Ib: Age 40
Mary groaned when she heard someone knocking on the door to her room, so she turned over in her bed, trying to block out the sound. She snuggled into her sheets, savoring the warmth that they provided, and felt so relaxed. She didn't have school that day, so she was going to sleep in no matter what! There was more knocking, and she lifted up her pillow, and covered her head with it to try and block out the noise.
"Mary!" Her younger brother called out, "It's almost noon!"
"I don't have school!" She yelled back, "Gimme another hour!"
She heard her brother let out an annoyed sigh, "Mom wants to see you!"
"Tell her I'll be there eventually." Mary said, pressing her face into her pillow.
He hit her door again, "If you don't come out now I'm going to go in there and wake you up myself!"
"Don't you dare!" Mary yelled, lifting her head from the pillow to glare at the door, where her annoying little brother lurked behind. She finally threw her legs over the side of her bed, "Fine! I'm awake! Tell mom I'll be down there soon!"
She heard the footsteps going away from her room, and she stood up and stretched, going over to her dresser and pulling out some clothes for the day. She had graduated just a few days ago, and she had a feeling that her mom wanted to ask her about her graduation party which was that day. No doubt she was going to conscript her to help set up for it, despite the fact that Mary didn't even want a big party, she had maybe three people she was willing to call close friends that should wouldn't mind coming over.
She threw off her pajamas, tossing them carelessly to the floor, and began to put on a shirt and some shorts. It was early May, and it was already becoming very warm, so much so that she was beginning to dread how hot it would be in the summer. She looked into her mirror set up above her dresser, and grabbed her comb, and began to get all the knots out of her purple hair, which took a little bit. Once that was done, she examined herself once over with her red eyes, and finally left the room, going downstairs to see what her mother wanted.
The building was a two story traditional Japanese style home with Western elements added in. Her father was more of fan of western designs, while her mother favored more of an eastern design. All of the bedrooms were upstairs, while the kitchen, living room, and other such places were downstairs. Their yard wasn't the largest, in fact, it was fairly small, but it was suitable for their needs, and Mary didn't really care, she was used to it, having lived there for almost fifteen years of her life.
Their house was situated outside of the city in the rural countryside. She was close enough to the city so that she and her friends could take the train to hang out there, but was fortunately far enough away that she didn't have to deal with many of the problems associated with them.
Mary finally made it into the kitchen where she saw her dad standing over the stove, cooking something to eat, "Hello." She said as she walked in the kitchen.
Garry looked over, "Ah, Mary!" He smiled towards her, "You're up pretty late."
Over the years, Garry's purple hair had began to lose its hue, and while it was still violet, it was noticeably paler than it used to be, he was fifty after all. Initially Garry had been quite concerned with his hair, and Mary could even recall a time when the man just seemed to start panicking one day in his late forties, but both times her mother – Ib – had been there to calm him down. She remembered that after both events, Ib would just chuckle and tell her and her brother that her dad was just going through his midlife crisis.
Mary shook her head, her thoughts returning to what he dad had said, so she quickly rebutted, "There's no school!" The eighteen year old girl crossed her arms as if that explained everything. She went over to the table and sat down, looking out the window at the nice sunny day.
Garry chuckled, "I see. Do you want me to make you some lunch then?"
Mary nodded and looked over to him, "Please! That would be great."
"All right," He grabbed a few more eggs from the carton next to him, and cracked them open, adding them to the pan he was heating on the stove, and then he inserted some bread into the toaster, "By the way," He said while he was cooking, "Your mother is waiting for you in the living room."
"I was wondering why you were cooking." Mary smiled.
Garry pretended to be hurt by that, clutching his chest, "Ouch! You don't like your father's cooking?"
She rolled her eyes, "I never said that."
He shrugged, getting back to what he was doing, "Anyway, you should see her before she sends Keiichi after you again."
"You heard him?" Mary asked.
"I think the whole neighborhood heard him knocking on your door," Garry chuckled, "Now go on, see your mom."
Mary groaned as she got up and left the kitchen and went into the next room, where she saw her mother was sitting on her knees at a low table in there with some papers scattered about.
