Children's Day

Kunzite's dad comes to visit the ECFH. This is both more and less disastrous than one might expect. But nobody dies! Or gets disowned! Or gets thrown off the balcony! Mako's cookies do, in fact, save a life.

Date: 2017-05-05
Pose Count: 63
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-07 00:16:29 75931
One of the up-sides to the environmental situation of the ECFH is that anyone who doesn't have a key and isn't coming via the balcony has to get keyed up by the concierge, and anyone who's not on a list also gets announced. So: no alarms and no surprises, unless, of course, someone's disguised magically as someone with access--

--but that's not the case with Takeba Hiroshi. Nope, he's announced as he's allowed access. Even though Mamoru'd added him to the list. Because let's face it, 'cheese it it's the cops' is kind of a good thing in a place where there's frequently unapologetic magic and also tomfoolery.

So the elevator's on its way up, and Mamoru's just burned his finger in the process of making dinner, and even the time it takes to stick his finger in his mouth and heal it could mean life and death for the thing that requires constant stirring, so he just sort of ... voluntells Kunzite to take over so he can open the door.

The place isn't spotless, but it's as close as it ever gets, and there's absolutely no blood on the laminated mosaic floor or on the couch, and the mural is as gorgeous as ever, and the game consoles have been shoved into a box under a table off to the side and the projector's under the coffee table and the projector screen's rolled up and the shelves are full of books and -- well, it looks like a sort of cleaner version of itself.
Kyouko Sakura 2017-05-07 00:27:39 75937
    Kyouko has no reason to be in the apartment right now. But she's here anyway. Kunzite is her nii-chan, and though she may not have the desire to pry into his history/family life that Mamoru has (such things being a tender spot for herself as well) she is, to say the least, curious. So when she learned about the whole letter thing and how Kunzite's dad was coming over and stuff from Naru, she decided that being conviniently around would prove some mixture of supportive for Kunzite and entertaining for herself.

    Whether or not either of these things is true, only history will be able to judge, but that's what she's telling herself anyway.

    She hasn't particularly dressed up or anything, but she's also not lounging about in her PJs as she is wont to do- she's wearing jeans and a black t-shirt and it even looks like she combed her hair, at least to some degree. She's over on the couch, reading a manga which is slightly less trashy than normal, but still pretty trashy judging by the shocked-looking girl on the front clinging to a buff-looking guy in tattered martial-arts garb. It wasn't wrapped in plastic at the store though, so it's probably acceptable for polite company.

    She looks up when the guest is announced, but does not shift herself. While she may be curious enough to insert herself into the situation, she has at least the minimum of tact to not attempt to take it over.
Naru Osaka 2017-05-07 00:32:28 75939
Naru totally would conjure up a reason to be here if she had to, but fortunately it's not so odd that she's appeared at the appropriate time. With Kyouko, no less. She's settled on the couch, but she's got school books in her lap.

And there might be a sketchbook on top of those.

The excuse to set her books on the table at the imminent arrival of the guest is an automatic thing, even if it does make the place look ever so slightly messier. It's at least messier in a scholastically appropriate kinda way.

Naru uncurls from the couch, to move over to open the door. That motion as well, just as automatic.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-07 00:48:54 75945
Kazuo is dressed as Kazuo is almost always dressed. Jeans. Sleeves rolled up. Hair loose. Communicator clasped on his left wrist; let people think it's some kind of watch or fitness gadget.

It might, possibly, be a pointed gesture. But it might always have been.

The time it takes for him to mark his place, set down his textbook, and come over to take over stirring for Mamoru ensures that Naru has the door first. Which means that she has the first sight of a businessman in his fifties -- she's seen a photo of him before, of course. But he was twenty-odd years younger, then. His suit is a little grayer, and his hair is receding and a lot grayer. He's also carrying a shopping bag -- not one from the minimall downstairs.

Hiroshi Takeba blinks at Naru, but bows to her as solemnly as if she were an adult. "Please forgive me for troubling you," he says. "I was told this was the Chiba residence. Perhaps I am in error."
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-07 01:18:08 75960
Signs point to 'no' almost immediately, as Mamoru comes around the corner behind Naru; he actually looks happy to see Hiroshi, not just politely pleased, which may be an experience the older man's unused to. He bows, of course; having caught the tail end of Hiroshi's to Naru, he matches the depth exactly. "Takeba-san," he says as he straightens, and while it's warm, it's also appropriately polite, "please come in. I apologize that my home is in disarray, and beg forgiveness if it is unsuitable for entertaining an honored guest."

There's a gesture to one side, there are a lot of guest slippers, and the ones that are obviously Claimed By Regulars are not quite grouped in with them. He makes room for Hiroshi to actually come in, yes, and performs quick introductions: "This is Osaka Naru, and in the living room is Sakura Kyouko; they are friends who are frequently here-- and the mural on the walls, which you'll see in a moment--" Here there's a minor break in the formality, because here in Mamoru's home he's comfortable, even when trying to be his most polite, "--Naru-chan painted it!" He sounds absurdly proud. "Kazuo's in the kitchen--"

There's no loitering by the door, there's no crowding Hiroshi; the apartment is of course ridiculously spacious... and Mamoru's not dressed up, per se, but he's not as obnoxiously hipster as he tends to be on the town, and he's not in slouchy home-clothes-- he just looks like a college student in jeans and an untucked button-down with a vest over it. And roses on his socks but what can you do.
Kyouko Sakura 2017-05-07 01:26:13 75966
    When Naru gets up to open the door, Kyouko quirks a brow, but doesn't say or do anything to stop her. Maybe she's just impressed by the temerity, but then again Naru has 'not being intimidated' down to a science and nobody knows that better than Kyouko. She does, at least, close her not-obscenely-trashy manga and put it on the table. Then a moment later, she slides it underneath Naru's schoolbooks.

    She shifts so she can look over the back of the couch towards the door, but remains where she is.. being polite and/or formal are two thing she is very bad at, or at least inexperienced in. She'll let the others break the ice before she opens her mouth, unless Hiroshi should beeline to her for a personal greeting, which seems unlikely, thankfully.
Naru Osaka 2017-05-07 01:34:22 75969
The smile is warm from Naru, friendly and welcoming as she bows in greeting. "Welcome." She takes a step back as Mamoru comes to the door and provides host duties. She moves towards the couch, offering another smile at the mention of her name in conjunction wiht the mural. She /is/ proud of it.

Naru isn't dressed up either, but her 'normal', when it doesn't involve a school uniform, is generally cute and girly, leggings and skirts and fun blouses.

There's a glance, as she heads back towards the couch, towards the kitchen to look for Kazuo's reaction.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-07 01:47:51 75971
It indeed somehow seems unlikely that Hiroshi has beelined to anyone in the last couple of decades. Possibly the last couple of centuries. Still, he's polite, at the least. "It is a pleasure to meet you," he says to Naru, and then to Mamoru, "Pardon me," and steps in to exchange shoes duly for slippers.

This inevitably involves meeting the house rules. About which he says absolutely nothing, perhaps particularly about four and six. Also perhaps particularly about Mamoru's socks. (Kyouko's manga is, of course, safely out of the way.)

He trails after the others to the living room, bowing just as solemnly to Kyouko. Black T-shirt and improbably wild hair and all. There's a pause after that to take in the mural, or the portions of it he can see from the entryway. And the floor, because mosaic tile is not precisely normal. And the view out the window, the city below, the Tower in sight.

"That must have been a demanding project," he says to Naru. "Your work is a credit to you."

In the kitchen, Kazuo has not yet turned 'stir the thing' into 'stab the thing' nor into 'stir the thing so that bits of it wind up on the far wall.' His frown is directed down at the pot that Mamoru left him with. Unsurprisingly, like Kyouko, he has yet to say anything.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-07 02:09:34 75978
It's... not the apartment that the PI described. On the other hand, given that there's also still a sign on the outside of the door to this apartment that literally says 'USE THIS ONE', ... and since the PI would indeed have come up with the records for Chiba owning the whole floor ... that's probably also not surprising. Especially since Mamoru did apologize for deliberately intimidating the PI in the first place.

