Rene anxiously paced the dining room. It was barely five o'clock in the morning, so he didn't dare wake the others, especially Kyoya or Mitsukuni. "Come to think of it, no one has tried waking Mitsukuni up early since the tumor was removed. I wonder if he would still be as volatile."
He considered the experiment for a few minutes before deciding, "I think I'll wait until after I find out about my mother before taking my life into my hands just to satisfy my curiosity. Maybe I could trick the twins into waking him sometime and see what happens."
Wandering down the hall, Rene decided to explore the library. He looked over the shelves, not seeking anything in particular, when he came across a bound copy of the thesis by Pierre Janet on disassociation and traumatic memory. "I remember the professor mentioned this study during his lecture on the development of trauma intervention and grief counseling. I'll just peruse it while I wait for everyone else." He turned on the reading lamp, settled into the armchair, and immersed himself in the academic treatise.
As they enjoyed breakfast together in the dining room, Rene kept looking at the clock while tearing his croissant into smaller and smaller pieces.
Finally, Haruhi reached over and took his hand. "Are you nervous?"
Rene looked at her in confusion. "I don't know what's wrong with me. I want to know about my mother, but I guess I'm a little afraid as well."
Mitsukuni looked up at Rene with sympathy. "Would you like us to come with you?"
"I don't know how big the lawyer's office is. There may not be room for all of us," Rene replied, his shoulders sagging.
Takashi looked around the room. "Maybe it would be best if Kyoya and Haruhi accompany you. The rest of us can help Estee and Coco get settled."
Rene brightened. "That's a great idea, Takashi." He turned his puppy dog eyes toward the pair and asked excitedly, "Would you come with me otou-san and okaa-san?"
Kyoya smiled. "Of course, we'll accompany you." He checked the time and continued, "We should probably leave in the next ten minutes."
Rene clung to Kyoya and Haruhi as they walked up the steps to Catherine Touren-Grosseau's law office. He had spent the entire trip over babbling incoherently to himself. Haruhi held his hand and tried to distract him from his fear-laced mind theater, but to no avail.
When they entered the office, Kyoya left Rene in Haruhi's care and approached the secretary. "Good morning. Sabine Cheng made an appointment for eight o'clock this morning, but I forgot to ask what name she made it under."
"Good morning. Mm. Cheng made that appointment for Rene de Grantaine. Are you he?" she responded politely.
"No. The gentleman over there is Rene. I am Kyoya Hinan and this is my significant other, Haruhi Fujioka. Rene was a bit nervous, so he asked us to accompany him."
"I will inform Mlle. Touren-Grosseau that you have arrived. Please have a seat." She stood up, gestured to the sofa, and entered a door at the rear of the office.
Settling Rene on the sofa and sitting down next to him, Haruhi asked thoughtfully, "What if they ask for identification? All of Rene's documentation is for 'Rene Hinan,' not 'Rene de Grantaine'."
Rene stirred from his position trying to burrow into her side. "I brought these with me," he whispered, pulling out a small portfolio. Inside were copies of his birth certificate, his Ouran school records, the reports from the extensive medical tests the previous summer, and his adoption documents.
"Well done, Rene," Kyoya praised. "These follow an unbroken chain from Rene de Grantaine through Tamaki Suoh to Rene Hinan. Very thorough."
The secretary returned, followed by another woman. "Good morning, I am Catherine Touren-Grosseau. I hope you don't mind, but there will be several people joining us in the meeting today. Please follow me."
She led them down the hall to a conference room where a French police inspector was waiting. "Please allow me to begin the introductions. As I said, I am Catherine Touren-Grosseau. I am the lawyer retained by Anne-Sophia de Grantaine shortly before her death to locate her son, Rene."
Rene shook slightly at the mention of his mother and her death. He looked at the floor for a moment before taking a deep breath. He lifted his eyes, straightened his back, and held his head high, as if preparing to enter the battlefield.
Watching his reaction to the news of his mother's death, Catherine paused to allow him to gather himself. When he straightened, she continued the introductions. "This is Inspector Jean-Paul Touren-Grosseau of the French police. Incidentally, he is also my brother. I requested his help when a number of…inconsistencies occurred in my search."
Rene bowed slightly and spoke in a formal tone. "I am Rene Hinan. I was born Rene Tamaki Richard de Grantaine. When I was taken to Japan by my father, I was known as Tamaki Suoh. Events last year necessitated my adoption by the Hinan family and I became Rene Richard de Grantaine Hinan."
