Li Residence, Shinjuku
Janyu closed the front door behind him and took his shoes off in the entryway. Before he could even take another step inside Rinchei appeared around the corner. He was wearing a maroon t-shirt and jeans and had a big grin on his face. "You're not gonna ground Jen, are you?" he asked.
Janyu frowned at his eldest son. "Don't you have homework to get to?"
"No way!" said Rinchei, shaking his head vigorously. "I don't wanna miss out on this!"
"Rinchei, leave dad alone!" Jaarin insisted as she appeared behind her brother dressed in blue shorts and a white hoodie.
"Oh c'mon, Jaarin! This is so cool! Jen was all like 'pow!' and that other kid never knew what hit him!"
"Rooms. Now," Janyu said crossly. To his relief Jaarin and Rinchei quickly did as they were told, clearing the way for him to head for the dining room table where Mayumi was waiting in a floral print dress.
"Thanks for coming home early," Mayumi said to her husband.
"Not under the best circumstances," Janyu grumbled as he took a seat. "Is Jenrya alright?"
"Not a scratch," said Mayumi. "He's upset though. I sent to him to his room for a time-out and he slammed the door."
"What about the other boy?" asked Janyu.
"Black eye and a bloody lip, but nothing too serious."
Janyu groaned and ran a hand through his hair. "I just don't know what to do with that boy anymore. Did he at least tell you what happened?"
"Not a word. He just gave me the silent treatment the whole time." Mayumi sighed, taking off her glasses and wiping them with a napkin. "Sorry I had to call you away from work to handle this."
Janyu took off his blazer and loosened his tie. "It's not your fault. Where's Shiuchon?"
"Napping," said Mayumi. "You didn't have to come home, you know. If you wanted to stay at work I could have handled this."
"I don't think I would have been much use there today," Janyu explained.
"So what do you want to do?" she asked.
Janyu didn't say anything back for a while. He had no idea what to do anymore. "Tea?"
Mayumi nodded. "I'll get some started.'
"Thanks, honey." Mayumi got up and went to the kitchen while Janyu stayed at the table. He took his tie all the way off and loosened his collar, hoping it would help him think.
Jenrya had been in trouble before. All the time, it seemed like. This was the first time he'd ever actually hit someone though. Janyu got the feeling that if things kept going at this rate it wouldn't be the last time. Jenrya seemed like a natural born troublemaker, and it had only gotten worse since he started school. The boy was only seven but he was already more of a handful than Jaarin and Rinchei had ever been.
Janyu looked at the clock on the wall. It had been about half an hour since he got the call from his wife that Jenrya had been in a fight. He was perfectly willing to let his son stew in his room a bit longer, but eventually he'd have to have a talk with him. The problem was coming up with something to say he hadn't already said a hundred times. No TV. No computer. No dessert. Early bedtime. Yelling. Nothing ever did the trick and the next time was always worse. If today it was a black eye and a bloody lip, what might it be the next time?
"Isn't the weather just beautiful today, Janyu?" Mayumi asked from the kitchen.
Janyu just grumbled. He knew his wife was just as upset as he was, but she was a lot better at hiding it. She almost never yelled; that was his job, for all the good it did. When Jenrya got in trouble at school the month before he did nothing else the whole drive home, but Jenrya hardly seemed to notice. He just sat there in the back seat, arms folded, looking out the window.
"Stubborn," Janyu mumbled out loud.
"Just like you if I recall," said Mayumi, standing at the kitchen entryway.
"I was never anything like this," said Janyu. "Nothing seems to get through to him, you know? I may as well be shouting at the walls." He rubbed his forehead.
"Now honey, I know you had your wild days too," Mayumi pointed out. "I'm sure he'll grow out of it."
Janyu sighed. "We keep saying that but it hasn't worked so far."
"Neither has yelling," Mayumi pointed out, "or punishing him."
"What else can we do?"
"I don't know," Mayumi admitted. "We should probably decide before we talk to him though, don't you think?"
"You're right as usual," Janyu grunted.
"Janyu, talk to me," said Mayumi. "I guarantee I'm going to be much easier to talk to than our son."
"I know, I know. I'm just out of ideas is all."