Waiting to avoid interrupting the exchange with Naru, Mamoru shows Hiroshi to a seat-- one that faces the door-- and he says cheerfully, "We have tea, coffee, soda, juice, beer, sake, and honey whiskey; what would you like? And I know it's after what's usually lunch, but people tend to keep all hours here, so if you would like a meal, that is what is being prepared at the moment. Kyou-chan, would you bring out the tray of sweets I told you not to touch when you got here this morning?"

Naru's checking on Kunzite; Mamoru's keeping half his attention on sounds from the kitchen but doesn't at all look like it.

He is not, however, actively Full Attention of Full Presence-ing at poor Hiroshi.
Kyouko Sakura 2017-05-07 02:17:03 75979
    Kyouko may not be a formal person, or good at formality, but she is still Japanese, born and raised, which means when somebody bows to her, she bows back. She actually gets up to do it too, although her bow is far more sketchy and less solemn than Hiroshi's. But it's still a bow, and a reasonably polite one.

    This works out because she's already standing therefore when she is instructed to play sweets-courier. Some might object to being treated like a servant in front of a guest, but honestly she's just happy for something to do. She is acutely aware that 'impressing a formal old businessman' is not something Kyouko Sakura, Terror of Kazamino, is cut out for. Apatite... well, maybe in 150 years. But not yet.

    She does make a somewhat ill-advised decision in that in order to go about following her instructions, she vaults over the back of the couch to accomplish it more quickly. At least she does it so smoothly and gracefully that, even if it's rudely uncouth, at least it's somewhat admirable in other ways.

    As she nears the kitchen, she exchanges a Look with Naru which communicates about a dozen things without opening her mouth- they've been dating long enough now to have developed that silent language common to all couples of sufficient seriousness. Then she gets the tray, which is actually untouched although much ogled over the past several hours, and brings it back to the coffee table.

    Without vaulting this time, thankfully.
Naru Osaka 2017-05-07 02:22:18 75980
"Thank you." Naru perches gracefully on the edge of the couch, her hands lightly in her lap. Because she can, as needed, be a demure and prim girl. Illusionary, but possible. "It was a challenge, but one that I enjoyed. I appreciated the opportunity to expand my skills in an unexpected direction. Do you draw or paint?" She asks lightly, quite confident in her small talk skills, even with those who don't actually speak much.

The vaulting from Kyouko over the back of the couch just makes her smile, utterly fond and she watches a moment longer than strictly necessary, including an important confirmation that Kunzite hasn't yet started stabbing things, before returning her attention back to their visitor.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-07 02:35:38 75983
"Tea would be more than sufficient," Hiroshi assures Mamoru, dashing his hopes for a little assistance by way of alcohol. "Please, there is no need to go to such trouble." Still. The words give him a moment's excuse to glance toward the kitchen.

Kazuo is still directing his frown toward the pot. It might take a medical emergency to get him to look up. Or Kyouko's arrival, which prompt him to turn his head, glance to Kyouko, and nod silently. Kyouko is all about the unspoken exchanges right now.

It's after that that Hiroshi returns his attention to Naru. "Technical drawings hardly qualify," he says. "And far out of practice; we've done such things with computers for a long time. Nothing of this nature. Do you do work on this scale regularly?" Thank God he doesn't actually say 'at your age.'
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-07 02:47:14 75986
Damn, no alcohol. Well-- the tray Kyouko brought out, at least, has a variety of sweets on it. Some brownies (made by Ami), some mini-muffins (made by Naru), some burfi (made by Mamoru), and a bunch of absolutely delectable-looking chocolate madeleines with rose honey glaze that Makoto made on emergency special request last night. Mamoru just smiles at Hiroshi's 'no need'; he shakes his head. "It's no trouble," he says, and now it's his turn to absent himself, leaving to go to the kitchen and start steeping tea, and get little plates and napkins and -- yes -- a little pot of honey for sweetening tea if by some bizarre chance Hiroshi might be inclined.

He will take absolutely any excuse to get some of that restorative rose honey goodness in that unhappy man.

Once he's in there, on the far side of Kunzite, he briefly places his hand over the taller man's. Warmth of appreciation and love, unwavering pride in Kazuo himself, a seriously tempted nerve toward the mischief of a certain mental image that involves turning Kazuo around and backing him against the counter and leaning up on tiptoes to kiss the hell out of him in view of his father, and a mild question as to which of the two evils Kazuo considers lesser: keeping stirring (it's almost done) or going out there.

And then plates are gotten together and tea's steeping in the pot and it's all put on a tray with napkins and dessert forks and cups, and Kazuo could stay and stir, or take stuff out.
Kyouko Sakura 2017-05-07 02:56:05 75990
    Kyouko meets Kazuo's gaze as he turns his head and nods to her, flashing a trademark crooked smile back to him in return- stuffing it with as much warmth and support as she is able to. Which is a surprising amount, all things considered.

    The tray is placed down on the table, near the center but nearer to Hiroshi to make sure that he gets first pick of any of the rather delectable sweets on offer. Kyouko's fingers literally twitch, but she doesn't take anything for herself yet. Best behavior.

    She doesn't interrupt the conversation that Naru falls into with Kunzite's pop so easily, marvelling silently at Naru's ability to do that, although it was one she was already more than aware her girlfriend posessed. Kyouko can talk to anybody too, she's not the type to get nervous- the problem is that she's also not the type to consider her audience and say the right things.

    Looking briefly unsure of herself, now that her task is completed and Mamoru has gone to the kitchen, denying him as a handy excuse to get another one, she hovers uncertaintly for a moment, then sits back down next to Naru. With a carefully-observed distance of one-seat-cushion between them, just to be safe.

    Best behavior.
Naru Osaka 2017-05-07 03:01:07 75991
"Having struggled with perspective and scale in this project, I have a great deal more respect for technical drawings than I ever did before." Naru comments with a nod and a gesture to a couple of relevant points in the mural on the walls. "I don't generally work at this scale, no. This is the first, and to date, only mural that I've worked on. I generally work in much more managable canvases, or sketchbooks. Depending on if I'm painting or drawing. I haven't moved to computer at all. It feels like completely different skills." Naru keeps the chatter light, filling silences that are bound to be awkward at the moment.

Naru glances briefly to keep track of who is where, exactly, and the state of temperments around. She glances to Kyouko, and her smile is warm, a briefly blown kiss where it can't be seen by the visitor who might balk at such a display. Naru turns her attention back and gestures. "I can recommend the madeleines. We've a friend who is an amazing cook, and anything emerging from her kitchen is worth trying."
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-07 03:20:58 75992
There's a spark of amusement at that mental image, and a brief almost-cartoon image in return of a caricatured Hiroshi with the red manga icon showing popping veins, right alongside his shaking in rage and his eyes catching on fire, before he storms out waving his fists.

(This may be regarded somewhat wistfully, but it is at least wistfulness in silence.)

Then Kazuo's shifting aside, preparing to transfer the stirring to Mamoru; it is, after all, almost done.

"They are completely different skills," Hiroshi confirms to Naru. "Some people seem to be good at both, but most of our people stopped drawing by hand after the software improved enough. Do you intend to continue in the field?" He inclines his head to Naru at her recommendation, and takes one of the little baked treats from the tray, examining it closely for a moment. (This frees Kyouko, technically, for at least restrained ravagings.

) "They are rather lovely. Your circle of friends seems to include a number of people who work very hard."

Those last words overlap with Kazuo's fetching out that second tray from the kitchen. It is no-one's imagination that Hiroshi glances at him, or that the words are spaced slightly more precisely.

Kazuo straightens, even, inclining his head toward his father. "You will be pleased to hear," he observes, "that I have returned to university."

"In a more reasonable major, I trust," Hiroshi returns, tones utterly polite.

"In the same major. We have other people to handle matters of business." Kazuo distributes plates and silverware, possibly too late for Kyouko.

Hiroshi glances back to Naru without a further word, as if to imply that fine art is entirely a better and more stable choice of career than history could possibly be.
Ayana Tasogare 2017-05-07 03:36:23 75993
There are strange scents. Voices. And the smell of sweet things. Chocolatey things. Things Ayana is not allowed, but always wants to have. Inching her nose around the corner, the little black fox sniffs at the room curiously, eyeing it with an uncertain and healthy fear.

