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.