She noticed that her mom was holding the papers down with her prosthetic hand, while she wrote with her left. She had vague memories of her mother's frustration with relearning how to write again with her left hand, but she could remember how Garry was always there for her, slowly helping her learn how to do it again. He was always patient with her, and thinking back on it now, Mary wondered whether he had experience with that sort of thing... It would definitely explain why he was so helpful when it came to homework.
"Hello mom!" Mary said, coming over to the table. She briefly looked outside again, before allowing her gaze to look back at what her mother was doing, "What do you have there?"
"A bunch of thank you letters." Ib responded, looking up at her daughter and smiling, "You're finally here! It sure took you long enough!"
Ib was dressed as casually as Garry was, her long hair was drawn back into a ponytail she absolutely loved to wear nowadays, and she was wearing a blouse and some shorts. Her mother was going through the years more gracefully than Garry was, that was for sure! At forty years old, her mother still looked (Even she had to admit...) stunning. If one were to look closely, they would see lines forming, but it did little to detract from her beauty.
Mary got on her knees next to her mother, and looked at the papers, "Thank you cards?"
"Yep!" Ib nodded, "You got money from your grandma and grandpas, as well as all of your aunts and uncles! You need to send them a proper thank you letter so they'll know you appreciate what you've done for them!"
Mary sighed, looking at the half dozen cards already scattered around the table, and she reached for one, "It's ok if I just write a little thank you and that's it, right?"
"Try to write a bit more than that," Ib chided.
"I will, I was just asking." Mary clarified, "I guess I'll start now..."
She wrote the letter for her Grandma, and then wrote two more for both of her grandpas, but it was when she reached the letter for aunt Rin that she paused.
"Wait," She looked over to her mom, "Isn't aunt Rin coming over today?"
"All of your aunts and uncles will be here today," Ib confirmed, "Since you didn't want a big party, your dad and I decided to just invite our own friends."
If Mary was any other teenage girl, she would have minded. Instead, Mary smiled. She absolutely adored her 'aunts' and 'uncles', especially since they were some of the few people she was allowed to do any sort of magic around, "They're all going to be here today?"
"I also invited some of your friends." Ib said, "Kyou, Reina, and Rika." She listed off.
Mary let out a relieved sigh, since those were the only people she knew that she really considered her friends at all. The rest of the girls she hung out with were little more than acquaintances, "Thank you for only inviting them."
Ib couldn't help but chuckle, "Trust me, I know who you like and don't like."
Mary looked hesitantly down, "So... Since aunt Yuki is going to be here, does that mean you guys are going to let me join the, uh "family business"?" She provided the air quotes when she said family business, raising both of her hands and using her index and middle finger to do so.
"If you really want to, yes." Ib admitted to her, but she quickly raised her hand before Mary got up and cheered, "However, be sure to tell your father your decision."
"How doesn't he know?" Mary asked, "I've only wanted to do this since forever."
Ib let out a quiet laugh at that, "Yes, I know, but you know how your father is. He's always worried about you and your brother, and what we do can be pretty dangerous at times."
"But I'd be with you guys!" Mary waved off, "Nothing bad can happen then."
Ib frowned, "I know it may seem like that, but you need to realize that occasionally things go wrong, and you may have to make some pretty difficult decisions."
Mary looked down at her mother's prosthetic limb, and bit her bottom lip, "Is that what happened back then?"
Ib lifted her prosthetic. It was surprisingly mobile, but still clearly not part of her. She set it back down and looked over to Mary, "Well, at the time it was an impulsive decision, but in the end it saved our lives. I had to use a spell to defeat a very powerful demon."
Mary loved hearing about her parent's adventures, and this was no different. They rarely ever talked about the one time they all went into the other world fifteen years ago, since it involved their family, and the two never liked talking about it. Due to that, Ib had her daughter's undivided attention at that moment.
"The spell I used incinerated my forearm. It literally made my hand into a charred husk." She shivered at the memory, "I think I can say without a doubt that it was one of the most painful things I've ever experienced."
Mary didn't even want to know what the most painful one was, so she made sure to refrain from asking that question and instead said, "So... I guess I ought to be careful?"
Ib nodded, "You'll probably hear a lot more of it from your dad, but yes. When you're on the job, please take it seriously. That's all I ask." She then reached over and ruffled her daughter's hair, "But it's ok to be excited now!"
Mary couldn't help but smile at her mother.
"Now come on, finish these up. You're not getting out of writing letters to them just because they'll be here later!" Ib said, chuckling at her daughter's dejected look.