He stopped for a moment to take a breath and collect his thoughts. "This is my adopted brother, Kyoya Hinan. The young lady is his significant other, Haruhi Fujioka. We all attended Ouran High School together."
The inspector stepped forward. "Do you have identification that I can examine?"
"Of course," they all replied, handing over their passports and identification cards. In addition, Rene handed his portfolio to the inspector.
"Please, have a seat," Catherine directed, waving to the chairs around the conference table.
As Haruhi settled in the chair next to Rene, she contemplated the conference room. "It's a good thing everyone didn't come. We never would have fit. There's only room for eight and there are five of us here already."
Laying the documents on the table, Jean-Paul pulled out his notebook and jotted down the relevant facts that he would need later to file his report. "Everything appears to be in order," he noted as he returned the passports and identification cards. He continued to examine the documents in the portfolio while the others continued the conversation.
"Please allow me to play devil's advocate for a moment," Kyoya spoke up. "How can you be sure that this is actually Rene de Grantaine, and not some imposter who merely looks like him and stole his credentials?"
Catherine smiled. "Good point, but that is why there will be several other people joining us for this meeting. While I respect Sabine Cheng and her opinion that this is Anne-Sophie's son, Rene, it has been five years since she saw him last."
"And who are these people?" Haruhi asked, watching the lawyer with interest.
"One is the head of the household where Anne-Sophie lived out the remainder of her life," Catherine explained.
"I get to talk to someone who knew my mother?" Rene asked excitedly. "Will they tell me how she was and what she did?" Now that they were here and discussing his mother, he was almost bouncing in excitement at the idea of finding out how her life had been after he left. He sobered at that thought. "I'm the one who left. I deserted her. What must she have thought of me?"
Kyoya noticed the shift in Rene's mood and placed a hand on his shoulder comfortingly to ground him. "It's no wonder he's back to the whiplash mood swings with all the emotional upheaval he's been through."
There was a knock on the door and Catherine called, "Yes?"
The secretary opened the door slightly and said, "M. and Mlle. Houshakuji have arrived. Shall I bring them in?"
"Yes, Amelie. Please bring them in," Catherine responded as she surreptitiously watched the expressions of the three young people sitting at the conference table. The three exchanged a glance and smiles, though Haruhi's was tinged with...apprehension. "I wonder what that's about?"
As soon as the door opened the trio stood. Haruhi stepped slightly behind Kyoya and Rene. "If I'm right, Mlle. Houshakuji is Renge. She left Ouran before my gender was revealed last Christmas. This could get interesting," her thoughts whirled chaotically as she looked down at what she was wearing. It was an indigo t-shirt dress with two layers of ruffles on the skirt and looked undeniably feminine.
M. Houshakuji entered first and bowed. "Thank you for allowing us to attend this meeting."
Kyoya stood and bowed respectfully. "Houshakuji-sama, it is a pleasure to see you again. It has been three years since your last trip to Japan."
"Kyoya, my boy. It is so good to see you. Alas, I have not had dealings with your family of late. I trust all is well?" Reynard considered him expectantly.
A look of chagrin crossed Kyoya's face. "That is a topic for another time because much has happened since our last meeting."
"Just so. I hope you and your companions will join my daughter and I for dinner this evening," Reynard offered.
"We can discuss the possibility after the conclusion of this meeting." Kyoya answered smoothly.
Just then Renge entered with a flourish. "I was just showing Amelie my new cosplay outfit. It's based on the girls' uniform for Ouran Academy in Japan. I'm working on a computer game based on my experiences there." When she saw the three young people in the conference room, she squealed, "Kyoya! Tamaki! Oh my? Is that Haruhi?" Her eyes widened in astonishment.
"Hello, Renge," Haruhi said tentatively and waved awkwardly, watching the comical expression on the other young woman's face.
"But…but…but," Renge stuttered. "You're wearing a dress." She paused and shook her head, as if to re-settle thoughts into their proper places. "Well, that just explains soooo much. No wonder you were so good at baking cookies and Tamaki always referred to you as his 'daughter' and insisted you cover up at the water resort. It also explains why you never succumbed to my charms, no matter how hard I tried. It wasn't that you were oblivious, you just weren't interested. Huh, how did I miss that?"
Catherine and Jean-Paul exchanged a look of confusion because the entire conversation between the young women had taken place in Japanese.
