There was some semblance of peace in the city after Suiko's brief rampage in the city. As before, the survivors of the aborted attack sighed at the destruction, but their boundless optimism saw them picking up the pieces and trying to rebuild.
Luthien, after all, was the jewel of the Japanese. And the sense of solidarity was especially strong in the Imperial Capital, a sense of loyalty and caring for the common good saw people helping each other.
Thus, life as usual went on for the city. Suiko's attack did very little in terms of psychological effects. The citizens merely carried on with their daily lives.
However, nobody in the Hanagumi was that distracted from the city's annual traditional festival in Asakusa. Each knew the feeling before, knowing that the presence of the Kokkikai still hung menacingly in the atmosphere.
Then again, it didn't mean they couldn't have fun.
"Reni! Look! Look!" the little French girl squealed in delight, pointing at the various stalls and shops set-up for the festival. The entire festival square was packed with people enjoying their fun.
Reni, in what was fast becoming a regular occurrence, began to smile. The silver-haired girl nodded in calm agreement, but she too was inwardly excited about the festivities. The entire Hanagumi were strolling down the festival, easing past the throng of people.
"What's all this commotion about?" Orihime huffed. She had experienced a small festival back during their summer holidays, but it was nothing compared to this. This was on a far grander scale.
"It's an annual festival, Orihime-han... one of the biggest in the year!" Kohran replied with relish.
"That's right! And this year it seems bigger than ever before!" Kanna enthused. Her mouth was already watering, her eager nose picking up the delicious smells wafting from the many stalls.
"Honestly, is food all you can think about?" Sumire snorted in disdain.
"Huh, why don't the snake woman tell us why she's here then?" Kanna replied.
"What did you say, you gorilla?"
From at the tail-end of the group, Jason sighed as the two bickered as usual.
"Those two are getting noisy," he complained in jest to Maria.
Maria grinned. "That's the way they are, I don't think they would ever change," the Russian said.
"Say, let's get ditch them," Jason suddenly suggested.
"Come on!" Jason laughed. Without waiting for her reply, he grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her aside; melting into the crowd before the other Hanagumi could notice.
Maria could have easily stopped him. Her sensible nature was lecturing within that they would get lost from the other Hanagumi in such a large crowd, but she tuned out the logical voice.
She was more than happy to drown in the randomness of it all, as Jason pulled her towards the festival stalls and attractions.
"Huh? Where did Maria go?" Kanna suddenly asked, her mouth still studiously chewing on the delicious takoyaki.
Sumire was about to rebuke her when she noticed someone else was missing as well. "Jason isn't around too," the Kanzaki heiress said instead.
"You don't suppose..." Sakura started to say.
"Heh heh heh, what else?" Kohran grinned.
"Those two are getting more sneaky everyday," Iris complained.
"Yeah. And you know what that means?" Kohran asked, her spectacles glimmering.
"Snoop! Snoop!" Kanna chanted.
"Wai! Iris is with Reni!" Iris cheered, latching an arm on the silver-haired girl. Reni just couldn't say no to Iris.
"Hmhm, I want to see Maria's dating face," Sakura smiled.
"Well, I suppose it -could- be interesting..." Sumire admitted.
"Yosha! Alright you guys, let's split up!" Kohran took charge. The Chinese girl ignored the look on Ogami's face.
Before the captain could say anything, the Hanagumi dispersed in various directions, leaving Ogami and the very surprised Orihime alone.
"...looks like Japanese women are very strange too" Orihime commented after a moment.
"Y-yeah..." Ogami agreed weakly.
"Even Reni is gone" the Italian girl said pointedly.
"...and leaving me alone here," Orihime continued, eyes glaring at Ogami.
"Yeah.." Ogami repeated, not really registering what she said.
"You stupid Japanese man!" Orihime stamped her feet in frustration. She grabbed a fistful of her skirt and turned in a huff.
"H-huh? Orihime, wait!" Ogami called out, suddenly realizing that Orihime was indirectly asking for company.