Slowly, the fox creeps forward, always keeping furniture between herself and the stranger that Kazuo seems so willing to defer to.

That Kazuo is deferring to.

Because that's not weird or anything.

So the little fox makes her way to the back of the couch, then she sneaks under it and pokes her nose out the front, peering at the room curiously. After a few moments, she darts forward, dashing towards Kazuo's feet. There, she winds between them much like a cat, rubbing up against his legs in the most encouraging way a fox can.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-07 03:40:16 75994
There's a moment of he prince's face turning pink with the effort not to burst out laughing, but he ducks his head, and Mamoru does indeed take over the stirring. That doesn't stop him from hearing the conversation in the living room, given that glorious counter-window; he's little by little edging 'polite and formal' to include also 'this is my home and princes do what they want', because he decides to keep himself in that conversation instead of pretending there's a wall where there's a window.

"Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat... freshman year," he intones, a barely suppressed laugh at the end of it. The stirringing stuff has gotten to the thickness where it's becoming an aggravating abomination to try and stir, so Mamoru shuts the heat off under it and scrapes the spoon off on the side of the pot, then opens the oven and peers in. "It's better to finish what you start," he opines, shutting the oven door again and turning to face the window. There's not so much disapproval in his tone as mild surprise that Hiroshi holds such an opinion about someone taking their academics seriously. "Especially after an unintended absence. Also, I asked him to: we need the grounding..."

Leaning over the counter, he's just spotted Ayana, and he smothers a smile. "Ayana, be nice to Takeba-san, he's Kazuo's father. Would you like some sashimi? I saved some for you."
Kyouko Sakura 2017-05-08 16:19:48 76084
    Kyouko remains where she is on the couch, and remains silent as well. She's doing a very good job of not doing anything objectionable, although the longer this goes on the more tenuous her ability to maintain that level becomes. At least some tension is released as Hiroshi takes a snack, which opens the door for her to take one. Or two. Or three. By the time silverware arrives, she's already chewing, and she looks mildly sheepish as she accepts the plate and implements from Kazuo.

    Naru's secretive blown kiss gets a half-grin, but that is replaced by hints of a frown as Hiroshi and Kazuo interact for the first time- Kyouko's metaphorical hackles clearly rising at the tone the businessman takes with his son. Her eyes dart, and if Hiroshi has any skill at feeling intent he may sense a defensive sort of belligerence seeping from Kyouko, though she continues to keep her mouth shut with some visible effort.

    She spots Ayana, and quirks a brow in mild curiosity, but otherwise keeps her attention on the situation at hand- though she nods in emphatic agreement with Mamoru's assertion that you should finish what you begin.
Naru Osaka 2017-05-08 16:25:09 76085
Naru smiles easily. "I fear that I'm only really good in pencil and paint. I suppose I am practicing digital renderings as well." She pauses to consider that a moment and then smile. "Murals? I would be willing to do another, if opportunity came up. I do plan to pursue art as a career, however." She giggles softly and then adds, leaning in just a hint for that gently conspiratorial tone. "And then joke that it's a good thing I'm fond of instant noodles."

One person in the room with a markedly LESS practical career path than history. Check.

Naru accepts a plate from Kazuo as he exchanges clipped and polite words with his father, leaving her able to acquire some treats of her own. "Our friends are truly remarkable people. I am honoured to know them." There's no teasing, no joking in her tone. Respect and love, well earned.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-08 16:37:37 76086
"Yes," Hiroshi agrees to Mamoru and Kyouko. "It is. Which does leave me wondering why you chose not to do so in the first -- Kazuo, why do you have a wild animal in the apartment?"

This may be the only conversation in which that question is less pointed than the sentence it interrupts.

The silverware Kazuo was distributing is overkill for that initial tray of treats anyhow, and it's not as if Kyouko's likely to leave crumbs that would need the plate. Ahem. Kazuo inclines his head gravely to Naru, implicitly including her in that circle of the remarkable, then stoops -- carefully -- to run a hand over the fox's fur, petting her gently without apparent fear of claws, teeth, or rabies. She is after all not Dog. "The interruption was, as Mamoru said, involuntary. And the change of schools now is well worth the repetition."

"Ah. Yes," Hiroshi says. "I'd forgotten. Kidnapping and brainwashing, wasn't it? I trust the two of you young ladies weren't subjected to any such thing." Given his tone of voice, he probably believes Kyouko qualifies as a young lady far more honestly than he believes the kidnapping-and-brainwashing part.

Kazuo does not even attempt to address the multiple inaccuracies in the 'wild animal' portion. Partly because it is, after all, not his apartment.
Ayana Tasogare 2017-05-08 16:45:33 76087
The little fox stops instantly when the older man speaks about her. She hesitates and turns her head to regard him, but then two very important things happen before she can really register them.

First: there are offers of sashimi, and that might actually be her favourite food. Second: there is a comforting hand stroking her fur, and that feels wonderful.

Ayana forgets all about being called a wild animal, and instead she winds between Kazuo's legs one last time before walking politely to Mamoru and sitting down. Blue eyes stare up at him hopefully, as all four of her tails wag back and forth, swish swish. That'd be a 'yes'.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-08 17:22:53 76088
"A wild kitsune," Mamoru corrects absently, smiling down at Ayana and reaching down to give her an ear scritch. He straightens and turns to open up the refrigerator and pull out the plate of sashimi, wrapped in plastic, that he'd put in there after early-lunch he'd gone out and acquired around eleven. This gets unwrapped and placed on the floor in the corner Ayana's least likely to get interrupted, which, handily, also has a view of the living room through the door.

Then he slides over the plate of fresh-grated parmesan and takes the pot off the burner, finally, and dumps in the cheese. He brings the pot over to stir in the parmesan over by the counter, so he can participate in the conversation slightly more properly. "My home is a place of recovery for a lot of people, sir," he says gently. "Many different kinds, from many different types of trauma-- and for many different types of people. Bad things can happen to anyone, and it's a good thing to be able to help them pick up the pieces afterwards."

The smile turns somewhat deferential and he nods to Kyouko and Naru; they can answer as they like. But he glances to Hiroshi again and looks somewhat diffident, for once. "Kazuo did me the favor of accompanying me to Keio to complete his degree, even if it meant he had to start over. I don't feel safe alone, despite my life prior to the year before last-- and though I have a number of friends watching my back, none is more adept at constant vigilance than Kazuo. And it's a vigilance that's proven necessary more than once."

There's a brief pause, and a look of chagrin. "I didn't tell him I was going to see you, back in January. But another one of my guards watched the street while I was there, someone who reports to Kazuo."

He looks into the pot, stirring, then sets it on a trivet to find a big bowl and a spoon for dishing out. His voice gets softer still. "Things are complicated. I apologize." But then he glances up and says with a hint of self-deprecating humor, "Also, please try the madeleine; I'll admit that even though I didn't let Kyou-chan at them, I did sample one before they went on the tray... unless you'd like some risotto first."
Kyouko Sakura 2017-05-08 17:42:52 76089
    Kyouko does not, in fact, leave crumbs. She also looks mildly startled to be addressed as a 'young lady', probably far more comfortable lumped into 'wild animals' with Ayana.

    That said, as she swallows her mouthful of delicious snacks, she speaks up for the first time. In direct contrast to pretty much everyone who has spoken thus far, the relatively unrefined patterns of her speech stand out- in fact, those who are around her regularly might recognize that she's actually playing up her street accent a little, as her articulation has generally gotten much better over the past year, but her statement now sounds like something she might have come out with when she first came to Tokyo, in the extremely loose, informal type speech that she uses.

    "Yeah well, all sortsa things happen in our line a' work, y'know? Can't let a little thing like kidnappin' or brainwashin' throw you off your stride too much, or you won't last a week." Then she winks at Hiroshi, before reaching for another snack and popping it into her mouth, sans silverware.

    Then she gives Mamoru a faintly wounded and much more genuine look at his admission to pastry betrayal.
Naru Osaka 2017-05-08 17:46:30 76090
There's no questions about tea. Naru settles on the edge of her seat as tea comes to the table, and she sets about pouring for Hiroshi first, and then for Kyouko and herself. "Mamoru? Kazuo? Tea?" She holds up the pot, as if they might need the visual assistance to remember what the question is from her.

