by: Esa MaRie
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Dedicated to my baby sis, Pao (Thunder Blossoms Fire)... Happy Birthday!
The name had become taboo ever since that tragic summer eight years ago. All of them had been affected, not that they were blamed for the death of one of the Hyuuga's most trusted managers, but because they knew they had taken part in some way in causing the old man grief which caused the untimely heart attack. Natsume, most especially, had taken most of the guilt. Koko could still remember how desperate he was in trying to find Mika but all was in vain. The investigators managed to find several Mika Azumis but none had turned out to be the girl they were looking for.
But Koko already knew that the name Mika Azumi might not be real. After all, he had the mind-reading alice, and he had read Mika's mind several times. Everything should have been easy, and through him, they should have known Mika's true name. But the problem was, he had never gotten to know it. He didn't know why, but he couldn't get to read all of Mika's mind. He could read bits and pieces but not everything. And that was how she first gotten hold of his interest...
He was having fun listening to the girls' minds and most of them were having the same thoughts.
'Those guys are so cute! Especially the black haired one.'
'Kyaaa! He's looking over here! Is my bikini okay?'
'Oh damn, I shouldn't have eaten too much! I look like a whale!'
'Oh gosh, I really have to change this bikini. I think the red one would catch their attention.'
'Maybe I should pass by them, then trip accidentally?'
He was snickering inside at their thoughts when he noticed a girl in a white sundress. Among the half-naked girls around, she definitely stood out that he couldn't help but stare at her more. She seemed to be wearing a pale pink bikini under that white flowing dress. She was reading a book while her knees were bent on the lounge chair, the breeze playing with her skirt, occasionally giving a glimpse of her shapely legs. Some girls behind her were giggling and whispering noisily, obviously talking about them, that the girl in white seemed had gotten disturbed by their chatters that she dropped her book on her lap and managed to lift her head on their direction.
Maybe it was her beauty that made him so awestruck that he couldn't read anything on her mind. Curious about her reaction to them, he focused on her, trying to get a glimpse of her thoughts. He managed to succeed a little but all he got was that she couldn't concentrate on her book because of the girls behind her and that she find it ridiculous that they couldn't just approach the boys they liked and be done with it. She never even bothered to spare a second glance at their direction and walked away from the lounge and settled herself under an umbrella to focus back on her reading.
And to his delight, her new location had placed her quite near them. He was truly fascinated with her, not only because she was the first person he couldn't absolutely read, but also because she was so damn pleasing to the eye.
"Hey, don't you think this is rather unusual? Koko has not said anything in like fifteen minutes!" Tsubasa laughed as he sat beside Koko, placing his arms around his shoulder and trying to peer at whatever he was focused on. "What are you looking at?"
"That girl's cute," Koko wasn't able to stop himself from saying, causing all of his friends to follow his gaze and settled on the auburn-haired girl in white dress.
"Pretty little thing, isn't she?"
That comment surprised him. Maybe he was so focused on watching her that he didn't even notice that the same girl had caught Natsume's attention as well. And it seemed he wasn't the only one who noticed Natsume's interest. After all, it was rare for Natsume to voluntarily give out a compliment to any female.
"You seem interested in her. Why don't you approach her then? Just the mere mention of the name of 'Natsume Hyuuga' is enough to send any girl on your lap," Tsubasa said teasingly.
Looking back at the girl, Koko smiled as he knew she wasn't an easy one and maybe to give Natsume a little hardship when it comes to girls, he had joined in challenging him. This was going to be more fun for him, after all, this would be one of the bets wherein he himself could not predict the outcome.
They had a good laugh over what Natsume had to go through in order to get close to Mika. But considering that their courtship was just a matter of days, Koko never really expected that things would go deep, after all, Natsume was always in denial. And the two of them were lying to each other.
He found Mika several times in dilemna on how to reveal her real name to Natsume but since Natsume had also given a false name, Koko thought it was just fair that he would keep his silence. He would leave it to those two on how they would confess to each other their true selves.
