The Tea Prince
Part Twenty: Gyokuro
One step at the time was what Yuuki had told Soujiro. She wasn't kidding, and she was absolutely right. Almost a year had come and gone since the untimely death of Kinomoto Akihito. Soujiro had a very hard time over the next couple of months as his father's health deteriorated. It didn't seem as hard because he had the support.
Shouichiro was allowed back into the family, which was something their mother needed. All in due time she was introduced to her grandson, whom she showered attention to. Shun was a fortunate child indeed because Yuuki had opened up and allowed her family to meet him.
Then, about six months after meeting his grandson for the first time, Nishikado-sama passed away in his sleep by then it was a blessing because his eldest son was tending to him. Soujiro leaned on Yuuki during that time, talking to her into the wee hours of the morning either in person or on the phone. Shun was everyone's primary concern, but he said that it was a relief that his grandfather was no longer in pain.
On Shun's eighth birthday, everyone had gathered for it in Kyoto. That was the last function that Nishikado-sama had ever attended. It was there that Shun was given his rightful place as heir. It took some legal wrangling, but Shun had excellent legal representation. No one wanted to go against Nihsikado-sama. Shun was shielded from the press as much as possible.
Yuuki's studio was booming. Her new line was selling internationally and Tokyo Fashion Week was a rousing success. No one could accuse her of being a gold digger because she was making more than enough money to support herself, her son, and her employees. It also helped when Tsukushi wore Yuuki's creation to the Tokyo Charity Bell. It also helped even more when Tsukasa wore a suit made from bamboo fiber with silver woven into it, to keep his body cool, during his annual summer pilgrimage to New York City.
Soujiro and Yuuki spent more time with Tsukasa and Tsukushi than they did with other friends. Currently, they and everyone else were gathered at the Doumyouji Mansion for a very special occasion. It was Hiroyuki's first birthday.
It was a relaxed affair with a very limited guest list of family and very close friends. It was for the best because Tsukasa was doing a rather curious thing that people outside of the guest list would never believe even if they did see it. The head of the Doumyouji Corporation was on the floor of the main drawing room assembling a toy that Rui had brought for Hiroyuki.
"Damn you, Rui!" swore Tsukasa. He said this repeatedly after twenty minutes of bring unable to make heads or tails of the German instructions.
Tsukushi had appeared, having checked on the other arrangements, saying to her husband, "You don't have to be the one to put it together." She gave him a smile.
"It's a child's toy. How hard could it be?" said Tsukasa. "I think Rui brought this evil contraption on purpose."
"No, I didn't," said Rui with the slightest hint of a smile.
Tsukushi sighed, wondering if Tsukasa was just going to destroy the toy before he finished putting it together. "I have an important question." She noticed something, or rather someone, missing.
"What?" demanded Tsukasa tersely.
"Where is the baby?"
Tsukasa lifted his head and looked around momentarily. Tsukushi glared at him as she folded her arms over her chest. Then he answered, "He got bored. He's playing with the box."
Sure enough, behind Tsukushi, the box was seemingly moving on its own. She walked up to it. Hiroyuki popped up from under it, giggling. Rui shook his head as Tsukasa swore under his breath.
Hiroyuki learned to walk early and was looking more and more like his father. He had his curls and at times his temperament. He also had Tsukasa's body structure, making him a little tall for his age. Tsukushi scooped him up into her arms. "Tsukasa, I have another question."
"Why is he just in his diapers?"
"It's his birthday. He can wear whatever he wants."
Tsukushi sighed as Hiroyuki reached for a lock of her hair. She stopped him in time and tucked it behind her ear. "I'm putting some clothes on him. Are you sure you don't need any help?"
"I'm fine," answered Tsukasa with a dismissive wave. "Just go."
"You know there are instructions in Japanese," pointed out Rui. He was pouring over the scattered contains of the box.
"Let me see those," snapped Tsukasa, grabbing them. "These don't make any sense."
Neither of them had noticed that Shun, who was about the only child there, was putting the toy together without the instructions. "You're reading them wrong," said Shun, drawing attention to himself.
Akira came in with some presents. "What's going on?" he asked, stopping as soon as he saw Tsukasa glaring at Shun, who innocently looked back. "Uh oh," he said, backing out of the room.
"How do you know I'm reading it wrong? I haven't even started," demanded Tsukasa.
"Because you probably are," replied Shun, fully acquainted with Tsukasa's odd habit of saying the wrong thing or reading kanji incorrectly.
Rui averted his head because he was grinning. In fact, a snicker had managed to escape his lips. Tsukasa narrowed his eyes at Shun who didn't even flinch. "Go to your mother," commanded Tsukasa, pointing in the generation direction of where Yuuki was. Shun just blinked at him.
"I don't know why you're so worried, Akira," said Soujiro as he entered the room with Akira. He ceased talking immediately.
"You're doing it wrong," insisted Shun stubbornly as he put the parts into the correct spots. "Anyone knows you can't put a square peg into a round hole—." He was cut off by his father, picking him up and carrying him off from behind. "Hey!"