"I've been kidnapped .. a couple of times actually.. but the need for art isn't sufficient to warrent brainwashing me." Naru offers such notions as simply a matter of fact reality as she sets Hiroshi's tea in front of him and offers him another crack at the sweets.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-08 18:20:25 76091
A wild kitsune. Kidnapping as a matter-of-fact reality. Their line of work. It's that last one that prompts Hiroshi to turn his head and regard Kyouko again, but whatever he might have said is interrupted by Naru's timely tea-pouring. He inclines his head gravely to her, then returns a slightly less adversarial regard to Kyouko. "One would hope, at your age, that your line of work would be high school," he observes. "But then, the news seems to declare that more dangerous every year."

As for Kazuo -- there's a tiny hint of gentling around the corners of his eyes when Ayana migrates kitchenward with that tail-swishing. He nods wordlessly to Naru's offer, and adds a quiet, "Thank you," afterwards. "Clearly others have their priorities out of order. Fortunately for us."

Hiroshi does not take that as a cue to start prodding at him again, this time. Maybe that means he approves of Naru! Maybe he's just chewing on the mention of Keio. That is a considerably better school than Kazuo was previously attending. Or qualified to attend. There's a momentary skeptical glance Kazuo's way, speculative but not pleasant -- but then his host is suggesting trying the madeleine, and the very blunt girl thinks enough of them to object wordlessly at having been kept from them, and he did take one earlier. He retrieves it from where he set it on his plate, and tries it.

Lessons in being exposed to Makoto's cooking, number 'this is why people come to Mamoru's parties.'

His eyes may unglaze shortly.
Ayana Tasogare 2017-05-08 18:22:30 76092
Almost before the plate hits the ground, the little black fox is busy snatching at the food. Kazuo will have to get his fuzzy comfort elsewhere. She is fully distracted.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-09 00:47:11 76100
Mamoru lifts his hands defensively at Kyouko, eyes wide. "Look, I figured I wouldn't get any otherwise, especially if Usa happened to drop by while you were also here," he reasons, only slightly huffily. And then he takes the bowl of risotto out, steaming hot and definitely involving bacon and parmesan and leeks and rice and gooey cheesy goodness, and he sets it by the plates; he straightens up. "Yes, please, Naru. Anyone want something other than tea?" he asks, hesitating before sitting down again.

When he sees Ayana chomming down on the sashimi through the kitchen door, he grins a little; when he sees Hiroshi finally take a bite of that madeleine, he grins a lot. "Someone mentioned earlier that our friend made those--? She made them last night when I told her Kazuo's father was going to visit. She knows we're a bunch of college and high school students and didn't trust we'd have anything fit to serve such an honored guest. We made up a little box of them for you to take home, if you liked them."

Maybe if the emphasis keeps getting put on how many people whose stuff Hiroshi likes consider Kazuo to be very important to them, something will get through to him. Maybe.
Kyouko Sakura 2017-05-09 00:53:37 76102
    Kyouko visibly bristles at the comment about how someone her age should be in high school. It's not that he's wrong, really, and maybe that makes it sting all the more. Luckily, she has a snack in her mouth which forestalls snappage, but after she swallows it, she flounders a bit with obvious annoyance, and then says in a tone that sounds way more sulky than she's probably happy with, "Yeah well, I'm older than I look." True in some ways, but not in the ones that matter.

    Then Mamoru is there setting down risotto, and Kyouko's mood instantly improves again- she's somewhat like a pendulum this afternoon, but that's because conflicting stimuli keep appearing. It's hard to remain grumpy with a big pot of delicious food in front of her on the table.

    She does take the time to roll her eyes at Mamoru. "Uh uh, sure."
Naru Osaka 2017-05-09 00:59:57 76104
The glance from Naru to Kyouko is one of a gentle smile. Soothing, ideally, for what the risotto doesnt' smooth over. Naru pours Mamoru a cup of tea, and offers to serve some of the rice dish to Hiroshi should he wish.

"High school does provide for some odd moments. The news is not entirely wrong, even if they dont always have quite the same perspective." Naru serves herself some risotto before settling to nibble as she discusses school, being the only one in the room who is actually in high school.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-09 01:17:35 76109
These teenagers have a distressing number of friends and acquaintances likely to drop by at no notice. Normally Hiroshi would make some sort of comment on that -- it's already likely that at least some of the people in the room notice that he doesn't do so. Makoto's rose honey: weaponizing civility since 2016.

In the mean time, Kazuo sets aside a plate for Mamoru, and silverware since cheese goo is not precisely what chopsticks are ideal for, and supplements Naru where useful in serving risotto. Because if nobody gives Kyouko her own helping, she might conceivably just try to eat the pot. He has, at least, enough sense not to interrupt his father's recovery from the taste.

"You seem," Hiroshi says at last, "to collect friends who could compete with adult professionals." That was plural. And he certainly isn't including Kazuo in that number, and he doesn't yet know what Kyouko does. But there's the mural, and there's the PI's report on that staged meeting in the other apartment. "One wonders where you find them. And please, that would be -- certainly too much." Presumably the box. That's a remarkably weak protest, but refusal is polite. He pauses again, then, before speaking directly to Kazuo. "These remind me of your mother's tastes. Perhaps we should pay her a visit."

Kazuo does not actually drop the serving spoon in surprise at that sentence, but he does set it down rather carefully.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-09 01:46:56 76112
Well: Mamoru did say that his home was a place of recovery for rather a lot of disparate people, and given his past -- of which Hiroshi is well aware -- that's not an entirely surprising concept. People like him tend to go either very bad places or very good. Certainly, at least, no one in the room comments upon Hiroshi's lack of comment.

The prince waits until Hiroshi's not looking before he very maturely sticks his tongue out at Kyouko, and by the time the older man's looking again, Mamoru's picking up the plate Kazuo set aside for him and smiling up at his white-haired guardian. And then he laughs at Naru's comment on high school. "I am so glad to be done with it. It was touch and go whether I'd even make it to senior year for a while."

He doesn't put a forkful in his mouth yet; Hiroshi's saying something about his friends-- so Mamoru shrugs a little and says with a pleasant smile, "Many people far younger than we are do compete with adult professionals. It's not that unusual." And the look transforms into a quick, crooked grin. "Mostly they find me. Sometimes I dig them up out of rose beds. But please, I insist, you must take the box home-- Mako-chan-- Kino Makoto-- made them specially for you, it would disappoint her terribly if you declined."

Then he does take a forkful of risotto, and immediately wishes he hadn't; he almost chokes on it, managing a glance at Kazuo before grabbing a napkin and coughing. All he can think of is the tall, grey-eyed and dark-skinned woman in the picture, and the not-quite frozen look at the photo from Kazuo the other night, and a four-year-old who ran too many kilometers--

--and the fact that he told Hiroshi that Kazuo doesn't remember her.

Above and beyond the recovery from rice down the wrong pipe, the prince's face has turned a little red and there's something abruptly so miserably awkward about him.

He doesn't quite burn his mouth on the tea Naru poured, but he does stand to go get himself a glass of water with a strained, "Pardon me a moment."
Kyouko Sakura 2017-05-09 02:03:46 76116
    Kyouko gives Naru a brief smile in return. It definitely helps- maybe more than the food, although hopefully Naru won't be too offended if the effect seems more or less equal to the casual observer.

    She is served risotto, and tea, with a "Tea is fine." To indicate that this is acceptable to her, and she hardly waits for the risotto to cool before shovelling some into her mouth. Honestly, one would almost think that the profusion of edibles at this meeting was engineered to make sure that Kyouko doesn't have much opportunity to put her foot in her mouth, as said mouth is kept occupied.

    She blinks slightly at the comment about Kazuo's mother.. eyes flicking back and forth between the various parties in the room. She does not know the deal, but is a good enough judge of people and situations to realize, from Kunzite and Mamoru's reaction, that this was a rather surprising thing to say.
Naru Osaka 2017-05-09 02:13:07 76118
"You are far too generous with your estimations of my skills." Naru demures on any calling of her a professional grade artist. No matter if she is.

