but I am happy that you're happy with her. And yet, I am also happy that Rei is happy with her daughter."
"So you will be all right?"
"I believe I can pull through. I am still going to live so that I won't sadden my father."
The empty bus finally arrived, and Kazuko climbed in.
"Goodbye," she said. "For now."
She then sat by the window exchanging waves of goodbye at Rei and Ichiko, the former of whom had her arm wrapped around her daughter's shoulder.
At the very least, the confrontation relieved many things weighting on Kazuko's heart, and it felt she had been set free. Those were her thoughts as she rode back home, and yet she was still saddened that Ichiko chose her own mother over her. No feelings of disgust about their relationship had remained, or perhaps it remained within her as a throbbing numbness.
From the bus stop closest to her home, Kazuko soon made it and was surprised to see Sumiko coming out of her house after saying goodbye to her father. The two girls soon met face to face at the sidewalk under the shining street lamp.
"What are you doing here?" she asked her.
"I had to drop off your homework assignments," said Sumiko.
All of a sudden, Sumiko balanced herself on her toes and planted her lips onto Kazuko's right cheek.
"Call me sometime," said Sumiko.
As if to titillate her further, Sumiko brushed her arm against Kazuko's as she ran off towards the bus stop.
Kazuko later learned from her father that Sumiko had been frequently visiting her house since her self-imposed isolation.
Petal 11 - Rebirth
Since, Ichiko remained at the top of her academics. She became well loved and dispersed her feelings concerning environmental policy and justice so that the whole school became active towards her ideals as best as they could. Even after she became regular friends with Motoko and Haruko, she remained alone in her heart. That would be reflected on her lonely lunch breaks and her constant rejection to join up with her classmates in parties and outings. On occasion she would talk to Kazuko and Sumiko, both who had been so inseparable enough to elicit rumors. The strain between Kazuko and Ichiko remained, but at the very least it subsided enough for them to be on cordial terms.
Then one full school year had passed, and Ichiko and her classmates had entered into vacation. This first thing she had done on her last half-day of school was hurry into Rei's apartment. Rei would be waiting on the floor, watching TV, but she was almost caught unprepared. She saw her own daughter throwing off her jacket, undoing her tie, and unbuttoning her shirt with a seductive smile. Rei smiled in kind. She turned off the TV and rose to her feet to receive Ichiko in her arms. It was then they would kiss, embrace, and spin into the cramped bedroom where they had moved the furniture so they could make love comfortably on the small bed they had often shared whilst naked.
With no school for a week or so, the lovemaking increased, as did their outings. Both kept their part-time jobs though, and had began saving for the future. But nowadays their constant togetherness was starting to become suspicious. Sure it was lovely in the citizens' eyes that a mother and daughter were the best of friends, but they were beginning to wonder if something happened in Ichiko's former home to warrant her moving into the apartment despite the realization that Rei was her true mother. If they pried deeper, they would indeed be in for a shock.
It was said that all relationships, whether straight, gay, and incestuous, would wind down after the climax and reach a plateau with the two partners not having sex on a regular basis or retaining any passionate romantic feelings for one another. Even if Ichiko and Rei reduced their frequency of sex, their devotion was still as strong as before. They found themselves put into roles, with Ichiko serving as a homemaker and wife, and Rei as the butch "husband" despite acting tomboyish and occasionally feminine. They did not tire of each other. Not a day would go by when they didn't kiss or embrace, and they mostly did the latter with clothes and without.
Amidst this happiness, the looming dread of their life being destroyed by external forces remained. They did not address it yet, or rather they had put it off mutually. They finally did when they drove far north--very far--to a love hotel. They arrived late at night in the middle of a rainstorm, and they were the only customers in such a small city.
They were on the top floor at the farthest room. Lightning and thunder and rocked the skies as Rei, taking a missionary position, matched her vagina, breasts, and lips with her daughter's as they rubbed each other together for pleasure that had been increasing as Ichiko grew taller. They moaned loudly together as Ichiko felt Rei's juices flow into her for the second time for their last orgasm for the night. They rolled to their sides still locked in their sexual embrace sweating and breathing heavily.
The clouds parted, and sunlight beamed through. It was dawn.
"I want this to continue on forever," Ichiko said.
Rei kissed Ichiko's hand. "I know, but..."
"They'll find out. Everyone will find out."
"Of course they will. You should have rationalized that prospect."
"Mother, is there any way we can remain together forever?"
