Chapter Six

Empty

The Hannori siblings awoke to knocks at their apartment's front door. The knocks went on in a slow and steady rhythm until Mitsuki finally opened the door. Upon seeing who it was, she immediately hugged the visitor.

"Daddy!" Mitsuki exclaimed, as the man chuckled.

"How's my beautiful daughter?" Seiji Hannori asked. He was a tall man, with short and neatly combed charcoal gray hair and the same midnight blue eyes that Arata had inherited from him. He was lacking any of the usual accessories that Mitsuki was accustomed to seeing him in, but he wore an expensive-looking and well-fitted suit with boots that were starting to look worn out.

"I'm good." Mitsuki said, stepping aside to let Seiji inside the apartment, and closing the door behind him. "I suppose this means that you've heard the rumor."

Seiji strode over to the couch and sat down with a smirk, "Why would a rumor drag me all the way down here? Can't I just visit my children if I want to?" He asked. He looked around, "Where is your brother, anyway?"

"Here." Arata shuffled into the living room, still wearing the sweat pants that he'd slept in. "Nice to see you, dad." He sat across from his father in the large armchair, and Mitsuki sat on the arm.

"You could at least put a shirt on, Aniki." Mitsuki commented, tightening her robe around herself.

Arata leaned back with a groan, "It's the weekend...I also could have slept past eight."

"Be nice to each other." Seiji jokingly scolded. "Now, what's this I hear about my daughter getting a boyfriend? Does he have a name?"

"It's Ta-kun."

Seiji's eyes widened slightly and he leaned forward in interest. "So, your beloved Ta-kun finally becomes your beloved, eh? Good for him."

Seiji propped his feet on on the coffee table, causing Mitsuki to frown. "No good?" He asked.

"You might lose your feet, father." Mitsuki stated, deciding to walk over to the connected kitchen to prepare some tea. Seiji removed his feet from the table; he knew better than to go against his daughter.

"So... When are you two going on a date?" Was the next question that Seiji asked.

"Well, I won't have time until the dance..." Mitsuki sighed, opening the first tin of loose tea leaves to find it nearly empty. She picked up a larger round tin, which felt heavier. "Is Earl Grey alright?" Though she herself wasn't in the mood for the taste, she knew her father's preference was for it.

"Of course." Seiji grinned, "But whatever you prefer." Mitsuki considered this for a second, weighing the large tin in her hand. After a moment, she selected a third tin, instead. It was her apartment, after all. Well, hers with Arata.

"White tea, then."

"Fine." Now Seiji leaned back in his seat, seeming to copy his son's mannerisms. "The dance is a little ways off, isn't it? I'm worried that might be a long time for a boy to wait for the first date. I'm sure that he wouldn't say anything about it, though. I mean, Tadaaki is a good kid. -Excuse me, I meant to say that your dearest Ta-kun is."

Mitsuki glanced at her father wearily, "It is, isn't it? But I don't think there's much to be done about it. Headmaster Hiroaki already assigned the task of planning the dance to me. But I'm sure you know that." She put filtered water from the tap in the kettle, to be heated on the stove.

"Yes, I'm aware. You've been an honor student as long as you've been going to school. Of course you'd be the top student, again." Seiji rolled his eyes, "So if your grades ever fall, I'll know that something is wrong."

Mitsuki laughed, "Isn't it my job to notice these things?"

"For your classmates, yes. But I'm your father, I have to make sure that my favorite child is happy." Seiji stated, eying his daughter.

"Well," Mitsuki pulled the kettle off of the stove and poured it into the prepared teapot. "I'm very happy."

"Yeah? Well, you don't really look it." Seiji replied.

Mitsuki stiffened, "No? Then it seems that your senses need sharpening."

~~.~~

Tadaaki Haruto faced similar questions to Mitsuki, from his own parents. But the difference was that he had no idea how they found out about his new girlfriend.

"So, son. You're dating Mitsuki? I'm not surprised at your choice." Hiroyuki Haruto commented, pouring three cups of coffee.

Tadaaki sighed as he sipped his coffee, "That's nice..."

"Darling, good for you. I know that things were strained between the two of you a while ago. I'm glad that you finally got up the nerve to ask her out." His mother said, placing a plate of toast on the table. Tadaaki raised a brow. "What? The cook is on holiday, and you know that I have no talent in that area."

Tadaaki frowned, "Well, at least the toast is edible...I hope." He tentatively took a piece. "Any more questions?"

His father leaned forward, "Set a date yet?"

Tadaaki nearly choked on his toast, "What?"

"I think your dad was talking about your first date with Mitsuki. Do you have anything planned?" Airi Haruto shook her head at her husband.

"Oh. Well... Mitsuki will be pretty busy planning the dance and all, so-"

"Oh! The dance! You'll need a new suit for that!" Airi interrupted.

Tadaaki stared at his mother, "Mom, I have plenty of-"

"No." His mother cut him off again, "You'll need a new one. You actually have a date, this year." She told him.

Tadaaki's jaw nearly dropped, "I had a date last year..."

"Not a real one." Airi said, "You weren't dating that girl. Mitsuki, on the other hand... Oh, and you know how much she appreciates a well-dressed man."