"What is it!" Orihime demanded.
Putting a hand to the back of his head in a sheepish manner, Ogami laughed nervously.
"Haha... actually, I don't want to go back to the theater just yet. Do you mind taking a walk with me here?"
Her anger subsiding, Orihime tossed her hair. "Hmph, I suppose you can come with me this time. Come along now" she said in a very regally pleased tone.
As they made their way through the festival, Ogami couldn't help but notice how Orihime's eyes lit up whenever she saw something new, despite her non-too-convincing sarcastic comments. Exotic foods, little Japanese toys and trinklets... she was especially interested in the paper play that had a hokey masked hero story.
'Though she might not admit it, I think she likes being in Teito,' Ogami thought.
"What are you looking at?" Orihime demanded, snapping his train of thought.
"Well, what do you think of the festival?" the Japanese man said.
"Hmph! Florentina's 'Festival di Musica e dei Fiori' is much grander, one hundred times, one thousand times!" she replied haughtily.
"Oh, I've heard of it. But come on, there's no need to compare the two... let's just have some fun while we're here," Ogami said soothingly.
In any case, Orihime's attention was diverted elsewhere.
"Is that man selling paintings?" she asked, pointing to a tired looking man. The mustached, middle-aged Japanese man was absent-mindedly fingering his paintings, oblivious to the crowd of people that passed by his spot in the festival.
"Yes, portraits to be exact," Ogami answered.
"Welcome, I'll be honored if you would want me to paint you a portrait," the man replied and smiled, picking up on their conversation.
"Hmm... will it take a lot of time?" Orihime wondered.
"But these are quite good," Ogami remarked, glancing at several pieces.
The painter chuckled. "I know it doesn't look like much, but I have studied among the best in Florentina. Please, don't think too badly of me," he said modestly.
"Florentina!" Ogami exclaimed and turned to look at Orihime. "That's where you're from, Orihime-"
Ogami's voice trailed off when he saw Orihime's ashen face, her fingers trembling with nervous energy.
"You're Orihime? You're from Florentina...?" the painter said in a stricken voice.
"Do... do you two know each other?" Ogami asked slowly.
"Don't be stupid!" Orihime snapped like a viper. She angrily brushed off Ogami's hand. "How dare you! Insinuating that I know any Japanese man!"
"But nothing! You're annoying!" Orihime turned away and quickly left, leaving the stunned Ogami behind.
"A-ah... I'm so sorry," the embarrassed young man stammered.
"Don't worry... go after her, please..." the painter replied in a hollow tone.
Ogami would want to stay longer, but the painter's head was bowed in a shocked silence. Not knowing of anything else to do, Ogami sighed apologetically and ran off after the Italian girl.
As Ogami left, another person went up to the painter.
"Hey, you alright?"
The painter slowly raised his head up to see a young woman standing before him. She had fine alabaster skin, her black hair was cut shoulder-length. Her eyebrows arched high over her sharp eyes, a contrast to her otherwise light bearing.
"Oh... I'm fine, please don't worry," the painter smiled wearily.
"Hm," the woman simply muttered, not entirely convinced. Then her eyes caught some of the paintings on display. "Say, these are pretty good," she commented, looking more closely.
"Thank you... sadly, painting seems to be the only thing I'm good at," the man sighed. He began cleaning up, gathering his equipment.
"You're packing already?" the woman asked in dismay.
"You wish for a portrait?"
"Oops. No, I'm just taking a look... say, I saw what happened earlier. Want to talk about it?" the woman offered.
"Thank you, but-"
"Oh don't mention it. I just love to help people in trouble. I just got here myself but I know a nice spot where we can talk in peace. My name's Faye by the way," the woman rattled, not giving him the chance to refuse.
The man sighed, but when Faye gave him her best persistent and determined look, he can't help but smile.
"And I am Ogata. Thank you, kind girl."
"No problem. And don't call me girl, I'm older than I look."