But fate had been cruel to them both. After Hisashi-san's death, Natsume locked himself in his room in self-regret. His father was worried and talked to them regarding what happened. He told him about Mika and about the fact that her name wasn't real. With the Hyuuga's money, he thought it would still be possible to find her but Natsume's father was against it. His son's infatuation with the girl was a weakness that should be subdued. When Natsume was finally able to gather his wits, he wanted to search for Mika, he was informed that it was futile to do so. They told him that an investigation had already been done and that they learned that Mika had already left the country.
From that day on, Natsume had focused his attention on his father's company. The responsibilities, the pressure he had to take on at such a young age, and maybe the need to forget everything about what happened with Mika had molded him into the cold and bitter person he was now.
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"Mikan-chan, are you alright?"
The voice brought Mikan back to her senses and she blushed at being caught staring into space. "I-I'm s-sorry, Akito-san," she rattled as she tried to compose herself.
"If you're not feeling well, you know you could take the day off," Akito said worriedly.
"No, I'm fine... really," she assured him with a smile. She returned her focus back into the computer screen, trying to erase the image of the crimson-eyed man who had brought back the bitter memories of eight years ago. 'Natsume Hyuuga, huh...' she thought sadly. He was really fooling around with her then. But she couldn't blame him, after all, she too had lied about her name. A relationship that was based on lies certainly would easily crumble and that was exactly what happened to them. She had nothing to blame but herself since she had given herself too easily to him. But really, can anyone blame her? Natsu Yagami or should she say, Natsume Hyuuga, was a master of seduction, and she was just one of his victims.
She closed her eyes and let out a heavy sigh.
Natsu Yagami was a thing of the past, one she had already learned to accept as a mistake. But finally seeing him and knowing his status in life brought a sense of fear in her. The picture frame on her desk caught her gaze and she couldn't help but worry. Despite the difference in eye and hair color, her son got his looks from his father. What if Natsu learns about his son? What if he takes Kenji away from her?
No, she won't allow that to happen. She had already lost many of the people she loved, she would die if she lost Kenji too. She would do anything to keep her son with her even if it meant marrying without love for the sake of security.
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A few days passed and ironically, Mikan felt relieved over the lack of excitement. Contrary to her worries of being recognized, Natsu Yagami, or rather Natsume Hyuuga didn't even bother to pay her the slightest attention. But despite that, she became more cautious in avoiding anything that would draw attention to herself. Because of the finalization of the merger, Natsume's visit to the Igarashi Headquarters had become quite frequent but she was hoping that it would end in a few months. She believed that if she would remain patient and continue to stay at the sidelines, everything would just pass and the people related to her past would remain as memories buried in the past.
Or so she thought.
So it came as a surprise when Akito approached her with a dismayed expression and informed her that the Vice President for Operations had requested for her services as a temporary secretary during the merger process.
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A pile of documents was scattered on his table waiting for his review and signature, but Koko couldn't seem to concentrate. Sometimes, he had to wonder how the heck he had landed this job. It was not that he was complaining or anything; after all, the pay was good and the work wasn't that bad. Besides, it was Natsume who was handling almost all of the major decision-making and he knew he couldn't get another job that would offer him as much as he was currently receiving.
He never thought that being Natsume's lackey during the school days would be carried over even in the business world. The persona of a serious businessman never did suit him but his alice was very useful in selecting the most trustworthy personnel as well as clients and business partners. Paperworks wasn't his forte but it was part of his job. So what better to do than get some competent people to do the paperworks for him?
Actually, that was just an excuse in order to get Mikan Sakura to work under him. Koko had his own pool of secretaries after all. But Natsume didn't seem to mind and he never really cared what else Koko would do as long as he did his job and nothing he did would tarnish the company's reputation. Natsume had probably forgotten about that little incident with Mikan Sakura or maybe he just hadn't made the connection between his request for a temporary secretary and the woman he had bumped into. Nevertheless, Koko was pleased that everything worked his way so he won't be bored during all these merger process and whatnot.