Reynard looked from his daughter to Haruhi and then questioningly at Kyoya. "Maybe we should get together for lunch rather than dinner. I get the impression there are a LOT of stories to be told."
"Truer words were never spoken," Kyoya agreed shaking his head in consternation.
Amelie, who had slipped in behind Renge, announced, "I have the video link with Inspector Mitsunari Yoshinaga of the Tokyo police department set up."
Jean-Paul addressed the video image, "Good morning—well, afternoon for you. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with us."
Inspector Yoshinaga bowed and replied, "When you said you had new information in the case, how could I not make time? My interview with Shizue Suoh last week was less than satisfactory."
Rene shuddered slightly at his grandmother's name.
Catherine took control of the meeting once again. "I hope you don't mind if we conduct these proceedings in French to make them transparent for everyone. If everyone except Rene will take a seat, we can get on with the purpose of this meeting, which is actually twofold. The first is to establish that this is in fact Anne-Sophie de Grantaine's son. If he is, then I can finally fulfill the final instructions in Anne-Sophie's last testament."
Inspector Yoshinaga interrupted, "Inspector Touren-Grosseau, would you please point out everyone for me?"
"But of course. Let's begin here at what should be the lower left corner of your screen. This is Amelie, Catherine's secretary. Next to her is my sister, Catherine. She is the lawyer for Anne-Sophie de Grantaine's estate. Beside her is Reynard Houshakuji and his daughter, Renge. Standing is Rene Hinan. He was formerly Tamaki Suoh, nee Rene Tamaki Richard de Grantaine, the missing son. With him are his adopted brother, Kyoya Hinan and Kyoya's significant other, Haruhi Fujioka. Apparently Renge, Rene, Kyoya, and Haruhi were all classmates at Ouran Academy several years ago."
When Kyoya was introduce, both Reynard and Renge turned to look at him in astonishment. "Adopted? Hinan? What's been going on?" they both thought.
Catherine waved Rene closer to the video camera and said, "Inspector, according to his documents, this is the young man we've been looking for. We have also had several witnesses confirm his identity here in France, not all of whom are in this room. Unless there is a serious case of collusion, the evidence overwhelmingly identifies him as the one I have been trying to locate for the past eighteen months."
Looking at Rene intently through the video conference link, the inspector asked, "Have you been in France this whole time?"
"No, sir. I just arrived in Paris yesterday on the Eurostar. Last week I was in England. Before that I was at Tokyo University working on my first-year studies toward a degree in psychology," Rene responded.
"Then how is it that we have been unable to locate you? Your father thought you were at University rooming with your best friend. Mlle. Touren-Grosseau reported that when she called the best friend, she was informed that Tamaki Suoh had not shown up. Your grandmother finally confessed that she had her chauffeur take you to the airport to send you to France."
Kyoya spoke up, "I was the best friend that Mlle. Touren-Grosseau spoke to. I apologize for being circumspect when you called. Given how devious Shizue can be and what she had just done to Rene, we were all very protective."
Rene looked sheepish. "I should probably explain the circumstances that made it seem like I disappeared." He proceeded to outline the events of the day that began with his grandmother's chauffeur taking him to the airport and placing him under guard and ended with changing his name and being adopted by the Hinan family. "You can talk to Misaki Danno, the court clerk. He was the one who processed the paperwork for my adoption."
Inspector Yoshinaga pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. "The Hinan family again? Interesting how many times they've shown up on my radar in the past two and a half years."
Haruhi blushed, scooted her chair closer to Kyoya's, and buried her face in his shoulder. He wrapped his arm around her protectively. Renge watched them with surprise…and a twinge of jealousy.
Lifting her head to face the monitor, Haruhi began, "It was never my intention to cause trouble…" before the Inspector interrupted her.
"The Hinan family has been far from trouble. They've been exposing crimes and corruption while making the world a better place with good paying jobs and affordable services. It just so happens that their involvement tends to start ripples that lead to the most interesting revelations and a whole lot of paperwork. Case in point, Cormorant Construction. We're still working our way through that can of worms. I was just kicking myself for not thinking of contacting Hinansho about the whereabouts of Tamaki Suoh. That would have saved us all at least six months."
"Not to mention avoiding filing charges," Jean-Paul interjected.
"That brings us to the second issue of this meeting, the suits and charges," Catherine noted. "Those grew out of the obstacles I encountered during the search which led me to question whether Anne-Sophie's son was still alive."
