Chapter 13 - Return to the family
Hi guys, it has been a while:)
How was everything so far? Do you guys like the previous chapter?
I read the reviews for chapter 12, thank you reviewers for your comments:)
This part of the story tends to be a little more slow paced than what I originally intended, hopefully it would be all right.
So, let's start:)
25th November, Kyoto, 3:43 pm, Ichika POV
"Kyoto, this train has reached Kyoto, all passengers travelling to Kyoto prefecture please alight."
As I stepped out of the train door, I took a good look at my surroundings.
Kyoto is bright.
The sun is shining down in the city.
There are a lot of people of various ages.
They are either alighting from the train or they are waiting for another line.
Their conversations only make me feel how lively the train station is.
If this is just a small part of the whole city, just what would the entire prefecture be like?
"Done looking around Ichika-nii~?" Madoka asked.
"Yea… how can I say? It is very… lively here."
Madoka looked at me with a questioning eye, then she smiled in understanding.
I looked around again, then at my own outfit.
"Madoka… don't I look awkward in this?"
"Huh? Of course not Ichika-nii."
"You know I am talking about the bandages with the clothes right?"
"Its ok Ichika-nii, you look fine. Just act like you belong here… oh forgive me. You actually belong here. So there is no need to be afraid of anything."
One a side note, I am wearing a grey shirt with dark blue jeans.
Madoka on the other hand, is wearing a white dress with black thigh high Zettai Ryouiki.
The outfit is not of my concern, but my bandages is.
So far, my wounds have healed, all save the head.
It looks like the wound directed at the head will take a little longer to heal.
When I told Dr. Shimazu that I want to go back to Japan, I was obviously met with strong resistance.
The doctors seem to have a different opinion of how I ought to spend my recovery process.
But once I told them I agreed with Madoka's opinion, they allowed me to leave the island on the condition that I keep in touch with them on a regular basis.
After we left Tabane-sensei's island, we went straight to Tokyo to get some things that we might need, such as clothes and money.
In the midst of everything, Madoka was the one who settled everything.
The money, clothing and train fare.
Not to mention a train fare to the first class compartment.
At first, I told her that I would settle the pay.
But she asked, 'do you even have money Ichika-nii?'.
That answer alone made me shut up every time she used her money to pay for our meals.
To be honest, it's so not gentlemanly to have a girl pay for all your stuff.
But I do not even have money to begin with so I have no say to begin with.
To my surprise, Madoka seems to know her way around so much more than I do.
She knew where to get her train tickets, the right store for clothing, etc.
Before I knew it, we were boarding the railway train and left Tokyo for good.
So right now, we have finally reached Kyoto.
In other words, home.
Or is it?
I only have one recollection of home, and that is the memory of me when I was two years old.
I sometimes wonder.
Once we reached home, how would I feel?
Would I be opened to memory flashes?
Would I even recognize those in my family?
As Madoka led me away from the train I just could not help but question our current situation.
But I soon told myself not to think too much.
I'll just wait and see, and then act according to the situation.
I suppose this is called 'go with the flow'.
We then proceeded to the security station where all those visiting or leaving Kyoto have to bypass for security clearances.
Like all the other civilians, we waited in a long queue.
But it is going to be a little troubling for me.
A few of the people around me would give me odd glances.
They are probably wondering what could have possibly happen to me.
In response, I did my best to ignore them, by observing my surroundings.
There are a lot of stores beyond the security pass.
They sell stuff like magazines, newspapers, fast food, clothing and even shopping bags.
The liveliness of the place never ceases to intrigue me.
"Ichika-nii, we are next." Madoka said.
As we by passed the security, we showed him our tickets.
But something else happened.
Madoka brought out an identification card.
One the left side of the card, it contains her image, name, ID number.
But there is also something else.
There is a circle at the right side of the card.
It is an image of a… Mon? (Japanese family crest)
It has three circles arranged in such a way that there is an outer, mid and inner circle.
The outer and inner circle is black, while the mid circle is white.
All of the three circle's circumferences are pushed to the edge of the Mon, just enough to leave a huge space in the middle.
At the middle of the Mon, there is a white pentagon flower.
Six stood symmetrical to each other in two groups of three.
The last strand of white petal was pointing downwards.
At the mid circle, there are eight white circles arranged in consecutive angles so that the Mon can be purely symmetric.
The eight circles are connected to the center of the Mon by eight white lines.
You can't really see the center point for it is covered by the flower.
It is arranged in such a manner that it looks like the eight white circles are weaving or molting the flower in place at the center of the Mon.
When the security accountant saw the Mon, her eyes became bright.
She began to look at Madoka with a different light.
Was it… respect? Or is it Admiration?
It has to be either of those two.
How… did Madoka exactly managed to pull off something like that?
We cleared the security regulations, and now we have to collect our luggage.
Well, I am not talking about those really big luggages.
We only had medium sized bags only meant to hold a few sets of clothes and toiletries.
But it still counts as luggages so we just left it at the luggage compartment.
As we approached the luggage collection point, we were greeted by a porter who was no in doubt, informed of whatever status Madoka had.
This is because when he spoke to Madoka, he had this sense of politeness and respect.
"Good afternoon Orimura-sama."
"Good afternoon." Madoka answered with a nod to the customs official.
The porter then handed Madoka an official-looking form, which Madoka filled in easily.
Once she handed him over the form, he gave his thanks.
"Orimura-sama, would you like us to help with your luggage?"
Madoka just smiled at the man and just gave him a 2000 yen note.
She then led me to another direction.
As I looked back, I saw the same porter directly right behind us.
Our luggages are under his protection.
How can I say…
Was Madoka so high-class before?
Does it mean that I come from a rich background?
"No worries Ichika-nii, our family is rich. I'll explain more later."
We then proceeded to walk out of the railway station.
As we walked, Madoka took out her hand phone and dialed a contact number.
I do not know who she is talking to.
"Hi Fukusuke-san… yes I just reached Kyoto. Can you come to the railway station now? Thanks you so much. Oh and prepare for an additional luggage. I am bringing back someone." She said.
… Is she calling for transport?
She then continued to lead me forward.
It is strange how she knows where to go.
Well, Madoka said this place is home so it is not that surprising.
I don't even recognize my surroundings.
Is it possible that I live here long ago?
If I get my memories back, will I get any recollections of this place?
As we continued to walk, we saw a girl.
She has black hair with twin ponytails, wearing a dark blue shirt with blue short jeans.
"That's Orimura Chiyo, she's one of our cousins." Madoka said.
Just as we approached her, Madoka gave me a severe warning.
"Leave her to me. If you give her the wrong impression, she will kill you on the spot."
Why would a cousin want to kill me?
As we approached, this Orimura Chiyo greeted Madoka with outmost respect.
"Madoka-sama! Welcome back~! I came as soon as you notified us yesterday!"
"Glad to see that you are always reliable Chiyo."
"But still Madoka-sama, you should have contacted us more beforehand. We could have arranged one of our private planes to get you from Tokyo back to Kyoto, rather than have you rely on some cheap public transport."
"Sigh… no one seems to believe that I need to keep a low profile since I started working in Phantom Task."
Orimura Chiyo stiffened slightly.
"I don't understand Madoka-sama."
