Disclaimer: Character and situations owned by NBC.

Timeline: During 2.02; spoiler for this episode.


Hitan

Japanese was a very precise language when it came to death.

When Ando told Kimiko her father had died, he did not use the word tonshi, which would have simply signified a sudden, unexpected death, a heart attack, for example. He started to say "muri" before switching to English, abruptly and jarring, to tell her that her father had been murdered. But Kimiko knew what term he had been about to use. Muri shinju. Murder suicide.

"Your father faced death bravely, and with honor," Ando said. "He believed he would die, but he sent me to bring him a sword, so he could fight. I – I was too late."

She thanked him. The words felt artificial on her lips, making their way through air, through satellites, through cables, through whatever means were used to transport them to America, where her father lay dead, his death coated and disguised by imprecise English.

"Did you – did you moist his lips?" Kimiko asked. Ando did not point out it was not his place to do so. That was a ceremony for the family to perform.

"The police haven't released the body yet, Kimiko-chan," he replied, and the intimate form of address, never used towards her by him before, fell into silence. It wasn't that she minded, so much; it was that the world had changed and was unrecognizable, and at this very moment, she did not know any of the new terms.

There was more Ando told her; something about the only suspect right now being a woman named Angela Petrelli. The name sounded familiar, and in a moment, she could place it; one of their major shareholders, though she had never met the woman in person.

"Hiro knows her son," Ando said darkly. "Her son is evil. In the future, at least. That is – her son is evil. The Petrellis, they're not to be trusted!"

Kimiko listened to the implorations to be careful, thought about the various business rivals who definitely hated her father enough to wish him dead, and yet was utterly certain that her father never would have allowed himself to die by any of their hands. He would have considered all of them not worthy.

Muri Shinju.

Someone had forced him to die. And yet, he had been ready to do so.

A change had come to her father these last few months, ever since they had followed Hiro to America for the first time. When he had gone back again, when he had entrusted the company to her care, she had seen it in his eyes: the belief he might not return.

It was the first time she had refused to believe her father.

There was not much more Ando could tell her. She did not even ask whether her little brother had finally been heard of again; by now, Kimiko knew enough of Ando Masahashi to be sure that if there were any sign of Hiro, she would have learned this news from him even before being told about her father's death. After Ando had finished talking, there was another phone call, this one by a detective in New York, who said far less than Ando had done, not mentioning the Petrelli woman at all. Foreign syllable after foreign syllable, all making her father into an object: "the deceased", "the victim". It felt as if they were putting him into a mask fit for a character he would never have played.

Kimiko was a businesswoman; she was good at polished phrases. She went through this conversation, too, and even a third, as the representatives of Yamagato Industries everywhere in the world had to be told, and she had to inform the press manager so a statement could be drafted. Falling back on routines, that was something at least. She had always been a dutiful daughter.

After the statement was dealt with, she left the office building and visited their family's grave. She stood in front of the monument and looked at her father's name, which in keeping with tradition had been added when her mother had died. The letters were painted red, signifying a living spouse waiting to join a dead one. The ink would be removed now. Kimiko remembered her mother's funeral, when it had glistened in the sunlight, newly added; she remembered picking up some of her mother's bones out of the ashes together with Hiro, transferring them to the urn just as their father had done before them, the chopsticks in their fingers not trembling a bit, though they had held hands afterwards when the tremors had come, successfully disguising them that way.

Hiro would not be here with her to pick their father's bones from the ashes.

"He will return," her father had said, and Kimiko told herself she believed this too, now more than ever; she could not be the last. But her belief seemed pale right now, as the bleached ink on her father's name, which would be scraped away all too easily.

Not wanting to look at the gravestone any longer, she looked at the box where friends and relatives visiting the grave dropped their business cards. She felt the familiar edges of printed paper under her fingers, and the sensation comforted her. The names, too, were familiar; some true friends of the family, some acquaintances, some employees hoping to gain favour. Even some shareholders.

There was no card carrying the name of Petrelli.

She returned to the Yamagato building and went into her father's office. It was still his; Kimiko had not used it to conduct business. Not because she had not been allowed to, on the contrary, and not because she had felt too intimidated, either. She simply believed that if she was to be accepted as his successor, her own space, imprinted only by her, would have to become her seat of power. Still, she knew her father's office well enough to move there blindly. She knew each painting, she knew where each chair stood, and there was no reason to stumble and bruise her left leg when she entered. Yet that was what she did.

