CHAPTER 1–The Return of Amaterasu Nakamura
"What?" the loud shriek of a young woman escaped the Admissions Head Office and was heard throughout the school halls. The head officer drinking his coffee casually choked on the hot coffee and poured the liquid inside his mug all over his shirt. "What do you mean by I can't get accepted?"
He stared at the young woman with wide eyes of shock and of pain. It was only at that point did he examine seriously the features of the lady.
The young woman didn't look the slightest bit as Japanese at all. Her beauty was quite unique but it was in the form of a slightly dark shaded skin. Her hair was short, only reaching the back of her neck, with a pixie-like style in it. She wasn't really tall but her posture expressed authority and confidence, as if she's one of those who doesn't back down unless she gets what she wants. The clothes she wore were the kind worn by the upper class teenagers. All were signature designs.
The officer coughed and then began to explain, "In order to enter this university, you must have a K-12 education. You only have K-10. Not only this, you are only seventeen years of age and your enrollment application is already two months late. This is not just any school, Miss. You should've enrolled earlier."
"That's just unacceptable," the girl folded her arms and raised her head up as he stared him down.
The head admissions officer felt a little intimidated. And he didn't linger much on the physical appearance anymore. It was only this time when he looked at the profile of the applicant seriously. As always the very first thing that attracts the eyes of a reader is the name.
Name: Ruiz, Andrea Nakamura
Japanese name: Nakamura Amaterasu
Nationality: Filipino-Japanese citizen
School Graduated From: Renaissance International High School
"You're Japanese?" the head officer finally decided to ask the question that has always been running inside his mind.
The young woman, Andrea Ruiz sighed deeply and muttered, "Unfortunately."
But he luckily didn't catch her response so she rephrased what she said, "Barely. My mother's half Japanese."
"Can you speak Japanese?" the head officer inquired once again. The girl responded with a snigger, "Badly. My grandfather paid a linguist to teach me. Never took it seriously."
"Your grandfather?" he queried.
The girl rolled her eyes. Clearly he didn't know who she was."You probably know him. His name is Takeru Nakamura."
Takeru is the head of the Nakamura Family, the keeper of Japanese tradition and culture in Japan and also the owner of the Nakamura High School and University. His father, Nakamura Takeshi founded the Nakamura Schools.
"Master Takeru Nakamura?" the head officer exclaimed this time. "Nobody told us that his granddaughter would be entering our school!"
"He didn't say so because I didn't tell him," she explained.
This time, his eyebrows furrowed in suspicion, finally standing up to his authority, "There is no certainty that you are his granddaughter. For all we know, you are lying. You don't even look Japanese."
Andrea Ruiz just smiled and shook her head. "That's great. You're not so gullible after all."
"Are you making a fool of this school, Miss?" the admissions officer finally had a voice a notch higher. "Pretending to be the president's granddaughter is an old trick to get in this school!"
"I know that. It seemed very likely to happen. Too bad it didn't work, though." The girl spoke relaxed as if making a fool out of the officer.
"You are now denied consideration for entering this school permanently," he was already flaring up with anger that was difficult to control.
"You won't back down on your word?" she dared him.
"I certainly won't!" he sounded very adamant with what he said.
Andrea Ruiz smiled again in derision. She didn't have the chance to respond because somebody else began to speak. It was not the head admissions officer.
"That's just too bad then," a male voice spoke in Japanese language. Both the girl and the officer turned their heads towards the door. Both of them stared in surprise.
"Young Master!" the head admissions officer exclaimed again and bowed in respect. "We were not informed that you will be visiting the university."
The conversation was in Japanese. Although Andrea claimed to not speak well in their language, she has the capability to comprehend daily conversations.
The Young Master was only leaning by the door, with his arms folded, looking at the officer indifferently. "Now you know." The officer was supposed to answer but before he could, the Young Master started talking again. "But Ando-san, it seems that you don't know much about anything important these days."
"I shall correct everything I am in lax, sir." He apologized, bowing down his head for the second time.