"It's not important that you do. If you were to get one of our private planes, you would have delayed more of my limited time."
Orimura Chiyo gave Madoka a further 'Eh?' look.
But once she looked at me, her expression froze.
"Madoka-sama… just who is that person?"
"None of your concern, at least not yet." Madoka cut me off before I can introduce myself.
Chiyo stared at Madoka pleadingly, as if she wanted an answer badly.
"Chiyo." Madoka continued.
"I am expected to be back for about a week ago, but recent unforeseen events have kept me from being on schedule. So to prevent me from being further delayed, I suggest you let me go back home now."
Woah… that sounded more like an order rather than a request.
Chiyo looked like she wanted to persist, but she finally relented.
Satisfied, Madoka led me further out of the Kyoto Railway Station.
As I looked back, I can see Chiyo waling behind us at a distance.
Her eyes are fixated onto me with suspiscion.
Opps… better not stare for too long.
As we reached the nearby carpark, I saw something… outstanding.
A huge black Aruca MDX stood there waiting.
Based on my knowledge, it is a four-person car, and a very expensive one.
Madoka turned and gave some final instructions to the porter.
"Put everything at the back."
"Right away Orimura-sama."
Once he is done, Madoka handed him another 2000-yen note.
The porter shuffled it into his pocket, bid farewell and was immediately gone.
"Let's go in Ichika-nii."
"Wait Madoka… is this ours?"
"Of course Ichika-nii."
"But… when did – "
"I'll explain on the way Ichika-nii, just get in."
Since Madoka said she would explain, there is no further point in pushing.
As I got in, I saw an old driver.
He saw me through the mirror at the top.
He expressed some shock, but smiled in the end.
"Hello Fukusuke-san" Madoka said.
"Ohaiyo Madoka-dono. I see that you've brought back someone."
"I need to be back home, now."
Back at the Kyoto Railway Station
Orimura Chiyo waited until the black Aruca MDX left.
Once it was out of her sight, she immediately reached for her bag and took out her hand phone.
Whoever that guy is, she must find out.
Just who on this earth is that guy?
How is Madoka-sama so interested in him?
Madoka-sama had never been interested in a guy before.
So why the sudden change?
As Chiyo thought, the more she gets frustrated.
There is something odd about that bandaged faced guy.
And Chiyo is not going to let it slip past her nose.
If she is going to solve this mystery, she has to do her own researching.
In order to do that, she needs some intellectual aid.
She dialed the number to the family island.
If there is any place to start, it is there, the center of the Orimura Family's intellectual department.
"Mushi Mushi? Chiyo-san?"
"Kin! Madoka-sama just came back."
"Madoka-sama? Just now?"
"Yes. Anyways, I need you to help me to look up on someone! Double fast!"
"Ok ok chill down. Why is this person so important?"
"Madoka brought back a guy! I need to find out more about him!"
"… A guy?"
"Yes damn it! A guy!"
"… Chiyo-san, I never took you for someone with the jokes."
"I am NOT joking! It really happened! I'm sending you the image now!"
"Ok I just received it… wow Chiyo, what a poor choice of an image."
"OI! I already told you I am NOT JOKING! That bandaged dude is definitely suspicious! I want to find out why is Madoka-sama so interested I him!"
"All right. All right… I'll see what I can dig up. To think that Madoka brought back a guy. Just what would the old man think?"
Kyoto prefecture, towards the sea
"Orimura-dono? Orimura-dono? We are already reaching. Is everything all right? "
Orimura Ichirou opened his eyes and saw his chauffeur at the driver's seat, Oyobe Toyobe.
Like Fukusuke-san, he comes from the Oyobe family, which has been continuously serving the Orimura family for countless generations.
"Yes, I'm fine. My mind was elsewhere."
"Don't forget your invitation, Isuzo-dono will be meeting you inside."
"Where shall I retrieve you once you are done?"
"The same place, just at their Main gate. But don't loiter around, I don't expect to be here long."
"Very well, I shall wait outside then."
The car finally stops after half an hour's ride.
Orimura Ichirou opened the car seat door and got out of the car.
As he looked forward, he saw the familiar traditional gate of the Isuzo family mansion.
The gate is already opened with an usher waiting.
Orimura Ichirou then started walking.
In comparism to the Orimura family conglomerate, the Isuzo family is just a simple family business company that specializes in Kyoto's docks.
In other words, sea exports and imports.
That probably explains their choice to stay near the ocean, since it is close to their workplace.
In the past, the Orimura family commissioned the Isuzo family to export their industrial goods.
It is mutual benefit in a way.
The Orimura family would gain the most by having their goods exported while the Isuzo family can earn more profit by the paid commission and by trading with more partners looking for goods produced by the Orimura family.
Both families have this close relationship for a standard 92 years, making the two formidable business partners for each other.
Usually, both families also arranged common meetings.
Some are used to discuss business formally.
Others, such as the one today, are just used to bring people together for leisure talks, to introduce new acquaintances, etc.
Ichirou was often invited, but he did not spend a lot of effort meeting new people.
In such usual cases, it is usually the people who come looking for him.
Since he is the 26th Head of Kyoto's most powerful conglomerate, people are automatically drawn to him.
They hope to get his attention, to get in his good graces, hopefully so that they can establish a long-term relationship that would prove beneficial.
To be honest, Ichirou did not mind meeting new people.
For one, it helps him to know who is new to the business and who is still around.
Going for usual meetings like this would help him keep in touch and to be consistently updated with these various contacts.
It also helps him to know how business would go if he approached one particular person, or how resources would be better spent investing with another.
If he can keep up with the ever changing amount of contacts, he did not mind their company, as long as they do not try to get too much of his attention.
As Ichirou looked up, the usher at the Main gate approached him.
"Invitation please?" The usher said.
Ichirou merely brought out the invitation letter, shove it into the usher's hand and merely continued walking.
He did not bother to see the look on the usher's face when he saw the state of the invitation letter.
The invitation letter was unopened, to the extent that it looked new.
Ichirou knew the Isuzo family well enough to not bother going through the gibberish writings of invitation.
So he merely brought the unopened letter along.
The letter is proof enough that he is invited.
He does not need to open each invitation he got.
"S-Shall I take your traveling coat? Sir?" The usher asked.
Orimura Ichirou merely waved a 'no' without looking.
Once Ichirou walked in, he came upon a central open space, the common part of any huge Japanese mansion after entering the main gate.
As Ichirou walked in, he saw the usual sight of people forming groups talking leisurely.
A platform is set up at the center of the central open space.
It is used for a Kabuki performance, which served as common entertainment.
Based on how the stage became lively with the actors, it looks like the performance just started.
This is good, it meant that all, or at least most, of the guests have already arrived.
Ichirou began to scan the crowd.
So far, he saw the same contacts since the last meeting.
The only exception is one or two new faces.
Looking even further, he saw the man he was looking for, sitting somewhere at the edge of the open space.
Moving through the clusters of people, he found a space and sat right next to his target.
"Good afternoon Ichirou-san." Isuzo Yukio said.
"Good afternoon Yukio-san." Ichirou replied.
The 80-year-old Isuzo Yukio was the 23rd Head of the Isuzo family.
He does not only have a similar background as Orimura Ichirou, but he also passes as Ichirou's friend.