"Well, yeah, but-"

"We're taking you shopping, young man." This time, it was his father that cut him off. Tadaaki groaned, but nodded.

~~.~~

Akiyo and Arashi Masahiro had no such problems. In fact, the kitchen table was more quiet and calm, than at the Hannori siblings' apartment, or the Harutos' household.

"Right then," Hibiki Masahiro cleared his throat, "Conversation. How was the first week of school?"

"First week of hell, you mean." Arashi growled.

Akiyo chuckled, "He means that it was rough... But not as much as he seems to think!" He poured himself some more milk, "Kiseki Sensei paid you some compliments at the auditions, at least."

"Um... Drama class, I'm guessing?" If the Masahiro brothers succeeded at anything, it was confusing their father.

"Yep. The new teacher does things a little more...creatively." Akiyo told his father, still seeming more cheerful than his brother.

"He's a nut-job, that's what he is!" Arashi snapped, "I mean, where would he could the idea that her haughtiness and I could ever-"

Hibiki coughed, cutting in. "Her haughtiness?" He repeated.

"Oh, he means Mitsuki Hannori. She does a speech every year, so you should remember her." Akiyo explained.

"Ah..." Hibiki nodded, "I know her father. I...wasn't found of her mother when I met her." He paused, "But why the nickname?"

"Because she's raving mad, that why." Arashi grumbled. "She's worse than any real queen."

"Now, son. Be nice to the Hannori girl. Her family name pulls a lot of weight in this world." Hibiki warned.

"I'm not the one that's the problem!"

Hibiki Masahiro sipped his drink, "Uh-huh."

~~.~~

At Rena's house, there were no parents to be seen at this hour, and this made her grin because that meant that she could sneak out of the house before her parents woke up and began nagging her about homework and other useless things. One of the maids eyed Rena as she headed towards the front door and shook her head, but did nothing to stop her from leaving.

~~.~~

Is it white tea, or is it not white tea? At one point, Seiji released his two children to get dressed in proper clothes, while sipping the sweet tea that his daughter so preferred. It tasted like peaches, but maybe he was imagining that. After all, Mitsuki said that his senses needed sharpening... Maybe this wasn't white tea at all? Seiji looked into the English teacup, swirling around his refreshment. It looked like white tea. But sight was a sense, too. So was smell. He could have sworn that Mitsuki had said "white tea", but maybe he misheard. After all, he knew that it was her favorite... Seiji frowned, "Damn."

"What's wrong, daddy?" Mitsuki asked, exiting her room in all black attire, including a fedora accented with a lace ribbon that matched her dress. Her voice sounded innocent enough, but Seiji knew that she was often plotting her worst when she was acting perfectly innocent.

"Oh, nothing." Seiji lied. Maybe she was really mad about him putting his feet on the coffee table...Maybe the tea was poisoned. Maybe he was in a coma...was this all just a dream?

"Daddy, why are you lying?" Mitsuki tilted her head, causing her hair to sway beneath her hat. Seiji stared at her, thinking about what a strange question that was. He wondered when it was that they'd last been an honest family.

"I'm not lying." Again, it wasn't the truth, and Mitsuki rolled her eyes at him. They both knew better than to believe the other. Seiji tentatively stroked the cup's handle, "The house is...quiet." He said.

Mitsuki glanced off to the side, away from where her father sat. "You always say that." She replied, with the same flat tone as the last dozen times she'd said it.

"Because its always true." Seiji sighed, replacing his cup on it's matching saucer on the table. "Why don't you come back home, Mitsuki? This was never meant to be permanent..." He had great control over his voice...Always. But the expression on his face was like that of a grieving man. "You two are all I really have."

Silence doesn't explain the lack of speech, nor the lack of breath, or that dull moment where you forget, just for a few seconds, to think. She felt her voice catch in the back of her throat, just like she could feel the last of her father's hope slip away from his fingers. He'd always comment on the house being empty, but after she replied, he'd make some sort of casual joke like it didn't really matter. He'd never come to the apartment, without his hat and gloves, and the long trench coat that dramatically swept the floor as he stalked out of the darkness, to really look at her. Without his usually get him, they could look each other in the eyes and really talk. But she couldn't look at those eyes she adored because she knew that she was hurting him either way.

"Daddy, is something wrong?" Her voice almost cracked, but even though it didn't, the question itself would give her away. Seiji paused, leaning forward to rest his arms on his knees.

"No. Everything is fine, sweetheart."

Mitsuki felt a chill at those familiar words. The last time he said them, things hadn't been particularly well. Not for anyone. "Daddy? I..." She closed her eyes and took a breath, "I'll move back if Aniki does, too."

~~.~~

Rena whistled a random theme song, swinging her bag as she walked through an almost average neighborhood. It was average only if you didn't count the random family compound in the middle of it against them. She'd just left that same compound with no small amount of disappointment as she was turned away.

Day Six...

I'm not ready for this... But I cannot put it off any longer. He is falling apart...The house must feel so empty to him.

Day Seven...

Aniki said he'd do it if I was ready... So I lied to him.