"Excuse me." Naru politely recuses herself from the conversation in the living room on /that/ bombshell of Kunzite not quite dropping things, and she and her risotto move to take a moment, or three in the kitchen. Possibly to do some tidying up, entirely to do some eating of risotto, and a lot of eavesdroping potential.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-09 02:34:01 76122
(Yes, that touch-and-go comment Mamoru made got a difficult-to-decode glance from Kazuo at the time. Yes, it's entirely possible that that's a significant part of the reason Mamoru made it.)

... Mako-chan. That name, even before the expansion to her full name, wins Mamoru a somewhat more expressionless look from Hiroshi in turn.

(If you are, it would be a good idea to hand it to Mako-chan. She'll give it back. It's just such an inconvenience to have to restore a phone from backup. ... She's a black belt, Nakayama-san. Among other things. I find it's startlingly helpful when friends are multitalented, don't you?)

And then Mamoru is coughing and swallowing tea too fast and excusing himself for a moment, and Kyouko is glancing back and forth in many directions, and Naru is relocating herself to look after the black fox in the kitchen, whose four tails Hiroshi still has not so much as blinked at. Which means that there is no help for it: Kazuo is going to have to make a second attempt at being social with his father.

"The last time you suggested the two of us do anything together that didn't involve my giving blood samples," Kazuo says, "I was thirteen and you were trying to send me to boarding school."

Well, at least that'll get his attention off Mamoru's sudden flight, if nothing else.

Hiroshi answers that with a wordless sound of dismissal, shaking his head. "Shouldn't have bothered. The offer alone should have made it plain the place was a fraud."

"Mn. It turned out to be more complicated than that. But that's irrelevant now." Kazuo frowns down at the table. "You should eat. This won't be as good if it has time to cool." Laws of physics, buy him time...
Ayana Tasogare 2017-05-09 02:58:23 76123
The little fox has finished her sushi. Honestly, it didn't take her long, depsite the small maw. But it was tasty, so she spent like five whole minutes licking the empty plate.

Don't argue, it's tasty!

Padding her way out of the kitchen, the four-tailed fox primly inspects the room, then bounds up into Kunzite's lap uninvited and suddenly.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-09 03:06:48 76124
Mamoru's Scary Friends. It should be a band name. But those madeleines are ridiculously delicious, aren't they? Come to think of it, so were the pastries with which Nakayama was presented.

Apparently she had a backup backup backup recording device-- but it could just be that Hiroshi forgot to charge the batteries on his facial muscle simulator before coming over and just ran out. Too bad he's got such a rocky relationship with his son.

The water's running for a moment, out where Mamoru and Naru and the four-tailed black fox are in the kitchen, but only for a moment. There are no murmured voices. Naru and Mamoru and the kitsune aren't gossiping. After Kunzite's comment about the boarding school-- thirteen-- the boarding school-- the water runs again; there's still more coughing, and then silence.

(In the kitchen, Mamoru's not looking at Naru or Ayana. He's out of sight of the counter winter. He's knuckling his eyes and wondering, not for the first time, how to do this kind of thing without Jadeite. He wants to handle it with passionate honesty like Nephrite, not like Zoi or Kyouko, not like Kunzite hasn't been handling it, even if he's been trying, dropped in his lap as it is. He wants to handle it like a justice speech. He wants to handle it like Endymion, not like Mamoru.

Not for the first time, he's asking himself what right he has to try and fix families that have given up on each other, families that aren't the ones people make for themselves-- and he's wishing that the truth didn't break people like Hiroshi instead of setting them free. But he came. He came and that's a start. And he's eating the madeleines. And he'll take a box of them home. And it might be okay.

Mamoru just has to keep it together.)

The second glass of water down, Mamoru puts it on the counter and comes back out, clearing his throat. "My apologies. He's right-- unlike a lot of other foods, it's not better as a reheated leftover," the prince butts in, seating himself again, reaching to pick up his tea and sip it, and then pick up his early-dinner again. "And my legal guardians were not frauds. They were killed in a car crash the day you were scheduled to arrive, and we still haven't been able to find any traces of the other people who worked there. I suppose I was lucky to have lost my memory in that crash, and been placed in the orphanage system, or I'd probably also be dead." There's a faint, humorless smile. "Things have a way of working out for the best."

The humor returns full-force in a second, and Mamoru's suddenly grinning at Kazuo. "I'm asking you because she'd lie-- can foxes eat cheese?"
Kyouko Sakura 2017-05-09 03:10:47 76125
    Kyouko has been eating steadily, and by this time, her risotto is gone. She's been listening attentively the whole while, and had some new perspectives, though when Naru gets up, her head turns to track the other girl heading towards the kitchen.

    She glances down towards her empty bowl for a moment, then over at Kunzite, then at Hiroshi. Then she rises to her feet.

    "Excuse me for a few minutes too, if ya don't mind." She says, passably politely, to Hiroshi. "I should help with the cleanup. Gotta pitch in, you know how it is."

    Then she turns, pausing next to Kunzite and laying a hand briefly on his shoulder. "Hey, look at it this way." She says, quietly but not quietly enough. "At least he ain't my father."

    Then she's carrying her bowl off to the kitchen in pursuit of Naru. She passes Mamoru on the way, and faux-punches him in the side in a particularly Kyouko way of saying 'relax dude'. Not because she doesn't understand the tension. Just because Kyouko's way of propping up often looks like punching.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-09 03:33:30 76126
Kazuo's lap is suddenly occupied! He puts down his own plate out of reach, untouched (hypocrite), in order to run fingers through Ayana's fur again. Apparently the 'wild animal' in the household is ... not so much with the wild. The petting continues as people converse, interrupted only by putting his hand up to cover Kyouko's when she makes that contact. Brief pressure: point taken.

"I assure you," Hiroshi says politely to Mamoru, "that I did not mean to disparage your legal guardians or their memory in the slightest; I'm certain they were uninvolved with the incident, and I am, even now, sorry for your loss. It's unrelated, surely. My son received an invitation to a school that turned out never to have existed, much less to have taken students. It seems likely to have been an elaborate prank on the part of some of his schoolmates."

Kazuo regards his father steadily for a moment, then turns fairly deliberately to Mamoru. "Cheese is fine for foxes," he answers. Taking the easy part. Jerk. "The leeks are the problem; the onion family harbors a chemical that makes them sick and can damage their blood. Very small amounts are reportedly safe, but I don't know the concentration in leeks, and I haven't been able to find a firm guideline on where the danger starts."

Otherwise Ayana would probably already have gotten half of his plate. Kazuo: kind of a sucker for people who manage to get close enough to use him as furniture.
Ayana Tasogare 2017-05-09 03:35:40 76127
The petting earns Kunzite some very gentle teeth-gnawing. Ayana shifts in his lap so that she's comfortable, lying half-on her side while he strokes her fur. This gives her an optimal angle for gnawing. But at least she doesn't pierce the skin. Yes. Pet the fox. It will soothe your nerves and calm your frustration. Also, the fox likes it. That she's being denied food probably registers, but Ayana doesn't protest too loudly. She did just get fish.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-09 04:20:20 76131
The punch was well-received; Mamoru apparently needed it. Unfortunately he went right back into the conversational goat rodeo, and he's politely tense on and off all over again.

While Kazuo's answering him, Mamoru scarfs a bunch of his risotto while it is still hot; he'll probably eat the rest cold anyway. Or if he's not hungry, Kyouko will. He gives Ayana an apologetic look, but hey, he gave her the rest of his sashimi, so he doesn't feel too bad. Anyway, this gives him time to manage to stomp his temper down with things like 'reason' and 'hospitality' and 'politeness' and 'the poor man doesn't know how not to be a dick'.

So he's at least not legitimately losing his temper in a fit of hot fury. Instead, the boy sets his plate down again and finishes off his tea, then gives Hiroshi a thin smile. "I wouldn't dream of insinuating you meant anything of the sort. Nonetheless, I must correct an unfortunate misapprehension under which you appear to be laboring--"

Prince Endymion's presence is a heavy thing, ancient and regal and demanding, vast and as wild as a force of nature, as steady and unyielding as bedrock. There's something behind the eyes as blue as the Earth's deepest oceans as seen from space-- something that Notices, and puts the full focus of its attention on Takeba Hiroshi.