"We can die together. We'll kill ourselves at the same exact time, maybe through slitting our wrists at the same time, or poisoning. Once we die, we will not go to heaven, nor will we go to hell. We will be free wandering spirits, and somehow we will eventually create an afterlife where everyone can love their destined partner regardless of race, class, gender, or relation. In that afterlife, we will become Goddesses exempt from all human or intelligent notions."
"I don't intend to take the easy way out. I intend to live."
"Then there's option two. We will leave the country."
"Where will we go? Is there any country that will accept us for what we are? Even if we are to move in as lovers, people will still find out."
"Where is your determination Ichiko? Will you let such a little thing hinder you?"
"I guess not. But do will we have enough money to survive on our own?"
"To truth is, I haven't been spending your father's allowance stipend on booze gambling. I have been saving it in a trust fund only I and some friends of mine know about."
"I hope my family will approve. Rin has been stalking me lately."
"All the more reason to move."
Ichiko had delayed telling her family due to unforeseen circumstances. Her grandfather's flower shop windows had been scratched deeply by a vandal. His employee Lala had been raped and found in wandering alleyway in a daze after ingesting a drink spiked with a drug. Worse, Frankie had been stabbed to death in his own apartment by an unknown robber. Kazuki had been lamenting that he shouldn't have broke up with him weeks ago, for the day he was murdered Kazuki and Frankie would have been in the house of the former. Kazuko reassured her father that it wasn't his fault.
It was hard to say it was Minoru's fault, but his coy behavior and vague alibi only made Yoshiro more suspicious. The Nikkô Group had just entered into an underground turf war with the Kurobara Gang with casualties on both sides--as Minoru had claimed. If it were serious, it would have been in the news.
The Nikkô family, after excusing Kenji to bed, talked about this one night at the dinner table.
"Do you think uncle is threatening us?" asked Ken'ichi.
"We have no evidence to claim it," said Yoshiro. "Even though he is not as powerful as father, he still can influence the police department."
"Then let's move out."
"We can't," said Rin. "That mean we have run away from the fight and they'll see as weak and easy prey. I cannot allow that. Think of our son's future."
"What about Ichiko and Rei?" asked Michi.
Rin frowned and bit her lip. "Why should we involve those two? They're not even family."
"But you still care about Ichiko."
"They're still in danger just as we are," said Yoshiro. "I think we should properly set them free."
"Father!" cried Ken'ichi. "Are saying that they should escape?"
"We've already cut them off," said Rin.
"And they've proved that they can live on their own," said Yoshiro. "It would not be too much to say that they are free to go where they want where no harm will come to them. I think that is what we owe to both Rei and Ichiko."
"Father," said Ken'ichi, "even if Ichiko isn't related, Rin and I still see her as one of our own."
"You don't have to hide it son. I was the one who pressured you into making Ichiko yours."
"I didn't see any pressure. The fact I learned that she wasn't my daughter had no effect on me."
"So then," said Michi, "are you two paying a visit to them?"
"I am going too," announced Rin.
They did not realize that Ichiko and Rei were having sex when they knocked. They thought and believed themselves that the mother and daughter had overslept, which would explain their unbuttoned clothes and unkempt hair. Visibly, their place was not a total mess thanks to Ichiko's diligent cleaning, but the smell of alcohol and the obvious porn on the table and bookshelves were quite offending, especially to Rin.
As best as they could, they seated around the small table right on the tatami floor. Ichiko remained standing by serving tea and biscuits to her two families.
"So Minoru's and that young turk gang are acting up," said Rei. "You need me for anything?"
"Not quite," said Yoshiro. "I know we haven't been on good terms, since Ichiko left but I feel that we can finally, and formally, give her back to you."
Rin slammed her cup on her saucer. "Do you mind if I take Ichiko outside with me?"
"You could always ask her yourself," said Rei.
"I'll come with you," Ichiko said to Rin.
The two women left. After a while, Michi excused herself to smoke outside next to the stairs, something she had not done for quite a while. Rin and Ichiko looked at the old woman with pity, but then they turned their focus back to each other and allowed a wall to obscure their speech.
"I notice there were suitcases in the bedroom," said Rin.
"We are moving out," said Ichiko.
"You don't have money."
"Oh. Ichiko, you can come back anytime if you run into trouble."
"I will be fine Rin."
"I'm still your mother, and despite your lineage I have always loved you. I put in so many years for you when I became yours. Isn't there anything for me to do to win you back?"