The two had studied together in the past, and they both spend most of their lives working with each other for the mutual benefit of both their families.
It is a rare thing that males are still able to dominate the paths these two houses would take.
Given the huge change in society due to the IS, common rich families would be overwhelmed with female presence.
If there is a thing that allowed the likes of Ichirou and Yukio to remain in power, it is tradition.
Kyoto is the heart of Japanese tradition.
There are certain elements that cannot be swayed or changed, no matter how advanced the current society had become.
"I heard you're son organized this Kabuki." Ichirou said.
"Your sources served you well, as usual. I can't tell you how happy I was when I heard of the performing piece."
"The 'Sonezaki Shinju', Chikamatsu Monzaemon's best work so far. Have you seen it before?"
"Only once. My father watched it with me when I was little, though I scarcely remembered any."
"Then I suppose you will enjoy yourself tonight."
"I'm afraid not, and I don't think today would give me the time for another watch."
"So you are leaving halfway, again."
Yukio expressed an element of disappointment.
Ichirou can guess it is due to the fact that Yukio longed for another long friendly session.
"Family business, and I mean it when I say it is personal."
"I see, so when exactly are you going to decide on a final heir?" Yukio asked.
The old Isuzo Head read Ichirou well.
"I am afraid the final choice just keeps eluding me." Ichirou replied.
"Surprisingly, just three candidates alone are not enough. Gradually, more of the young ones show promise."
"But I believe the three you chose initially had the most promise, so making the final decision should not be so difficult."
"Easy for you to say. Your family's future is so guaranteed."
While saying that, Ichirou spied on a young lady he knew more by data.
Isuzo Yukio saw his gaze, and smiled.
"She is turning 16 this year." He said.
"Oh? That's a fine age, for a granddaughter."
"Should your heir be a male, perhaps an engagement would be in order?"
"It could be arranged. But in the end, it has to depend on how the two think of each other."
"Down to business then, I bet you noticed we had two new guests?"
"You are quite right, who are they?"
"Of little importance. They came from Satsuma."
"Too far. Probably only here just to visit, nothing more."
"Indeed, they don't need your attention."
Then all of a sudden, Ichirou's phone rang.
As he took it out, he saw a message from Madoka.
"Well I better be off." Ichirou got up.
"My own grandchild is coming back home."
"That was quick. Oh well, I'll see you again next time." Yukio said.
Ichirou excused himself and proceeded to walk out of the Mansion.
Once he passed the Main gate, Oyobe Toyobe immediately opened the car's backseat door.
Once Ichirou settled himself, Oyobe Toyobe started the car's gear.
"Shall we be off then? Orimura-dono."
"Yes, let's get back home. And be quick about it."
Yes, get home quick.
Madoka has brought back an important person.
Ichirou had long waited 14 years for this moment.
Not only is he back, he possessed no memory of his past.
How convenient, all that matters now, is re-education.
With his presence, the competition for the title of the Head would only get rougher.
Things are going to get very interesting.
Kyoto, Ichika POV
As Oyobe Fukusuke started driving, I knew that there is no going back anymore.
I am finally on my way back home.
I really wondered how things would be like.
As we wait for the car to bring us to our destination, I decided to observe the city.
The buildings outside the windows consist of a mix of modern tall structures and traditional two-story buildings.
Kyoto is very lively.
There is a strong presence of culture everywhere.
I was about to continue observing when Madoka suddenly interrupted.
"All right Ichika-nii." Madoka said.
"What is it?"
"It's time for some explanation."
Time for answers.
"Our family owns the strongest economical conglomerate in Kyoto."
The strongest economical conglomerate…
"Wait Madoka… aren't conglomerates large corporations formed by the merging of several independent and diverse firms?"
"That's right Ichika-nii. Our family's conglomerate involves banking, business and industry."
Even with three main words, each of them housed a lot of work, separate specializations, and responsibility.
"… That sounds like a lot of things put together."
"It is. Thanks to our success, we are the richest family in Kyoto, though we always have a high level of influence here."
"What do you mean Madoka?"
"Our family began as a samurai clan from the Heian Era."
Heian Era… that's really far back.
"We only got our family name recognized during the Sengoku Jidai. During the Edo period, one of the female members of the Main Family married Kyoto's Daimyo. Since then, we got a lot of influence in Kyoto. And it took us 27 generations to bring our family to where we are today."
Wow… to think that my own family would have such a long history.
It is big, far bigger than I can ever think of.
Wait… hold on…
"Madoka… if our family conglomerate involves banking, industry and business, how are we able to sustain all of the… work?"
"That's where our family comes in."
"Chiyo is not our only cousin Ichika-nii. We have many others."
"We have… a lot of cousins?"
"Yes. Our generation, the 28th generation, have a lot of numbers. And our various cousins studied different specializations so that they can take charge of different parts of the family conglomerate."
Well that makes sense, but there seems to be something more than that.
"What else are you not telling me Madoka?"
"You are not going to like it. But you need to know anyway, if you want to stay alive."
If I want to stay alive… is coming back home a life and death situation?
"In order to organize our… family conglomerate, there is always a Family Head."
"A Family Head… like a company boss?"
"Hai Ichika-nii. But someone with a lot more work and responsibility."
"Our Family Head must be capable and willing, to put the family above himself so that he can properly communicate with the various cousins to know how business is going on within our different firms."
"As you know, despite the close relationship, banking is different compared to business, business to industry and industry to banking. In order to ensure that everything is organized, the Family Head must be able to act and decide where and how the different parts of our conglomerate should proceed."
"… Like a king and his various subjects?"
"That's right! But more on the business scale."
"So… where do I come in?"
"Ichika-nii, you, me and three more others are from the Main Family House."
Main Family… I got a bad feeling.
"Our grandfather, the 26th Head, is looking for a successor. He wants to decide on the 28th Head."
"The 28th head? What about the 27th?"
"The 27th Head is our Otou-sama. He… died."
"I'm sorry Ichika-nii, that is all I am allowed to tell you."
"All that you are allowed?"
"I called our grandfather before we came here. He… instructed me specifically not to tell you much until I brought you back."
"But don't worry Ichika-nii, the old man will tell you all that you need to know… I think?"
That is not so reassuring.
It seems that I will get all my answers once I reached our home.
The more I think of it, the more mysterious things are getting.
About 30 minutes later
The car bypassed the various buildings in Kyoto, turning left and right.
After which it continued straying from the center of the city, moving into open plains.
I see farms on my left and right, sometimes even industrial buildings.
I cannot help but admire the view as we continued moving in one straight line.
There is only one road here so far, and the ride is slightly bumpy.
Then as I looked at the right side of the window, I saw a long stretched wall just at the side of the road.
It is about 3.2 meters high with traditional Japanese dark blue roof tiles.
As the car gets closer, I realized that the long stretched wall serves as a parameter to a huge Mansion.
When I mean Mansion, I do not mean those high Mansions people usually expect.
I am talking about those traditional Japanese Mansions that are ridiculously wide and vast.
The more I looked, the more I am convinced that we are approaching a Mansion, as the long stretched wall form a huge rectangle bordering the traditional Mansion.
Then the car approached a huge Main gate, turned right and entered the Mansion.