Writing the rest of the letters was a little time consuming, and Mary was more than ready to eat by the end of it. She stood up, as did her mom, and the two walked into the kitchen together, where Garry was putting food down on the table.
"You're done?" Garry asked.
Mary nodded, "Yeah, is the food ready?"
Garry nodded, "Yep, dig in."
Mary didn't even bother to wait, she dived for the chair, and quickly began to devour her food, much to Ib's disapproval. However, Ib didn't say anything, and instead followed Garry into the kitchen to help him put away the dishes.
Mary looked up at noticed her brother had arrived, and started eating the second plate of food that Garry had put down, "Hey, sleepy head." He said, sitting beside her.
Unlike her, her brother inherited her mother's hair color, and also kept their mom's eye color. Their poor dad didn't have any kids that shared his eye color, but he didn't really mind, he even told them once that he highly preferred to see their mother's eyes than his own. Her brother was thirteen, and he was already almost as tall as she was, which infuriated her to no end. The only consolation was that she was at least a bit taller than her mother, not that her mom seem to mind at all.
She only vaguely remembered when he was born. She could remember seeing her little brother for the first time, and being so happy to be a big sister. The two were fairly close when they were younger, but as they grew, a sibling rivalry began to start, and soon she just found him to be annoying, and she figured he thought the same. There were times when she was nice to him and vice versa, but they were far between, and before and after those times, they'd be hard pressed to say they liked each other.
"Hey," She said back, not rising up to his bait.
"You must be really hungry." He noted, watching her eat her food.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Mary stopped, and looked over to him.
"Nothing." He waved his hands in front of his face, "If you eat like that though you're going to get fat." She noticed the mirth in his eyes as he said that.
Oh! He wanted to play this game did he?
"Now, now." Ib came over, "Be nice to each other."
Mary glared at her brother, who was saved by their mother's timely intervention. Soon, she promised, soon she would have her revenge.
For now, she just grabbed her dirty dishes, and set them in the sink, and left to go to her room for now. She wanted to call her friends to see when they planned on arriving, and to warn them that there would be a lot of guests at the house.
Mary opened the door and smiled when she saw her friends standing there, and she quickly moved aside so the three girls could come in.
The shortest of the three, Rika, had long dark blue hair going down her back, and matching blue eyes. She was the only one of the group wearing a sundress. It was always Rika who had led the group of four through their assignments, and it was undoubtedly due to her that they all did as well as they did. In a way, she was similar to Yuki, but far less stoic.
Reina was on the other spectrum of Rika – whereas Rika was the smallest of the group, Reina was the tallest. Where Rika had long dark blue hair, Reina had short bright red hair and matching eyes. Lastly, while Rika was by far the most studious of the group, Reina was more likely to want to just shove things to the side and have fun.
The last of the group was Kyou, who was just somewhere in between the two of the girls. She was just about Mary's height, and also had long flowing purple hair, but her eyes also matched her hair color. She tended to get angry fairly easily, and Reina teased her relentlessly at times to try and get her riled up, but it was all in good fun.
As they entered the foyer, they all politely took off their shoes, and put on the slippers that were provided for them, and they all stepped out of the foyer area and followed Mary up to her room, but on the way Garry walked by.
"Hello!" Garry waved to the girls, "It's good to see you're all here."
"Hello Mr. Strauch!" They all politely bowed to him.
"We're going to be in my room for a bit," Mary said, "We'll be down when everyone else gets here."
Garry nodded, "Ok, have fun."
He watched as all the girls darted up the stairs, and he turned to look at his son, who had come and was standing next to him. The boy looked up at his father with his red eyes and shook his head, "They're going to be talking about girl stuff, probably."
Garry shrugged, "Eh, they're young."
"Probably about which boys they like..." Keiichi added.
Garry paused at that, and raised his hand to pat his son on the head, "Ah... Well... I'll let them do that then. If Mary does get involved with someone, she'd surely introduce him to me!"
Keiichi couldn't hold in the laugh, and quickly looked away when Garry looked down questioningly. Whenever Garry got protective of Mary or him, he tended to go WAY overboard. Any boy Mary introduced to him would probably bolt the moment they met him. "It's n – nothing." Keiichi said as he tried to hold back his chuckles, "I just thought of something funny." He said, to try and divert Garry's attention.