Ogami never did caught up to Orihime, but the angry voice from her room when he knocked at the door told him she was back in the Teigeki.
With a lot of chores to do, Ogami had no choice but to make a mental note to speak to her later. But the Italian girl was even absent from dinner. The Hanagumi were only mildly surprised, they were getting too used to her temperamental moods.
Anyways, they were distracted, teasing Jason and Maria on their sudden disappearance during the festival.
The next day, Ogami again went to knock on her door, only to be rebuffed rudely.
"Orihime, is this about the man yesterday?"
"Will you cease blathering about him! You Japanese men are such busy bodies! Go away!"
Irritated but yet stilled worried about Orihime, Ogami sighed and went away, unsure of what to do.
"That's right, I can ask Jason about it!" Ogami snapped his fingers in realization. Jason had told him about his adventure in New Trafford with Orihime, perhaps he could shed more light on this mystery.
However, Ogami's plan was momentarily forgotten as he climbed the staircase towards the living quarters. Hearing some talking from the library section, the curious Japanese man made his way there.
Ogami smiled as he heard Jason's voice grimacing. But then another voice told him that Jason wasn't alone.
"You -svinya," Maria's voice laughed.
"Pig? You call me a pig for not liking poetry? Meh," Jason muttered.
"I cannot believe you are so uncivilized," Maria smirked, and then Ogami could hear a muffled, hitting sound. For example, the sound of a hardcover book being thumped on Jason's head.
"Ow. Hit me all you want, but you can't convince me to like poetry," Jason said defiantly.
"At least make an attempt to read it," Maria suggested.
"Maria, I know poetry can be beautiful, but I never enjoyed reading fanciful words to describe simple things."
Ogami could hear Jason taking a deep breath, and he could imagine the affected look on the Exodusian's face.
"Lazy? I'm not lazy! My dear woman, I've spent four hundred of my years and I have yet to see a use for poetry in my life so far," Jason said in mock righteousness. Ogami could almost imagine Jason's impudent smirk as he ranted.
Ogami decided to announce himself by coughing discreetly.
"Taichou," Maria greeted, straightening her face.
"Ogami you rat, how long have you been there?" Jason demanded non-too-seriously.
"Only just," the Japanese man replied with a smile. "I see you're better now, Maria."
Maria nodded. "Yes, I am sorry if I worried you."
Jason shrugged. "So what's up?"
"Actually, I need your advice."
Maria actually looked startled. "Taichou, are you alright?" she asked in a concerned tone.
"Uh, yes, I am..." Ogami said even as Jason shot her a dirty look.
"Whaaaaat? There's nothing wrong in coming to me for advice!" Jason said righteously.
Ogami didn't know how Maria kept her face straight and her voice deadpan as she studiously ignored Jason.
"Well Taichou, if there's any doubt, you can ask me anytime," she said. Then she nodded, giving Jason a smirk before leaving.
"Thanks, Maria," Ogami chuckled. His grin got broader when he saw Jason's incredulous look. "This is your own fault," Ogami said.
"For making Maria so... sociable. It's your fault that you get picked on, by Maria of all people," Ogami snickered.
"Heh. Well, what's up?"
Ogami turned serious. "It's about Orihime."
Jason's face screwed up as if he just swallowed a lemon.
"Don't be like that," Ogami admonished with a slight grin. "Do you know what's bothering Orihime lately?"
"I dunno," Jason shrugged. "I thought she's pretty normal... in fact, I heard from the others that she's been in a bad mood after -you- took her around the festival. What did -you- do?" Jason asked accusingly.
Kasumi's arrival interrupted the proceedings. "There is someone standing outside of the theater for quite some time now," the eldest of the Kazegumi said worryingly.
"Did he want for anything?" Ogami asked.
"No, but he kept staring at the theater. What should we do?"
"Hmm, I wonder if..." Ogami trailed. Seeing the puzzled looks on his companions, Ogami shook his head. "I'll go and take a look," the Japanese man said instead.