All I can see is a huge central open space, with various housing structures surrounding it.
The car moved until it reaches into half of the central open space.
Once it stopped, Madoka and I got out.
As I take my time to look around, Oyobe Fukusuke-san proceeded to unload our luggages from the car boot.
How can I say… this place is huge.
It should have an area of at least 480 000 meter squares.
If I lived here, I would really love to walk around everyday.
It was then did I realize that Madoka was right beside me.
"Welcome back home Ichika-nii." She whispered.
I looked at her, and she smiled back.
"How about I give you a tour around Ichika-nii? Oh don't worry, the place is simple, you won't get lost."
Then all of a sudden, Madoka grabbed my right arm, hard, and looked into my eyes.
"But don't you ever leave my side Ichika-nii."
"Madoka… it hurts…"
"To our cousins, you are a stranger now, so if they see you alone, they will not hesitate to kill you."
"All right… I get it!"
Satisfied, Madoka let go.
She took me by my right hand and led me into the Mansion.
My cousins will not hesitate to kill me?
Is coming back home a life and death situation?
Madoka then began to lead me throughout a series of stone pathways.
As we walked, I saw some people in Kimono.
They are doing all kinds of things, cleaning, arranging, sweeping the floor.
Sometimes they stopped to look at us.
When they saw Madoka walking with me, they looked very surprised.
But then they just continued to do their business without asking questions.
I think we continued to walk for about 10 minutes, before we reached another section of the mansion.
This section was at the more northeastern part of the mansion.
It was more secluded from the other buildings, surrounded by another protective parameter.
Madoka opened the gate, and we walked right in.
We removed our shoes at the Genkan and walked further into the apartment.
Like all of the buildings in this mansion, this apartment has only one story.
We soon approached a Fusuma.
Madoka slightly hesitated before sliding opening the traditional Japanese door.
The Washitsu is big.
It has an area of 32 tatami.
It is generally empty, if not for a square table at the center of the room, a huge rectangular modern-model flat screen TV at the right corner, a table display stand holding a Katana and a Wakizashi, along with flower vases and poetic paintings hung by the walls.
There is an old man sitting at the square table.
He has short old grey hair, which parted in the middle, along with a fringe full of singular strands and he has dark brown eyes.
If there are any interesting features about this old man, it is his beard and mustache.
They are not like those loose strands that are spread wide around at random parts of his lower face.
They are full mustache and beard running around his mouth and chin.
But it does not end there.
His mustache and beard are arranged in such a way that they look like the short beards anyone would have in the early 1900s.
Despite his looks, his figure carried an image of an experienced man who had faced many trials of various kinds throughout his life.
He is sitting at the side, reading an old book.
The design of the book is very old and traditional, as if it were a product of the last century.
Madoka prompted me forward.
We both walked until we are directly opposite him.
Madoka bowed formally.
I immediately followed suit.
Then we both sat at seiza position in front of the elderly.
The elderly shifted his eyes and repositioned himself.
He looked at Madoka, then at me.
As I turned my head slightly to look at Madoka, she looked… very serious.
The elderly then shifted his attention to Madoka.
"Leave us." he said.
Madoka opened her mouth as if she wanted to say something in response.
But she immediately shut it.
She just bowed formally again and got up.
She gave me another look that said 'good luck', before turning her back on us.
I heard her footsteps getting further and further away.
I hear her slide the Fusuma.
When it shut, the elderly turned his attention back to me.
In the Washitsu
Orimura Ichirou began to study the teenage boy in front of him.
He began observing Ichika from bottom to top.
He had not seen this boy for 14 years.
Oh how small he was back then, how fragile.
And now, he has grown so much, close enough to be a man.
All the more reason to re-educate him.
Ichirou's time is passing.
He did not know when his time would come.
That is why he must make a decision as to who to succeed him, soon.
Now that he is back, I better see to his education myself.
If all things go according to Ichirou's wishes, the 28th would be decided by the start of next year.
Above all, Ichirou did not care who becomes the 28th, as long as he or she guarantees the family's future.
Though he did treasure Ichika a little more compared to the other candidates, he must put the interests of the family above his own personal references.
But for now, Ichika must be reclaimed.
Not by force, but by some education, encouragement and possibly, persuasion.
There is no telling how Chifuyu raised him.
He might be implanted with her conflicting ideals.
This fact would definitely place Ichika at odds with his own family.
But it is not something Ichirou fault Ichika for.
He was taken away at such a young age, and knew no more family other than Chifuyu.
It is obvious that he would listen to Chifuyu more than anyone else.
There is only one way.
If Ichika is to remain with the family, it must be done out of his own free will.
And that is where Ichirou's personal supervision will come in.
For now, he wanted to savor this moment.
It has been too long.
Ichirou wanted to at least see his face.
"Remove your bandages." Ichirou said.
Ichika shrugged slightly.
Was it fear? Or uncertainty?
Ichirou understood well.
Since Madoka reported to him about Ichika's memory loss, Ichirou can speculate his grandson's current state of mind.
He can tell that Ichika does not know how to react properly.
It can be possibly due to the fact that he has no idea where he currently stands in the family.
If that is the answer, it is something that can be corrected, in due time.
Ichika looked like he was unsure.
But slowly, he moved.
He moved his hands up and uncoiled the huge coils of bandages.
First the outer layers, then the inner layers, and finally the protective patch covering the left side of his face.
It looks… terrible.
The blood has dried for the time being.
That is good, since it is a sign of recovery.
But it looks like it will take some time for it to fully recover.
Ichirou took his time to study his grandson from top to bottom.
Upon the level of damage inflicted on the head, it truly reflects how his memories can be heavily affected.
Ichirou smiled, and that move caught Ichika off guard.
Ichika expected something else.
Or rather, Ichika did not know how Ichirou would react.
And that is something Orimura Ichirou easily deduced, just by looking at Ichika's face.
How slow witted… Just how on earth did you raise him Chifuyu?
Ichirou felt slightly disappointed, but he knew Ichika is not at fault.
And the more Ichirou thought of it, the more he felt a sense of urgency to re-educate his returned grandson.
"Good, now put the bandages back. The faster your face heals, the better." Ichirou said.
Ichika put back the bandages.
Then Orimura Ichirou got up.
"Walk with me." He said.
Same time, Ichika POV
So this is my grandfather… Orimura Ichirou.
He seems… less intimating than what I hear from Madoka.
But this is based on how he is behaving right now.
I better remain in his good graces.
I immediately got up and proceeded to walk right next to him.
He led me out of his Washitsu, bringing me out to a corridor.
As I walked, I can't help but notice the vegetation at the side of the apartment.
It appears that there is a huge garden of some sort.
I saw butterflies flying around, and then the well.
It is the same one I saw in that… memory fragment.
"Ichika?" The elderly asked.
I soon realized I fell behind.
"N-Nothing. I was just preoccupied."
We both continued to walk into the garden.
"What has Madoka told you of our family?"
"She just told me that we come from a distant line of Samurai from the Heian Era, and now that we own the most powerful conglomerate in Kyoto, nothing more."
The elderly looked satisfied.
"We are a little more than just that. But that would be for another day." He continued.
We both continued walking.
"How do you feel, about returning back to this family?" Ichirou asked.
I was expecting this question from the beginning.