This was when Young Master Matsumoto Shin turned his look towards the official with serious eyes. He spoke, "So important that it could cost you your job."
"I apologize, sir," the head officer bowed for the third time. Andrea Nakamura was secretly annoyed with this kind of situations of humiliation. The idea of making an older person bow down to a younger person irritates her.
"Do you have the slightest idea who this girl is?" the young master asked.
The head officer shook his head nervously. He explained, "I'm sorry, sir. But there's no need to wonder who this woman is. She claims that she is Master Nakamura's granddaughter."
"Andrea Ruiz is a true granddaughter of Master Nakamura. What right do you have to verbally harass her in her own school?" Shin lectured him. His eyes widened once again and apologized to the young master again, "I'm sorry, sir. I honestly didn't know. Forgive me for my ignorance."
Then, the official turned to Andrea to apologize. Before he could even bow down and say something, she already interjected him, "Don't bow. I'm not a god. You're ignorance has been forgiven."
The head officer was taken aback by what she said but was grateful still. "Thank you, Miss Ruiz."
"I would've fired you at this moment if I was her," the young master spoke once again and fear was evident in the admissions officer's eyes.
"Shin!" Andrea reacted. Turning to Mr. Ando, she spoke, "Instead of firing you, do something useful for my benefit, Mr. Ando."
Mr. Ando smiled awkwardly and responded, "Oh, yes, your denied application in this university has been accepted. But you have to finish two years of high school first, Miss Ruiz. I wish the university could accept you freely but Master Nakamura does not agree in underhand enrollments of the Nakamura Family. You have to enter the university the right way. That is the way of the Nakamura family."
Shin nodded in agreement, "He's right, Andy. The Nakamura family always goes by the rules."
Rules that suck.Andy, Andrea's nickname, thought to herself but then she suddenly smiled slyly and agreed, "Fine, we go by the Nakamura rules this time."
"That's great, Miss Ruiz," Mr. Ando said happily. "I shall refer you and send your files directly to Nakamura High School."
"Thank you for your help, Mr. Ando," Andy said truthfully. She shook the head officer's hand and continued speaking, "But I think it is best not to send my files there just yet. I'll do that myself."
Mr. Ando nodded. "Then I'll just inform them that you will be coming."
Andy shook her head and replied, "There will be no need for that. You will not do such a thing, understood?"
"Yes, Miss Ruiz," he agreed eagerly.
Andy smiled, satisfied. She walked towards the door, followed by Young Master Shin. Before she stepped out of it, she turned to him again. "And, Mr. Ando?"
"Yes, Miss Ruiz?" he answered.
"Don't tell anyone that I came here," she told him. He nodded. She added, "Including my grandfather. It would be such as a shame if you'd lose your job just because of this incident, right?"
Mr. Ando just nodded nervously again. Andy and Shin walked out the door.
While walking, Shin pulled her back and asked, "So you're really following the rules this time?"
She smiled wickedly, "Let's just say I'm not breaking any rules this time."
Shin eyed her suspiciously, knowing she was up to something. "Really?"
"If I can't break the rules, I will just bend it to my advantage," were the last words that Andy said before she started walking again, far away from Nakamura University.
"So you're going back to high school?" he queried, still suspicious.
Andy rolled her eyes and looked incredulously at him. "Hell, no! There's no way I'm going back to high school."
Shin's eyebrow's furrowed. "You lost me."
"You know, the situation would've been handled better if you didn't arrive and interfere," Andy finally spoke while they were inside the car. She was sitting beside Shin who was busy with reading a book.
Shin just shrugged as he flipped a page in the book he was reading. "It's not entirely my fault, Andy."
"Yeah, maybe you're right," she hastily agreed. "I mean, I never told you I was coming here. So somebody else must have said something."
"Your mother," responded casually, still focusing on the book he was reading. This somehow annoyed Andy. She always wanted people to have their full attention on her when she's talking. So, she grabbed the book and threw it out the window.
"I was just getting to the good part!" Shin complained. But Andy just glared at him and he sighed in surrender. "You should replace it though."
