Part One: Seedling
"What I invaded has
Denise Levertov, Ways of Conquest
"This is my daughter, Maika." A firm nod before the young girl was ushered forward. Cold smiles passed between the adults. Large, bright eyes watched how their eyes did not crinkle.
The child observed.
"And Maika, what do you say to Akashi-san?"
Her father lovingly patted her long apricot curls. Maika slipped her smaller hand into his in response. "How do you do, Akashi-san. My name is Sorenji Maika," she said slowly, her mind wondering away.
A small smile stole across the man's face. This time it was real. "A lovely child, she is."
"I'm sure your son is also lovely."
"No, no—Seijuro isn't as lovely as your little one. He barely fulfils my expectations."
"You are too kind."
Maika perked up from her daydreaming, the name finally registering within her thoughts. Akashi Seijuro-kun. She studied the man talking with her father. Red-hair. Piercing eyes. Seemed to be very intelligent. Charismatic.
Just like that Akashi-kun from school.
He seemed sad some days.
Maika had no concrete basis for her thoughts, but Akashi-kun seemed to be sad. It was the way he stood under the great big sakura tree every afternoon, looking out over the front entrance of the school.
It was situated on a hill, so if you stood under the great sakura tree, the biggest tree of sweet fragrance you could see everything. You could see parents, drivers—could be caretakers, rushing in to pick up the young children. Groups of mothers would gather together and chat whilst waiting as well.
(Waiting for a mother who would never come)
Other days, he wasn't sad. He wouldn't have that nostalgic look, as if recalling something long gone and dear to his heart—this was all conjecture by the way.
When he wasn't sad on the other days, Akashi-kun was like a different person. No one noticed the small change during the not-sad days, but Maika did.
He looked down on the people, both literally and metaphorically. Like those people were of no importance to him, as if they weren't real…people.
(This was all conjecture, though. She had no solid evidence.)
It was chilling.
But it intrigued her the same time, Akashi Seijuro.
One autumn day, after a small (violent) scuffle with some classmates, the adrenaline in her veins made her feel particularly daring.
Maika limped up the hill with a scraped knee and a sore face, strangely determined to confront the enigma that pricked every cell in her body with curiosity.
He didn't turn when she approached slowly, but she knew that he was aware of her.
"Why do you always stand here everyday?" she asked with the bluntness a child her age was known for.
Seijuro directed his piercing gaze upon her.
Clear crimson. It took her breath away. She wanted to run. She wanted to stare. She wanted to do both at the same time.
Beautiful. Most of all, he enchanted her.
The chatter of the women at the foot of the small hill rose to greet the silence between them.
"I wait for my driver," he intoned quietly. She could barely hear him.
Maika saw his eyes flicker towards the group of mothers. A student, younger than them, was running into the embrace of a large woman with a smile as large as life.
"Your mum doesn't pick you up?"
"She won't come," he added tersely.
Maika fidgeted as she searched for something else to say. "Me too! Mum's busy all the time, so Dad picks me up. He's always late though. Apparently there's a lot of work and he can't finish everything time and so I play by myself until he comes…" she trailed off, moving her gaze down to her feet.
"Hmm. Is that so?"
She nodded slowly, finding the fallen leaves underfoot very interesting.
"Then what do you do on other days?" she asked him again still not looking up.
He made her nervous. Especially when he looked at her.
…Which he was doing with great intensity after she voiced her second observation.
His silence bade her to continue with a red face. "You're not waiting other times. You're different sometimes, Akashi-kun, I-I…I think you watch people."
Seijuro almost smiled. "And why would you think that?"
She struggled to answer—he needed to stop looking at her—and she wasn't used to talking to people her age.
"Just a feeling."
"I see," he said knowingly. "Explain."
Maika blushed redder, fumbling with her words. "Some-sometimes, I mean, I don't know but you seem different and I think you watch them when you're not-sad, I mean-not that you're sad, but…um…yeah."
Seijuro didn't answer her immediately. He made her stew in her embarrassment for what felt like years.
She saw his lips move, but she couldn't hear him over the sudden gale that blew more leaves around them. She thought of asking him to say it again, but the familiar figure of her father getting out of his car caught her eye.
Her dad was on time, for once. Thank goodness.
"Sorry, Akashi-kun my dad is here and I need to go—it was nice talking to you because I don't have any friends to talk to and I need to go!" she hollered as she bolted down the hill, schoolbag flung over her shoulder in a hurry.
It was time to leave. The thought stung, however.
Seijuro watched her flit through the crowd of parents. He watched her tackle her father with surprising energy.
He repeated the missing words, mirth dancing in his eyes.
"Well done, Sorenji Maika."
The drive home was terrible.
"There's a Band-Aid on your face," Her father, Hiroto enunciated each word, disapproval dripping off each one as he drove his family home.
Her hand flew to cover it up, excuses ready as she opened her mouth—
"I-er…fell," she said lamely. "I fell down!"
A ringed hand emerged to grab the edge of the passenger seat, and sharp orange eyes gazed at her. A woman, who, at first sight looked like the future version of the girl in the backseat.
"Really, Mai-chan?" She was not amused.
Why oh why did she come back today!
Maika was shrinking under the hawk-eyed stare. "I'm serious, Mum!"
"The school called me during the day. Someone pushed you over," she said.
The heavy stone of discovery settled in her gut. "No mind games today, Mum."
"I'm a psychologist, I study minds." The mother closed in on her only daughter. "Especially yours!"
Maika couldn't weasel her way through this time unlike her dad's gentle questioning.