"I see." Garry said, clearly not buying it. He finally sighed and shook his head, deciding it probably wasn't worth pursuing.
Instead he walked into the living room where Ib was sitting at the table again, a laptop open in front of her. Her eyes were intently scanning the screen, and she didn't notice Garry until he let out a loud sigh as he sat beside her, making her jump a bit.
"Garry!" She said, "Don't do that to me!"
He grinned at her, "You should be more aware of your surroundings!"
She let out a huff, and turned back to the computer, "I'm just messaging Aiko. She says that she and Yuki will be here in about a half hour."
Garry looked at the laptop, and saw that it did indeed say that, "It's been a while since we last saw them." Garry said.
"Almost a year," Ib replied, typing in another message, "Aiko says that she and Yuki are doing well, by the way."
"That's good, tell them I look forward to seeing them again."
"They're going to be bringing their kids, is that alright with you?"
"It's fine," Garry said, "They're practically like family to us."
"I didn't think it would be an issue." Ib typed in the message to them, "Aiko says that she and Yuki really excited to see us again."
"The feeling's mutual." Garry answered, smiling as Ib typed that to them.
Yuki and Aiko getting together was a bit of a surprise to the group, but in retrospect, it was obvious that the two did tend to be with each other more often than not. Aiko had a thing for Yuki fir tears, and unfortunately didn't say anything due to social stigma. It was only when Aiko was hurt during one of their jobs, causing Yuki to completely lose her composure, was it revealed that Yuki also had similar feelings for Aiko. Garry could still clearly remember the day when he, Ib, their eight year old daughter, and their three year old son went out of the country ten years ago to Canada to their wedding, so they could legally get married.
Since then, the two women had adopted two children, both of them boys. The first of the two was Renji, a very hyperactive child who was ten years old. He he had short light brown hair, and brown eyes to match. Their second child was twelve year old Hiro, who was just as active as his brother, and he had black hair and brown eyes. The two children were usually very well behaved, especially when it came to Yuki, but they tended to be a bit less responsive with Aiko around. However, it was clear that both of them loved their mothers dearly, having been adopted from the same orphanage eight years ago.
"Did you hear from Rin and Junichi yet?" Garry asked.
"I just got off the phone with them," Ib said as she continued to trade texts with Aiko, "They said they would be here within fifteen minutes."
"Are they bringing their kids too?"
"Yeah," Ib smiled, "It's going to be quite the party here."
Junichi and Rin had gotten married only a year after they had all faced the demon, both realizing how short life can be and how quickly it could all end. Their wedding was attended by all of their friends and their parents, and was quite large. It was only a few months after they were married that Rin was pregnant with their first of three children. Their second child followed a year after their first, and their third took two years after their second was born.
All of their kids ended up being girls, not that either parent particularly minded that. Their first was thirteen years old, and she was named Rei, after Rin's late great-grandma. The girl was the only child of theirs to inherit their mother's blonde hair, and she had also inherited her mother's green eyes, one of two who managed to do so. The girl was so similar to her mother at that age that it was almost uncanny, but the little girl didn't have any of her mother's mannerisms, she was more similar to Aiko than anything, and loved to play and have fun. She was also very protective of her younger sisters, and freely admitted to loving her entire family.
Their second child was named Emi, and was twelve years old. She had her father's brown eyes and black hair, which she kept short, unlike her older sister who adored having long hair. She was often times annoyed at her older sister's antics, and preferred to be alone and study. It was usually her who would force her older sister to sit down, study, and do her homework. It was clear that she loved her sisters, despite trying to hide it deep down. When her older sister had broken her legs two years back, she was so worried that she was crying by the time she was finally allowed to see her.
Their third and final daughter was Yui, who was ten years old and had her black hair long like her eldest sister, and she had bright green eyes. It was clear that their youngest adored her oldest sister, and the two would often times plan pranks to play on their middle sister. However, while she did love to play, she had at least picked up on her middle sister's better habits – she studied for school and regulated her play time, unlike her oldest sister, which caused her to worry at times for her sister's future.
Ib and Garry were very familiar with all of the children, considering Rin and Junichi lived nearby. Unfortunately, Yuki and Aiko lived elsewhere, and they traveled a lot. They did visit often, and they did see each other during their jobs, so it wasn't all bad.