Andy just laughed sarcastically at him before she replied, "I bought it for you, dumb-ass."
"I know. Third grade on my ninth birthday," he answered her. "But still, it's been mine for eight years. Even if you bought it, I own it. So replace it."
Andy just crossed her arms again, defeated. "Whatever." She remained silent for a few seconds. When Shin realized that she wasn't going to speak. He spoke to alleviate her anger, "Your mother called me the moment you left your house. She wanted me to take care of you while you are here. As a gentleman, I was obliged to agree to her request."
"Why on earth is she trying to revive the sparks that never existed in the first place?" Andy complained. She hated the fact that her mother would decide things like this without her knowledge. She always knew that Shin had the approval of her parents but sometimes, her mother's attempts have gone too far. She joked half-heartedly, "Seriously, Shin. I think my mother wants to adopt you as her son."
"No," he disagreed. "She wants me to marry you so I can be her son."
"Don't even go that far," she warned him with her left index finger pointing at him knowingly. "I swear. If she keeps on doing this, I won't ever want to get married."
"You know," he replied with a hint of mischief. "You wouldn't be having this problem now if you just continued dating me back then."
"We never would've broken up if you didn't ask me to marry you," she spat back at him. "I mean, we were fifteen, Shin. You don't ask those kinds of questions during puberty."
"You broke up with me," he calmly said.
"What?" she asked him, not entirely sure where he was getting at.
"You broke up with me. I didn't break up with you," he explained. He started to sound more serious than he did before. And, Andy was afraid when things got serious with Shin. "So technically, you ended your relationship with me but it doesn't mean I ended my relationship with you."
Andy sighed. She didn't want to go down that road again. "But in case you forgot, Shin, our relationship was one of convenience. I dated you and you dated me to avoid getting paired up with people we don't know."
"But it doesn't mean I didn't love you," he retorted back. His voice was calm. It expressed no demand, no complaint. It was merely saying the truth. And for Shin, that truth hurt him a lot.
Andy shook her head to disagree. "If that were true, then, why didn't you force me into marriage? You could've done that easily. You could've just told my grandfather you wanted to."
"Because I know you wouldn't want that," he replied with abruptly. "I want you to be happy, Andy. If you wanted to marry me, that would've been awesome. But since you didn't, I will never force it on you because I don't want you to get hurt."
"You care for me too much, Shin," she sincerely replied with a smile on her face. "If you told me those things back then, I might have just considered marrying you."
"Then, I guess that's your lost then." He grinned, staring deep into Andy's eyes. Then, he looked away as he replied, "Now, I'm just the best you never had." And Andy sniggered to that statement but stopped when he continued, saying, "Yet."
Andy slapped the back of Shin's neck. He winced in pain but Andy whispered to his ear, "Don't get too cocky now. I just praised you a bit and your head is already in the air!"
Shin just looked down, feigning to be hurt. Slowly, a grin appeared on Andy's annoyed face and nudged Shin on his side. Shin looked back up to her with a wide smile. Knowing that they've reached an understanding, they laughed hysterically.
When the laughing finally subsided, Andy said to him, "I missed you. A lot."
He pulled Andy into a hug. "Now, that's the greatest news I've ever heard this year," he told her as he held her tighter.
Shin noticed that the car had already stopped so he pulled away from the embrace. Looking into Andy's eyes he greeted her, "Welcome home, Amaterasu."
Andy and Shin alighted from the car. In front of them was the Nakamura Household. And in Andy's eyes, nothing's changed. Every little thing about the place was the same. And for this thought, Andy breathed in deeply.
Indeed, Amaterasu was home again. But Andy hadn't been Amaterasu for a very, very, very long time. And she knew in her heart and her mind - this was not home.
"She's dying, isn't she?" Andy asked the doctor. It was meant to be rhetorical. She knew that this did not need any answer because this was already the inevitable truth. But still, when she heard from the doctor spoke of a confirmation of that fact, it still tore her to pieces.
"Madame Nakamura has only two years to live at most," the doctor spoke with his head down, out of shame and sorrow. And once Andy heard it, she dug her face into Shin's chest and cried silently.