The young crown prince -- the university freshman -- the orphan with the inexplicable friends and attachment to Kazuo, he relaxes his shoulders and spreads his hands very slightly. "It was a school. I inherited the building."

He's very serious; there's only matter-of-fact, no lightness here. "There was no prank, Takeba-san. There was the murder of my surrogate parents and teachers and all of their relatives, and there was an incredibly thorough cover-up, and it is only one item on a long list of things we are investigating or otherwise handling. Rest assured that your son was chosen to attend, and that despite the condition of the visible building when you arrived, it was a legitimate, accredited, and extremely exclusive academy on paper and in practice. It was also not the last time something like this has happened. Your son was not the only teenager who vanished in 2010 -- amongst the many others who did, and were never seen again, three others with something shared in common with Kazuo did as well. They were all meant to attend the school. The only reason I didn't vanish at the same time-- that I wasn't found until later-- was because I had fallen through the cracks, without my memory, under a false name."

There's finally a return of the thin smile, and it comes with a relaxing of the Attention. "We've all lost a lot. Please, I'll ask you not to dismiss what little we've managed to regain, even if you find it hard to believe." A beat. "The house is in the exact same condition it was in when you arrived. It hasn't decayed in the slightest, though it's been unattended for over ten years. I could show you, if you like."
Nephrite 2017-05-09 04:26:06 76132
There are many risks involved in visiting this particular apartment. Random displays of magic. Occasional attacks from various factions. The sheer calorie count one is likely to ingest from so much baking. And the potential for Nephrite to enter wearing an obscenely bad shirt. Or no shirt. Or pants. Any combination thereof.

Not today, however. Today he had advance warning of the company they had in store. Neph remembers the PI. He remembers her threats. And he remembers hearing mention of the company at which Takeba Hiroshi works. So when the door opens from one of the other apartments, it is not the scruffy nocturnal student who shuffles through the door. He is wearing a button-up shirt with a pair of well-tailored suit pants. There are cufflinks involved. His hair is nicely brushed and he is actually clean-shaven. More importantly, the way he is carrying himself right now, with a casual arrogance, is something that perhaps not everybody in this room has seen on Nephrite in this particular lifetime. It is an attitude befitting the very wealthy and the very powerful. Not nearly the heavy, bedrock-deep power possessed by the prince lingering behind the eyes of Mamoru.

Sanjouin Masato does not often pay visits to this side of the apartment.

"Sorry I'm late." He tells the room at large. He does not sound sorry. The grin he throws at Mamoru, in particular, seems like a particularly sunny counter to frosty words. "I'm told we have an honored guest. Mr Takeba, welcome." The bow he gives Kazuo's father is accompanied by a smile as smooth as silk.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-09 05:00:15 76133
The fox definitely likes it. This is a plus. Also, petting the fox physically prevents Kazuo from doing certain things, like closing fingers into a fist, or like bringing up a hand in any of a number of certain signs. Not that, these days, those signs would do anything while he's out of uniform. But the temptation is one best not to indulge all the same.

The reaction of most adults, given that strangely enhanced full attention, is to find some way to evade it. To bow before it, to bend gracefully, to flee, to stumble -- anything to turn it elsewhere.

Takeba Hiroshi is not entirely an exception. He glances away, unable to confront that regard directly. He does not draw a breath to protest -- but that would also be crossing a line he has not, thus far, crossed; even without that pressure, he has not contradicted his host. (Technically. With careful workarounds.)

But he mouths words silently. Hard to follow, given that he's looking aside and down. But one might, perhaps, guess, if one had discussed the matter with Kazuo before. There were no records.

'Incredibly thorough cover-up' takes away the point of speaking, anyhow. He draws a breath, and says instead, "That seems an unnecessary waste of your time. The matter has been over for some time, for me, and apparently fortunately over as well for you. Let us simply be glad for that, perhaps."

He might have been about to say something else, but he brings his attention back up, and there are cufflinks. And there is only one person, even in a city the size of Tokyo, who holds the combination of that attitude and that charm and ... well ... that hair. Hiroshi, quite reflexively, stands at Nephrite's entrance, bowing in answer -- equally reflexively more deeply. Which really does no good at all in contrasting his short, graying, receding hair. That may be an even more visceral response than any mere recognition and concern for his continued employment. "Sir. This is an unexpected honor."

(It is surely coincidence that, under the recent pressure of Prince Endymion's presence on the one hand and Sanjouin Masato's casual arrogance on the other, the tempo of the attentions Kazuo is giving the fox has slowed to something more suitable to a Bond villain.)
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-09 05:18:14 76134
He has not contradicted his host. Technically. That counts for something. Mamoru exhales, refilling his tea before sitting back. "I would like to believe the matter is over. I will be glad when I know it is," he says, finally, holding the cup in both hands. He already feels guilty.

And then Neph rolls in like an art deco Zamboni, and the corner of the prince's mouth twitches upward-- and he sees Hiroshi's reaction, and he understands it on a gut level, and Mamoru's torn between wanting to laugh and feeling unutterably sorrowful.

"Please," he says quietly, "Takeba-san..."

I didn't ask you here to humiliate you, he doesn't say. He wants to say. He's aware of Kunzite, as always, in the corner of his mind and the corner of his eye, and he thinks: this looks like part of what I wanted. And he thinks: what did I want?

Instead of addressing any of this, he leans to put his tea down again and tries to figure out how to defuse this without making Kazuo's father lose any more face. And then Mamoru stands. "I didn't realize you knew each other," he says mildly, "so I suppose introductions are unnecessary-- but please, sit. Sanjouin Masato lives here, our friend and one of my guard; he is Kazuo's second. Have another madeleine. Neph, Mako-chan made them. The box in the kitchen is not for you. Should I get the sake or the honey whiskey?"
Nephrite 2017-05-09 05:41:58 76137
Sanjouin Masato waves Hiroshi down with an air of benevolence. Yes, the hair is quite a giveaway. Not many young billionaires are running around Tokyo with a mane like this. "Please, Mr Takeba. The honor is mine." The smile he gives him must surely be worth a couple millions, designed to both charm and put the recipient of it at ease.

He nods at Mamoru's explanation, crossing his arms--and those may or may not be diamonds glittering in those cufflinks. "This has been my residence for the past year, along with Kazuo--" here he moves to Kazuo's side and actually leans an arm against his shoulder as he reaches for one of the madeleines. When he straightens, he keeps his arm where it was, casually gesturing with the cookie. "I am delighted to finally greet the father of my good friend."

At Mamoru's question, he shouts back, "whiskey!" Like that's even a question.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-09 05:59:35 76141
The billion-dollar arm leaned against Kazuo's shoulder means that Kazuo shifts a hand to scratch Ayana's ears, because just now would not be a good time for a young kitsune to think 'hey! my furniture!' and try to bite anyone. So: just in case.

Hiroshi is duly steamrolled; he sits again, and reaches without a word for the directed bit of dessert. It is conceivably possible that his heart rate returns to normal as he consumes it. (Makoto, saving them once again.)

He breathes. He glances at Kazuo. And, belatedly and under the influence of rose honey and chocolate, he says, "History major, then."

"Business and Commerce seemed redundant," Kazuo says blandly. "Perhaps somewhat more than."

Hiroshi nods, carefully avoiding any thought about the word 'guard' as applied to Masato Sanjouin, and inquires just as carefully, "Are there any more surprises on this scale that have happened not to be mentioned yet?"

"That's a good question," Kazuo says thoughtfully. "I've lost track of whether Saburo actually owns that software company, or whether we just joke about it." Because this is a household, apparently, where those kinds of things can fall through the cracks.

Hiroshi glances after Mamoru and the possibility of whiskey, wordless.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-09 06:26:05 76147
"I know he's a shareholder and was on the marketing side of the development team, but I don't know how much share he has. I don't think he does, either, he's doing something new and weird again. I think it has something to do with pop music formulae?" Mamoru calls back to Kazuo, on his way to get the whiskey.

When he comes back, he's holding a stack of tumblers and a bottle of Wild Turkey American Honey, unopened. He proceeds to crouch next to the coffeetable and open the bottle, pouring the first glass for Hiroshi, reminding him that his status is, in fact, both elder and honored guest. Still. That has not changed, even if Hiroshi is unfortunate enough to have a pack of barely or badly socialized trauma victim young adults as hosts.