"Should I go get the sake out then? I bet all of us will need it once all of our kids get together..." Garry couldn't help but dread when the day was done, and he had to clean up the mess that all the kids there would do to the place.
"Not with the kids here," Ib said, giving her husband a half-hearted glare, "And they're not that young anymore, if they make a mess, I'll make sure they're the ones to clean it." She then seemed to remember something there, her eyes widened as she said, "I almost forgot to mention! Koyomi is coming over too!"
"Oh?" Garry raised a brow at that, "He's in the country?"
Ib nodded, and reached over to the tea she had beside the laptop with her prosthetic hand, and took a quick drink, "Yep. He just arrived from the United States a few days ago, actually."
After the tragic events fifteen years ago, Koyomi had stayed with Yuki and Aiko as he recovered, and slowly he did start to get better. Fortunately, since there was no evidence of his involvement in the spiritual events from back then, he wasn't convicted of anything, and he helped the group with their missions and other odd jobs. Slowly, he broke out of his shell, and started to behave more and more like a normal person. It was only seven years ago that he moved away to the United States, promising to keep in touch.
"Wow," Garry grinned widely, "This is like a family reunion then!"
"Sure is." Ib said, finally closing the laptop, "Come on in the kitchen. We're going to need to prepare the food."
Garry got up, and followed her into the Kitchen. He took a look around and saw that there was quite a bit of food that Ib had started to prepare all about. "I'm glad you thought ahead of time to prepare this," Garry said, looking into the oven where a very large turkey was cooking, "How in the world did you know we'd have this many guests?"
"Intuition." Ib smiled, "Now come on, help me out."
"Ok." He smiled, doing as his wife told him.
"Hello Aunt Yuki!" Mary ran towards the woman, "It has been way too long!"
Yuki had her violet hair up in a bun, with a few strands falling here and there. She was dressed in just a blouse and a skirt, and was wearing sandals. Her blue eyes lit up when she saw Mary there, and she reached into her purse and pulled some change, and she quickly levitated it towards Mary, who laughed as she caught it. It had been a tradition of theirs for over a decade, and Mary never got tired of seeing her aunt perform tricks.
"It's good to see you again," Yuki said warmly, and she wrapped her arms around Mary, "How have you been?"
"It's been good!" Mary said, and she turned her head to see that Aiko and their two boys were coming, Hiro was holding what looked like a tray of food, but she couldn't make out what because it was covered with foil.
Aiko was dressed very similarly to Yuki, with the exception being that she had allowed her black hair to grow out, going down her back. Her brown eyes spotted Mary, and she quickly smiled. While Ako had really mellowed out over the years, though she was still very excitable about certain things. One of those was seeing Mary again after a year. She rushed over to the girl, and wrapped her arms around her while Yuki was still hugging her, "It has been way too long!"
Mary laughed, "Hello aunt Aiko!"
"You've gotten so tall!" Aiko let go and looked Mary up and down, "You've become so beautiful too! You have any boys asking you out?"
"Eh..." Mary blushed.
Yuki swatted Aiko on the head, "Don't embarrass her."
"Aw, I'm sorry!" Aiko bowed down apologetically, "Is your mom or dad home?"
Keiichi was the next to the door, and after greeting his two aunts, he, Renji, and Hiro all ran inside to the boy's room presumably, but not before Hiro handed Aiko the food he was holding. In the meantime, Mary had led Aiko and Yuki to the kitchen, where Ib, Garry, Rin, and Junichi were all present, sitting around the kitchen table with tea out in front of them.
"Hello!" Garry waved at them, "Good to see you!"
"Would you like some tea?" Ib asked.
"Sure thing!" Aiko said, "Where do you want me to put this?"
"Oh, you didn't need to bring anything!" Ib said.
"Nonsense!" Aiko said, "We want to help provide for the rowdy kids too! I know what it's like to have so many children around!"
"Hey," Mary said lightly, still standing with Yuki and Aiko, "I'm right here."
Rin let out a sigh, "Tell me about it. Taking care of three kids is quite a handful."
Aiko turned to her, and she nearly dropped the tray in shock, "R – Rin?!"