Mayumi shook her head. "Now that doesn't sound like the man I married. You always say there's no problem you can't solve with a little hard work and critical thinking."
"Sure, when it comes to computers. With kids it's different."
"It's a little more complicated, sure," said Mayumi. "But I think this will just take a little extra elbow grease."
"Computers, at least, do what they're told," said Janyu.
"No one ever said it would be easy," said Mayumi. "We just have to work through it like we always do. Remember trying to get Rinchei to go to bed?"
Janyu couldn't help but laugh. "'Trying' being the key word there. Even at four years old he was a real night owl. I hate to think what he'll be like as a teenager."
"Every other minute it was 'Read me another story!' or 'I'm thirsty!' or something." Mayumi smiled.
"When we were lucky," Janyu pointed out. "Half the time he'd just get up in the middle of the night to watch TV or something."
Mayumi groaned. "We'd finally had enough after the fifth time we thought it was someone breaking into the apartment."
"Well that problem wasn't so hard to solve," Janyu pointed out. "Just a matter of changing up his diet and having dinner earlier."
"Well how about when Jaarin had pneumonia then?" Mayumi asked. "That wasn't so easy now was it?"
Janyu shook his head. He still didn't like thinking about that. "We did manage to pull through, thankfully. I was a wreck the whole time though."
"So was I," Mayumi acknowledged. "We've been through a lot for our kids, Janyu, and we've still got plenty more to look forward to."
"Not exactly a cheery thought," Janyu had to admit.
"Just don't take this so hard. We'll figure out a way to deal with Jenrya."
Janyu bit his thumbnail. "I can't help it," he said. "I feel like this is my fault."
"Don't be silly. You had nothing to do with it."
"It was my idea for Jenrya to learn tai chi though," Janyu pointed out. "What was I thinking? The last thing that kid needs to know is how to throw a punch."
"If you'll remember, I thought it was a good idea too."
"Great, so neither of us has a clue what we're doing."
Mayumi just smiled. "We thought he could use a little discipline. Judging by what happened today, that's probably truer than ever."
"Why do I get the feeling he wasn't paying attention to the discipline part?"
The kettle started whistling from the kitchen. Before going to get it, Mayumi took one last look at Janyu and said, "Give Anzhong a call if you're worried about how these lessons are going. Maybe he has some idea what's going on with Jenrya."
Janyu shrugged and got up to get the phone from the living room. It was as good an idea as any. Janyu had known Anzhong most of his life, from back when they both lived in Hong Kong. He had been something of a troublemaker in his own youth, but when he started learning tai chi from Anzhong things got better for him. He had hoped it would do the same for his son, but after today he had his doubts.
"Anzhong, how are you?" Janyu asked into the phone. "I hope I'm not disturbing you."
There was a laugh on the other end. "My friend, after all you've done for me, you are welcome in my home—or on my phone—any time."
"It was the least I could do to thank you for teaching me, Anzhong. Besides, I couldn't live with myself if I'd left a friend out in the cold like that." Years earlier, when Janyu and Mayumi were still newlyweds, Anzhong's home in Hong Kong burned down in a fire. Without a moment's hesitation Janyu gave up his job to go help his friend, and Mayumi supported him the whole way even though they didn't know if he'd be able to find work again.
"And how is my favorite little student, hm?"
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about." Janyu looked back to the dining room to see Mayumi pouring tea for both of them.
"Is something wrong? Nothing serious, I hope."
"No, no. It's just… Well, Jenrya got in a fight today."
"He wasn't hurt, was he?"
"No, quite the opposite actually."
"I see." Anzhong cleared his throat. "Acting up again, is he?"
"I'm at my wits' end."
Mayumi handed Janyu his cup of tea. He nodded to her while listening to Anzhong's response. "I seem to remember you were a bit wild yourself, once upon a time."
"So you can see why I wouldn't want the same for my son," said Janyu, sipping his tea.
"Well, I must admit I'm not surprised it's come to this," Anzhong said matter-of-factly. "I've always stressed to him that we learn how to fight so that we won't have to fight, but it always seems to go in one ear and out the other with him."
"You've noticed that too, huh?"