"I'll go with you," Jason added jovially.
As Ogami suspected, it was the painter that had so disturbed Orihime previously. As Ogami approached, the middle-aged man began to fidget nervously, as if unsure of his visit.
In fact, the painter was debating that very matter. The young, pale woman that had offered to help him insisted that he should go to the theater.
Ogata thought it was a silly idea, but the way Faye explained it, it seemed so logical. After hearing his life story and confirming it with several discreet sources about Orihime Soletta, Faye ranted in his face over several cups of delicious coffee.
"You can't just let time pass you two by, Ogata!" the young woman said in a very direct manner and careless of polite suffixes.
"You already lost your daughter for all her years, and finally you found her! And -now- you're getting cold feet? Get out there and talk to her!" the woman ordered.
And so, armed with trepidation and a smattering of hope, Ogata found himself shuffling his feet before Ogami.
"Ah, it's you..." Ogata said, relieved at seeing him. Although still strangers, he recognized Ogami from before. There was another man with Ogami, but Ogata paid him no mind. Foremost on his thoughts was his daughter.
"Excuse me, but you are...?" Ogami asked.
"I'm sorry," the man replied, chastened at his lack of politeness. "My name is Ogata Seiya," he said.
"I'm Ichiro Ogami, and this is Jason Bourne. We work at this theater. What can we do for you?"
Ogata paused to take a deep breath.
"I think I might be Soletta Orihime's father," he said finally.
"Oh," Ogami replied, his brain frazzled.
"Swell," Jason mumbled, not much better off.
After some hesitant and awkward moments, Ogata revealed his past.
"I was young and idealistic. I struck out on my own to be a painter, and thus I traveled to Florentina to learn from the best. It was there where I met Carrino Soletta..."
He then paused and sighed, a faraway look on his face. "She was so beautiful... I am an artist you see, and it is expected for me to have seen many beautiful paintings and sculptures. But Carrino, ah Carino... she was greater than any piece of art. She was... my Aphrodite."
Ogami smiled at the description. On the other hand, Jason had a cynical smirk. Not that he was dismissive of Ogata's words, but his ears picked up the sounds of an eavesdropper nearby.
"So how did you two get together?" Jason asked, more for the eavesdropper's benefit than his own. As he expected, he heard the rustling of clothes brushing against the doorway, the owner of which must be pressing her ear closer to listen in.
Ogata smiled as he recounted. "It was the first day of my first exhibition. A generous patron had discovered me in Florentina and offered to display them at his museum, and that I was invited as well because I was somewhat of a novelty, a Japanese artist painting in Realism. I was especially nervous, because a lot of dignitaries and critics were in attendance. So nervous in fact, that I stood in one corner of the hall trying to disappear."
His two listeners chuckled, and Ogata began to feel more relieved. His words became livelier, as his trust in the two young men grew.
"You can imagine then, as I arrived at Florentina without friends, and I find myself terribly isolated. But it was then when she appeared... a vision of loveliness that I have never seen before. She had come to me, wondering if I was the painter of a certain painting that she had seen earlier. I can barely speak before her, but one happy smile from her when I said that yes, I was the painter... she smiled and all my fears washed away."
Jason grinned. "So you two hit it off?" he asked bluntly. Ogami shot him a look but Jason ignored the searching look.
Ogata smiled sheepishly. "Yes... yes, we did. I don't understand how it happened... Fate, I guess..."
Jason's grin abruptly disappeared. "But then something happened?" he prodded.
Ogata's face turned ashen. "Yes," he said quietly, "something happened. The Soletta family, as you know is of nobility. The patriarch of the Soletta family could not accept a mere artist. Even when Orihime had already come into this world, the patriarch was determined to separate us. And... with my dreams destroyed, I returned to the capital..."
"Ogata-san..." Ogami said, not sure of what else to say.
"I see. So you left your wife without a husband and your child without a father," Jason said coldly.