A knock was heard and after calling out for her to enter, Mikan Sakura stepped inside his office.
'Ugly as hell, huh?' A smirk crossed his lips as he thought of Natsume's description of the woman. Well, he really couldn't fault Natsume with that. With Sakura's huge round glasses and tight bun, that would be the natural first impression. But having seen her up close before, he had noted that her skin was smooth and has a pinkish glow and he realized that she may not be as bad as Natsume had thought. In fact, he considered that given a little makeover, she may be passably decent-looking.
And that would explain why the bank's internal audit manager was crazy in love with her.
He laughed inwardly remembering the first time he met Yamato Akito. The poor guy was struggling to keeping his concentration in the meeting while planning on what to do to make his lady love go on a date with him. And he was surprised to know that the lucky girl was no other than the plain secretary. But he didn't have any interest in the Yamato's love life or that of any employee. He just wanted to solve the enigma named Mikan Sakura. And he was anticipating to finally have a proper conversation with someone without already knowing what he or she planned to say or do.
"Good morning, Yome-san."
"Good morning, Mikan-chan," Koko greeted back, deliberately using her first name. "Please have a seat." Koko noticed that she looked a bit uncomfortable and he couldn't help but wonder if it was due to him calling her in a rather familiar way or if she was simply nervous. But the fact that he was wondering what she was thinking was a pleasure for someone who was used to read any mind he wanted. After all, talking to this girl make him feel like a normal person.
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Kokoro Yome was an entertaining boss and Mikan couldn't help but think that if she wasn't so worried that he would recognize her, she would probably enjoy her new position. He wasn't acting like a typical high-ranked officer of an international conglomerate that she had to wonder how he reached his current position. Or maybe being a close friend of Natsume Hyuuga had been the main reason? He seemed to be the goofy and happy-go-lucky type, someone who would rather party away rather than be cooped inside the office.
And though she appreciate the way he try to make her comfortable by making some funny jokes, she couldn't help but feel something creepy about him... like he was trying to read her mind. He was animated in the way he discuss her expected responsibilities and not once did that grin left his face even when he had to take a phone call. But his eyes were intense as he continued to stare at her even during his phone conversation.
Mikan could feel her hands getting sweaty, her nervousness increasing as she continue to pray that Yome-san would never connect her to the Mika Azumi that he had met eight years ago.
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"We're here, Hyuuga-sama."
Natsume lifted his head from the papers he was reading and glanced outside to see that the car had already stopped in front of the headquarters of the Igarashi International Bank. Sighing, he returned the papers into his attaché case as he waited for the chauffer to open the door. As he was preparing to step out, he heard music blaring from another car which stopped just behind his.
He stepped out and got a bit distracted when he heard some women giggling amidst the loud music. But he was more irritated when he noticed that the guards were not doing anything to stop the distraction. They were actually ogling at the skimpily clad women in a red hot convertible, one of them stepped out holding the hand of a small boy.
"Are you sure you want to be dropped here, Kenji-kun?" the woman literally purred over the young boy.
"Hn," the boy just nodded, his attention over the name of the bank, as if making sure he was at the right place.
"Aww, you're so cuteeee!" she squealed, pulling the boy into her arms and smothering his face into her huge cleavage.
Several jaws dropped, particularly the guards, who couldn't help but feel the jealousy on the kid over that privilege. Surprisingly, the boy managed to retain his poker face even after that spectacle, except for that slight twitch on his nose as he tried to recover from almost getting suffocated by the woman's heavy perfume. The embrace was followed by a long kiss on the cheek which earned some reactions from her companions.
"That's so not fair!" The other two women cried as they also stepped out and took turns on giving kisses on the boy's cheeks. One of them leaned closer to him and handed him a card.
