Rikku: Busy, busy…
In response to Rin's review, I just wanted to clarify that this is my fanfic, with all of my ideas and imperfections written into it. If there's anything you can't seem to accept or feel greatly bothered by, let me remind you that I adjusted what I damn well felt like adjusting to my preference… for example, yes, Horohoro's height. So learn to deal with it without popping a can up my ass because my boss is already fulfilling that job.
On a completely unrelated note: Ganbatte NEWS! We miss you guys and yes, it does hurt like hell. ;-;
While I'm writing this, France just beat Brazil, 1-0. Omg, I am ecstatic; so happy! I must celebrate… Oh, but first, a re-cap…
Winter of Love
Re-cap: Ch. 12 – 23
An agonized month in Osaka with a few positive quirks served as one of the greatest experiences of my life. I befriended a group of energetic girls, lived each day like a star in her own estate, nearly fell in love with my arranged fiancée - who happens to be an arrogant jerk, and learned the truth of my late mother's death (or rather, 'murder')… all while my wedding was being planned.
But that day didn't turn out as horrible as I thought. Just before my entire life was about to be sealed with Aoyama Kamui, who else but Horo came to my 'rescue'. With an entrance pulled right out of the movies, the wedding was interrupted and broke into a shaman battle. Horo verse Kamui over my hand in marriage.
Kamui pulled some tricks during the battle, endangering my life and thus, setting off my father's trust. Horo eventually won and against all odds, my father accepted him and we actually renewed our father-daughter relationship, relinquishing all the hate we once had.
Horo and I didn't get married though; we simply returned to Tokyo without any reason to worry anymore. For the first time in a while, I felt like my life was at ease and as if nothing could ever go wrong again.
But something didn't feel right. Learning about my mother's murder only made me confused and angry. Something had to be done, and so, I promised myself I'd discover just who was at fault for ripping away Emiko Sugiyama's life from this world. So this is where I'm at now, struggling to find the even the smallest bit of information… but what's worse is Horo's departure! An important training session back in the North calls him to return to his hometown, and after a teary goodbye, it's settled that he has to leave me to investigate on my own… But that doesn't stop him from leaving a rather controversial piece of advice first…
Winter of Love
Chapter 24: Starting Point
"… Go to Osaka, Miho."
"I think you'll find your 'starting point' there."
"Miho… just go back."
Horo's last words to me stirred in my mind endlessly. I sighed as I sat by myself in the kitchen, elbows propped on the table and resting my chin on an upturned palm. "Osaka, huh?"
I had to admit, Osaka was one of the last places I'd like to visit. Despite those small, enjoyable moments that rarely occurred during my last trip, I just couldn't stomach the thought of seeing that broken glint in Kamui's eyes again.
But questioning my father on a subject that still continued to pain him everyday was already a hard task I wasn't looking forward to. I realized that of all people, my father must've taken it the worse, bearing the weight and guilt of his own wife's death… What was I to do? I had already asked him about that tragic night during my last 'visit' to Osaka and frankly, that just made the thought of asking him again appear all the more agonizing.
What was Horo thinking? What good was suggesting that I return to the one place where I was only capable of inflicting pain to others?
I sighed again, dropping my arms onto the table to bury my face in them. He was right. As much as I hated to admit it, Horo was right about Osaka. Only there would I find myself a starting point…
I closed my eyes, inwardly debating with myself. For that 'starting point', I'd go to all ends… even if it meant Osaka. But at the same time, I wouldn't feel right about it. Intruding into other lives and bringing up painful memories… for the sake of my research.
But it mattered to me. Finding the people guilty for shedding my mother's blood meant that much to me. I told myself that over and over again at that moment as I continued to rattle my brain with the issue.
"I'll go." I suddenly told myself, taking in a deep breath. I bit my lip and lifted my head, both grateful for and bothered by my boyfriend's last wishes. Once again, he'd be the voice of reason for another life changing chapter of my life.