She's acting like Kazuko, thought Ichiko. "Rin--I mean mother--you have Kenji, and if you want you can always adopt another daughter or bear one with father."
"You think it's easy to replace you? Our little Sunflower?"
Ichiko lowered her head. "I am sorry. I did not mean to throw away the love you have for me. Know that I have always loved you, father, grandfather, grandmother, and Kenji, and wherever I am you'll always be my family--my first."
Rin sniffed. "Your second. As much as I want you back, I know that you are fast becoming a strong and independent woman. Know that you're always welcome back no matter what."
"I suppose this will be our long goodbye then."
Ichiko stood on her toes and looked over the wall. She saw her adoptive grandparents standing together by the railing on the third floor sharing a cigarette.
"I thought they stopped smoking," said Ichiko.
"None of us did," added Rin.
Ken'ichi watched almost helplessly as Rei packed her belongings in her suitcase.
"It's going to be like last time," said he.
"This time," said Rei, "she is really going with me."
"I know father allowed you to leave whenever you wish, but please, why not let Ichiko stay until she graduates high school?"
"She made her decision to flee with me. You can't stop her anymore."
"Or do you want to come along? We can be the family we are meant to be."
Ken'ichi looked away for a moment, and then sent his eyes towards the floor. "I don't want to divorce Rin, nor do I want to abandon Kenji." He looked up and stared into Rei's strong eyes. "Do you really think you can take on the whole world by yourself?"
"I don't think, and it's not just me. We are taking the world on, and you can't stop us. Don't think you have wasted your time with Ichiko. I thank you and your father for raising her properly."
"There is nothing more I can do then. I'll submit the paperwork transferring Ichiko to your custody. I'll even help you file Ichiko's resignation from Sunflower Academy. It will be quick, but it will take at least a day or so."
"I will miss you Ken'ichi. The same goes for Yoshiro."
Rei escorted Ken'ichi towards the front door, but he suddenly stopped before it was opened. He had already noticed that Rei's left forearm was wrapped with a bandage, but did not find the right time to bring it up until now.
"Burned it while handling the pot," Rei answered before he asked.
"Oh," he said instead.
He met up with his parents, and then met with Rin and Ichiko as they approached the Lexus sedan. The Nikkô family boarded the car, and drove off as Rei and Ichiko waved goodbye.
Ichiko's left hand was also bandaged, but that might be his imagination.
The Nikkô household had been receiving untraceable phone calls from a silent instigator who hanged up once one of the family members answered. A death threat written poorly on the back of a flyer advertising a sale from an adult video store was tacked onto the front door. For protection, a portly police officer was assigned to them from the local precinct, and that prevented Ichiko and Rei from visiting the house for the very last time. Everyone was at work, and in Kenji's case in his advanced placement classes.
Ichiko would be leaving during a weekday, and she said her goodbye one by one to Yoshiro, Michi, and the rest of the flower shop employees at the flower shop. Then she visited her foster parents, Ken'ichi and Rin, at their respective law firms, and gave them a single stem of sunflower she bought at her grandfather's flower shop. Finally, she said goodbye to Kenji during his lunch break at his school, and gave him all the anime she had ever owned.
Rei didn't do her goodbyes, as it would only be awkward and strange for the Nikkô family. She felt as if she had already done so, and doing it again would only compound the discomfort. So she went ahead waited by herself at the very same train station where she had fled from the city in her bid to run away with Ichiko in her infant form. However, it was morning, bright and cheery. She had a smile on her face and no worries saddled her heart. She turned towards the stairway access not expecting Ken'ichi, but her lover of her life and her daughter.
The waiting was still tense, but Ichiko finally came down happily pulling her suitcase down with both hands. She hurried fast into Rei's arms and embraced her warmly. Their faces drew so close that they almost kissed in broad daylight. But they didn't. They immediately parted when Kazuko and Sumiko arrived.
"Yo Sumiko!" Rei waved.
"Yo," Sumiko duly replied.
"I suppose this is what you wanted," Kazuko said to her childhood friend.
Ichiko nodded. "You will always be my best friend Kazuko."
Sadly Kazuko smiled, and then hugged Ichiko as tears welled up in each of the girls' eyes. They restrained wailing as they parted. Kazuko turned to Rei, and inferring from each other's faces, they nodded curtly and shook hands.
The train arrived swiftly as a bullet but glided gently to halt like a white and slender seal.
"I will write to you guys," Ichiko said.