Will my answer be satisfactory?
"I feel… very alienated." I replied.
"Well… for one, I was surprised at some of my cousins' behaviour."
"Before I came back here, Madoka warned me not to draw too much attention to myself. If my cousins got too suspicious, they will kill me."
"It is a natural act of defense. Madoka is one of the three candidates to succeed me. It is common for some of the Branch Family to be… over protective."
"Ichika, do you believe yourself to be extraordinary?"
"Well… I am the only male able to pilot the IS."
Orimura Ichirou nodded with satisfaction.
"How deep is your interest in the IS?"
"I feel… like I can do anything with it."
"That the right you are. So what do you want to do with this gift?"
"… I did think of it, but I am not too sure of my current answer yet."
"But that means you already have an answer. Perhaps you can share it with me."
"… You'll probably think less of me if I tell you."
"Now you overestimate me. I am not a monster."
"… I want to do something about this society."
"Japan, this brutal change where females had the upper hand in everything they do."
"So what are you going to do? Destroy the link females had to the IS? But don't most think that this change is reasonable? Since the females faced similar treatment in the past when we males are still dominant?"
"I did not mean it to that extreme."
"Then to what extent?"
I took a huge breath.
"I want to change society, to balance out the rights each gender would have."
"And how would you expect to make this change?"
"I am currently working with Tabane-sensei now. Perhaps I can learn something about the IS Core, and somehow amend this fault."
"But won't that be difficult? An IS alone demanded tons of recourses. How are you going to expect yourself to change the world's 467 IS Cores when you have nothing to begin with?"
"Ichika, did Madoka inform you that you are from the Main Family?"
"Yes she did."
"Then are you aware of the situation you are in?"
"… You are looking for the next Family Head, so how do I fit in?"
"You are my grandson, directly descended from my first born. You will definitely be one of the candidates I have in mind to become the next Family Head."
"You can work hard enough to become the family Head. If you do, you have the authority to direct all the family resources to chase your dream. But I won't promise anything easy. You will have to compete. You are not the only one I deem fit to be the next Family Head."
"In the past, it used to be just Madoka, and two others. But now with your return, you are part of this competition."
"Wait… how can I just be placed in this situation? I don't even remember anything."
"With time, surely you will recall. But you are right, you don't remember anything. That is why we have to re-educate you."
"… I am not so sure."
"Are you not sure at all? Or are you just doubtful of being re-educated?"
"First it takes uncertainty, then clarification. After that, all that is left is courage to see things to the end."
"… What would I face?"
"First, the most obvious, is for you to master the IS. Second, you will be trained in the martial arts so that we can equip you with basic self-defense skills. And last, you will be taught academically, so that we can equip you with the necessary skills needed to lead the family. "
"… Is that all?"
"For now. If your dream is big Ichika, then continue to dream big, and work hard for it."
"Is this all that you can offer?"
"I have already given you all I can offer as your grandparent, but the final decision is yours. So I will ask you again, would you like to become the 28th Head?"
"Yes. I want to."
"Then kneel in front of me and pledge that it is in all your interests and will to succeed me."
I stared at the floor.
Slowly, I lowered myself to seiza position and bowed my head.
"It is in all my interests and will to succeed you, to become the 28th Head of my family." I vowed.
I can feel my grandfather reach out his hand and place it on my head.
"Then it is decided. From today onwards, you will be the 4th candidate to become the 28th Head."
He let go of his hand, and I got up automatically.
"Go and look for Madoka and tell her to show you around. You need to know this place if you are going to live here." He instructed.
Later that evening
Madoka then began to lead me into the huge Mansion, explaining the history of this place.
For its huge size, the Mansion is indeed old.
It has been constructed during the Edo Period when the family enjoyed some aristocratic privileges ever since one of the women from the main family married to Kyoto's Daimyo some time in the early Edo period.
It survived the three major fire disasters Kyoto had experienced and it also survive the Kyoto besiege during the coup that lead to the Meiji Restoration, and after 1868 the Mansion slowly expended to its current size today.
And surprisingly, it survived World War II since the Americans did not bomb Kyoto.
So this is my home.
It is huge, vast and traditional.
There are a lot of housing structures, all covered with dark blue traditional roofing tiles just like all the walls.
These various housing structures are all connected by a network of stone pattern pathways and structural links between the different houses.
If I remember correctly, the maximum allowed height for each building within the Mansion is two stories.
But all the buildings only have one story.
However, the height of the roofs varies, probably depending on the interior design and the purpose each building serves.
"Ok… let's start with the center building." Madoka said.
The tallest and biggest building by right is the center building, which is directly above the central open space that can be seen immediately after passing the main gate.
It is rectangular in shape with the lengths facing the front and back of the Mansion while the breaths faced the sides.
"The center building is mainly meant for gatherings, where all the guests are directed to discuss business of various sorts. It is also often used for family dinners where the entire family in Kyoto would gather time to time to have dinner together with the Head."
"Madoka…" I interrupted.
"What is it Ichika-nii?"
"The old man… made me to be a candidate to become the next Head."
Madoka immediately hugged me happily.
"THAT'S GOOD ISN'T IT ICHIKA-NII!"
"This is so good! It went better than what I expected!"
"Huh? Ah! Sorry Ichika-nii I got too excited."
"Madoka, do you think I am capable."
"But my memories…"
Madoka then grabbed my right arm gently.
"It's ok Ichika-nii, I already told you before, I am always here for you. If you need anything, I will always help you."
"That's very… reassuring."
"It's fine, now that the old man has welcomed you back, the others won't treat you so badly."
Wait… hold on a second.
"Madoka… you just said 'welcome me back'. What exactly happened?"
Madoka, realizing her error, bit her tongue.
"Please Madoka, I must know. What is going on?" I prompted her.
"Something happened 14 years ago in this house, something unpleasant."
"How does it involve me?"
"We got an older sister. She defected the family."
"I don't know. It is forbidden to ask about it."
"So how did it affect me?"
"She stole you along with her, so you have been gone for 14 years."
"You and I were only around 2 years old at that point of time, but the old man never faulted you."
"That's… nice to hear."
"… But there is something else you ought to know Ichika-nii."
"You are not going to like it."
"… Do I have a choice?"
"When your face popped out in the news, the old man has intentions of making you the next Head should you ever come back. The other candidates… including myself, strongly disapproved."
"But that is before I even met you before Ichika-nii! Now things are different for how I feel."
"Why the sudden change?"
Now Madoka put on a mischievous smile.
"I'll leave that to your memories, Ichika-nii~."
"I'll not say anymore for the time being. Let's continue showing you around."
Madoka then showed me the Kitchen, which surprisingly has its own house that is directly behind the center building.
It looks the same as the central building but it is three times smaller.
Though it is smaller than the central building, it probably has more than enough space to store the various qualities of food the family can get their hands on.
Then Madoka brought me to the southwest of the central building.
Occupying that part of the mansion is a transparent building made of glass.
There is currently no one there, but I can see all sorts of plants bring treated there.
"Madoka… we have a botanic building?"
"That's right Ichika-nii, this is the botanic building that allows the family to grow their collection of various plants specimen."
"… What do we use them for?"
"We grow these plants most notably for their use both in medicine and poison. So it helps in our medical growth and for poison usages for… study."