The tone of his voice shocked Ogami. "Jason!" the young captain rebuked.
"Your words hurt, but they are true," Ogata intervened. "Carrino deeply cared for her family. I can't let her choose between them or Orihime and me, and so I made it for her. I left after the patriarch gave his word to have both of them well-cared for."
"And did Carrino approve of this?" Jason persisted.
"No, she did not know. I left without telling her, I can't bear telling to her face that I will be gone from her life forever," Ogata answered heavily.
The hard look on Jason's face disappeared, as if satisfied with his reply. "Alright, I understand," Jason said simply, "but why now? Why come forward now?"
"A young friend saw what happened in the festival, and advised me to do so."
"And so, what are your plans now?" Ogami asked softly.
"If I could talk to her..." Ogata whispered.
All three men turned their heads when the doors slammed open to reveal a furious Orihime. The Italian girl's eyes flashed angrily with green fire, her hands bunched up in trembling fists.
"Orihime!" Ogata shot to his feet, stunned.
"Liar! Cheater! Do you think you can trick me with your cheap lies?" Orihime vented, almost screeching with rage.
"O-Orihime! Calm down-" Ogami tried to sooth the girl.
"Calm down! And let you idiots be fooled by this charlatan? Get him out of here! Disappear!"
And then she stopped, breathing heavily at her rant. She shot a final glare at Ogata.
"I shall never forgive you" she hissed as she turned around to leave.
Jason sucked his breath and gave Ogata a pitying look. "Looks like you have a mountain to climb there..."
Not a little shaken, Ogata eyes were downcast. "I... I may have made a mistake coming here..." the painter mumbled.
"Ogata-san, it's never a mistake to want to see your family again," Ogami said firmly, giving the older man a helping hand.
"But, what else can I do?" Ogata muttered helplessly.
"Listen, I'll talk to Orihime. I'm sure she will come around," Ogami said.
Ogata clasped the younger man's hand in gratitude. "Thank you. My hopes rest on you."
After escorting Ogata to the door, Ogami sighed.
"What a day..."
"Things never really get dull around here, huh?" Jason quipped.
Ogami chuckled wearily. "But why did you question Ogata-san so harshly?" he asked a moment later.
Jason shrugged. "I heard Orihime at the door.
"You knew? And you didn't inform me or Ogata-san?"
"I asked those questions so that Orihime could hear the answers for herself. What do you think; would Orihime give the man a chance to talk if they met face to face?"
"...You're right," Ogami conceded.
"Of course I'm right. That girl has a machine-gun mouth. He wouldn't have a chance."
Ogami couldn't help but laugh at the strange metaphor. Then his face turned serious. "Stop joking, this is serious. How I am going to convince Orihime to talk to her father?" he asked.
"What the, don't look at –me-. I thought you had it all figured out. His hopes are all on –you," Jason reminded him.
"I guess I'll just ask everyone else for advice then..." Ogami replied with a sheepish smile.
"Ah, the infamous Ogami Plan B: Talk To Everybody. Sometimes I think that's all that you do around here," Jason shrugged.
Elsewhere, Ogata was being interrogated by his young friend.
"And? Did you meet her?" Faye asked eagerly.
"Well?" Faye pressed. Her impatience exploded when Ogata's head bowed. "What happened!" she yelled.
Ogata can't help but drew back in the face of her vehemence.
"It didn't quite happen as I liked..." Ogata sighed. In subdued tones, he explained what happened to her. Faye herself grew more saddened by the accounts.
"Geez. Hey, I'm sorry, I didn't know that would happen," Faye mumbled.
Ogata smiled. "It's not your fault, my young friend. But tell me, why are you so interested? We were strangers when we met."
Faye grinned. "Actually, not quite. I'm a fan of your works. I actually came here because of your paintings."
"You did?" Ogata asked.
"Yeah, see... well, arghhhh, it's quite complicated. Just say I'm an art collector. Maybe I'll tell you more later," Faye said off-handedly.