Seeing her grandmother in such a state - bed-ridden, weak, dying, and lonely, she wondered how her grandmother held on for so long. She wondered, who was taking care of her? Who accompanied her as she struggled with the sickness eating up her body? Sure, there were doctors, nurses, and maids to fend for her. But, who was close enough to her to actually sincerely care as a love one?
After a few minutes of tears, she had finally calmed down and regained her composure. Now pulling away from the tight embrace of Shin, she turned her attention again to the doctor, still staring at the floor all the time she was in tears. She asked the second time, "What does my grandfather say about this?"
"When we have informed him about the condition of the Madame, he instructed us to keep her as comfortable as possible until the time of her passing comes," he said, with pauses and some stutters.
"That's it? That's all he said about this?" Andy took a step closer towards the doctor, and a pitch a higher when she reacted. The doctor stepped back, head facing further down at the floor. With the doctor showing no indication of replying, Andy pressed on, "Does he even visit my grandmother at all?"
The doctor didn't have to offer any response at all. Shin's sudden fidgeting gave everything away. Her assumption was indeed true. Her grandfather didn't even bother to check on her grandfather. He was practically living around the same compound. This angered her very greatly.
"I really can't believe myself!" her voice was controlled in volume, but the hint of being a nag was still very evident. "Why am I still so surprised? I should've expected nothing else from him but to do something like this."
Shin gently grasped Andy's shoulder but she shrugged it off as she put off her anger to the doctor. "First, he secludes my grandmother to the farthest house in this ridiculously temple-like palace. Second, he lets my grandmother be maltreated in this pathetic household just because she is a disgracefulconcubine of his. Now, my grandmother is actually dying and he doesn't even have the slightest decency to show that he might actually care for her?"
The doctor didn't catch on with everything that Andy said in English. All he was certain of was that Andy was sure as hell angry for some reason. Shin, knowing that the poor doctor was being scolded for something that he has nothing to do with, decided to dismiss him.
"You may go now, Mr. Tegoshi," Shin instructed the doctor in Japanese, who in turn, nodded eagerly, bowed down his head, and left swiftly.
Andy was already hyperventilating. She was naturally a strong woman. She never lost control and always found a way out of everything with a snap of her fingers. But when it came to the people that she truly loved and cared about, she easily became vulnerable. What she didn't know was that when she felt like she was falling apart, someone's world was crashing down with it. And that world was no other than Shin's.
Shin pulled Andy in a much tighter embrace and she automatically gave in. It was as if her entire weight depended on the strength of the arms that were holding her, the arms of Shin. He kissed her hair and hushed her, "Please, Andy, calm down. I hate seeing you this way. Being angry at your family will not make things better for your grandmother. What more good would it do if you say or do anything against them? All that you can do is to be there for your grandmother until her time comes."
"And I actually hated the fact that my mother forced me into coming here," she gently spoke. "I'm such a hypocrite. I'm exactly the same as that old man."
"That is not true, Andy," he countered. "If you are, you wouldn't be here feeling the way you feel now."
Andy pulled away from the embrace again. This time, she stared into Shin's eyes and nodded to say that she understood what he meant. She approached the bed where her grandmother was peacefully sleeping on. She on the chair beside it and grabbed her grandmother's right hand.
Clasping her grandmother's hand with both of her hands, she kissed it and gently spoke to her grandmother in their native tongue, "Lola Alice, huwag mo muna kami iiwan, ha? Pagbigyan mo naman ako kahit mga ilang taon pa. Nandito lang ako, lola. Kung pwede lang sana mailayo kita dito pero hindi pwede, eh. Alam ko hindi ka papayag. Magpalakas po kayo."("Grandma Alice, please, don't leave us yet, okay? Just give me a few more years. I'll be right here, grandma. If only I could take you away from this place, I would. But it can't be done. I know you won't allow it. Please, get better.")
Her grandmother gave no form of response. Brushing away the hurt of not receiving acknowledgment from her grandmother, who was still in an induced sleep, she hugged her grandmother for a few more minutes. Afterwards, she stood up and headed out of the door. Closely behind, Shin followed her.