"It also used to teach future generations how to use nature to their advantage if they are placed in a situation where they have to reply on plants to survive. The identification of the various plant specimen would allow any Orimura to identify which plants is poisonous and which plant can be consumed with benefits to the human health."
"It is Ichika-nii, in time you will learn more."
Then Madoka brought me to the west part of the Mansion.
Strangely enough, the west part of the Mansion is mostly comprised of an apartment full of Washitsu rooms.
It surrounds another modest sized park with a huge pond in the center, which is directly next to the west gate.
The apartment is a meter taller than the outer walls and it is shaped like a reverse 'C', such that it almost looks like the building is embracing the park.
"This is where the branch family members reside, Ichika-nii" Madoka explained.
So even though they are branch family members, I take it that they deserved to be living under the same Mansion with the Main family since they are the only direct relatives the family Head would ever have.
Like the Kitchen it is connected to the central building.
But instead of a structural link, the apartment is linked to the central building by a stone pattern pathway.
It appears that in order to keep the apartments private from guests, the family built an extension of the west wall that runs into the Mansion grounds.
It runs in at the bottom of the apartment parallel to the building with a gap of 3 meters between the wall and the apartment.
Once it bypasses the apartment it moves up perpendicular until it reached the central building.
There is a small extended section at the base of the apartment on the extreme right, which directly connects the apartment and the extended wall.
At the connecting point between the extended wall and the extended section of the apartment there is a small gate that allows any one in the family to enter the apartment directly after coming through the main gate.
As we passed by several rooms, I noticed how within the apartments each branch family member were given their own room where they can change it to suit whatever tastes they had.
As we walked, I saw some teenagers.
They are probably our cousins.
When they saw me and Madoka walking together, they expressed the similar kind of shock.
Some of them even followed us until we left the Branch Family apartment.
While walking away, I can hear an increasing amount of commotion behind me.
Is it really a big deal?
To the north of the branch family's apartment there is another building structure.
"This is the library and study, Ichika-nii." Madoka said.
It was connected to both the Main Family and the Branch family's apartment via a structural link just like how the kitchen is linked to the central house.
"It is a frequently used location for reading, academic studies, going through business materials, banking notes and other forms of paper work." Madoka explained.
"Not only did the library store books and other forms of paper work, it is also serves as a semi museum preserving cultural relics the family collected and inherited ever since the end of the Heian period."
"The collection of such cultural relics slowly expanded, and now, there is barely enough room left for any more objects of cultural significant."
Then Madoka turned herself to face me.
"Now that we are done now Ichika-nii, do you want to eat?"
It was then that I realized I was starving.
"Then let's go back to the central building then."
At the Branch Family Apartments, 6:08 pm
Orimura Kanata just got back from Kyoto.
He just completed another underground mission with 4 of his own cousins from the Branch Family.
It is a simple job, sabotaging the market of a possible rival company.
Since the sudden drop of the 27th generation, the 26th Head has discouraged those of the 28th Generation to participate in dangerous missions with a small number of family members.
The family used to partake in most of their simple missions with a minimum number of 3.
The more dangerous missions such as assassination and wide spread sabotage are done with a minimum number of 5.
But now, the 28th generation can only do simple missions with a minimum number of 5 and dangerous missions with a minimum of 10 family members.
Orimura Kanata cannot blame the 26th Head.
In fact, he liked the change.
Working with more cousins also means that you get to know them more and be closer to them.
More support from the Branch Family members would make Kanata more popular than the eccentric Orimura Madoka and cautious Orimura Akihiro.
Kanata knows this.
If he can win the trust of the various family members, his position to become the next 28th Head can be more secured.
This would give him an upper hand when it comes to the old man deciding whom to be the next Head.
There is no point in making someone the next head without much support from the rest of the family.
If there were anything that would threaten that chance, Kanata would do his best to get rid of it.
Such as now.
Once Katana entered the Main gate, he could not help but noticed how… lively the family Mansion has become.
Usually it would be quiet with some level of gossips and discussions.
But today, there are a lot of talks going on.
A more disturbing thing is the fact that he could see some Branch Family members moving furniture objects to the Main Family apartment.
The furniture objects consist of a mix of old and new, traditional and modern.
Out of plain curiosity, he followed the group until they reached the Main Family apartment.
But once they entered the Main Family grounds, he was forced to stop.
It is forbidden for anyone of the Branch Family members to enter the Main Family grounds unless authorized.
While the Branch Family members cannot enter the Main Family apartment, the Main Family members can come and go as they please in the Branch Family apartments.
This is something Kanata hoped to change once he becomes the 28th Head.
It may seem to go against the 27-generation tradition, but Kanata deemed it necessary if the Family Head needs to communicate more properly with the rest of the family.
So based on what he observed, it looks like something just happened to one of the Main Family Washitsu.
Kanata doubted Madoka requested changes in taste.
He even doubted the young twins further.
The movements of such furniture objects suggest something much larger.
It is almost as if… someone moved into the Main Family apartment.
Hoping to get answers, he moved into the Branch Family apartments.
As expected, there are a lot of groups formed talking in a mix of enthusiastic conversations and conversations of concern.
Now that his curiosity has breached the limit, Kanata wants to know more badly.
What exactly is going on?
Why would such a move in furniture objects trigger a huge chain of conversations and uncertainty?
He soon looked for the nearest cousin he can find, Orimura Jirou.
In comparism to most family members, Orimura Jirou is more of a thinker.
He strongly acts with logic, refusing to do anything that doesn't make sense.
It is a good trait in a way, since he was able to create reasonable tactics when it comes to underground missions.
With such a logical mind, Orimura Jirou is usually the type to think and act based on the calculate possibilities.
He often plays the role of the advisor when working in a group, which usually tends to save more of his cousin's lives.
Kanata made sure he is able to get along with the thinker.
With such a logical mind, it is often hard to make him change his mind once he finds something illogical.
It only took Kanata several minutes to find his target.
As usual, Jirou can be found in his own Washitsu, reading.
Kanata knocked on the wooden wall first before proceeding on.
"Hi Jirou. What is with the commotion?"
Orimura Jirou closed his book and looked at Kanata.
"Some of our guys just helped to move furniture objects into the Main Family Apartment. How's your mission?"
"It went well. Why are our cousins helping to move stuff?"
"Madoka is back. What is more surprising is the fact that she brought back a guy."
Kanata stiffened slightly.
Madoka had not been in touch for quite sometime.
She had recently been working under cover at Phantom Task, helping the family to trace their movements from the inside.
The last time he heard of her is that she was going for another planned attack at IS Academy last month, which obviously failed with the news and all.
Since then, she failed to contact the family.
And now she just appeared out of nowhere.
Kanata did not like this.
As competing candidates to become the next Head, Kanata needs to be ahead of his fellow competitors.
He needs all the information to win the position of the 28th Head.
Madoka's unusual activities recently is unnerving.
There is definitely something suspicious going on.
It is not like Madoka to fail to report regularly.
What is worse is the fact that she brought… back a guy.
Brought back a guy, Jirou said.
Kanata tried to picture that eccentric Madoka, hand in hand with a guy.
"Jirou, I don't believe you."
"Hey. Don't look at me like that. I also don't want to believe it."