"You'd better," Sumiko grinned.
The mother and daughter carried their suitcases as well as two large coolers enough for a small party onto the train. Once in, they went up to the windows to exchanged solemn waves of goodbye at their friends who remained on the platform. Even as the train moved, they continued doing so right until they could no longer do so.
Left on the platform, Kazuko cried her hardest on Sumiko's warm shoulder.
Rei and Ichiko took their seats. They were the only ones, and one of the female train attendants noticed that their coolers were put on the seats across from them.
"Are those yours?" the attendant asked. "I'm sorry, but you can't put them there."
Rei brushed her finger down the attendant's thigh. "We're having a party here. Want to join?"
"Um, no, but someone could use these seats."
Rei looked around. "There's no one around."
Rei palmed her butt. "Say, get the two of us some champagne, and we'll do what that one western country does--tipping. Generously I might add."
"I know you don't have any money, but since you're Rei, I guess I can convince my manger. I'll back shortly."
Rei turned to see her fuming daughter. "I had to."
"I don't want you doing it to her before we get there," said Ichiko.
"I know, I know."
To ease Ichiko until the champagne, Rei fondled her discreetly as possible. In response, Ichiko giggled discreetly as possible. They drank with content, and pulled some beer they shared from the cooler. Later, they were served luxury snacks meant for first class. It was a fairly long train ride, and hardly anyone boarded, and yet no one sat in their car that they were blessed for their own use.
At the second-to-last stop, a man in dark sunglasses, a flat cap, and leather brown jacket slithered in while hauling a backpack-like duffle bag many seats ahead of Ichiko and Rei. It all seemed normal. The man threw his duffle bag into overhead storage and sat down. Then the attendant asked him if he needed anything.
Rei watched his movements carefully, and surmised that he was certainly trouble.
"Ichiko," said Rei. "When I tell you to move, move."
Ichiko ate the last bit of her cracker when she heard this. She remained quiet, waiting for Rei's signal that would be derived from the man's movement. The man turned his head and saw Rei staring at him via peripheral vision.
Rei took her daughter's hand. With her, she dashed to the doors of the connecter at the back. The man shot up and pulled a ripcord from inside the duffle bag.
At 5:50 PM, a detonated bomb derailed the middlemost car of the train bearing north. The suspect had escaped. Multiple injures were reported and two people were killed.
Title: Endless, Eternal Field
Petal 12 - Endless, Eternal Field
It could be the worst murder, and it could be the worst terrorist incident the country had ever faced, even if only two were killed. And it just so happened they were two very important and very dear people.
It was horrific. Their bodies couldn't even be identified in the liquefied mess of blood, bones, muscle, teeth, and other internal organs. The dreaded news of reached the doorstep of the Nikkô doorstep, the closest contacts the police and Interpol could ever think of.
Eventually, they caught the perpetrator at a rural town, a former mob enforcer of the Nikkô Group dismissed by its current boss, Minoru. Minoru, pleaded his innocence, which was proven true. The man was eventually sentenced to death without parole.
The train attendant, the sole witness in the case, after recovering from her wounds, did identify the criminal as one the who brought the bomb, but in later years she began to disclose to her close friends and family in private that it might be the wrong man. It was hard to tell since he wore a cap and sunglasses.
After the sentencing, Yoshiro, Ken'ichi, Michi, and Kenji returned to their home to mourn instead of venting their anger at the criminal, while Kazuko had spent almost an entire month with Sumiko in order to recover from her sadness. Not wanting to see her girlfriend suffer, she pressed her older brothers, father, and uncles to enact some kind of change and crackdown on organized crime and domestic terrorism. As she resumed school, she devoted her time to catch more criminals, thus finally accepting her destiny and role as a policeman's daughter.
Sumiko eventually graduated at the top of her class in college and at the academy, and rapidly ascended in becoming the first openly lesbian detective in the entire force, but the condition to be employed would mean that she had to wear a man's clothes when on duty and permanently adopt a male given male name. Sumiko became Susumu Kanno, and took Kazuko as her wife and homemaker. They adopted two children, one boy named Reito and one girl named Sumiko, both of whom were orphaned from the effects of crime.
Susumu not only proved herself worthy, she revamped the entire nation's police force and undid all the corruption both subversive and glaring. In no time, she destroyed the Nikkô Group and the Kurobara Gang. Minoru Nikkô was arrested, and with his empire gone he committed suicide during his life imprisonment.