"Well, the wrongful death suit will be dropped since he is quite obviously still alive," Inspector Yoshinaga allowed, "but the evidence tampering will remain. There is no doubt that Tamaki Suoh's records were deliberately deleted from the medical databases as well as the educational ones. We'll have to re-evaluate the conspiracy charges, though most likely they'll be dropped due to lack of evidence. Although there was definitely a conspiracy, there's no way to prove what Shizue, the chauffeur, and the security guard were planning."
Catherine smiled. "It looks like we've wrapped up everything satisfactorily. That just leaves delivering Anne-Sophie's legacy to Rene. I want to thank you all for your help with this."
Before Inspector Yoshinaga signed off the video connection, he said, "Jean-Paul, please send me a copy of your report. I will send you a copy of mine as well. Rene, I would like you to contact me when you return to Japan. I want to be sure everything in this case is fully documented."
Rene bowed respectfully. "It would be my pleasure. Perhaps you could come to Hinansho and meet the entire Hinan family."
"I look forward to it," the inspector replied before closing the connection.
Jean-Paul stood and addressed the group, "I need to take my leave to finish my report on this matter. I wish you all the best."
Then Catherine stood and said, "If you'll wait here, I will retrieve Rene's legacy."
Renge opened and closed her mouth several times before any words finally tumbled out. "I have sooo many questions that I don't know where to start. When did…"
Reynard laid a hand on his daughter's arm. "I think the questions and stories can wait until after lunch."
"Speaking of lunch," Kyoya inserted smoothly, "There are several other members of our party that did not accompany us this morning."
"Do you mean that Honey-sempai, Mori-sempai, and the twins are in Paris too?" Renge asked excitedly, clapping her hands.
Haruhi laughed at her exuberance. "Yes, Renge, the whole Host Club is here."
Before Renge could ask any more questions, Catherine returned with a small cedar box about twelve inches wide, eight inches long, and four inches deep. She handed it to Rene along with an envelope. "The keys are in the envelope, along with a copy of her testament."
Rene took it reverently and placed it on the conference table in front of him. He looked up at her and asked, "Did you know my mother well?"
"I wish I did, but I only met her about six months before she died. Sabine Cheng referred her to me when she decided she wanted to see her son again, despite all the embarrassment she had caused for everyone," Catherine said sadly. "She was one of the sweetest people I ever met."
There were a few moments silence as Rene absorbed her words. "That's very kind of you."
"Unfortunately, I have another appointment in fifteen minutes, but feel free to use the conference room as long as you need." Catherine smiled reassuringly before she let the room, followed by Amelie.
Reynard spoke up, "Rene, I don't know if anyone has told you, but she worked for the Tonnerres as a housekeeper after she recovered from her illness. That was about six months after you went to Japan. About a year and a half ago, the Tonnerres suddenly dismissed her. She was too embarrassed to return to her family estate, so she came to live with me. When you all come to lunch today, you can talk to some of the people who were there during your mother's final days."
Rene's voice was choked with emotion as he whispered, "Thank you." He took a deep breath and opened the envelope. After pulling out the testament, he dumped the keys into his hand. "I think I'll save this to read later," he said, laying aside the testament.
Haruhi walked up behind him and rubbed his back lightly as he pulled the box close and fit a key to the lock. Pausing and closing his eyes before lifting the lid, he whispered, "I don't know if I'm ready for this."
Kyoya spoke softly, "I think you've been waiting for this since I met you. Although your grandmother disapproved of you talking about your mother, I could tell that you missed her and constantly second-guessed your decision to leave her. Maybe this holds the answers you've been looking for." He placed a reassuring hand on Rene's shoulder.
Rene dropped the key onto the table and opened the lid. The first thing he saw when he lifted the lid was an envelope marked 'Read First' in elegant handwriting. His hands trembled as he opened the flap and pulled out the letter. His eyes darted back and forth across the page, getting glassier and glassier with tears the further he read.
Sensing that Rene was going to stand up, Haruhi moved to give him space. When he stood, he thrust the letter at Kyoya, then wrapped his arms around Haruhi, burying his face in her neck, and sobbing plaintively, murmuring, "Okaa-san."
Haruhi looked to Kyoya as he quickly absorbed the contents of the letter. When he finished, he folded it and replaced it in its envelope. "Perhaps it would be best if we take Rene back to my house for a bit," Kyoya announced, standing up. "He needs a little time to come to terms with all the revelations of this morning."