"Hey," Rin waved. Her blonde hair was cut to her shoulders, and her green eyes were filled with mirth as she looked at Aiko and Yuki, and with good reason. She was wearing a dark blue maternity blouse, and a pair of shorts, and she was clearly pregnant.
"When?!" Aiko cried out.
Even Yuki was taken aback.
"She's eight months in." Junichi helpfully supplied from her side, also clearly enjoying their reactions. He had his short black hair combed neatly to the side, and his brown eyes were also displaying a good bit of humor. He wore a T-shirt, and some shorts, since it was so hot outside.
"Why didn't you tell us?" Aiko asked.
"We wanted to surprise you." Rin smiled, "It seems that we've succeeded."
Garry and Ib had finally stopped their chuckles at their old friend's dumbfounded faces, and Ib came back over with two cups of tea, "Sit down," She beckoned. She turned to Mary, "Are your friends doing fine alone?"
"Yeah, Aunt Rin and Uncle Junichi's kids are keeping them busy," Mary waved off, "I'll go back to them soon! It's just so rare for me to see aunt Yuki and Aiko!"
"Well, you'll be seeing a lot more of us soon," Aiko said, "We're planning on staying here for a while – until both Renji and Hiro graduate school!"
Everyone was taken aback by that, "Really?" Garry said in surprise.
"Why didn't you tell us?" Ib asked.
"We wanted to surprise you." Yuki said, mimicking the earlier conversation to a T.
Rin couldn't stop laughing at that, and it took a bit for the pregnant woman to calm down from her laughter. Soon after, Aiko, Yuki, and Mary all took seats around the table, Garry getting up to fetch his daughter a cup of tea, and coming back in short order.
"It's so good to see you both again," Rin said sincerely, "How was it in China?"
Yuki let out a sigh, "Lots of spirits. Aiko and I made a lot of money."
"Oh really?" Mary asked, leaning forward, she absolutely loved hearing about their jobs.
It was then that the doorbell rang, interrupting whatever Yuki was about to say. Mary tried not to let her frustrated frown cover her face, but from the way she heard Aiko snicker, she doubt she hid it well.
"That must be Koyomi," Ib said, "Could you get that Mary?"
"Yes, mom." Mary said, getting up and going to the front door and opening it up.
As was expecting, Koyomi was standing there, and he gave a short wave, "Hello!"
"Hey!" Mary said, unable to hide her smile, "It has been a LONG time since I saw you!"
"At least seven years," He mused, "You've definitely grown a lot in that time." He reached forward and gave her head a pat, like he used to do when she was a child, "You've grown into a beautiful young woman!"
The thirty-one year old man in front of her was dress casually. His hair was tied back into a small ponytail, and he wore a pair of glasses over his green eyes. He wore a T-shirt, and jeans, despite the warm weather, but what was most prominent was that he, like her mother also had a prosthetic right arm.
Mary wasn't able to describe it, but when he called her beautiful, her heart gave a loud thump.
"Um, Mary?" He said again, his smile was replaced with a slight frown, "Are you ok?"
"Uh – ah!" She blushed, "Yeah! I'm fine! I was just surprised to see you! That's all!"
He grinned again, "Ah, I see."
"C – Come in!" She stood aside, and he walked into the foyer, taking off his shoes and putting on the slippers that were there. He followed Mary into the house, and finally into the kitchen, where the other six cheered when he entered.
"Hey Koyomi!" Aiko yelled, "It's been too long!"
"We need to head out later tonight," Garry said, "Mary can watch over all the kids."
"Hey!" Mary cried, "I don't wanna watch over all the kids! A – And isn't this supposed to be my day anyway?"
Ib chuckled at how indigent her daughter had gotten, "Don't worry Mary, we won't do it tonight." Her eyes brightened though as she looked across the group of gathered people, "We'll definitely have to do it later on in the week though."
"How has the United States been?" Garry asked once Koyomi was sitting next to him and holding a cup of tea.
"Very good, actually." He said, "The people there are very friendly, once you get to know them."
"Have you found someone special yet?" Aiko asked.
"Not quite yet," Koyomi admitted, looking defeated, "I'm sure someone will appear eventually."
"Ah, you're fine." Junichi waved it off, "Garry was thirty-three when he finally got married, so you still have a couple years left.