"Should you need another ride, don't be shy to call onee-chan," the woman winked before she climbed into the car, and to the delight of her older male audience, her short skirt lifted higher to reveal a glimpse of her black thong.
The women continued to giggle and blew kisses towards the boy as they sped off.
Natsume didn't know if he should be amused or irritated to know that a mere boy of around eight had beaten him over the attention of women. He was out there in broad daylight but some women failed to notice him because of a small boy of around eight years old. That surely had never happen before.
He watched the boy muttered something in annoyance as he unsuccessfully wiped the lipstick marks on his cheeks then glanced at the piece of paper that was given to him. The boy took a short moment to survey the area, then he walked towards the entrance of the building and threw the paper to a dumbstruck guard.
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"I'm sorry, little boy, but your mother is still on a meeting," the receptionist smiled sweetly at the adorable young playboy. His cheeks were smeared with lipstick, obviously some women couldn't resist kissing him. She would have too if she wasn't on duty and should observe proper decorum. "Why don't you stay on the couch for a while? I'm sure someone had already informed your mother and she'll be here to see you."
"I want to go to her office," the boy said pouting.
The receptionist literally had seen hearts and had to use all restraint to hold herself together and not go around her desk to hug the boy. One of her colleagues managed to notice her dilemma and came to her desk to help out. Unfortunately, she was not as controlled as her and she squealed in delight upon seeing the boy's cuteness.
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Natsume had always been strict when it comes to orderliness in the company and seeing the guards' earlier behavior had disgusted him. After the kid entered the bank, the other guards had rushed towards the one who caught the woman's call card. If it was another time, he would have fired all of them but he had to admit that even he, was intrigued with the scene that he had stayed rooted to where he was standing until the kid had disappeared from his sight. The guards were really surprised when they finally noticed the president of their company standing there with a scowl on his face. They immediately rushed back to their positions; embarrassed, as well as worried that they might lose their jobs.
He let out an irritated sigh as he decided to excuse their atrociousness this time, only to find another scene of chaos inside the building. A group of five women - two employees of the bank based on their uniform and the other three, possibly customers or clients, were crowded over something... or someone.
"What's going on here?"
"Hyuuga-sama!" the two employees gasped while the other three were star-struck at seeing the infamous Natsume Hyuuga. They were so absorbed with the boy that they didn't notice the infamous president of the Hyuuga Group entering the building.
The two employees panicked on how to explain their current situation.
"I want to see my mother."
They all turned towards the childish yet firm voice of the small boy, who in turn, lifted his head to look straight at the tall man.
Up close, Natsume was surprised to note that the boy indeed had that quality of air in him. He was calm, his face remained expressionless, and so unlike any other brats he had met. Even at such a young age, he already showed a promise of good looks that he bet this boy will have girls falling all over him when he grows up. No wonder he was causing a lot of ruckus.
And somehow, there was something familiar with this boy that he couldn't seem to fathom.
He raised his brow at the boy. "This is not a daycare, kid."
"I know. Isn't that obvious?" the boy answered back as if challenging him.
For a man of his position who had been used to receiving nothing but respect, being challenged by this brat was a bit amusing. He could hear the receptionist gasp in surprise at the boy's response.
With the most authoritative look he could muster, he looked down at the boy and said, "Children are not allowed inside the workplace during office hours. That is the rule here."
But the boy returned his stare unflinching, "That's why I'm asking you."
Natsume cocked his brow at him, urging him to continue.
"You're a boss, right? You should be able to give me permission."
A smile was threatening to move his lips but he held on to his nonchalant expression. "How sure are you about that?"
"They called you Hyuuga-sama."
"The Hyuuga Group owns this bank. So you're a boss here."
"I didn't know little kids are that well-informed."
The boy just shrugged and pointed at the company's logo where smaller letters were written in the words 'A subsidiary of the Hyuuga Group.' The boy then stared back at him expectantly. "So, can I see my mother now?"