In a week's time, during which all Ren could do was mope around wondering why 'she' didn't even say 'goodbye', I had already settled the matter with my father and completed all bookings. I was quite anxious to see Yoshiko and the other girls again when my father told me how excited they were to hear the news of my upcoming stay. But I reminded myself that my time there would be brief; not a second could be spared to fool around with such a responsibility ahead of me.
Finally, the exact date on my ticket to Osaka had arrived as the boys helped unload my bags by the main doors.
"So you're sure you're not being forced to go this time?" Yoh frowned rather doubtfully.
"No, I'm not." I chuckled, reassuring him for what was the third time or so.
"Got your ticket with you?" Anna asked. Like always, she remained cool and collected.
I nodded, shouldering my bag as I flapped the ticket in my hand. "I'll only be gone a week, and if anything comes up just call my father's place."
"Right." It was Yoh's turn to nod. "So does your father even know why you're heading for Osaka?"
I bit my lip. "I don't think so… I told him I had certain issues to settle and he agreed to letting me stay at the mansion."
"You sure are lucky Miho," Manta sighed. "Staying at a mansion… it must be luxurious."
I smiled. "Even so, there's no other home for me but here."
"I'm only sorry I didn't do much to help you in your research, Miho…" the shorter boy frowned.
"Your support and encouragement were good enough." I stated, patting his shoulder. I took in one last look around the shrine that I learned to call 'home', gazing at the smiling and comforting faces around me. "Thanks guys."
"Have a safe trip!" Ryou chirped, waving his hand. "Don't spend too much money!"
"G'bye Miho." Ren mumbled, his attitude just barely lifting from the foul mood he had been in all week. He missed her; behind that cold, tough exterior, Ren really did miss Pirika.
"Bye guys." I grinned. "Don't give Anna a hard time."
The Itako scoffed, crossing her arms across her chest. Yoh shook his head, smirking. "I doubt anyone would even dare to, Miho."
"Uh… um," Tamao's face had suddenly flushed a crimson red as she approached me, holding a small scrapbook in her hands. "I-If you happen to come across… Kamui-kun… could you…"
I felt my heart sink at the mention of his name. While planning my trip, I tried hard not to think of Kamui, and I even began to fear his reaction to my arrival if we were to meet up once again. I masked these emotions with an even wider grin as I accepted the book from the smaller girl. "An autograph, right?" Meekly, she nodded. "Well, I'll see what I can do for you."
Tamao stepped back, lowering her head as she continued to glow a bright red. I smiled at her, noting just how adorable she was.
The others were still waving and beaming at me as they proceeded to bid me farewell. I took one last look at my friends and nodded to them. "Goodbye everyone."
The nostalgic feeling of my first unforgettable trip to Osaka came over me as I hopped off the bullet train as soon as I arrived at my destination. I sighed, tugging on the straps around my shoulders as I maintained the weight of what was a week's supply of clothes and items inside of my bag. Truthfully, I wasn't at all comfortable going on my own, but my mind told me to just bear with it. She was my mother, and mine alone. No one else was going to fulfill this task but me. Telling myself that, I called for a cab and took the familiar route down to that familiar building…
"Sugiyama Inc." the driver recited as the car screeched to a stop. I looked out the window, gazing at the same building I had been gawking at more than a month ago. To think I'd be back here, in Osaka again, after settling back home in Tokyo for but merely two weeks or so…
I climbed out of the car after paying the man a hefty sum. I felt a sharp breeze brush against me as the cab sped away, leaving me stoned to my spot. "So it's finally come to this." I frowned. "This… my starting point."
I walked over to the entrance, pulling the heavy doors open and heading straight for the same desk on my last visit. The only thing different was the secretary; a cute raven head, with short hair curving inwards towards her neck, sporting many piercings lining both her ears, sat by the desk this time. She was no doubt younger than the last hag, and to my relief, a lot sweeter looking too.
"Hi there," she greeted with a charming smile. "What brings such a young girl to Sugiyama Inc.?"
I wanted to point out how young she appeared to be and how small our age gap probably was, but I knew now was not the best time. "I'm here to see my father… um, Mr. Sugiyama."