Mary couldn't help but feel immensely relieved when she heard that Koyomi had yet to find someone, but she hid it well. The man was thirteen years old than her! That was even more than her mom and dad! Instead, she stood up, "I'm going to go to see what my friends are up to now."
"They'll probably need your help," Rin said with a smile, "Especially if they're taking care of my kids."
"It's only Rei that you need to worry about," Junichi said, "The other two generally behave pretty well."
"Got it," Mary said, "We'll be back down soon!"
And with that, she left.
Koyomi looked over to Rin, and smiled, "You're coming along nicely."
"Wait, wait!" Aiko said, "You told him, but not us?!"
Koyomi started to laugh when even Yuki looked annoyed.
The party had gone rather smoothly, and Mary really enjoyed it. Her aunts and uncles were all a bunch of fun to be around. When asked, the adults would perform 'magic' tricks for the younger audience, and the children would react with loud cheers and awed expressions. Mary was the only one who actually knew that the magic was actually real, and she was even more awed with how the adults somehow managed to pull off the tricks without them finding out.
She remembered asking her mom about why they didn't Keiichi about magic, and she had explained that they would tell Keiichi once he was in High School, and that the rest of their friends also had similar policies in place. She was the exception, since she was the first child of all of them to be born, meaning they were a lot more lenient around her.
The party had moved outside to the backyard, since it was such as nice day, and Ib just got done performing a trick with a hundred yen coin for the kids, who dispersed to go look for the next person willing to perform a trick for them. Mary's friends were busy chatting it up with Koyomi, since he left the country to live in the United States – they were interested to hear his English and learn about all the strange customs they had there.
"Mom?" Mary went over to her, "Where's dad?"
"He's inside with Junichi and Aiko," Ib answered, "They're keeping an eye out on the food."
Mary nodded, "I'm going to go talk to him about joining you guys then."
Ib nodded, "Good, but..." She looked slyly at her daughter, "I've notice you've been giving Koyomi a few stray glances."
Mary's heart thumped loudly against her chest, and she looked around the yard to make sure that no one else was around. Yuki, and Rin were busy performing tricks for the children on the patio, and her friends and Koyomi were under the shade of a tree a decent ways away. She and her mother were out in the open sun, but at least were far enough so no one would hear them.
"D – Don't say that aloud!" Mary waved her hands.
"Don't worry," Ib couldn't help but laugh, "No one can hear us."
"O – Ok..." Mary sighed in relief.
"So... You're interested in Koyomi?"
"Uh – Um..." She blushed bright red and looked aside. She felt so extremely embarrassed that her mother was even talking to her about this. She wished she could just melt into the floor, "Well... He... Um..."
"It's fine with me," Ib said, "If you want to try dating him, I mean."
"Wha – you – uh?"
Ib started laughing, causing Mary to blush even brighter. After a few seconds, Ib calmed down and smiled widely, "Dear, Garry and I got together when I was at your age, and we were eleven years apart! I don't mind if you want to try asking him out, because let me assure you, he won't ask you."
"Is that what it was like with dad?"
Ib rolled her eyes at the memory, "I admitted my feelings to your father when I was thirteen." She saw Mary's eyes widen, "Of course he said no at the time, but he eventually promised me that if I graduated High School and neither of us were occupied with anyone else, he'd give it a go and we could try going out."
"And... It worked out? Just like that?"
"For the first several years after we were together, we got a lot of people commenting on our age, but we ignored it – or I forced Garry to ignore it – and we've been happy ever since. Now no one brings up our age difference, which is a shame, I used to like putting those people in their place."
"Well yeah," Mary said, "No one would bring it up because you're both so old."
"I'm only forty!" Ib said, sounding slightly offended, "I'm not that old!"
Mary laughed, "Yeah, yeah."
"Anyway..." Ib said, getting things back on track, "Like I said, ask him if you want. I'll make sure Garry doesn't do anything stupid."
"M – Maybe later." Mary said, "I – I only just met him again today... I don't know whether this is love or nothing at all."
Ib shrugged, "You'll never find out if you don't ask him." She then shook her head, "But he'll be around for a while, he said that he will be moving back to Japan for a few years, so you have time."
Mary smiled at that news, "Good."
"Now, you said you were going to talk to your father?"
"Oh, right." Mary said, "I'll go see him."