"Yes. That's why I've been hesitant to teach him more than the most basic stances. You must know I am profoundly sorry if I've created this problem."
Janyu sighed. "Trust me, Anzhong, this was a problem long before you started teaching him."
"It sounds as though you aren't quite sure what to do about this."
Janyu took another sip of his tea. "You can say that again."
"And I assume all your usual methods aren't working?"
"Hmm…" Anzhong mused over the phone. "If your opponent's defenses are too strong for a frontal assault, you should consider attacking from a different angle."
"Anzhong he's my son, not my enemy."
Anzhong laughed. "All I'm saying is that you may want to try a different perspective, my friend. Let me ask you, how do you think Jenrya feels about all this?"
Janyu groaned. "That kid is hard to figure out. He keeps everything to himself."
"Now why do you suppose he might do that?"
"What do you mean?"
"I've gotten to know your son quite well, Janyu. He's a very smart boy, but you are right that he doesn't like to share his feelings. Or anything else for that matter."
Janyu knew Anzhong was right about that. It wasn't just his feelings that Jenrya kept to himself. His toys, his food, his space, everything that was his couldn't be touched by anyone else as far as Jenrya seemed to be concerned. "You might be right about that, but it's not so strange. Lots of seven-year-olds don't like to share."
"Janyu, put yourself in your son's place. Why is it you think he doesn't like to share?"
Janyu sighed and sipped his tea. When he thought about it the answer really was obvious, though maybe a little too simple. "This is about his brother and sisters, isn't it?"
"Only he can answer that for certain, Janyu. But I do know his face brightens whenever you come to pick him up after practice and he has you all to himself for a few minutes."
Janyu smiled a bit at hearing that. "Thank you, Anzhong. I think I have some idea of what to say to him now."
"Any time, my friend."
Janyu hung up the phone and went back to his tea. He was staring out the window at the gorgeous view on this bright, sunny day. He needed a minute to think.
"I take it he helped," Mayumi said, more as a statement than a question.
Janyu nodded. "I'll go in to see him after I finish my tea."
Janyu opened Jenrya's bedroom door. The boy was sitting on his bed with his knees tucked up to his chin and his arms crossed in front of him. He was wearing a dark grey t-shirt and tan shorts with a few drops of blood on them from the fight. When he saw his father come in he scowled defiantly.
"We need to talk," said Janyu, unfazed by his son's expression.
Jenrya didn't say anything. Janyu decided to take that as an invitation to go on.
"Your mother and I are very disappointed," he said as he sat down on the bed next to his son. "You know better than this, don't you?"
Jenrya only shrugged and looked away, much to Janyu's irritation. This would be a lot easier with some kind of feedback.
"Look son, you need to know that using your fists isn't the way to get what you want. You've got to use your words. Now is there something you'd like to say?"
Jenrya was silent for a few seconds until finally getting out a simple, "No."
Janyu sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Why did Jenrya have to be so difficult like this? "Why did you hit that boy?"
"Because he's stupid."
"Don't call people names," Janyu reminded his son sternly. "Now just tell me what happened."
"It's not my fault," Jenrya said, apparently thinking that was all the explanation needed.
Janyu nodded. "Go on."
Jenrya sighed. "I was riding my bike. Jirou was there. He said he wanted a turn but I didn't wanna."
"So what happened?"
"He tried to take my bike so I hit him." Jenrya was just so straightforward; he almost sounded proud of it.
"That was a very mean thing to do, son. We don't hit people."
"So why did you do it?"
"It's my bike!" Jenrya said with sudden vigor, leaning toward his dad.
Janyu pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and looked his son right in the eye. "You should share your toys, you know."
"I don't wanna!" Jenrya said firmly.
"Why don't you like sharing?" Janyu asked, keeping a calm tone.
"It isn't stupid, Jenrya."
Janyu, fortunately, had more than enough experience with his children to know how to change the course of an argument. "You don't like it when anyone else plays with your toys, do you?"
Jenrya shook his head vigorously.
"Well what about your brother and sisters?"
Jenrya just grimaced at that. Clearly Janyu's question had struck a nerve.
"Don't you love them?" Janyu asked.
"I guess," Jenrya admitted. "But why do they get everything?"