Reynard responded, "That would probably be best. I shall send a car for you at one o'clock."
"Will it be able to accommodate eleven?" Kyoya asked.
"I will send my larger limousine so there should be plenty of room," Reynard assured him.
Renge popped out of her reverie. "Wait! What? Eleven? There were only seven in the Host Club."
"We'll explain it at lunch, Renge," Haruhi stated with a smirk as she continued to hold Rene and rub his back.
"May we give you a ride home?" Reynard offered.
"That would be much appreciated since it would eliminate the wait for my car," Kyoya responded with a respectful bow. Turning to Rene, he asked, "Shall I replace the letter and lock the box?"
Rene didn't raise his head but nodded into Haruhi's shoulder. "Yes, and please carry the box for me," he whispered. "Suddenly I just feel so drained."
"I am honored to be entrusted with your legacy." Kyoya placed the letter and testament in the box and locked it. He slipped the key into Rene's pocket before picking up the box and carrying it respectfully.
Reynard gesture to the door and they all filed out of the conference room in silence. Minutes later, they were in the car on the way to Kyoya's house.
During the ride, Renge watched Haruhi, Rene, and Kyoya closely. "I thought Kyoya and Haruhi were in a relationship from the way they were acting. There's something going on among the three of them but I can't quite figure it out. I have so many questions. I will absolutely burst if I can't get them all answered at lunch. I hope I can wait that long."
When they pulled up in front of Kyoya's house, Reynard said, "I will send the car at one. We look forward to all the stories you have to tell."
Haruhi nodded in acknowledgement as she helped Rene out of the car.
"Thank you for your hospitality. We look forward to it as well," Kyoya replied before he climbed out carrying Rene's legacy.
The housekeeper was waiting for them just inside the door. "That didn't take long. It's only just coming up on nine o'clock. The others asked me to inform you that they went back up to rest. Apparently, the confrontation with the Beringars' aunt was rather draining."
"Thank you. This morning took a lot out of Rene as well, so we'll join them in a minute. We will be having lunch with the Houshakujis and they will be sending a car for us at one. Please alert us at twelve-thirty so we can freshen up," Kyoya instructed.
Haruhi helped Rene up the stairs and to the bedroom. Kyoya followed with the box. When they opened the door, everyone looked in their direction.
Seeing how exhausted Rene looked, Hikaru and Kaoru started arranging pillows in the middle so he would be surrounded by everyone.
Kyoya placed the box on the table. Before settling down to relax, he explained, "We've been invited to the Houshakuji's for lunch. They will send a limousine at one o'clock to pick us up."
Mitsukuni and Takashi exchanged a glance before Mitsukuni asked, "Houshakuji as in Renge?"
"Yes," Haruhi replied. "And she will probably have lots of questions so rest up because you know how she can be."
Reiko commented, "I've heard about her. I'm not sure if I met her while she was at Ouran."
"I don't recall the name," Chiharu added.
The twins exchanged a look and a shudder. "If you had met her, you would most definitely remember."
Estee and Coco looked uncomfortable. "Will we be staying here?"
Haruhi smiled. "No, you are invited as well. Renge's harmless, just rather intense. Right Rene?" When there was no response, she turned to look at him and found he was sound asleep. She smoothed a tangle of hair on his forehead. "He had a very emotional morning. I'm glad to see that he's getting some rest. Let's join him."
"Capital idea," the twins said quietly as everyone arranged themselves comfortably on the pillows.
Renge could barely contain herself. "I can't wait to ask them what's been happening the past two and a half years. If Haruhi has always been a girl, did she reveal that at Ouran or wait until after she graduated? If she hasn't, what does Yoshio think about 'her' relationship with Kyoya? Wait, maybe that's why Kyoya's last name is Hinan now."
She was pacing the entrance like a cage lion when the limousine pulled up and the group climbed out. First were Kyoya, Haruhi, and Rene. Since she had seen them just a few hours ago, they didn't hold her attention. Next was one of the Hitachiin twins. "Is that Hikaru or Kaoru? I never could tell them apart. However did Haruhi do it?"
She expected the other twin to be next, but it was a young lady who was definitely not Japanese. "Well, there appear to be even more stories than I anticipated," Renge thought as Hikaru and Estee walked over to stand with the first three.
Next Kaoru exited the vehicle and helped Coco out. "Looks like the Hitachiin twins have fallen for sisters, if not another set of twins."