Once they have left the House of the Second Concubine, Andy was surprised to see that half a dozen lady's maids where standing in front of her, with their heads bowing down to her. The head maid which was standing at the center of the group of ladies, respectfully strode towards Andy and spoke, "Young Miss Amaterasu, Master Nakamura and the elders would like to see you now."
Andy flashed a fake smile at them and replied, "Well, you can tell them this specifically: I DON'T WANT TO SEE THEM NOW!"
Andy found it ludicrous that some people, just because they were traditional Japanese costumes, have the right to call her at any time they desire to just because some primitive law says they can.
The maids' eyes widened in shock. No one in the palace dared to speak that way about the elders. The head maid spoke again, fearful, "But, the elders will not be pleased if you do not arrive to pay respects, Young Miss."
"That's fine. I'm not pleased with them either. You can tell them that, too," Andy retorted. "In fact, why don't you tell them that they could kiss my sexy –"
"She'll be there!" Shin cut her off before she had the chance to finish the sentence. He had his hands covering Andy's mouth. Andy protested, still kept talking but the words were incoherent. When the maids finally left, he let her go.
"I am not going to meet those pretentious bastards!" Andy contested at Shin.
"If you don't meet them, they have the right to prevent you from seeing your grandmother," Shin stated casually.
"They can do that?" Andy asked him, astonished. Shin only replied with a nod.
"Fine," she finally agreed. "But I will certainly not wear a silly kimono with a heavy headdress. 'Cause if you force me to, I'd rather you kill me instead."
"I cannot believe you're making me do this," she told Shin, who was standing beside her, grumpily.
Andy was wearing a black-silk kimono. Her head accessories mostly had carved butterfly designs. She thought that it was weird to have her wear fake hair just so she fit the standards of the traditional Japanese look. But all in all, she thought she looked awesome but lame at the same time.
"You look traditional, if I may say so, Lady Amaterasu," he joked. Andy's response to his attempt to make a humorous conversation was a nudge to his side. He cringed in pain.
"Master Nakamura, the Lady Amaterasu with Young Master Shin has arrived and she would like to request an audience with you," the head maid announced.
"Remember, Shin," Andy reminded Shin, who was still grunting because of what she did to him. "Always look pleasant. You don't want to disappoint the elders, right?"
Shin just glared at him. He suddenly stood up straight, still in pain, when a voice behind the door replied to the maid, "Let them in."
Once the door opened, Andy saw a group of old men sitting in two separate columns. But there was one old man who sat in the farthest at the center. He stood out among all of them. And he was the only one that Andy recognized very well.
Shin knelt down and pulled a nonchalant Andy along with him. He whispered, "Bow."
They did bow to pay their proper respects to all of the elders. Once they finished doing so, it was only then that Andy noticed the presence of the other two people in her life that she despised the most: Ayaka Nakamura, her deceitful aunt, and Inoue Nakamura, her ambitious cousin. She wasn't glad to see them but she was pleased to know that they weren't happy to see her either.
"Welcome back, Amaterasu," her grandfather greeted her with an emotionless tone and an expressionless face. "Did you get to travel safely?"
His grandfather spoke in English. He knew Andy's worst weakness was speaking the Japanese language. Everybody else inside the room already knew this as well. She was after all, taking Japanese Linguistics as a child but they watched her not wanting to learn anything from it.
"Yes, grandfather," she replied verbally but in her mind she added, "Because if I didn't travel safely, then, I wouldn't be here at all, right? God! What kind of question is that?"
"Have you visited the second concubine, Amaterasu?" another old man in kimono asked him.
"Yes, I have," her reply to him short. She didn't like the fact that her grandmother was being labeled as the second concubine and not as who she really was – Arisu Nakamura, her grandmother.
"I heard her condition is not doing well," another old man spoke. Everybody turned his attention to him. He continued, "Many of the obligations are left unattended by your grandmother and by the others because the people are focused on her condition."