"Son, I know it might seem a little unfair at times, but your mother and I love you all equally. They don't get anything more than—"
"Uh-huh! They get everything!"
Well that pretty much confirmed Janyu's suspicions. Now he just had to figure out how to deal with the problem. "Rinchei always shares his toys with you though, doesn't he?"
Jenrya looked away and shrugged. "I dunno."
"You know he does."
Janyu sighed, recalling the times he'd had to stop Rinchei from picking on Jenrya. It didn't happen a lot, but boys will be boys and brothers will be brothers. "I know it might seem like that sometimes, but he loves you just like your mom and I do."
Jenrya sighed. "I guess."
"And your sisters love you too," Janyu added.
"But girls are crazy."
Janyu couldn't help chuckling a little at that. "Yeah, but you get used to it."
"But why do they always get everything?" Jenrya reiterated.
Janyu didn't have a clue how he could get through to his son. Jenrya was just so stubborn sometimes about these things. Still, he had to try. "You know, when I was young I got into trouble a lot too."
Jenrya looked closely at his father, seemingly studying him. "Really?"
"Really. I did a lot of things I'm not proud of."
Jenrya cocked his head to the side. "Like what?"
"I'm not giving you pointers."
"Let's just say I deserved a lot of time-outs. What I wanted, though—what I needed—was just to have someone listen to me, you know? I just needed someone to talk to and make me feel better. Do you understand?"
Jenrya nodded. "Like mom when I'm sick."
"Sort of like that. I guess I did bad things because they made people pay attention to me. Is that why you do bad things, son?"
Jenrya turned his head and gave a halfhearted, "I dunno."
"Well, Jenrya, I don't want you to do any more bad things, okay?"
Jenrya nodded. "Okay." He didn't sound all that convincing.
"I want to offer you a deal then," said Janyu. He wasn't particularly proud of making bargains with his children, but it had done wonders for Rinchei's grades, which in turn made Jaarin work even harder so as to stay ahead of her brother. "From now on, every day your mother or I will spend one hour with just you, no one else."
"Okay!" Jenrya said enthusiastically.
"Now hang on a minute," Janyu continued. "There's a catch."
"What's a catch?" asked Jenrya.
"You have to be good," said Janyu. "If you do anything bad you don't get that time with one of us that day. Does that sound fair?"
Jenrya hesitated for a moment, but finally said, "I guess."
"Good," Janyu said with a smile. "Now come on, I think that's a long enough time-out. Besides, we have to do something."
"We have to go see this Jirou boy and you are going to apologize to him."
Jenrya frowned. "Do I hafta?"
"Yes you do," Janyu said sternly. "You're a big boy now and that means admitting your mistakes and doing whatever it takes to make it right. I think an apology would be a nice start."
Jenrya sighed and hung his head. "Okay."
Later that evening Janyu was still mulling the situation over in his head after dinner. He could only hope this latest attempt would work, but at the same time he wasn't holding his breath. His concentration was broken when he heard Shiuchon get upset over something—probably Rinchei's doing, the way that boy always tore around the house at that time of night. Janyu was about to see to his youngest child when he noticed Jenrya was already with her. He gave her an old stuffed animal of his to play with, one he'd had since he was just a baby but would never let anyone else touch. Shiuchon calmed down right away, and Jenrya was actually smiling.
[This story was actually inspired by a recent re-watching of the D-Reaper Arc (the dub, I've not been able to find it subbed for a while.) The idea sprung from two sources: Jenrya's reflection on what he was like as a little kid at the start of episode 45 and a story Mayumi tells about her husband going to help a friend in Hong Kong whose house had burned down. At the time she tells the story they are staying with Jenrya's sensei, who as far as I can tell was never named despite being a recurring character—for the purposes of this story I named him Anzhong. I thought it would make sense if Anzhong was that friend from Hong Kong, since when he takes in the Lis after they are forced to evacuate Shinjuku it would be like returning the favor since they had taken him in under similar circumstances years earlier.
I had a lot of fun writing for Jenrya and Rinchei in this story. Hopefully the lighter moments balance out the frustration Janyu's experiencing here. I'm not going to say this piece is all that good, but it was surprisingly easy to write once I had the idea in my head.