When Takashi helped Chiharu step out of the limousine, Renge was intrigued. "Mori-sempai was just a background character when I was at Ouran, always deferring to Honey-sempai. Now he has a presence all of his own. I'm not sure what it is, but I must find out. And I believe that's the Tojo girl that was supposed to marry Komitsuzawa. Her family handles Daddy's marketing in Japan. Curiouser and curiouser."
Finally, Mitsukuni stepped out and helped Reiko down. Renge's jaw dropped as she looked him up and down. "Honey-sempai, is that you?" she managed to choke out. "You've grown!"
He chuckled and replied, "Thanks for noticing. Just one of the many stories we have to tell." Wrapping his arm around Reiko's waist, they joined the others while Renge stood motionless in shock.
Reynard came out to look for Renge and saw that their guests had arrived. "Welcome. Thank you for joining us for lunch. I'm looking forward to all the stories you have to tell, especially since something seems to have made Renge speechless. That's never happened before." With a laugh, he gestured for them to follow him into the house.
Renge finally shook herself out of her stupor and followed as well.
They were all seated in the dining room waiting for her. She settled into her place at the foot of the table, opposite her father.
Reynard turned to Kyoya and prompted, "Please introduce your companions. Rene and Haruhi we already know." He waved to Rene on his left and Haruhi on his right.
Kyoya stood from his seat on the other side of Haruhi and bowed respectfully. "It would be my honor to introduce my adopted brothers and their significant others."
"Seated next to Rene is Hikaru, formerly Hitachiin. His companion is the lovely Estee Beringar. Her parents were working for the Hitachiins and killed in the same bombing. Then Hikaru's twin, Kaoru. His delightful companion is Coco Beringar, Estee's younger sister."
Reynard interrupted the introductions. "My condolences on the loss in both your families."
"Thank you," the quartet murmured softly.
Kyoya continued, "Seated next to Renge is Mitsukuni, formerly Haninozuka and his significant other, Reiko Kanazuki."
Renge chimed in, "Reiko, you were in the Black Magic Club with Umehito Nekozawa, right?"
"That is correct," Reiko replied.
"And here we have Takashi, formerly Morinozuka and his significant other, Chiharu Tojo," Kyoya finished, gesturing with a flourish to the couple seated at his right.
"Lovely to see you again, Miss Tojo," Reynard acknowledged.
Renge could barely contain her curiosity as lunch was served. She intently watched Haruhi who was conversing comfortably with Reynard.
"I can't take it any longer," Renge declared as she stood up. "Please…please…please, tell me how Haruhi, a female, was a host."
Haruhi laughed. "Okay, Renge, have a seat. You deserve to know the story. I am, and have always been, female. I just never considered it an important part of my identity. A misunderstanding and a broken vase resulted in my inclusion in the Host Club."
It took about fifteen minutes with each member of the Host Club chiming in to relate the story. Kyoya pulled up Haruhi's middle school ID picture and the photo from her first day at Ouran on his tablet and displayed them side-by-side. He passed his tablet around the table.
Reynard remarked, "That's an incredible story. Does that relate to your name changes?"
"Each of our name changes has its own story, but you have to understand the creation of the Hinan family to see how these events fit together," Takashi stated.
Mitsukuni added, "To understand the creation of the Hinan family, you need to know about the incidents at the Ouran Fair two years ago."
Kyoya turned to Renge. "I've been meaning to thank you for your assistance in procuring the carriage for that Fair. It was instrumental in the rescue of Rene from Éclair Tonnerre."
"Wait," Reynard interjected. "Are these the events that led to the Tonnerres terminating Anne-Sophie's employment as a housekeeper?"
"Most certainly," Kyoya assured him.
Once again, the Host Club took turns relating the incidents that occurred during the two-day event. Rene sounded almost indifferent as he described his treatment by Shizue and Yuzuru. Haruhi couldn't keep the anger out of her voice as she related the incident of Yoshio slapping Kyoya in full view of everyone.
Kyoya stated, "Éclair requested Haruhi as host during the event and that designation paid the remaining balance of Haruhi's debt for the broken vase."
Hikaru continued the story. "Apparently Éclair only requested Haruhi to condescendingly tell her that Rene was forbidden to see or talk to anyone from the Host Club. Somehow she had forced him into an engagement and demanded that he close the Host Club."