Soujiro let Shun drop the pieces on the carpet before carrying him out. "I was only helping!" protested Shun.
"I know, but your Ojisan doesn't appreciate it," said Soujiro.
Yuuki saw them. She gave them a quizzical look and grinned because Soujiro looked like a father cat carrying his kitten. He set Shun down after kissing the back of his head.
"What have you been up to?" asked Yuuki.
"Nothing. I was helping put Hiroyuki-kun's toy together, but Otousan took me away," explained Shun as he folded his arms over his chest.
Yuuki giggled at this. Shun was too smart for his own good and at this point Soujiro and Yuuki were trying to keep up with the new and innovative ways he used to cause mischief. He was like a one person F4 noted Akira. Soujiro had found himself on the receiving end of Sara's annoyance on the day that Shun had gone too far. Not that Shun was incapable of behaving, he just didn't want to all the time.
Soujiro did find something other than puzzle games to capture Shun's attention. It was the tea ceremony. So far, he was progressing well. He was still too shy to perform in front of other people he didn't know too well. He had only performed for his mother, father, and uncle so far. Soujiro was proud but he balanced Shun with more than tea and tradition.
The party went as planned. Akira was the one who pointed out to everyone what Shun had done. "I can't believe you were schooled by a seven year old, Tsukasa," he said.
Tsukasa quickly corrected, "He's eight! Eight! I'm not incompetent."
Tsukushi shook her head. "I don't think it matters. Hiroyuki-kun doesn't care." She was referring to the fact that Hiroyuki found the wrapping paper and ribbons far more entertaining than all of the toys that everyone had brought him.
"Gee, wrapping that present was a waste of time," said Yuuki as Tsukasa groaned.
"Um, I don't think you want him to put the ribbons on his hair," added Soujiro.
"Hiroyuki! No!" said Tsukushi loudly as she went up to Hiroyuki who had started putting the ribbons with sticky backs on his head. She picked him up. "What am I going to do with you? With the both of you?" She glanced at her husband. The baby giggled.
"I told you he's weird," said Tsukasa. "My beautiful, weird child."
"Stop saying that!" exclaimed Tsukushi.
"I said he was beautiful," said Tsukasa as he started picking the ribbons off Hiroyuki's head. He did it gently while his son reached out to touch him. When the last ribbon was off, Tsukasa took him into his arms. "Happy Birthday, Hiroyuki," he said.
* * *
Soujiro glanced at Yuuki. He could feel a twinge inside him every time he looked at her. It started somewhat recently when she was too busy with fashion week and had to leave Shun with him for hours on end because the models had scared Shun. They bought Shun was simply adorable and overwhelmed him.
Shun was grateful for the peace and tranquility at his father's house. It was not seeing Yuuki so much that made Soujiro have that twinge. He missed her. It only got worse as they shuttled Shun back and forth between them. Shun back and forth between them. He was looking for any excuse to have her stay just a bit longer, even with other people around. In fact, Soujiro preferred to have other people around when he was with her.
The most distressing thing for Soujiro was that Yuuki didn't seem to notice. Over time though she had began to wear her hair down and letting her natural curls come through. She wore more color now and less eye make up. She didn't just smile and laugh for Shun anymore, but for other people, too. Soujiro didn't see the way she looked at him when he was completely focused on Shun and no one else. To her, that was the man that she could fall in love with.
The party had gone on as planned. After the last slice of cake and the last present was unwrapped (including much to Tsukasa's dismay more toys requiring to be assembled), Soujiro took Yuuki and Shun back to their apartment at a very late hour. He carried Shun who had passed out on the ride back. After settling Shun in bed after getting him to change his clothes and brush his teeth, they went to the living room.
Yuuki yawned and stretched her arms. Soujiro watched her. "I can't remember the last time I was up this late. Probably when Shun was a baby," she told him.
It was so rare to be alone with her. Shun was like a buffer between them. "I should get going," said Soujiro after clearing his throat. He dug his hands into his pockets.
"Why is it whenever it's just the two of us you can't wait to get away from me? You've been doing that lately," said Yuuki. She looked away from him. "But I suppose it's because you already got what you wanted so there is little point than just being polite with each other."
Soujiro raised his eyebrow at this. "That's not true," he said, controlling his voice, not wanting to wake up Shun. It came out a bit harsher than he had intended. "Don't you see? I have to go. Otherwise I'll do something that we may both regret."
"You said that to me once or something like that," said Yuuki. "You want to know something?"
"You were wrong. You are both a good man and a good person. You just don't see it."
Soujiro felt his throat closing up again. "I love you," he whispered.
"I know," said Yuuki. She looked straight at him. Her eyes were always so clear and easy to read. "You weren't my first love. I know what love really is after being with Aki. He was my first love."
"I was in love before, but I let it go so carelessly," said Soujiro.
"Is that why you're pushing me away?"
