Chapter One: A Second Chance 一次第二机会

Author's Note: This is the re-done, not as crappy version of chapter one. That's all. --AutumnXMidnight

The safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
The Screwtape Letters

I slumped back into my seat and sighed. I looked out the window and watched the world-my world-get smaller and smaller until everything turned into little black specks in the distance. This was, yet again, one of my mom's ill-fated endeavors to get me to 'straighten out'. She'd tried almost every approach imaginable, but I had always found a way to backfire her plans. That is, until she remembered her nephew that lived in Tokyo.

I remember when she came in day before yesterday to give me the news. It seemed like a pretty typical day: I was sitting on my bed, trying to figure out some music to the song I had written, when my mom walked in and, and I didn't know it then, but my whole life was about to change. When I was packing my bags, she said going to Tokyo would give me a second chance; an opportunity to start with a clean slate. So now, here I was, on a sixteen-hour flight to Tokyo. Wahoo. Jump with glee.

The plane flight was more miserable than sitting through math class. All I could recollect was going to sleep and then waking up a few hours later, completely disoriented. A few times the creepy Japanese dude that was sitting next to me would just start gibbering away in Japanese and all I could do was just sit there and look at him like he was a contagious germ. After I thought the pain would never stop, we finally landed on a singular strip of black runway. I trudged off the plane and into a rickety makeshift hallway that led to the gate. After managing to get through the swarming crowd of people in one piece, I emerged to the gate. I scanned the area for my cousin, Ryou. After hunting for him for a while, I started to wonder if I would be able to sneak on a plane back to New York. And it also struck me that I had no clue as to what he looked like. A handsome man with a flood of dark brown hair protruding from a ponytail turned his head towards me and regarded me for a minute. He strided over to me nonchalantly with his ponytail swishing behind him.

"Excuse me, miss. But would you happen to be Komori Hoshi?" he asked with a titanic (and kinda' creepy) smile on his face.

"Huh? Oh, uh, yeah. Are you Ryou?" I asked.

"Oh! I've forgotten my manners! I am Keiichirio Akasaka. I'm actually a close friend and business partner of Ryou's. He said to apologize for not being here: He had an important experiment he had to finish up."

"…..Riiiiight." I said slowly. After the influence I had from this Keiichiro guy, I expected Ryou to be a lot lamer than I had fantasized. If Ryou talks like this Keiichiro guy, I'm catching the next plane back to New York. Keiichiro's coffee-colored eyes drifted to my luggage.

"Oh! Please, Miss Hoshi, can I help you with your luggage? It looks awfully heavy." he offered, grabbing the heaviest pieces of luggage, which included my guitar.

"Um, wait! Here, I'll carry that one." I said clutching my guitar case.

"As you wish, Miss Hoshi." he said. I followed Keiichiro through the airport's automatic doors and out into the sweltering summer heat. It was times like these that I deeply regretted wearing all black and gray. Keiichiro led me to an incandescent black limo. No way, we're riding in that? Keiichiro beamed and extended the limo's trunk.

"Allow me to put your luggage in the trunk, Miss Hoshi." Keiichiro said, stowing all the luggage into the trunk. I worried that the heat would mar my guitar and hugged the case to my chest. This man-servant stuff was pretty cool, but the 'Miss Hoshi' crap was starting to really bug me. Keiichiro then closed the trunk and outstretching a door to the limo.

"If you would, Miss Hoshi." He said, bowing chivalrously. I stooped into a cushy leather seat and put the A/C on full blast. I hoped it wouldn't be this hot all year, considering my dark wardrobe. "So, Miss Hoshi," Keiichiro said lowering himself into the limo, "Did you have a nice flight?"

I looked at him and said grumpily, "As nice as any sixteen-hour flight can be."

"Ah." Keiichiro responded quietly. With that, the limo started up with a spluttering bolt and thrusted out of the parking lot and continued down a crowded highway. A heavy silence encased us for a while, but boredom got the best of me.

"So….um, what do you do for a living, anyway?" Keiichiro looked down at the floor as if to ponder the question. He smiled and said, "I manage a café close to where Ryou lives. Ryou comes down whenever he can to help out."

"What does he do? Take orders?" I asked. Keiichiro laughed whole-heartedly. "He has too much pride to take orders from anyone. He usually helps with baking and such." Right, baking… I inclined on the enflamed seat and sighed.

"You know, Miss Hoshi, your mother requested that you work in the café during your free time." Keiichiro said quietly. I crooked my neck a few degrees to face him.

"Heh, it doesn't surprise me. And, please, just call me Komori. That 'Miss Hoshi' crap is getting annoying." I snapped.

"Oh, please forgive me Miss- ah, Komori. And why weren't you surprised?"

"Because she's convinced that manual labor is the 'key to straightening me out'. She's always giving me chores. It's nothing new."

"Well, rest assured that working at Café Mew Mew is a lot more fun than it sounds." he said as he touched my shoulder knowingly. I shrugged off his assuring touch. I didn't need him. I didn't need anyone. After that burst of conversation we sat in silence for eons, it seemed. After I was becoming increasingly impatient, a sizable building materialized over a hill of pavement.

"Welcome to Chateau Shirogane!" Keiichiro announced.

"Dang, it's huge…" I whispered in astonishment.

"Mm-hmm. It's so big that Ryou put up maps everywhere so he won't get lost." Keiichiro explained with a teasing smile on his face.

"……Are you serious?" I asked, looking at him with distaste.

"One hundred percent!" he laughed, unable to hear the enmity in my voice. The limo pulled into the driveway that led to the house-if you could call it that: It looked more like a castle or mansion you would find in some sort of fairy tale. Balconies and bay windows dotted across all the sides of the chateau. The top of a garden rose over a high, overgrown brick wall as we drove by. The limo stopped directly in front of the chateau, which was so tall that I had to lean all the way back to see the shingles that lined the high roof. Keiichiro slid out of the car and held the door for me. I followed Keiichiro to the trunk and helped him unload my luggage. He strolled up the stairs leading to the doors and pressed an intercom button by the door. I walked up and stood by Keiichiro.

"Ryou, we're here, open up." he said into the intercom. We lingered for about ten minutes with no answer. Keiichiro pressed the intercom again and yelled impatiently, "Ryou! Get your nose out of whatever book you're reading and open this door!" This time a voice answered.

"My, my. Someone's in a bad mood today, Keiichiro. Is she here?" the voice crackled.

"Yes! Yes! She's here! Now open this door!" Keiichiro yelled. Hm, the best of friends. After another couple of minutes of annoyed waiting, the door creaked open to welcome us inside from the sweltering heat.