"She had a lot of schemes in play during her time in Japan," Haruhi explained. "In addition to expanding her family's holdings in Japan and taking over the Suoh family by marrying Rene, she attempted a hostile takeover of the Otori Group. Kyoya realized what she was doing and beat her to it."
"You should have seen my father's face later when I gave it back to him," Kyoya smirked.
Mitsukuni picked up the thread of the Ouran Fair story. "When we saw Rene leaving with Éclair, Kyoya contacted the second Suoh mansion and found out Rene was headed to the airport. When we tried to follow in the limousine, the Otori Black Onion Squad refused to let us go. Takashi and I took out the Black Onion Squad while Hikaru, Kaoru, and Haruhi took the carriage to catch Rene and bring him back before Éclair could put him on a plane to France."
"Yeah, that was quite a ride in the carriage," Kaoru added. "We were going fast, hit something, and we were thrown from the carriage. While I was checking on Hikaru, Haruhi raced off in the carriage to foil Éclair's plan."
"And those were the reasons why Haruhi's behavior changed over the following weeks," Takashi explained. "Although her debt was paid and she could leave the Host Club, she realized she wanted to stay."
Rene picked the story up from there. "Not only did she want to stay, she wanted to find a way to protect all of us. Between what happened to me with Shizue's consent and Yoshio's public assault on Kyoya, she knew a safe haven—or refuge—was needed."
Reynard smiled and surmised, "So thus was born the Hinan family, since hinan means refuge. When Rene was speaking to the Japanese inspector, he invited him to Hinansho to meet the whole family. I take it that is the family estate—place of refuge."
"That's what we call the property that Kyoya acquired for the Hinan family," Haruhi confirmed.
"But how could the newly-minted Hinan family afford to run an estate?" Renge questioned, finally emerging from the thrall of the stories.
The Host Club members took turns explaining the origin of the estate, the needs that arose that led them to open it up for limited general public use, and the expansions.
"We all contributed to the creation of the Hinan family in one way or another," Takashi stated. "But Kyoya and Haruhi were the ones to get it established, so we teasingly refer to them as 'otou-san' and 'okaa-san' at times.
"Kyoya, did your relationship with Haruhi develop before or after the Hinan family was created?" Renge demanded.
Kyoya and Haruhi blushed as Kyoya hedged, "That depends on how you define it." He looked at Haruhi affectionately. "I had feelings for her before, but I kept it to myself because Rene was interested in her and he was my best friend. I didn't want to hurt him."
Renge rounded on Haruhi. "What about you? Did you have feelings for Kyoya beforehand?"
"I think it's time for the individual stories," Haruhi replied, completely sidestepping the question and changing the subject.
"And those would begin with us," Hikaru and Kaoru chorused.
Hikaru shrugged and said, "You can probably guess our story. Our parents were kill in the Knightsbridge bombing and the Hinan family adopted us along with our younger sister, Ageha."
Kaoru interrupted, "But that's not the whole story."
Once again they all took turns telling the story of how Rena Tsukuda tried to steal the Hitachiin's estate and how they stopped her as well as recovering several elite orphans she had previously defrauded.
"So that's what Inspector Yoshinaga meant by all the ripples the Hinan family set in motion," Reynard remarked.
Haruhi smiled. "The things we brought out about Rena resulted in a complete review and overhaul of the orphanage system, beginning with the government oversight."
Mitsukuni snorted. "They tried to blame everything on Rena, but we pointed out that she wouldn't have been able to get away with her schemes for so long if her supervisors had been doing their jobs."
Reynard said, "The inspector also mentioned Cormorant Construction. What was that all about?"
"Let me explain how our interaction with them came about and then I'll let you see the footage of the confrontation," Kyoya replied, picking up his tablet and scrolling through files while he outlined the encroachment on Hinansho by Cormorant Construction.
Renge watched the footage three times before she finally commented, "Impressive, Haruhi. You're already proving to be a force to be reckoned with."
The male members of the Host club exchanged glances before they chorused, "Don't we know it!"
Rene chuckled. "That little confrontation with Cormorant resulted in an extensive review of permitting, inspections, surveying, and contractor licensing. It's been two years and they are still overhauling processes and procedures while prosecuting corrupt officials, retraining existing personnel, and training new people."
As the lunch dishes were being cleared away, Renge suggested, "Why don't we take this into the lounge where we can be more comfortable? Then you can tell us who was next to join the Hinan family."