Andy's fists were clenched, trying to control her urge to snap at all of them. Somehow she had to figure out a way to insult them subtly without being accused of being disrespectful. And with this, she was very good at. She feigned a smile and apologized, "I apologize to all of you since my dying grandmother has become such aburdento everyone in here." She even bowed down to add effect. "I am deeply sorry."
Some of the elders turned their attention to something else. Some fidgeted and coughed awkwardly. She knew that the effect that she expected happened for everyone, everyone except for her grandfather who remained unaffected.
She decided to continue rubbing salt to the wound she was giving everyone. She feigned a weak and hurt smile and continued to speak, "Don't worry. Once the time of her passing comes, I'm sure everything will be back the way it was."
"What are you implying, Amaterasu?" her aunt, Ayaka, reacted viciously.
"I imply nothing, Auntie," she innocently replied.
Ayaka scoffed in disbelief. "Don't act so innocently, child. You're implying that we, the elders and our family, are heartless people who does not care for your grandmother! That's preposterous!"
"Why, dear Auntie, I never said such a thing! How could you have possibly draw from that conclusion?" Andy responded with a trick question. "It has been said that meanings of things have different interpretations according to the kind of person who defines it. You saw nothing but ill will in what I said. Maybe ill will is what defines you, then," she continued. This time, she wasn't trying to look pleasing to the eyes of the elders anymore.
"You little brat! You come here just for the purpose of insulting us! After all what this family has done for your bastard fam –" Amaya's nagging was cut off by Andy's grandfather. He simply said, "Enough!"
"Amaya, I did not give you authorization to speak for the elders and for this family!" he scolded her daughter who just sank deeper to her seat in humiliation. He then turned his attention to Andy, who was looking away with an angry expression. He spoke to her, "We had the best doctors in Japan to see her condition and cure her. We've given her the best care possible with the nurses and hand maids at her disposal. We've done everything we possibly could. But, it seems this is not enough for you."
"Not everything," Andy replied, emphasizing the shaking of her head. "Among those things that you have given her, you forgot to give two of the most important things a dying person needs – love and respect."
The room erupted with whispers among the elders. Andy didn't care if they weren't pleased with her actions anymore. She didn't care if Shin's hand was already holding hers tightly just to remind her to relax. She wanted to say what was needed to say. So she continued, "Unless you give her those two things, everything that you gave her – the best doctors and nurses, she was from the start, as good as dead."
Then, there was silence. No one spoke. No one flinched.
"Then, your grandmother will be more unfortunate," her grandfather finally spoke. Andy was puzzled by what he said. She only understood when he continued. "Because the one thing that can give her those two things that you claim she needs won't be allowed to be around to give it."
"What?" Andy reacted, with her eyes widened. She was getting kicked out of the palace. This she was very certain of.
"For your unbecoming behavior towards me and in front of the elders, you are hereby banished from living in this palace indefinitely. This means you are only given every once a week to enter the palace and visit your grandmother," Takeru explained further.
Knowing that this was already a closed issue, she just queried, "Until when is "indefinitely"?"
"Until you have learned the true meaning of love and respect, which you so greatly preach us about," he answered.
Andy's jaw tightened. She rolled her eyes. Looking furiously at her grandfather, she said, "Then, that means I can never come back because I won't learn its meaning until you discover it for yourself."
With that, she stood up and walked out of the room. Closely behind her again, Shin followed.
"Andy!" Shin called out to her. She stopped walking.
"Remember a few hours ago when I agreed not to be angry with this side of my family and not to say or do anything against them because I love my grandmother?" Andy asked him.
Shin responded with a nod that Andy could not have possibly seen. She turned her head to Shin and added, "I lied."
A/N: Hello, wonderful readers! Top Hat has officially reposted and I believe I'm going to start writing again. I've decided to continue on posting with once or twice a week of posting a chapter. I'm sorry for those who thought that I completely dropped the story. I almost did but due to the high demand of my friends and followers of this story, I decided to really push through with this.
To new and old readers, READ, ENJOY, and REVIEW! :P