"Honestly I'm not sure what you would consider surprising, since none of it strikes me as odd-- this is our life, sir. I've been telling you things all along, but you have trouble with uncomfortable truths. I understand. But I only understand academically, so I really can't guess at what you would see as a surprise, and what you would see as a lie or misconception," he says apologetically, handing Hiroshi the glass-- then setting it down if Hiroshi doesn't want to chance brushing his fingers in the transfer.

The second he pours for Kazuo, the third for Sanjouin-- and then finally, his own. And he eats another madeleine. "It's all right, though. It'll be okay. I'm sorry I got prickly over the school and my fosters, I was very rude and I hope you forgive me."
Nephrite 2017-05-10 01:49:55 76153
If Masato is offended at being served not only after what should be, technically, his subordinate, but also after his subordinate's son, he does not display it. In fact, the dip of his head upon receiving his own glass, in both hands, is quite deep, befitting someone who considers the one passing it his better. The message is clear: Sanjouin Masato, eccentric philanthropist billionaire, one of Tokyo's one percenters, views Chiba Mamoru as the highest authority in the room.

Nephrite takes a long sip of his whiskey and resumes leaning against Kazuo. He has not helped himself to risotto, but daydrinking on an empty stomach is just the sort of thing you're allowed to do when you're rich. "Now, if Kazuo has an interest in business, of course I would be more than happy to take him under my wing." There is a glint in his red-brown eyes when he glances down at the furniture on which he leans, and yet somehow he managed to say the words without a trace of laughter.

"I suspect, though, that maybe that's not really the problem here. You didn't come all the way down here and wade into--" he gestures around at the room at large, as though cookies and murals are particularly odd things to surround oneself with, "all this, just to fret about majors. You want to be sure that your son is alright. I imagine this isn't really what you envisioned for him. But on the other hand," Nephrite tilts his glass slightly, very nearly a toast, "at least he's here, alive, and with you."
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-10 02:34:50 76157
... one of the others who is not one of the two absurdly wealthy individuals in the room with him has enough money that he doesn't have to bother knowing what he owns.

Hiroshi does not openly reiterate his glance toward future alcohol, but he really doesn't have to.

"Pop music formulae," Kazuo does repeat, and tilts his head so that he can eye Masato sidelong while the man's still standing over him. "It's best for all concerned, I think, if I don't inquire as to whether you've been putting ideas in his head."

If a sudden Ninja Turtles-themed infectious viral hit manifests out of nowhere, though, Kazuo knows who he's blaming.

Hiroshi bows his head to Mamoru as well, when he's handed his glass -- and does not flinch from that moment of contact. (Kazuo's eyes narrow just a little, watching closely as if expecting some minor incident or small household disaster, but nothing untoward seems to come of it.) "There is nothing you have said or done that is in need of forgiveness," he answers Mamoru, "and anything that might by chance seem to be is of course forgiven. And I apologize again for anything I may have said that seemed in any way disrespectful of your guardians' memory. Looking into things at the time may have misled me, perhaps."

He does not, however, take a drink until after the eccentric philanthropist billionaire -- and that would be a one percenter of the one percent, really -- has set the etiquette for the evening. Which he does and then immediately causes Hiroshi's eyebrows to rise involuntarily, simultaneously skeptical and speculative.

Kazuo behaves himself, between guest and fox-guest, and does not attempt to land an elbow anywhere on Nephrite's person. "That seems a tremendously inefficient route," he says mildly instead to the under-wing comment. "Not, of course, that I doubt your ability as a mentor." (See also: Gullwing Coffee, most recently.) "But we have sufficient redundancy already; the matter seems best to leave to its own specialists." As opposed to those whose most effective business skills probably involve scaring outside auditors into doing sloppy jobs. That tack always winds up self-defeating in the long term.

Then Masato makes his wider gesture, and Hiroshi averts his eyes for a moment, as if wanting to be sure his son were all right were itself something embarrassing to be caught doing. Kazuo glances away in unison with his father, adopting that little frown again. Mirror images in awkward.

"That is true," Hiroshi says after a moment. "And more than was true a year ago. If I have been -- concerned about his status and reputation, and future prospects -- I hope you will find that understandable, even if it has proved unnecessary."
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-10 03:00:34 76158
Yeah-- and a little more than a year ago, it was even more more than was true, but Mamoru doesn't think it necessary to go into the ghost rock business again. 'Again'. And at least this kind of awkward-- well, it's a very common kind of awkward in Mamoru's experience, so it doesn't frustrate him further. He'll just take his seat again, thank you, and look significantly more relaxed as he does so. Thank god for Nephrite and Makoto, really. Again.

He takes a sip of his own whiskey and lets it burn sweetly in his mouth for a moment before cupping it in both hands and sitting back. (There was a glance at Neph at the 'with you', but nothing said; things will happen when they can.) "You are, of course, forgiven as well; there are so many aspects of all of that that you had no way of knowing," he says easily, much more easily than before. All hints of the regal and imposing have once again vanished beneath a distinctly collegiate mixture of reserve and easygoing reasonably good cheer.

Another sip, and then Mamoru smiles a little crookedly, amused and strangely affectionate. "It's more than understandable, sir. It's admirable-- especially now that I know that your concern was truly for his well-being; the private detective led us to believe that you were primarily concerned over Kazuo's impact on your reputation, of all things! But family is so important--"

Under the bus. Yes. Sometimes Mamoru does hold grudges.

"--I like to imagine, sometimes, that if my own parents are alive somewhere, they are as concerned for me, and that I might someday be able to reassure them that I'm alive and well myself." There's a pause, and slowly, Mamoru turns to eye Sanjouin. "Dude are you going to eat some risotto? I literally made that. Kazuo only stirred for like ten minutes of the hour of stirring. I know it's not Mako-food, but I followed the recipe precisely and no one else seems to have a problem with it."

A beat, and then a quick, cheery grin at Hiroshi. "He and Makoto are dating. Sometimes I think that's the only reason she puts up with the rest of us."
Nephrite 2017-05-10 03:23:54 76159
Nephrite grins conspiratorially at Kazuo. Did he collaborate on Saburo's new project? He's not telling.

But he listens to Hiroshi's confession, his smile not unkind. He nods, though both related parties have made a point of looking away. "As long as we're all clear about why we're here. The rest of it, however weird and hard to believe, is just details."

A laugh--the kind of explosive laugh that Nephrite is capable of--at Mamoru's complaint, and Masato finally sits down. The time has passed, it seems, for charismatic businessmen to loom over the table. "How do you know I'm not just being polite? You know I'll eat all of it if it's not distributed first." Even while he's protesting, he's dishing himself a plate.

At Mamoru's additional information, he smiles fondly. "Did you tell him she made the cookies? I can taste it. Those cookies could save your life, you know."
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-10 03:44:53 76160
Hiroshi keeps polite pace with Mamoru and Masato, when it comes to the whiskey, neither strategically falling behind nor letting himself accumulate the chemical buffer between himself and reality that he would probably Really Like To Right Now. Kazuo, on the other hand ... Kazuo's priority there is keeping the fox from investigating it. Not so much that he'd worry she might try to drink it, just that her reaction to getting too close a smell would probably be less than amazing.

"He did mention that she had, yes," Hiroshi answers Nephrite, quickly enough. Cookies have got to be a safe conversational topic. "They are quite astonishing. The number of talents in your circle is extraordinary." The 'your' there is presumably plural. A moment's pause, and another sip of whiskey, and he glances Kazuo's direction --

Kazuo must pick it up out of the corner of his eye, because he's not looking Hiroshi's way. And he's very much not glaring at Mamoru for choosing that topic to invoke. "No," he says evenly, "there are no women I am currently courting. No, you do not want to ask for more detail. Yes, I am aware that I'm not getting any younger."

Hiroshi exhales. "No matter how well you're looking," he tells Kazuo, "you'll still be thirty in a few years. You really should consider these things while you have the time."