"Good idea," Reynard agreed. "Please follow me."
After opening the door to the lounge and leading them in, he paused. "Hmm, this may not work after all. It doesn't look like there is enough seating."
Mitsukuni said with a grin, "Oh, we can make this work." He sat down on one end of a loveseat and pulled Reiko into his lap. Takashi sat at the other end and Chiharu climbed into his lap and snuggled down comfortably.
Hikaru and Kaoru commandeered the sofa and placed Estee and Coco between them.
Kyoya and Haruhi sat on the other loveseat while Rene sat on the floor and leaned his head against Haruhi's knee. She carded her fingers through his hair and he relaxed with a sigh.
Reynard and Renge exchanged a glance before making themselves comfortable in armchairs.
"Okay, who's next?" Renge asked, her hands clasped in her lap as she wiggled with excitement.
"That would be me," Mitsukuni admitted. "To respond to what you said to me when we arrived. Yes, I have grown."
Renge looked confused. "What does your joining the Hinan family have to do with how tall you are?"
"It turns out I was so small because I had a tumor inhibiting my pituitary gland, so I wasn't getting the growth hormones I needed," Mitsukuni began.
The others joined in to explain his mood swings and other symptoms that culminated in the fight with Yasuchika. The story continued about his collapse and subsequent diagnosis of the tumor. Kyoya was the only one able to control his emotions enough to explain Yorihisa's refusal to allow the surgery.
Reynard's face was suffused with anger as he stated, "I cannot believe a father would deny such a crucial surgery. I fully understand and support your decision."
"Thanks," Mitsukuni said softly. "It means a lot to me that you would say that."
"So, Takashi left his family to join the Hinan family because you did?" Renge asked for clarification.
Takashi shook his head. "No, I had planned to remain in the Morinozuka family but my father and uncle were so adamant that Mitsukuni was in the wrong for wanting the surgery that I could not in all good conscience remain part of the family." His expression was cloudy as he relived his memories of the argument. Chiharu kissed his cheek and caressed his hand comfortingly.
"That brings it around to me," Rene announced. "And we already hashed that whole situation out this morning so no need to go over it again."
Reynard looked at Kyoya and prompted sympathetically, "What is your story?"
Kyoya's expression was impassive as he answered, "My father disowned me."
Everyone waited for Kyoya to continue. The tension began to build in the silence.
Finally, Haruhi said, "That's just the beginning of the story." She proceeded to explain the phone call from the courthouse, the overlapping emergency with Rene's plight, and the subsequent call from the court clerk.
She concluded, "It was all part of a larger plan. Shizue would get rid of Rene and Yoshio would disown Kyoya. Then Shizue would adopt Kyoya as her heir."
Reynard looked confused. "What about Yuzuru?"
"He might be heir in the short-term, but he is unable to father another child. Shizue saw adoption as the only viable alternative to continue the Suoh line," Rene explained with a shrug.
"Wait a minute," Renge said. "So, what happened to Shizue's plans when she couldn't adopt Kyoya?"
Everyone turned to look at Kyoya as he started laughing. "Fuyumi told me that Yoshio was forced to disown Akito for Shizue to adopt. I surmise that Yoshio signed a contract and, in his greed, did not read it carefully. He probably assumed when I was not available to be adopted that the contract was void."
Before they continued, the housekeeper entered with the tea tray. Reynard looked surprised. "Is it really that late already?"
The housekeeper nodded politely and started serving the tea. When she handed a cup to Rene, he asked quietly "Did you know my mother, Anne-Sophie?"
Smiling brightly, the housekeeper responded, "Oh, yes I did. She was an absolute delight to have around the house. Why, the stories I could tell you."
"Would you? Tell the stories, that is?" Rene asked pleadingly.
Reynard nodded when the housekeeper looked to him for permission. "I would be glad to. I can even bring some others in who have stories of her as well."
"Thank you. I would appreciate that immensely."
"Before we begin," Reynard interjected, "I wanted to ask if you all would remain for dinner as well. In addition to the staff's stories about Rene's mother, I would like to hear the stories of the other four lovely ladies in our midst."
Kyoya glanced around and everyone nodded their acceptance. "We would be honored to remain. I will let my staff know that we will not be home for dinner."
Rene lit up happily as he said, "Now, on with the stories."
The housekeeper tapped her finger against her lips in thought. "Ah, I know just the story to start with. It happened this one day while your mother was walking in the garden…"