Muri Shinju. It did not seem right that anyone should have been able to force her father to die, let alone a stranger. It was not that she regarded her father as invulnerable, or without fears and sorrows of his own. Hiro might, but then Hiro had not worked with him this past decade. But her father's vulnerabilities had seemed no different than the crags and hollows of a mountain, and was not the mountain itself eternal?

Kimiko started to search through her father's papers in the office safe. She did not know quite what she was looking for. He would have taken his most important documents with him, and at any rate, he did not keep those in the office, he kept them at home, though he thought she was not aware of this. What she was looking for could have nothing to do with Yamagato Industries, either, as he told her all there was to know about the business; she would not have been able to replace him as a leader otherwise. He would never have sent her half blind into battle.

She thought about the painting he had torn in two when they had found Hiro. That, as opposed to business, was something he had never talked about with her: the world of stories and legends, of dreams. He had read the stories of Takezo Kensei to Hiro, but not to her. It was as if he had divided himself with his children: had given her the businessman and mentor, and Hiro the teller of stories. When Hiro started to follow a story of his own, he had watched from afar, trusting her to take care of his other world.

Maybe if he had not, Kimiko thought, if he had trusted her more or perhaps less, if he had kept her with him, if they both had been with Hiro, Hiro would not have vanished, and her father would still be alive.

It was a thought that felt like a betrayal, and yet the anger in it felt true.

There were old reports in the safe, reports on Hiro and Ando being thrown out of a casino in Las Vegas, but nothing newer than that. There were, however, older photos. She did not recognize any of the people on them safe for Daniel Linderman. Not that Kimiko had ever met Linderman, any more than she had met Angela Petrelli, but Linderman's death had made the American headlines four months ago, complete with photos, and she did read American newspapers. He was younger on the photos her father kept in his safe, and so was her father. There was a woman standing between them, a black-haired elegant woman with an effortlessly haughty expression to match her father's, though he wasn't looking haughty at all in this particular photo. He was smiling at the woman.

Her father had smiled at both Hiro and herself when they were children, and also, rarely, at their mother; Kimiko could recall one particular moment when they had all been on a beach, awaiting the arrival of the new year, of the sun rising, and the reason why she could recall it so well was because that unguarded, fond smile her father had given her mother had been so rare. It seemed wrong to have a photo conserve him giving it to a stranger for the rest of eternity. Her first reaction was to burn the photo. Then she told herself she was being childish. It was just a photo. And pictures lied. The painting her father had torn apart certainly had done; what it had shown, Hiro in front of a dinosaur, could not possibly have been true.

She thought about the American detective again, and the way he had clothed her father in bland generalities by calling him "the deceased". She thought about Ando, who had been at her father's side these last months, and had thought his death both enforced and chosen, had him thought capable of this. She thought about masks, ill fitting and otherwise, and faces parents showed to strangers and their children.

There would have to be a new name for her father, now. The last time, when her mother died, her father had handled the donation to the temple which bought a kaimyo for her mother, a name that was supposed to prevent the return of the dead when her old name was called. This time, Kimiko was the only one left to do it. Of course, most people these days claimed to regard this custom as superstition, but it would be unthinkable for a Nakamura not to have a kaimyo; the family would be disgraced as cheap, and Yamagato would be regarded as crumbling. Unthinkable. And yet for one rebellious moment, Kimiko wondered what would happen if she refused her father a kaimyo. Whether this particular story would come true as well, out of legend; if her father would return to her, when his name was called. Whether he would explain the secrets, the masks, the irrefutable fact of his death.

It would be a selfish indulgence, she decided. For better or worse, she was not the child raised on stories, or following them. She would not try to learn the truth behind her father's different faces, for that truth had not been given to her in life, and would be of no help now he was dead. Her own, irrefutable truth was this: the fate of every employee of Yamagato now depended on her, and past secrets would not help her justify the faith her father must have had that she could carry this burden.

Putting the photos back in the safe and locking it again, Kimiko turned her back to it. She made herself think of the next few days; the conversations with family friends, the negotiations with the temple, with the American police so that her father's body could be brought back to Japan, the reassurances to stockholders, the planning of the funeral. She could do it. She knew she could.

She would stand in front of the ashes of her father, too, and pick up his bones. And she would hear his new name spoken, would have him free of the past and any claim it could have on him, for good or ill.

If there were other thoughts in her heart, nobody would be able to see. After all, she had been taught well.