A frown blemished the woman's face. "Violence? It's not the answer to everything! Karate classes have done you no good."
"No, no! I like—"
"We've been in this suburb for six years here! Six years and not even one friend!"
Maika drew back, stung.
Hiroto tried to diffuse the tension. "Now, now ladies. Kids like playing a little rough when they're younger."
Two identical glares were sent his way.
"Playing rough? I see her—"
"I'm not a kid!"
"—every week, coming home with injuries! As her mother, a young girl shouldn't be like this. She should be playing happily with friends—"
Maika burst into tears then and there, all her stress and emotions pouring down her face. "I don't want friends! I hate them!" she cried.
"They're all stupid-hic-everyone is…'cept for Akashi-kun."
Her mother's demeanour softened. "Oh, darling. I didn't mean it like that. I just thought you'd be lonely without a single friend," she soothed.
"We're just worried for you, Maika," Hiroto spoke up.
Clenching her fists, she stuck out her chin stubbornly. "I'm fine! I have Mum and Dad and books and karate! Don't need no friends."
The woman knew it wouldn't do any good by pursuing the topic further. She silently turned back around in her seat, meeting her husband's gaze. A conversation without words bounced between them.
It's alright. Maika's a kid.
With no friends!
She's got all the time in the world to make some.
She only thinks this 'Akashi-kun' is alright!
Akashi, Akashi…where have I heard that before?
It was cut short by a sudden thought. Akashi…that name!
"And this year's graduating valedictorian will make his speech!"
Giggles among the girls in their first year of university.
Orange eyes blinked in confusion. Why the fuss?
"It's Akashi-senpai!" one girl whispered with admiration. "From The Akashi family!"
A handsome man shook her hand as she walked into the spacious office.
"Congratulations on your marriage, Sorenji Rieko."
She smiled. "Thank you, Akashi-senpai."
He sat behind his large, imposing desk.
Now, I have invited you here because of my interest on your study of the common commercial consumer's psyche in the thesis produced…
Sorenji Rieko reached for her mobile phone buried in the depths of her handbag. It was time to call in some favours from a past contact.
Akashi-senpai has a son in my daughter's class, doesn't he? I'm sure…
Despite Maika's stubbornness, which would surely fade in time, 'friends' was a loose word. The idea sparked inspiration in her, as she fanned the small flame roaring to life in her mind's eye.
Here comes 'friend' number one.
This was terrible.
-kind of exciting—
Shut up, inner desires.
Maika organised her thoughts from the beginning.
This was terrible, springing it on her. Her conniving beast of a mother had dragged her into an intimidating palace before shoving her into a huge 'study' that looked like a library. This place should be added onto the World Heritage list.
This place was Akashi Seijuro's house. And the study was very, very quiet. And the table they were seated by was very, very big.
He sat on one side of the table, and she was located in the furthest possible seat in a last ditch attempt to avoid any social interaction.
Click. Click. Click.
Wooden shogi pieces clicked against the playing board softly. He was playing against himself like the game was made to be one player.
Occasionally, the pages of a tome rustled slightly as Maika flipped through the long-winded language with as much enthusiasm as a rock.
Describing her actions generally; she was reading. Reading was preferred over trying to spark a conversation with someone legions ahead in the intelligence department.
Rain pattered against the arched windows outside.
Maika also saw no need to engage in further conversation with her classmate and 'family friend'.
She knew that nothing interesting would come out of her mouth, and form an engaging conversation. Akashi Seijuro was a genius, the teachers said every year. He received countless prizes for academics, sports and other wondrous activities.
They haven't ever…really, really talked.
And she didn't want to—okay, she did. Akashi-kun sparked her curious nature into overdrive.
-curiosity killed the cat-
She was no cat.
"Akashi-kun?" she ventured bravely.
The boy slid his gaze to her, still moving the pieces around slowly. Seijuro said nothing.
She took it as a sign to continue. "That game…may I play against you?"
He gestured to the empty chair opposite him. "You may."
Staring down at the shogi board, she pursed her lips. There was no file in her brain that taught her how to play this…game that all old people played.
"You don't know how to play."
"Er, yeah. I have no idea," she admitted easily. "I thought you had to be…old to play it."
Did I…offend him?
He looked amused.
The girl tilted her head slightly. "Can you teach me, Akashi-kun?"
Nodding, he began a explaining. "To begin, your aim is to capture my King piece."
"The King can move one square in any direction. Now, you've placed those ones in the wrong order. Move the Rook and the Silver General to…"
The game finished very quickly.
She didn't want to accept her loss.
Maika started seeing Seijuro everywhere.
It was like she developed a supernatural ability, where she could sense where he was and what he was doing.
Also, she seemed particularly susceptible to the colour red.
Red paint, a red bag, a red hat…red eyes.
The way he regally moved. A natural grace he possessed. Like a king. Unyielding.
How he never let anyone look down on him, bully him into submission. It was how he always won in every confrontation. That inner strength, that powerful will.
She admired that.
He enraptured her.
Welcome, new and old readers. This is the rewrite of Orange Days!
This is a deeper take on the original character, exploring the many facets of Akashi Seijuro and just how captivating he is. I also thought that I didn't demonstrate Maika's character effectively the first time round, and so this thing…happened. Things might be a little similar, but lots of new and different and exciting things to come!
Thank you for all your support, for all your patience! Life is so busy right now, and I do read all the reviews and you really all make my day. Instead of writing everyone a reply, I thought you'd enjoy more chapters or something. I don't know.
Please, PM me your thoughts!