"It does not make any sense."
"Oh come on… logic rarely works when it comes to Madoka."
"Well, that makes sense."
"Look, if you want to see the truth for yourself, go to the central building. I just heard they both went for dinner together."
At the central building in the mansion, Ichika POV
Dinner was… quite appetizing.
We had traditional Katsudon with various sushi as side dish along with tea flavored ice-cream as desert.
"Eat as much as you want Ichika-nii, you had a long journey back so don't bother with the formalities." Madoka said.
I began to eat, but even with what Madoka said, I forced myself to eat slowly and steadily.
There are still people in this huge room, either serving dishes or eating their own dinner.
I do not want to make a scene, not when I am still unfamiliar with the place.
For some reason, the air in this mansion is full of suspicion and hidden thoughts.
It is not about my grandfather and me.
Or rather, it is more about how practically everyone in this mansion has been keeping some form of guard against my presence.
Technically, everyone other than my grandfather has avoided me.
I can't blame them if they see me as a stranger, but this is getting out of hand.
I saw that same girl I met at the Kyoto railway station.
Orimura Chiyo… right?
But it seems like Chiyo is not the only one with such a suspicious gaze.
Technically, everyone around me is giving me the same look.
Most did not stare directly at me, but I can see that same expression on their eyes whenever they stare at me when they think I am not looking.
"Finish up Ichika-nii, the old man wants to see us again."
Thank goodness, I want to get out of here.
At the same time,
He did not seem like much…
That was the first impression Kanata thought of when he observed Ichika.
Just a couple of bandages across his upper face. Intelligence wise… probably average.
Ever since he stepped into the central building, it did not take long for Kanata to recognize the newcomer.
On first impression, this newcomer did not seem like much.
He does not seem intelligent, and neither does he carry a charismatic aura around him.
If he was a normal teenager, Kanata would have welcome him like how he usually do to new people he met for the first time.
But unfortunately, that kind of treatment cannot be carried out.
Though this newcomer seems… ordinary, Kanata ensured himself that he needs to regard this person with suspicion.
And Kanata was all the reasons he needs to justify this course of action.
To be honest, Kanata finds it troubling when he saw Madoka's special treatment.
Madoka had never treated anyone in the family like that before.
Such possessive care and concern… it is a total opposite of her usual character.
All the more Kanata felt a reason to be suspicious of this new guy.
It was only until Madoka left with the newcomer that Kanata was able to put this matter off his mind, temporary.
However, things got a little more hectic once Kanata finishes his meal.
After swallowing the last bite, Jirou approached him.
"What is it Jirou?" Kanata asked.
"I got news, but I don't think you will like it."
"Just out with it."
"The old man wants to see you, now."
"Is Madoka coming?"
"She is already there, with the new guy."
"Don't look at me like that. To make matters worse for you, Akihiro is coming too."
Now Kanata became absolutely serious.
First this new guy, Madoka's unusual attitude, and now the old man wants to see him along with Akihiro.
All three candidates to become the next family Head at one place together.
This is really a rare event, one that even Kanata did not see coming.
What kind of motive can the old man have to call for this meeting?
Could it be… that the old man had already decided that Madoka would succeed him?
Though it is highly unlikely, it is possible that the new guy could be a marriage candidate.
But the more he thought of that possibility, the more Kanata doubted it.
It takes a lot of effort for a male teenager to get approval from the old man to marry into the Orimura Main family.
Even more so for that man to get Madoka's attention.
However, even the smallest possibility has the chance of happening in real life.
Should the situation be what Kanata assumed, it would already threaten all that Kanata worked for.
To think that he spent all that time and effort just to get the old man's attention, and now he might have to work things out differently.
It felt quite disappointing, but should the situation move at such a pace, Kanata would have to change his approach of his standing in the family.
It is also possible that the newcomer is going to be introduced as another candidate to become the next family Head.
This is not the only time the old man had brought someone outside the Main Family to be a possible candidate to succeed him.
Kanata himself and Akihiro are the sole proof of that.
Though the two of them are from the Branch Family, the old man recognizes their efforts enough to include them into his plans.
Just three candidates alone are just enough to possibly start a civil war within the 28th generation.
Each with different strength and weaknesses, trying to win the favors of the majority of the family members.
The only reason why no physical action is taken is because everyone is afraid of how the old man would react.
Up till today, the various cousins still have mixed feelings in regards as to who ought to succeed the old man.
So that is why the three are still playing the game politically.
The introduction of another candidate would only add on to the internal chaos within the family.
Should the situation progress in this manner, Kanata needed to act fast.
Or could there be another possibility?
Kanata shook his head.
There is nothing in his head but speculation.
Kanata is aware that he is just going in circles assuming.
The only way to really see what is going is for Kanata to answer the old man's summons.
At the old man's Washitsu
Ichika felt uncomfortable.
He was currently seated with Madoka at his side in front of the old man.
Ichika did not feel uncomfortable because of the elderly in front of him, but more of what he ought to do in his current situation.
There was another individual who was in the room.
From the minute Ichika saw him, he thought he saw himself.
But in comparism, this individual had a surprising fair skin, a different fringe style, with rare blue eyes.
Ichika assumed he was a returnee from overseas, but based on how he formally conducts himself, Ichika suspected more.
To be allowed to enter the old man's Washitsu without any problem, Ichika then assumed that this fellow was probably another person from the Main Family.
But the more Ichika observed this visitor, the more he doubted.
First of all, his appearances place him at an age identical to Ichika.
Madoka mentioned that Ichika had three more imoutos, which means that Ichika did not have a brother.
Second, Madoka treated this fellow indifferently.
She merely gave him a nod of acknowledgement.
"Akihiro." She said.
"Madoka." He replied.
Other than that, she remained quiet, refusing to look at him again.
The fair skinned fellow called Akihiro followed suit.
Neither made another attempt to make a conversation.
There is a decent level of… indifference.
That can only leave one thing.
This fellow is from the Branch family.
Ichika couldn't help but wonder, what on earth is going to happen?
The fusuma slide open again.
Ichika turned to see another individual.
This time, this individual had normal skin color, with brown curly hair along with round glasses.
He was extremely handsome, to the point where he looked like a Bishounen.
As he entered, he, Madoka and the fair skinned individual did the same thing.
They gave each other a nod of acknowledgement.
"Kanata." Both Madoka and Akihiro said.
"Madoka, Akihiro" The one called Kanata replied.
Then they did not bothered to talk to each other.
Why is there such an atmosphere?
Once the one called Kanata sat down at seiza position, all three of them bowed formally in front of the elderly.
Ichika immediately followed suit, knowing that it would be best to follow the flow.
The old man then nodded back in appreciation, then the four teenagers made themselves comfortable.
"Have you all wondered why I have called you together?" Orimura Ichirou asked.
The three around Ichika looked at each other, then Akihiro and Kanata stared at Ichika suspiciously.
"Ojiisan, who is this?" Akihiro asked.
The rest waited for an answer.
"That Akihiro-kun, is my long lost grandson." Orimura Ichirou said.
Akihiro and Kanata immediately stared at Ichika.
First in suspicion, then in disbelief.
Madoka merely look back at the two of them, and gave a provoking smile.
