I want to start off by saying I'm sincerely sorry for the long time between uploads. This is a story I will always work on when I have a chance and inspiration is with me. But there will be some stretches of time between each chapter. But I promise never to drop this, even though I wouldn't blame my readers from leaving. Thank you to all those who still check for new chapters and enjoy my story.

Chapter 11: Strength of Steel

Hiromi had stayed in the kitchen, her back to the doorway that led to the living room where the show down of wills was occurring. Inside, she was bring torn apart with her loyalty to her husband and her love of her only son. She was used to her husbands strong will and had long ago learned to live with it. What he said goes and in their entire marriage, it seemed to work well enough. She had everything she could ever want, a beautiful home, plenty of food to feed her family with and above all, happiness. At least, that's what she told herself every morning when she woke up. She and her son came from different generations, hers grew up learning that all women defer to the males in their life, children obeyed their father and be happy about it. But Seiji…that's not the way Seiji thought. He believed that happiness should come not because it was expected and required but because one was truly happy. And in the past few years, that ideology had clashed horribly with what his father expected and things had just steadily got more strained in their household, with Hiromi in the center of it all trying to keep things in balance. She would agree with everything her husband said and told her while at the same time, trying to nurture the seed of free thinking in her son by giving him many opportunities and chances to escape to her fathers place after he grew older. But it hadn't taken long for Tsuyoshi to catch on to what she was doing and he had tried to keep Seiji at home but by this time, their son had started helping with the violin making classes and Tsuyoshi was getting high praise from the parents of his students who also congratulated him on having such a wonderful son. So of course that meant allowing Seiji to continue teaching because he was bring the family honor. But she knew, judging from the sounds coming from the other room, that even that privilege might be taken away. And sure enough, when she heard her name being so familiarly yelled, all she could do was sigh softly to herself.

Turning around, she lightly clasped her hands in front of her as her husband came storming into the kitchen, yelling about how ungrateful the boy was and that something needed to be done to bring him back under control. And all during this, she stayed quiet and listened, she knew better then to speak her peace before he was done venting. So when he finally stopped his fuming and silently started to pace the cool tiled floor, she spoke up softly and with as much neutrality as she could muster. "Dear, Seiji is just at the age when he wants to start taking control of his own life, just like every man does. Please, don't be too harsh with him, it's all part of him growing up." Though her voice was quiet, it held a certain strength to it. Never in all the years this fighting had been going on had she ever given her own opinion much less tell him what should be done. But what she said was partly true…their young son was growing quickly into a well behaved young man and it was only natural that he wish to start taking control of his life. Deep in her heart, she wished her son could escape from here…she wished for so much more for her bright son and more than anything, she wished for him to go back to Italy where he was truly happy doing what his dream was. So with as much of a stern look she could give, she stared at her husband and awaited to see what action would follow her 'defiance'. But it only lasted for a short, very strained moment before her eyes quickly lowered and she looked to the ground. Years upon years of 'training' was hard to ignore…she couldn't be anymore then she already was, a loyal and submissive housewife. But even as her husband started to berate her for saying such things and taking that kind of stance against him, she vowed deep in her heart that she would do all in her power to make sure he son escaped from this life.

Tsuyoshi, his face tomato red in his anger, stomped into the kitchen where he knew his wife would be and the moment he saw her, his tirade started. "He's getting out of hand! Do you know what just happened? He came home covered head to toe in mud! MUD! Who knows what that boy has been doing now…at least he had enough sense in that empty head of his not to go walking around like that. But instead he just started stripping, without even asking if Mina had left yet for the day! Absurd behavior! But then the ultimate insult…he walked away from me without saying a word, without answering any of my questions. This is it, something has to be done about him NOW!" All through his angry speech, he had been pacing the floor, his hands clenched at his side as he did his best not to say any specific words that shouldn't be said in front of respectable ladies. The only time he stopped his pacing was when he heard a soft yet uncharacteristically strong voice. Turning around slowly , he had a look of shock and amazement on his face. "W-what did you say?" He couldn't believe how his whole household seemed to be backwards today. Never in their entire marriage had she ever spoken or even looked to him like that, he didn't know what to say. Luckily things seemed to slowly go back to normal as she lowered her eyes and the tension started to lift. Snapping out of his surprise, his face seemed to turn even redder as he quickly started to put his wife back in her place. Choice words were thrown at her as he let her know that speaking to him in such away wouldn't be tolerated. And after that, he gave one last long glare before storming out of the kitchen and going to his study. "It's clear that she's not going to be any help anymore. I'll do this all myself then…that boy will bend to my will." Mumbling to himself, he crossed the house and went into his study where he slammed the door before sitting at his desk to begin brainstorming.

He would figure something out as soon as possible if it killed him. But as he sat there, Hiromi's words floated around in his mind…Seiji is just at the age when he wants to start taking control of his own life, just like every man does…Sighing heavily, he shook his head to clear it, but it just wouldn't leave…his brain knew that what she was saying was right. Every boy grows up into a strong man and it's never long until they leave to strike out on their own. He would never admit it to anyone but that very thought scared him…when his only son left, there would be no one but his wife to obey him. But that wasn't only it, after his son left, that mean that there wouldn't be anyone to pass his doctor legacy to. He had always dreamed of working beside his son, both being highly respected doctors and making their family business very successful. It was every father's dream but…his son never got interested in medicine, no matter how hard he tried to push him and his dream just seemed to slip quicker and quicker out of his fingers as the boy grew older. So his fears were translated into to anger and frustrations with his only child and it had been like that for years to where it just became commonplace. He no longer acknowledged Seiji's accomplishments, just demanded that he do even better. If he got an A on a test, why wasn't it an A+…if he got 100% on an essay, why not 110% due to wowing the teacher with his wealth of knowledge. He wanted so much more for his son, a better life then just being a violin maker. That kind of job would get him nowhere in this modern world and certainly wouldn't earn neither him nor his family any honor. "I worked hard to give my family a good life, to have a prestige that not just any family could have. I'm a highly respected doctor and I deserve to have a son just as respected. All of this…it must end now." No matter how hard nor how long he thought on it, no solution came to mind and it just frustrated him even more. But he vowed to himself that tonight, he would come up with a solution.

Hiromi stayed as she was, subdued and subservient even as her heart blazed with desire to free her son from this life. Of course, she had enough mind to listen to the babbling that was directed to her, nodding here and there and when he finally stormed out of the room, she sighed softly and closed her eyes. And like every other time after listening to an angry outburst, she said a little prayer to ease her heart and keep her calm. Opening her deep brown eyes, she swiftly yet quietly left the room and headed upstairs to their bedroom where she silently closed the door. Quickly she went to her closet and reached for a small black lacquer wooden box. It was a wedding gift from her mother, a keepsake box that Tsuyoshi never gave a second glance to. To him it was an insignificant thing that didn't require any of his time. So for her, this was the perfect hiding spot. Opening the lid, she brushed aside a colorful piece of kimono cloth to reveal a tightly bound wad of money. It was her secret stash, the only way she could help her son. This was her growing nest egg for him to escape this life and leave all this hatred far behind. She had been adding to it little by little since Seiji had been a youngster and the early warning signs of her husbands controlling ways became apparent. Of course, back then she had no idea what she was saving up for, perhaps his college career or just a private graduation gift to help him on his way to becoming independent but now it had become much more important…it was his ticket to escape this foxes den and fly free.