"I can't really, but I don't want you to think that I would be around just for Shun. Although, I promise you I will be here for him. Always."
"Always is a term that I stopped believing in," said Yuuki as she looked at her hands. Recently, she found it easy to take off her rings. First it was the engagement ring, and then it was the wedding ring. She had Aki with her always. She didn't need a ring to remember that. "I went to Aki's grave the other day without Shun. I do all the time. I guess I'm looking for a sign from him. I'm looking for him to say that this is okay. That this is what's best for Shun."
"What about you? What's best for you?"
"You," replied Yuuki, but it hurt her to say it. "But I'm afraid. I'm afraid of what will happen. What could happen."
Soujiro understood perfectly. It was the absolute clarity of hindsight that gave him the ability to do so. "You said that he was your first love. How about I become your last?"
Yuuki pressed her lips together as she tended to do when she was nervous. Somehow, inexplicable, the distance between had closed. Both of them had moved towards the other without realizing it. Soujiro put his hand on Yuuki's cheek. "I feel so cold," she whispered.
"I'll warm you up," said Soujiro as he kissed her gently.
"I don't think that's the kind of warm up I need," said Yuuki, pulling away from him a bit. She didn't pull back too far. "I think we can put that off for a while. Shun is still processing all of it. It's not about just you or me, but him, too. It's about us."
"It's just as well," said Soujiro as he guided her to the sofa. They looked out the large window that overlooked the skyline of Tokyo. For the first time in his entire life, Soujiro felt whole. He held Yuuki as she leaned against him. They fell asleep like that.
Around dawn, Shun awoke and went to go in search of his mother. He found his mother and father on the sofa, fast asleep. He knew that his Otousan loved him as much as his papa did. Sure there were times when his Otousan didn't let him do as much as his papa did. He watched them sleep and took a seat on the coffee table across from them. Soujiro was the first one to awaken to Shun watching them. "Good morning," said Shun softly.
"Good morning," returned Soujiro.
Yuuki stirred and woke up. "Shun? What are you doing up?"
"It's morning, Mama," replied Shun. "Otousan is still here. Why didn't you sleep in a bed?"
Yuuki stretched out her body, feeling a bit flustered. Nothing had happened really beyond a kiss. "Well, I just wanted to stay here," said Soujiro. "We just fell asleep. We were too tired to move after putting you to bed."
Shun looked at them. He was an astute child, sensing something had happened. "What really happened, Otousan?" he asked Soujiro, knowing full well that his father had almost no resistance to his inquires.
"Nothing happened," said Soujiro quickly.
"Did you and Mama have a fight?"
"Did you and Mama not have a fight?"
"So you and Mama didn't have a fight?"
Soujiro was perplexed. This child really was going to be trouble when he was older. Tsukasa was laughing at him all the time, saying that karma had struck back. "Did you tell Mama you love her to stop a fight?" asked Shun.
"That's exactly what happened," replied Yuuki for Soujiro. "Come on, let's have breakfast. If I have to deal with both of you, I'm going to need my strength."
"What's so wrong with dealing with us?" asked Soujiro as he got up from the sofa, taking Shun's hand. "I thought you love us."
"Love is only the beginning," said Yuuki. "The beginning."
Shun grinned, holding his father's hand tighter. His father leaned in and kissed his mother on the cheek. He was a lucky child indeed. He was the tea prince and it is said that the tea prince is always lucky.
AN: Twenty chapters were all that I had originally planned. The story actually concludes here because people can come up with what they want to happen. And now on to less sentimental stuff. Thanks for all the reviews from these reviewers:
Jessica, JennyLunaR, Maricris, kyoko ohari, Nadeshiko Amamya, NewSlove, Nadeshiko, Lai, Winsey, Domyouji Love, sheen shan, Angelofgig, lonely-dreamlover, Jenn, Domyouji Love, Nadeshiko Amamya, Suzy, SerenityAlways, ednyadove , yui/alex, mysteriouswriter18, blossom0910, chippyshero, lemur130, ~elle, lady555, LilyAyl, Jen, lillimori, lonely-dreamlover, Tsugi No Mae, 5knockout5, red-jello04, azerjaban, chaos1023, LauraDrazen, LoserLove, karupin_meow, KT, Macjill, Endless ai, Cactus2008, silverquill-87, daydreamer writer, purpleirises, toodlesmynooodles!, latafmodginkianp1618, Hipployta, just a friend, amanda, bosk, Jane, kashuneko, kashuneko, popo, trueblueee, Starr, jessicajj, addie, -chan, prawn cake, and Zusy
Phew that's a long list...okay some writers have longer lists. Thank goodness it wasn't any longer. If I forgot anyone, I'm sorry.
The final tea is the highest grade tea in Japan.
My next story is not going to be in HYD, but elsewhere. Join me in the Harry Potter section for the next story. For more details, I'll be putting up some kind of preview in my journal. If I get around to putting something up.
Disclaimer: Kamio Youko owns Hana Yori Dango. I own this story. Please use this story with my permission.