AN: Sorry if you think it's disappointingly short!
The Rain Outside by Munku-JGSPTV
Last time: …the men in suits grabbed him and dragged him to the car, shoving him inside.
Gaping, Rei watched as the doors of the car slammed shut and it sped away, out of the car park, and all too soon, out of view.
Chapter 10 - Tumbling
Having no idea what had just happened, Rei handed over some cash for his purchases and grabbed the shopping bags. He walked quickly from the shop, although he knew that Kai was long gone.
Who were those men in suits? Why would they want to practically kidnap Kai?
Sighing, Rei shook out his hair and began the walk back home.
All too soon, he arrived at his apartment. Alone.
Feeling a bit strange about entering his rooms by himself for the first time in nearly a week, Rei jangled the key in the lock then made his way inside. He carefully placed the key on top of the cupboard next to his tiger piggy bank so he wouldn't lose it.
He methodically put away items in the fridge and cupboards and down on one of the couches, then suddenly realised Kai had slept on it the night before.
Annoyed that he was feeling so sorry for himself, Rei determinedly tried to think of a range of things that weren't Kai while preparing some two-minute noodles for lunch.
They had barely known each other, after all, and Kai could be a high-profile criminal for all he knew, by his connections with men in dark suits that seized people into cars.
Grumpily munching on his microwaved chicken noodles, Rei kicked his legs up onto the coffee table and switched on his small television, which had poor reception and gave every image a layer of coloured fuzziness.
It was the end of some midday entertainment news show, and Rei chewed on a dehydrated vegetable that was supposed to be a pea while the host garbled on about the identity of some illegitimate love child of celebrities.
Rei, meanwhile, was a world away. He wished he could stop thinking of a certain someone, and tried to distract himself with planning out the rest of his week. Work tomorrow, then Tuesday, then work on Wednesday, and hopefully the late night shift on Thursday… His boss had told him not to come back before a week of recuperation from his flu symptoms, but Rei honestly had nothing better to do, not since Kai…
"…Hiwatari heir rediscovered!"
Rei's ears perked and he stared at the screen, which showed a serious-looking gossip reporter with a splash image of a familiar face.
"This is just in - exclusive news of Kai Hiwatari's rescue and return to his anxious and distraught family. In fact, in our special segment tonight at 8pm, we'll be seeing a rare interview with the Hiwatari patriarch, who reveals his inner turmoil: was his grandson held as a ransom to bring down the company, or did he just run away from the pressures of high society?
Rei's eyes went round.
Hiwatari. Hiwatari heir.
Rei tried not to swear.
A millionaire. No, a billionaire.
Rei, poor, simple and boring Rei had spent the last week in the company of Kai Hiwatari. The person due to inherit the country's largest and most wealthy conglomerate that owned production and business everywhere, including cars, restaurants, banks, agriculture, retail and shares.
How had he not realised?
Well, he didn't pay much attention to the public lives of those who lived in such a different world; a world of glamour, freedom and easy spending.
Kai hadn't seemed like that, though.
Truth to tell, Rei wouldn't have had a clue what any of the Hiwatari family looked like. But surely he would have noticed that there was something.. different about Kai! Then he remembered the small things, the things that had seemed slightly off. Kai had never answered his phone – it was probably whoever was on the manhunt for him. The credit card had stopped working – had it been cancelled? Or traced?
Come to think of it, surely the powers-that-be had some kind of satellite tracking systems for mobile phones. But, maybe, Rei realised, Kai was just that rich he could afford a non-traceable phone.
Groaning, Rei covered his face with his hands. And, at that café, there had been a news report – a missing persons report… His mind went back, and to his own dismay he remembered the tiny television screen as they waited for their meals. A segment on an elusive billionaire heir… Rei had had fish and chips, and Kai had eaten quiche…
Rei stood up, feeling a bit disorientated and went to get himself a glass of water. At that café, had their card machine really been broken? Or had they managed to trace Kai, and cancelled the card after finding out where he was – that Rei was even an accomplice in whatever schemes a young Hiwatari on the run might get up to?
Kai had said, before being at Mariah's, that he stayed at a hotel. Were those men in suits, most likely working for the Hiwatari currently in power, following Kai even then, just waiting for an opportunity to seize him?