Kanata studied Ichika closely.
"Ojiisan, you are not possibly saying that this is… Orimura Ichika?" Kanata asked.
"That you are correct Kanata-kun."
Kanata is not convinced.
"With all due respect Ojiisan, what makes you think that this is really the actual Orimura Ichika?"
"What Kanata? Are you that suspicious already" Madoka provoked.
"You brought back someone anonymous and claim that he is your twin brother. What makes you think that people would accept the claim easily?"
"Would you like him to take his bandages off?"
"Looks alone are not that convincing. Even if he looks like the 27th, it does not proof that this man in front of me now is someone from the Main Family."
"I have met Ichika-nii on occasions during my time in Phantom Task, and now I brought him back myself. I see him when he still lives with… nee-san. What other proof do you need?"
"Isn't that fact that you personally brought him back already something worth suspecting? How do I know that you merely brought someone back with an amended face?"
"You dare?" Madoka threatened.
"Yes I dare to question. So what are you going to do about it?"
A high level of tension began to build between the two of them.
Akihiro on the other hand, merely remained quiet.
"Enough, the two of you. I did not bring all three of you together so that you can strangle each other's throats." Orimura Ichirou said.
The two immediately stopped what they are doing and snapped back their attention to the elderly.
From Ichika's perspective, it does not appear that the elderly disapproved of such behaviour, nor does he support such rivalry.
He merely kept his indifferent expression, as if he had long expected this kind of outcome.
"I have no doubts that this is Ichika." Ichirou continued.
"I have read Madoka's report about Phantom Task's most recent attack on IS Academy when Ichika was reported to be KIA. Considering all the facts, it makes sense of Madoka to return at this time with the right man. Besides, I have already checked his DNA."
Now Ichika is stunned.
When did this elderly checked his DNA?
"Kanata-kun, if you are still not convinced, I can give you his strand of hair I got. You can see if for yourself."
"If you have already checked the DNA, then I won't ask any further." Kanata said.
"Good." Ichirou said.
But from the looks of it, Kanata still have an element of doubt in his face.
"Now that Ichika is back, I am going to declare him as the 4th candidate to become the next family Head." Ichirou said.
There are no cries of shock or disbelief.
Kanata and Akihiro merely stayed quiet.
The two have already longed predicted this scenario to be further shocked.
Orimura Ichirou smiled.
It just proved how cunning these two candidates are.
Ah… what dilemma.
Even at his primal age, choosing the next family Head was much more difficult than he had ever imagined.
"If there are no other comments, I will end this meeting. I assume that all of you will strive to your fullest. I will make my final decision by the next year." Orimura Ichirou declared.
Later that evening
By next year…
That means that Ichika had time.
"Just am I supposed to do?"
"Just do what you have to do for now."
"But how is that going to help me in my current situation? I bet Kanata and Akihiro are better candidates than I am. So why on earth did Ojiisan make me a candidate?"
"Ichika-nii, you underestimate yourself."
"You are the first and only male in the whole world who can operate an IS. That itself is a valuable trait."
"I still don't see how that can help me."
"Our family may have specialized in banking, business and the industry, but we have never touched on the IS before."
"But don't you have one already?"
"Mine was not made by our family. I got it while I was in Phantom Task."
"It was not made by Tabane-sensei?"
"No. It was one of the latest models under the UK registration. But it was stolen by Phantom Task, but you don't need to know that now Ichika-nii, I will tell you that at another time."
"So what do you think I ought to do now?"
"Just do what the old man required of you, and work on the IS."
Well that is a start, one Ichika felt that is slightly unnerving.
It is a scary idea that he can only do so little in his current situation.
But this start is fine and simple.
If Ichika can just simply follow, he might be able to work at a good pace.
Other than that, there is something Ichika wanted to clarify.
"Madoka, about Ojiisan saying that he checked my DNA…"
Madoka then gave Ichika an apologetic face.
"I'm sorry Ichika-nii."
"I cut some of your hair off when we are still at Dr. Shinonono's island and sent them back just to prove that you are my twin."
"How did you sent them back?"
"I… flew back to Tokyo in my IS and sent the hair in a mail box… Ah! Don't worry Ichika-nii, I made sure I did not get seen when I am in my IS."
Now it makes sense.
"Are you mad… at me for what I did?"
"… I don't think so. If you hadn't cut some of my hair off, Ojiisan might not be convinced that I am me. The fact that you have done it means that you helped me, so thank you."
Madoka looked to the side.
Ichika saw a smile, and a blush?
At the same time
Akihiro turned around, only to see someone he rather not see at the moment.
"What is it Kanata?"
Kanata looked at Akihiro for several seconds, as if trying to finalize his intentions.
"Just what do you intend to do about this Akihiro?"
"About the newcomer?"
"You know what I mean Akihiro."
"I think for now, I will abide with the old man's decision and principles."
Kanata opened his eyes wide.
"Are you mad?" he asked.
"What then, would you do?"
Kanata remained silent.
"We cannot change the old man's decision. So just let the newcomer do as he wishes, given the limited time he has. If the old man thinks he is not enough, he will be out of this race long before he started." Akihiro continued.
"But don't you find Madoka's special treatment towards him suspicious?"
"Who isn't? Kanata, this is not the first time Madoka threw in something out of the ordinary."
Kanata bit his lower lip, he knew that fact long ago.
But even with that logic, something still feels out of place.
There is just something about this newcomer that makes him extremely… different compared to the three candidates.
That is what his instincts are telling at the moment, and Kanata rarely doubted his instincts, especially when it comes to his own survival.
"What do your instincts tell you Akihiro?" Kanata asked.
"The same that you are feeling." Was the answer.
"Are you suggesting that we get rid of him immediately Kanata?"
"Aren't you thinking of the same thing?"
"If we get rid of him now, we would receive the old man's wrath." Kanata said.
"But if we don't act, Madoka would gain quite an ally." Akihiro followed.
"It is also possible that Madoka is using him as a stepping stone to outwit us."
"Possible… You are not suggesting that we form a temporary alliance are you?"
"Obviously not. I got my hands full with my own problems enough. I am not going to spend more of my attention being wary of you if we become temporary allies."
"But doesn't the current situation already calls for such a course of action?"
"Perhaps you misunderstood me, what I meant at the very beginning, is that we just wait for the time being."
"Wait, watch and learn, then we act. We know too little of this newcomer. Perhaps he might serve our interests in the end."
"You mean your interests."
"Maybe, but don't dismiss the fact that Madoka swayed Ichika to her side. If possible, we can do the same."
"What if he can never be convinced?"
"We both don't know if he can be convinced in the first place. That is why I choose to wait and watch for the time being. I suggest you watch and see first, rather than act immediately on your instincts."
Without another word, Akihiro turned and left, leaving Kanata rooted the ground.
Forever cautions, forever waiting before acting.
That is Orimura Akihiro's style.
It is the complete opposite of Kanata, who would take the initiative to go out and act to see for himself.
Even up to this day, Kanata still cannot gauge how influential Akihiro is within the family.
And that is what can make Akihiro a very dangerous individual.
That will be it for now.
In the next chapter we'll see how Ichika moves his way around the family.
IS volume 8 is out! I hope Bakatsuki translate fast, they have been so slow these past few months:(