A smirk formed on his lips as he could not longer hide his amusement over the boy. "Is that the proper way to ask permission?"
The boy scowled but still he complied. "Pleaseeee?"
Natsume's smirk widened seeing the boy's expression. It had been so long since he felt genuinely entertained by something; not to mention by a small child. This child's reactions reminded him so much of his younger self - his own stubbornness and pride, that he couldn't help but tease him more.
He crossed his arms and looked down at him. "I'm a businessman, what good would it do me if I let you see your mother?"
"None," the boy immediately answered, his head lifted stubbornly. "But a businessman shouldn't bully kids. You'll lose customers."
That answer took Natsume by surprise and a choked laughter from behind him made him realize that they actually have an audience. He turned his head and managed to catch several of his employees, as well as clients and visitors watching and most possibly listening to his conversation with the kid. They immediately turned their heads away pretending to go back to their business but it was obvious that they were waiting on how his little debate with the kid would go.
A chuckle escaped him as he shook his head in disbelief at the audacity of this kid.
"What's your mother's name?"
Natsume looked towards the receptionist as if trying to confirm the name.
"Uhm... she's the secretary of Internal Audit Head but it seemed she was temporarily assigned to Yome-sama."
Natsume nodded as he remembered Koko telling him about a couple of weeks ago that he took one of the former secretaries from Mishima to aid with the merger process. It wasn't really necessary, in his opinion, but he often let Koko get away with some of his eccentricities as long as he did his job properly. He looked back at the kid and the boy just stood there, his gaze unwavering and his jaw set, as if ready to make his protest in case he refused his request. What was weirder was his own feeling. It seemed like he couldn't find it in himself to refuse the boy.
With a defeated sigh, and without even realizing that his expression had softened, he turned to the boy and extended his hand. "Come with me."
The boy stared at him for a moment, then at his hand. Without a word, he stepped towards him and reached for his hand. For a brief moment after those small hands touched his, Natsume felt something strange. He couldn't actually describe the feeling but as he looked down and his crimson eyes met the boy's russet ones, the boy's lips curved into a smirk as if gloating that he had won this round, an unexplained burst of pride and happiness came upon him.
"My name is Kenji Sakura," the boy told him as they walked towards the elevator.
"Natsume Hyuuga," he answered back.
"So... you're really a boss?" Kenji asked curiously which caused a choked laugh from him, amused at the irony that the boy was just making some wild guesses earlier not realizing the fact that he was not just a boss, but the boss of the company.
Since the time when he had taken over the management of his father's huge empire, none of his employees had ever seen smile. So, many were surprised as well as enthralled when the normally cold and unapproachable Natsume Hyuuga was seen with a genuine smile, holding the hand of a small boy who had just outwitted the infamous and genius president of the Hyuuga Group.
. : . : . to be continued . : . : .
Sorry for the cliffie but I wanted to post something after years of hiatus and I had to cut it short else it would take some time for me to post this chapter. Do not expect a quick update though. I'm really busy nowadays and it is hard to spare some time for writing. I'm not totally satisfied with the Natsume-Kenji part (a bit OOC) but if I continue to hover over it, I'll just end up not updating for months again.
I'll try to update A Prince for Mikan next. The chapter is more than half complete; however, there are some scenes that I got stuck on and couldn't seem to finish. It's frustrating and I feel like my writing has deteriorated. So I apologize to all my readers for leaving you hanging all these years. Unfortunately, I still can't promise anything and I'm just hoping that I'll get back my muse so I can complete all my pending fics. T.T But thank you to everyone who continue to patiently (or impatiently... :P) wait for my seemingly non-existent updates.
Thanks again to all who had reviewed, and put this fic into their favorites and alerts. Hope this chapter is worth the wait. Please review! :)
Pao, happy birthday again and enjoy your gift! Now, it's your turn to update. hehe.