However, there was no evidence linking him to the deaths of Rei and Ichiko, and Susumu never expected to find any. In fact, there was no evidence of him of distributing flyers at the Sunflower Academy, and evidence otherwise turned out to be craftily planted.
In the years of relative peace, an instigating investigative reporter of skeptics show reopened the Sunflower Case, the event of Rei and Ichiko's murder. The reporter interviewed Susumu, and presented her with evidence that the bones and organs that was supposed to be the victims' remains turned out to be fresh from recently deceased cadavers. Susumu blasted back at the rude reporter for suggesting that Rei and Ichiko would falsify the death by dissecting a cadaver, if not murdering two women similar to their ages.
The reporter had no evidence of missing organs, as it seemed to be missing, or had not existed at all. He then asked Susumu if he could see the coroner's report, and she allowed him without hesitation. There was nothing suspicious.
After that, the Sunflower Case was never brought up again. Many years then passed. Yoshiro and Michi passed away, the former from lung cancer and the latter from old age, for Michi was already many years older than her husband. The flower shop was bequeathed to equal control of Tsumi, Lala, and Koko, but none of them had the heart to continue its operation without their employer and Frankie. The shop closed down, and was eventually bought up to be turned back into a convenience store. Eventually, the three former prostitutes passed away, but they were not alone when they did. Two at least married and had children. One of them lived with one of them as surrogate sister.
Kenji followed in his father's footsteps in becoming a lawyer, but mainly for clients for the entertainment sector. That way, he would always have access to media such as anime, which would allow him to have access to fond memories from what he learned was her stepsister. He eventually married and had one handsome son named Ichiro.
His father Ken'ichi had an untimely death due to an auto accident. During the funeral ceremony, he sought out his son amongst the conversing crowd at the house that became his. He went outside and found Ichiro speaking to and laughing with two very tall women of very similar height garbed in long black coats with yellow highlights. One of them had short hair whereas the other had long black hair.
"Kenji!" yelled Rin. "Have you seen Ichiro?"
For a moment, Rin grabbed her attention enough to lose sight of the two women and his son.
"No, I haven't," he said. Kenji ran in the house and headed upstairs. Ichiro's door was left ajar, and the father entered to see his son napping on his bed.
Ichiro's room happened to be Ichiko's former room. Kenji never discussed with his son about the two mysterious women he talked with. Those two elicited feelings of nostalgia, yet serious uneasiness. It was as if he was touched by ghosts.
Rin would eventually pass away in ten years later. Even after that time, Kenji anticipated seeing those two women, but they never came. However in the years that passed, he and his family would visit his parents' graves, and when they would arrive there would always be sunflowers laid out on them.
Susumu and Kazuko's son became a police chief, and their daughter was wedded to a humble male office worker. During their daughter's wedding celebration, Kazuko saw her speaking with two tall women garbed in black outside at the balcony of the hotel. Then she proceeded to dance with the one with long black hair. Two bellboys towing filled luggage carts passed by obscuring her view for just a moment. Then she saw the balcony empty.
"Mother?" asked Sumiko.
Kazuko's heart leapt, for Sumiko had suddenly appeared right behind her. "What are you doing with those two women?"
Sumiko winked and crossed her index finger lipline. "It's a secret." The new bride then skipped over to kiss her new husband.
Then, many years later, right before Susumu and Kazuko's 50th anniversary party a strange large bouquet of sunflowers was delivered to their house (this was Susumu's house by the way that she inherited from her parents). The two women put the bouquet in their largest vase that was then set at the dinner table, and sat at its sides contemplating on who would send such a thing. The greeting card was of no help, for all it said it was from the Sunflower Secret.
"Is this some kind of joke?" Kazuko asked.
Susumu smiled. "Hard to say really."
"You know something, do you?"
"I wish, though."
In her advanced years, the retired Susumu became a widow. Looking after grandchildren and a few great-grandchildren occupied her time in addition to giving the occasional lecture at the academy and participating in weekend workouts with the elderly. It was there that she met an aged Kenji, also widowed, and the two became friends.
Their connection was made tighter when they went out to a café one weekend where they exchanged stories of an unknown charitable stranger leaving sunflowers on the grave memorials for their loved ones, particularly Kenji's parents and grandparents and Susumu's late wife.
"So even you have no idea who left them?" asked Susumu.
Kenji shook his head. "It does remind me of a certain incident though."