Ogata had no time to process her rapid words, because she quickly went off to ask, "So, what are you going to do now?"
"I... I have no idea."
"Hey, you know what? Maybe I should go talk to your daughter."
"I don't think-"
"You got a better idea?"
"Then it's settled."
"Er, if you say so..."
True to Ogami's words, the young Japanese man spoke to everyone else in the Teigeki, seeking their advice. After a whole lot of walking and talking, Ogami came to the conclusion that there was nothing much he could do but try to persuade Orihime directly.
And so, he knocked on Orihime's door, seeking an audience with the stubborn Italian girl.
"Orihime, I know you're in there."
"Go away you miserable Japanese man!"
Ogami winced at her waspish tone.
"Come on, Orihime, I just want to talk."
"I've got nothing to say to you!" Orihime retorted.
Ogami sighed. He was about to give up when he saw Jason with a glass of cold juice in one hand. Ogami stared at him wordlessly as the Exodusian walked past.
"Nice," Jason whispered as he disappeared into his room, barely concealing a smug grin. His door closed and the lock slid into place with a 'click'.
If anything, Jason's little gesture caused Ogami to get all fired up.
"Orihime, open up!" Ogami ordered in his best leadership voice.
"No! Why are you so annoying?" Orihime demanded.
"If you think you are in the right, then why are you afraid to hear me out?" Ogami countered.
"I don't need to hear anything from Japanese men!" Orihime shot back.
"Fine. Then I'll wait here until you open this door."
With that, the taichou of the Hanagumi sat down heavily on the floor and leaned his back on her door.
"Fine! You can wait forever then!"
Time passed. Ogami had sat down like a samurai in meditation hands on hips, legs folded and eyes closed as he waited.
Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, the door opened. Ogami turned to look upwards to see Orihime's face.
"Really... you're too persistent," the Italian girl conceded.
Ogami stood up and looked at her seriously.
"May we talk?"
Orihime nodded and let the Japanese man into her room.
"So what is it you want so say?" Orihime asked.
"Tell me about your mother," Ogami said. The sudden request took Orihime off-guard, she had expected him to talk about her father.
"I don't know what that man had told you," Orihime said, "but I saw my mama crying whenever she thought she was alone. Do you know how it feels to see the person you love crying for someone you have never met? That man made mama cry, and I shall never forgive him!"
"But did you hear his story? You don't believe him?" Ogami asked.
"Never! Why should I!"
"But, Orihime... he's your father."
"A father whom I never met before in my life! He was never there for me! Why should I care if he lives or dies?"
"Because he's family, Orihime," Ogami replied softly.
The Italian girl stared at him with eyes full of disbelief.
"This is absurd. Get out," the dark-skinned girl finally said.
Just before Orihime closed the door, Ogami turned around to face her.
"Your mother cried for him, Orihime. Maybe you should find out why," he said quietly.
'That detestable man' Orihime thought half-heartedly to herself. Then she angrily tossed her hair, annoyed with herself, as if not content that she couldn't find more fault with that busybody of a Japanese man, that Ogami.
"Why does he keep irritating me" the fiery Italian girl muttered to herself.
She sat down on her chair, inwardly stewing. Chin on one hand, she looked out of her window with a hard stare, not seeing anything in particular.
One could almost imagine laser beams shooting out from her fiery eyes as she glared at the innocent landscape of the Imperial City.
She wasn't really concentrating on anything, it just happened that her eyes were aimed towards her window.
Which is why she nearly jumped out of her skin when a something suddenly struck her window pane.
Startled, she leapt to her feet, mouth open in shock as she stared at the still-rattling glass.
Then it happened again. Something hit the window to make a noise, but not strong enough to break it.
Her curiosity piqued, Orihime cautiously approached the window. She waited from behind the curtains, out of sight. When the window rattled yet again with another hit, she angrily burst forth and threw the window wide open.
"Who? Who is it?" she yelled out from her window.