Pet the fox. Yes. Petting the fox. "I'm aware," Kazuo repeats, and perhaps Nephrite's right and it's the Mako-cookies that make him leave it at that.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-10 04:10:46 76161
Mamoru, god help him, looks startled. He glances at Hiroshi, eyes wide, when Kazuo preemptively puts his foot down-- and then instead of enjoying the rest of his tumbler of thoroughly delightful honey whiskey, he just downs it. Then he clears his throat and points out to Nephrite, "Kyouko got to it already, even. Definitely help yourself. Don't worry about setting any aside for Usako, it's not great reheated."

And then, so carefully not looking at Kazuo at all, Mamoru Helps. He leans over, ostensibly to pour himself another couple of fingers of whiskey (which he does), but also to take the opportunity to be Ambiguous Shipper On Deck. "Don't worry, sir, he's only not courting any women because his options are actually overwhelming, and there are, of course, politics to consider. Promoting jealousy in the wrong parties can lead to damaging rumours and devastating consequences."

Then he sits up and smiles winningly, lifting his glass in something resembling a toast. "But we have a specialist in diplomacy and social management, as well, so I'm certain things will be sorted in time."
Nephrite 2017-05-10 04:20:59 76162
Nephrite glances around the group--and actually has to stare in wonder for a moment at Mamoru. This is definitely not the place for his input. So instead he picks up the bottle of whiskey and pours--for Hiroshi first, then himself. "I recommend another cookie," he suggests to the elder of the group.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-10 04:31:35 76164
Options actually overwhelming. Hiroshi manages to pull himself back from the edge of openly looking disbelieving at Mamoru, but in the process he gets even closer to going over than he had been previously. He glances back at Kazuo instead; Kazuo has nulled out his expression even further, managing to be completely unhelpful in all directions.

Well. It has been six years or so. Maybe his son learned that dates happen in that time.

Hiroshi reaches over wordlessly and picks up another cookie at Masato's suggestion. "Perhaps someone might be willing to tell me something about our benefactor?" he asks. Presumably he means Makoto. It will be an orderly retreat to the last subject.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-10 04:39:35 76167
"--benefactor--?" asks Mamoru blankly, glass still held in midair for a second, and then he focuses on the madeleine in Hiroshi's hand. "Oh, Makoto? I joke that he's--" he cocks a thumb at Nephrite, "the only reason she puts up with us, but she's a very, very dear friend; she's a sister to me, and one of the very best and good-hearted people I know. But waxing poetic about her is definitely Masato's job."

He sets his whiskey down after sipping it again, then stands to start clearing away dishes and cups. And very carefully still not looking at Kazuo. And also the corner of his mouth twitches up a little, when he's turned in such a way that only Kazuo can see it.
Nephrite 2017-05-10 04:55:49 76169
Nephrite lights up, so much so that some of the corporate polish seems to fall away. Is this really the businessman whose name made a flurry of headlines last year, or is he more like the teens he keeps company with? "My girlfriend," he confirms. "She bakes things like this all the time. Not just the cookies--the honey she used in them, she infused with rose petals herself. She knows everything about flowers, too. Want to see a picture?"

Whether Hiroshi does or not, he's already got his phone out and is rapidly scrolling through the photos. He finds one from Valentine's Day, with Makoto framed by cherry blossoms. He makes a point of showing it around the table, even though Kazuo has no doubt seen it, and the fox likely does not care.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-10 05:17:36 76174
There had been conversation about Mamoru's friends outcompeting adults, earlier. It might not be entirely a surprise, then, that Masato Sanjouin (if it is Masato Sanjouin? but he's seen pictures, last year) might fall into that same blurry overlap.

Except of course that Hiroshi's capacity for surprise still needs some fuses replaced from Masato Sanjouin existing in the same room with him.

Kazuo observes, "She's been kind enough to teach me a little about some of her cooking techniques, as well," perhaps in the hope that it will get him out of polite picture-looking and suitable polite noises. It does not do so.

Hiroshi does not merely make polite noises; he studies the photograph with interest. Makoto's clear height, even seated, and her hair being worn up blur her age out of any question he might have. "She's a lovely girl," he agrees to Masato. "And clearly very skilled."

The pointed glance given to Kazuo is perhaps inevitable. The pointed disregard of it in favor of looking firmly at the view out the window is perhaps likewise. At least this round of that argument is a silent one.

Kazuo does, however, regard Mamoru for a moment after. "I apologize for being unable to help you with that at the moment, but I appear to be otherwise occupied." By an invading furball.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-10 05:32:17 76175
"Oh I hadn't seen that one, that's a great picture!" Mamoru tells Nephrite with full and enthusiastic honesty. He's actually half-tempted to take out his phone and start gushing about Usagi, but Hiroshi didn't ask, there's already a huge white elephant of a sore spot in the room right now which he doesn't want to sink Kazuo into any further, and his hands are full of dishes.

So instead, he takes the tray and gives Kunzite an affectionate smile. "You're kitsune-host. It's allowed." And then he turns to take the tray into the kitchen. He's not gone long, but while he is and the water's running, Nephrite's phone buzzes in his hand while he's flipping through pictures again.

    Mamoru TXT: lol ive never had a guest i didnt know how to end a visit with, help

When Mamoru comes back, he's holding a pastry box in a plastic takeaway bag from the closest good curry place; the box itself is fairly pretty, and tied with green ribbon. Given that Mako knows from presentation, the madeleines inside are probably arranged beautifully with little pieces of candy and possibly faux flowers interspersed. "So I don't forget," he tells Hiroshi, setting the bagged box down on the table next to the man's glass, "these are the madeleines Mako-chan boxed up for you to take home."
Nephrite 2017-05-10 05:49:19 76178
"She is, isn't she?" Nephrite gushes, disregarding that Hiroshi is probably merely being polite. He will brag about his girlfriend to anyone. It is fortunate that he is already grinning boyishly down at his phone when the text comes in. It masks the suppressed laughter well.

Mamoru presents the cookies, and Nephrite nods. "Next time," he adds, "you must meet her. We'll be sure to invite her. That is--I hope this is not the last we'll see of you." He raises his eyebrows pointedly at Hiroshi. "If we haven't yet scared you off."
Ayana Tasogare 2017-05-10 05:52:40 76180
Said invading furball seems to have fallen asleep in Kunzite's lap; or at the very least, she's pretending to sleep to prevent him from getting up. Still, there's a low rumble in her chest each time he strokes her fur; perhaps just an autonomic response to being pet. Either way, she doesn't look up for pictures, or seem inclined to let Kunzite get up to help work. Nope. His job is petting her, right now. Besides, it's good for him. He's clearly too stressed to worry about others right now.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-05-10 06:00:51 76183
That is the point at which Kazuo breaks, at least enough to give Nephrite a flash of an actually appalled expression. He manages to keep any variation on oh god no from actually being spoken, at least, especially since he already knows he's outnumbered on that front.

Hiroshi misses it, between the grave bow to Mamoru and the leaning down to consult the near-forgotten shopping bag. "It is growing late," he agrees, regardless of what the actual time is. "But while there is time -- this is an insignificant trifle, I'm afraid, but please accept it anyhow."

The box he removes from the shopping bag and offers to Mamoru is ornately wrapped in silks -- an outer layer of a pleasantly variegated lavender splashed with starlike geometric shapes in white; the knot that it's fastened with is fashioned to resemble an abstract flower, the 'petals' opening to show a pale yellow inner layer. Layered in symbolism that speaks of respect and good fortune and good cheer.

(That it also speaks of nobility -- royalty -- and Mamoru's magic is almost certainly coincidence, isn't it? Not to mention that Nephrite is here, and right there are the stars.)
Mamoru Chiba 2017-05-10 06:12:59 76186
It's an incredible effort Mamoru has to go to, accepting that gift, to avoid showing how floored he is by the packaging alone. Automatically, his hands come up to recieve it, and his eyes fall on it, and he stares for a second -- there's some complicated and deep flood of conflicting emotions behind his blue eyes for a second, including both incredibly moved gratitude and thickly humble appreciation, before he blinks it away.

"Thank you very much, Takeba-san. I hope that you feel welcome to visit again," he says with a quiet resonance and a strange quality of timelessness.

Beyond all of the awkwardness, beyond the frustrations, there is undeniably hope.

Maybe someday he can convince Kazuo that it's worth the effort.