And at that restaurant, there had been people who had recognised Kai for who he was – that party of surprised birthday celebrators, and even the shocked, pompous maitre d'. Although, it didn't seem the maitre d' had known Kai was… had run away from home?
Rei tried to recall what else had happened at the restaurant, aside from that near-kiss that made his insides squirm and his neck feel warm.
… Kai had explained about all sorts of Italian dishes, he mentioned vaguely that he knew the head chef – well now Rei knew what that meant. Kai's family probably owned the place! That would also be the reason for the waiter's simpering obsequiousness and subservience. What else… a table to themselves… a man in a brown coat. That man!
Rei hadn't paid much attention to him at the time, but now it seemed odd that anyone would wear such a grubby old thing and not take it off in a fancy place like Nogarotto's.
Had Kai realised he was being tailed? And were those people really underlings of the Hiwataris, or were they hired by someone else – someone worse, out to capture the heir, to hold him ransom even?
Well, nothing was certain to Rei anymore, particularly his feelings about Kai, except the knowledge that the young man did not want to be a Hiwatari. He had been trying to have a life away from all of that – that money and notoriety, and his own family had abducted him back.
Rei put down his glass of water, having drunk barely any of it. These thoughts were getting him nowhere. He did not have enough information, and was only feeling more worried about Kai. There was nothing he could do, anyway. Kai was plainly back where he belonged.
Rei turned off the television, and went to his room.
He was feeling suddenly tired beyond explanation, full of confused thoughts and emotions, and he curled up into a cat-like ball to sleep.
Still anxious, he yawned and drifted off into dreams, a distant part of him wishing he knew Kai's undisclosed phone number so he could call him.
When Rei awoke, it was Monday.
He felt thoroughly rested, but when he pulled apart the curtains to bright morning light, he felt tense, remembering what had happened.
Rei took a long shower, forced down a large breakfast, picked up his key and went outside.
His feet seemed to be moving mechanically, his mind determinedly blank, and when he looked up from the pavement, he found himself at the letterbox of Mariah's house.
He let out a sigh, but then a sense of hope built up in him – had Kai escaped and come here? The thought was absurd, and Rei knew it was a false hope, but he knocked on the door, wishing Mariah, if not Kai, to be there, simply for company.
Arms launched themselves around his neck. White and pink ribbons twirled elaborately around brightly coloured hair. Mariah.
"Hi," Rei greeted in a defeated sort-of tone, and Mariah stood back to look at him.
Her eyes scanned his face, and seemed to find something broken in his expression.
"Come on in," she said in a suddenly serious voice and took him inside, sat him down and prepared some green tea.
Rei winced as he glanced across the small sitting room. Kai had slept here, too. How many other places would Rei be continually haunted by, with the memories of a young man who had captured his every attention?
They sat in silence for some time, and though Mariah appeared to be waiting for Rei to speak, he said nothing; he simply stared at his small cup of tea and breathed in its calming and familiar scent.
"Well?" she asked.
Rei did not want to meet her gaze. But, having known Rei for as long as she had, Mariah knew when and what something was bothering him.
"He's gone back to his world, his real world, Rei."
He shot her an accusing glance. He knew she was trying to be comforting, yet all he could think was that Kai's supposed 'real world' meant a world entirely without young, black-haired, poor, working-class friends.
"I haven't seen him since you brought him here," she said gently, and Rei was sorry for being annoyed with her – although she was nauseatingly over-friendly and imposing sometimes, Mariah truly was his friend.
"I thought you knew."
Rei sighed again and took another sip of tea. He stared at the tiny leaves, the dregs left in his cup.
Mariah shook out her hair and then refilled his cup without any indication from Rei that he may or may not want more.
"Listen, I know you don't watch TV much, but I was sure you knew who he was. There have been missing persons reports, articles in the newspapers – even posters around the place suggesting that there's a reward if the Hiwatari heir was found and brought in."
Rei felt an edge of shock pervade his dull denial.
"I mean, I didn't even recognise him at first, either, Rei. But then I assumed you must have known who he really was. I'm not trying to be critical, but I thought myself foolish – how could I have not realised – and then I decided that you were smarter than me, you must have known his identity but wanted to keep him around anyway."