"I have never told anyone until now. I got lost one day in my class field trip up north during the time my sister was living with her real mother. I inadvertently wandered into this so-called red-light district. Actually, the town we were in was very peaceful, so it was hard to tell if you wandered into such a place. Anyway, the sun was going down, and I was frantically looking for the hotel we were staying in. There was this love hotel literally named Love Hotel. I mean, the sign was right in front of my eyes. After I passed by it, a motorcycle pulled up carrying its driver, a very tall woman with long black hair, and a high school girl with short black hair. They left their bike right there, and as they approached the entrance they were hugging and fondling. Not in a platonic friendly sense, but when I think back they were fondling each other's breasts and the crotches."
"What happened after that?"
"My teacher found me and I was taken back to the hotel."
Susumu just smiled.
"Is something funny?" Kenji asked.
"Not really. It's just that it was amusing that they were in love, and even now I feel it was apparently obvious."
"Well, I am not sure if it was them though. It was such a long time."
"Even I am starting to forget."
The old woman and old man stared at their teacups, which were now almost empty.
"You think they'll lay sunflowers for us at our graves?" Kenji asked.
"I'm sure of it," replied Susumu.
Her prediction came true years later.
The truth was, the Sunflower in the girl did not really die. Rather, its remains gave birth to an endless and eternal field.
Somewhere in the world nestled between mountains, there was that field, but it wasn't exactly endless and eternal. It was expansive and healthy in that deaths and rebirths were carefully balanced. In the middle was large house and large barn. The house was both an orphanage ran solely by two very tall lesbian women who were model citizens of the nearby town and idolized in their province and country.
They accepted children from many races and backgrounds, and made them their own. Stringent education granted intelligence unparalleled to any prestigious school, and their hidden talents and abilities were unleashed at the same time. The orphanage churned out many children into the world stage who became leaders in their own right. They might have acted independent, but their motives were solely instilled by the youngest of the lesbian couple who desired a perfect world.
Sometimes, some children could not be adopted into external families. It wasn't that they weren't wanted. Rather, they loved their parents so much that they stayed to run the daily affairs of home, farm, and the field.
While they were universally loved, they were universally feared in the criminal underworld. The couple rejected all claims that they were the shadow queens of the world that had a knack of bringing countries and corporate conglomerations to their knees in less than one year. For some of the larger and more powerful countries, it took just about two years. Tales of the Sunflower Empress and her lover the Sunflower Princess were widespread. No one knew how they acted, and no one knew their true identity. If one were to see a single stem of sunflower on their doorstep, doom was imminent.
Regardless, the Sunflower Orphanage operated without a single incident. Eventually though, the couple who started the program desired to live out their lives alone in the house in their old age.
Ideals could last forever, but the couple's bodies could not. The older of them, already well past one hundred years of age, suffered from pneumonia and decided to sleep in early for the day. Neither of them was sad, as they had anticipated all this.
"I will join you soon after," said the younger one.
"Don't take too long," said the older one. She closed her eyes and exhaled for the last time. The younger one then crawled into her side of the bed and closed her eyes. She died hours later.
Their only living beneficiaries were two of their eldest grandchildren, one man and one woman, came back with their respective families after they each received a text message from the local priest that the smoke at the Sunflower Orphanage chimney had stopped operating. They found their adoptive grandparents content and in peace.
They encountered memories and artifacts in the couple's personal office and storage rooms, some of which included a libelous flyer, a receipt for a print shop, and a newspaper clipping during the infamous Sunflower Case. The eldest grandchild then found a safe, and opened it up using the number combination his grandparents gave him after their last adopted child passed away.
It opened, and spilling out were numerous documents of genetic test results. He skimmed through them, and almost gasped.
"What did you find?" asked the second eldest grandchild.
"We have to burn these," said the first.
The second nodded without incident. Along with the documents, many other things were burned.
As per their will, the couples' remains were cremated, and their ashes were distributed about the cropland. A quick funeral ceremony immediately held after with only the two eldest grandchildren and their families in attendance. In addition, a stone memorial was erected for their honor in front of the house. The house, the farm, and the land were now a nature preserve.
Almost as if humans were wiped out, nature eventually destroyed the house and farm through two strong twin trees almost a century later. The field was now wild, but there was still peace. A sunflower field grew around the crumbling memorial.
The couple was still alive somehow, somewhere, and with their ideals spread across not only the planet, but also the entire universe. Way before then however, they had to willingly relinquish the world in order to gain it back in spades. How they rose into such insurmountable legendary power though... that was another story.
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