Orihime jerked her head directly down and saw a young woman waving back to her gaily.
"What do you want?" Orihime snapped.
The tone made the young woman's hand drop limply. "Geez, what a grouch. Lighten up, I've got a present for you!"
"Come on down and let's talk someplace else, this is killing my neck," the young woman said, grimacing as she rubbed her craning neck.
"You must be joking. You think I would simply go with you, a total stranger?"
"Oh I'm sure you will. It's about your father."
Orihime closed her mouth. She glared at the pale woman, wondering if this was some sort of a trick.
Then she made up her mind.
It is time to finish this once and for all.
"Talk" Orihime demanded as soon as they seated themselves on a bench in Asakusa. The festival was winding down, but there were quite a number of people milling about the stalls and enjoying themselves.
Save for one impatient Italian girl.
"Geez, what a grouch. Don't people usually start off with introductions first?"
"You're the one who asked me here without giving your name" Orihime retorted.
"But you didn't ask... Nevermind. I'm Faye. I'm an art collector from Sian," the woman replied.
Orihime blinked, wondering just how this young woman from the Chinese capital world was related to her.
"You said something about my father?" Orihime asked instead.
"Ah, yes. As I said, I'm an art collector. I'm here on Luthien to get some samples for my gallery, and I can't help but overhear your, er, conversation with Mr. Ogata the other day. Well, I guess almost everyone heard it, it was –loud," Faye grinned.
Orihime's lips twisted into a displeased scowl. "And this concerns you how...?"
Faye's grin disappeared. "I'll be frank. I'm very impressed by your father's work."
"He's not my father," Orihime interrupted curtly.
"Oh but he is. I've done some checking on my own and you can be sure of that."
Before Orihime could exclaim in indignation, Faye plowed on relentlessly.
"Hey, don't worry about it, I always do background checks. I don't want to accidentally display works by a mass murderer or something like that hiding under an alias, y'know. Anyways, I'm really concerned about your father."
"Problem? Why are you such a busybody!"
"Look, he has a lot of talent. I just don't want him waste his life pining away pining for his family while still in his prime. I predict his works are going to be valuable someday."
"Hmph. Probably in a few hundred years," Orihime muttered disparagingly. Even so, she could not hide the undertone of pride.
"I can wait that long," Faye replied mysteriously with a smile. Her ears had picked up Orihime's suppressed feelings. 'She still wants her family to get back together,' the Chinese woman noted.
"And so? What do you want?" Orihime said.
"The question is, what do –you- want, Orihime?" Faye countered. Her smile broadened when she saw Orihime's forehead furrow in thought. She decided to change to another tack to give the Italian an opening.
"I've been to your father's place, you know. It's a small, rented place on the second floor of a shophouse here in Asakusa."
"He lives here?" Orihime asked, incredulous.
"Yes, strange isn't it? A talented artist like him could have made millions, but he chose to live modestly and stay with the common folk."
Orihime stayed silent, digesting the information.
"You know, there is one portrait in his house that he wouldn't want to sell. Even when I offered, hmm, let's just say it's a very high price. I don't know whose portrait it was, but he called the painting 'Carrino'. Does that ring a bell?"
The Italian girl's mouth dropped open.
Faye shrugged before she could say anything. "He wouldn't tell me when I asked. So how about if you asked him?" she suggested. The Chinese woman then pointed behind Orihime.
The tanned girl with startled emerald eyes turned around slowly to see Ogata standing quietly behind her.
Then Orihime chuckled softly. She slowly stood to her feet. "What a joke! You think a sappy story like this will change anything! You busybodies! Me and my mama have lived perfectly well without him, and we will continue to do so!"
"Girl, you're really getting on my nerves," Faye said, not a little peeved.
"The day when I call him papa is the day when the sky falls!" Orihime retorted.
And true enough, the sky fell.
Sorry for the lack of updates. I only have one excuse and three words to say it:
"World of Warcraft"