Rei felt angry.
"K-keep him around? He was my friend, Mariah, not some stray puppy dog who-"
"I know, Rei, I know. He seemed a bit cold to me, but I guess that's because he can't trust many people. I don't know why he was on the run – maybe he had done something terribly illegal." She held up a hand to stop Rei's defensive protests. "But he must have been wary that one of us would have turned him in for the reward money. In fact, coming from his rich status, he probably thought we'd need it."
Rei was even more downcast.
"But even if I had known, I wouldn't have traded him for the money. Surely he'd have known that."
He looked forlornly at his friend, as though asking for assurance.
Mariah simply stood and went to wash out the tea pot.
"You knew him better than I did."
Rei pulled his hands through his hair. He thought he did.
"Look, I think you should put it all behind you. You were so sick last week, and you're finally feeling better. Weren't you going back to work tomorrow?"
"Yeah," Rei said absently.
He stood also, and helped the woman who was practically his sister with the cups at the sink. She was being mature about all of this; he should as well.
After doing the drying up together in silence, Mariah pointed him to his old bedroom.
"Why don't you stay here for a little while? I'll make some lunch for us."
Rei smiled at her and toed his shoes and socks off, grateful for her hospitality.
He pulled out a change of comfortable clothes he could laze around in and looked around the small room. Previously he had been frustrated that she kept this room for him; now he was glad it felt as though he had never left. Practically the only thing missing from making it more homely was his tiger piggy bank. Mariah kept this place much neater than his own, too.
She allowed him to help with preparing lunch, a simple Chinese soup, and they sat at the table to share it.
Although he supposed he should not bring up the topic of Kai again, Rei couldn't help it.
"You know, I think he was going to tell me," Rei said.
Mariah looked up at him.
"I guess he was aware I didn't know all about the Hiwatari family. I think he was going to tell me, except - … his phone rang." Rei's face fell. That damned phone, and whoever it was that had kept trying to call Kai. It had probably reminded the Hiwatari heir of exactly why he shouldn't be gallivanting around with commoner strangers.
Rei stirred his soup. He did not want to see Mariah's sympathy.
"Why do you think Kai ran away – his grandfather is the current Hiwatari in power, right? Was he trying to escape from something?"
Mariah put a comforting hand on his wrist.
"There are a few possible reasons."
Rei nodded, and then went back to eating his soup.
"Only Kai could tell us."
They had not tied him up – his Grandfather had granted him more dignity than that.
But they ordered him to change his clothes.
"Mr Hiwatari has asked that you be dressed appropriately to meet him," a man with dark glasses had said. The emphasis on the word 'asked' told Kai the request was anything but, and that his current clothes did not befit the proper heir to the family riches and business.
Kai sighed as he buttoned his suit jacket and tightened the tie that was constricting, in an all-too-familiar way.
He had not been allowed outside of the van except to be walked into a building and deposited in a room after being handed the suit. Glancing around the large room, he guessed it to be one of the Hiwatari-owned hotels in a district nearby to where he had been with Rei, considering the shortness of the time in transit.
Kai smoothed down his hair. It would not do to show blatant disrespect for his Grandfather by being purposefully scruffy. He cared enough how he was treated for this to matter, at least. It was about looking out for himself, really, rather than anything else. Besides, if he didn't care for his own safety and wellbeing, who else would?
He almost considered trying to get away, but a quick look out the window told him that not even his great fitness would save him from a thirty-storey fall. He sighed again and squared his shoulders.
"I'm ready," Kai said, opening the large hotel room doors out into a long hallway.
He was instantly surrounded by lackeys in suits; those identically featured professional security men that his Grandfather so favoured.
He marched forwards with them, his back straight and his hands calmly by his sides.
They did not take the lift but walked directly up a set of steps that could have been a fire exit. Kai supposed that this was a message from his Grandfather, also.
They finally reached the penthouse, and he knew that inside one of the sitting rooms would be the man he did not want to see.
Kai breathed in suddenly, steeling himself, but wished he could be far away, sharing some two-minute noodles.
AN: Thank you for all the reviews and adds to favourites! They mean a lot to me (and help me update much faster)! What do you think will happen next?