"Oh, you must be Miho!" She offered a small hand, decorated with a variety of rings ranging from big to small, rubies to diamonds. "I've heard a lot about you! My name's Kyoko, by the way."
I smiled back and shook her hand. "Nice to meet you… Um, my father's not in a meeting or anything, is he?"
Kyoko glanced at the paper work on her desk, trailing the contents with the tip of a blue pen. "Hmm… nope, no meetings scheduled for today. You can go right in."
"Thanks." I made a mental note to comment on how cute the new receptionist was the next time I came across Yoshiko, as I motioned over to my right, towards the big black door at the very end of the hall.
I knocked on the hard wood and waited. But when not even the slightest response came my way, I began to toggle at the doorknob, feeling it unlock. Hesitantly, I pushed at the door and made my way into the dark and gloomy office.
Just like before, my father was seated in that same enormous chair, concealed by the shadows surrounding him. He browsed through the papers on his desk, barely acknowledging my arrival.
"Miho, I know why you're here." I was cut short as the man looked up from the sheets. His expression was stern and hollow. "I thought I already told you all you needed to know about your mother's death."
I didn't feel the need to question how my father knew so much… after all, he was a famous millionaire who became so successful by his knowledge and know-how. I sighed. "You didn't tell me everything though."
"What's left for me to tell you?" I watched as my father's face began to fall. A frown crossed over his lips as he averted his gaze over to another pile of paper.
"Who did it?"
"I just want to know… please." My hands clenched into trembling fists as I marched over to his desk, tears welling up in my eyes. "Father, just tell me who did it."
He still didn't look at me. Frantically, I slammed my hands on his desk, feeling no other way to cope with the pulsating emotions racing inside of me. "I can't go on without knowing, I can't turn away from this!" I fiercely shook my head, trying my best to hold back the tears as they itched at my eyeballs. "I… I just need you to tell me…"
"I can't." My father's simple answer left me speechless. He sighed, finally looking up at me with broken eyes. "Miho, if I tell you… I'll only be endangering your life. Just because those people have done away with your mother doesn't mean they're not still on my back.
"I've been living a dangerous life, and I didn't want to involve you in it." He continued. "If I told you who did it, those people would only go after you as well. I've already lost Emiko, I don't know what I'd do if I lost you too."
I stared down my father through teary eyes. My hands were shaking and I could feel my knees begin to crumble, threatening to pull me down. "Then tell me one thing, father… because I just can't leave without so much as a single piece of information…" I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. "At least tell me where to start… one way or another, I'm going to hunt down whoever killed my mother."
He didn't answer immediately. I knew he was uncomfortable, and I hated putting him in such a position. But all that curiosity was killing me inside and I couldn't find any other way to deal with it. I heard him sigh again. "In the mansion… I kept the written warning I received before they murdered her… If anything, that'll lead you somewhere…"
I opened my eyes, filled with relief. But I could only examine my father's worried expression, as I noticed the grief in his eyes. I knew I was to blame for it. But what could I do? I couldn't apologize… An apology can only do so much. All I could do was nod. I gave him my best, reassuring nod and turned on my heel to head for my next objective: the mansion.
"Miho." The concerned tone in his deep voice caused me to stop right before my hand twisted on the knob on the great door. I turned my head slightly to the side, eyeing my father as his own gaze fell towards his desk again. "Just… just be careful. If anything happened to you… I'd never forgive myself."
I paused. I didn't want to leave him distressed, but I couldn't make any promises to him regarding my safety. Slowly, I wheeled my head back to face the black wood as my heart clenched with guilt. I just couldn't face him… not when I'd only end up causing him pain. I turned on the metal handle, planning to abandon his wish and slip out of the dark office without so much as another word or even a sign of consolation.
And with that done, I shut the door.
Rikku: There you go guys. Chapter 24… Hope you didn't mind the recap, but just in case there are still some old readers from back in day, I don't want anyone getting lost in this fic.
I don't know when I'll have proof-reading finished, or whether or not I'll have this chapter posted by today… but just for the heck of it, Happy Canada Day!