Ib and Mary walked over to the patio, where Ib took a seat next to her friends, and Mary entered the door that led inside to the kitchen, and saw her father, Junichi, and Aiko standing around and talking. She hesitated a little bit, before letting out a short breath and she slowly approached her dad, "Um... Dad?"
"Yes, dear?" He said, looking at her.
"C – Can I talk to you for a bit? In private?"
Garry shrugged, "Sure." He turned to Junichi and Aiko, "I'll be right back! Make sure to keep an eye out on the food!"
"Don't worry about it!" Junichi said, "I'll make sure Aiko doesn't destroy the kitchen!"
"Hey!" Aiko playfully yelled back.
Garry followed his daughter into the living room, and the two sat down on their knees at the table there. Once seated, Mary was unsure of what to say, so the silence went on for quite a bit.
"What did you want to talk about?" Garry finally asked gently after a few seconds of silence.
"Um... I know what I want to do now."
Garry nodded, "You want to join the family business?"
"I want to – wait? Uh, yeah. That." Mary was caught short, not expecting her dad to bring it up like he did.
He sighed, "I wish you'd have gotten into art," He looked at the walls, and looked over all the paintings that Ib had created over the years, "You could probably get a lot of leeway since you're 'The Great Ib's Daughter'," He said his wife's name and title in a deep voice, like an announcer.
"I don't really care for it that much," Mary admitted. Their mother loved to paint as a past time, and she was very good at it. Her paintings consistently sold out, and was critically acclaimed.
"I know," Garry sighed.
"Then... How do you feel about what I want to do?"
"I won't stop you," He said, looking at her straight in the eyes, giving her a very serious look, no trace of humor left in his expression, "But what we do can be very dangerous, and very difficult at times. For your first few years, you'll be with either me or your mother, or if neither of us can go at the time, you'll be with Yuki and Aiko."
Mary nodded, a smile spreading across her face, she thought she was going to have to fight her father about this, but he accepted it, and was beginning to lay down the ground rules. She decided to voice her thoughts, "I thought you'd be against it, I'm surprised you're just letting me do it without a fight."
Garry chuckled, "Ib and I had a long talk about it. She eventually convinced me that I don't control your life, and if you want to do this, then I should support you." He sighed, "I will always be worried for you though, so please be careful."
"I will be." She said quickly, "I promise."
"That's all I can ask," Garry smiled, "I'll give you more details later, for now, let's get back to the party."
Mary surprised Garry by giving him a hug, "Thank you so much! I love you!"
He wrapped his arms around her, "I love you too."
She let go, unable to wipe the wide smile on her face, and she went through the kitchen, perhaps to her friends, or to see Ib, Garry didn't know.
He just stood there, and looked over at one painting in particular. Ib had drawn it on a whim, or so she said, and it depicted himself and Ib, sitting near one another, and in between the two of them was a fuzzy outside of a blonde haired girl wearing green. It had been over thirty years since he had stepped foot into Guertena's world, and he couldn't help now but look at the memory fondly. After all, if he hadn't gone to the gallery that day, and hadn't met Ib, he knew his life wouldn't be as good as it was. He knew he said it before, but he felt it appropriate to call it the best thing that had ever happened to him.
He turned his head away from the painting when he heard Ib calling for him. Taking one last glance at the painting, he went over to be with his family and friends. He knew that there may be more hardships in the future, and he was very worried for his daughter and her choice in what she wanted to do, but he knew that his friends, his children, and Ib would always be there for him, and he would always be there for them.
Together, they could face anything.
It's a bit of a corny ending, but I like it anyway. I'm definitely not going to be continuing this any further than this, especially since there's like fifteen different OCs now. I was actually going to do more with the kids, but I just didn't feel like making ten new characters, so I just described them, their personalities, and went on my way.
For those interested, here's a list of where I got all the names:
Kohta, Saya, and Rei I got from High School of the Dead.
Matsuri I got from Lucky Star.
Koyomi I got from Bakemonogatari.
Renji, Hiro, and Emi I got from Ef: A Tale of Memories.
Reina, Rika, and Keiichi I got from Higurashi.
Kyou I got from Clannad.
Yui I got from Angel Beats.
I covered the rest in Year 4 I believe.
I'd like to thank those of you who read up to this point, and also to those who wrote reviews. I love hearing thoughts and criticisms, and I hope you all enjoyed the story!
Thank you for reading!