A/N: Hi, this is a new story of mine. Please be kind and constructive criticism is always welcome :) Be sure to leave a review!
It was raining. Torrents of icy cold droplets slid down her smooth, pale skin and into her kimono collar. She was surrounded by a sea of black, just like herself. A Buddhist monk stood chanting in front of the twin graves before the group of mourners. The graves each had an incense pot filled with the burning sticks. Flower bouquets neatly adorned their sides in varying colors. She stared at the monk, too numb to do anything else. His bald head shone from the wetness and his sleeves blew in the cold wind.
She should have brought an umbrella.
The monk ended his mantra, wishing the dead safe afterlives in the hands of King Enma. "Tsukino Sayomi-san, as the only present direct relative, please pay respects."
She took this as her cue and stepped to the front with two lit incense sticks to bow three times. Eyes bored into her back, her head, everywhere. Placing one in each pot, she turned to the crowd. Some women were crying; their husbands held them tightly. Children looked around in mild confusion with their hands clasped in their parent's. Rows of black umbrellas and solemn eyes were directed to her.
And all she could see was their pity.
Little girl, all alone. How sad she is, a voice mimed in her head. She heard the whispers all around her whenever she stood in the crowd. Mommy and daddy are gone… Poor child.
She did not want to do this, to speak to any of these people. Her heart rate jumped. Taking a deep breath, she began.
"Thank you all for coming. My parents would be honored to have such faithful friends and family as all of you are," she gritted out. Forcing herself to stare each individual in the face, she continued, "Tsukino Corporations has flourished due to your hard work and dedication. If they could see all of this, they would have been happy. I… I wish you all good health and fortune. Please continue to be strong in your endeavors."
The monk took over, hands clasped in prayer. The ebony beads in his fingers clanked quietly. He bowed and walked silently by her to the edge of the cemetery. The group followed, families bowing to them as they passed to go back to their cars. Sayomi reciprocated until the last of the guests filed out and the monk left. The young woman was drenched to the bone and her hair had fallen from its strict bindings. Looking up at the sky, she was at a loss for what to do next. She just wanted to go home and sleep. Her memory of everything that had transpired would be erased with just a few blissful hours of peace and quiet…
"Sayomi-chan!" a voice called faintly. She could barely hear it over the din of the rain.
Her head snapped to the short figure running towards her through many puddles. A hand was raised over his head in a futile attempt to shield himself from the downpour. Maybe he forgot his umbrella too. As he neared her, she made out a neat mustache and short, salt-and-pepper hair.
It was her family lawyer, Isamu Makino. Sayomi had known him since she was a child. He was a portly middle-aged man approaching his fifties and like an uncle to her. His light brown eyes searched her up and down worriedly as his shoes splashed beside her. The man wore a black suit and tie for the occasion.
"Makino-san…" she trailed off. "Thank you for coming. Aren't you leaving now?"
"Ah, of course I would come—I arranged to pick you up in place of Kaidou-san. You must get out of the rain! You'll catch a cold if you stay out here any longer, young lady," he said in exasperation.
She smiled a bit sadly and nodded. "I apologize for worrying you. I have been… out of sorts lately."
"Yes… I am sorry for your loss." He licked his lips and took her gently by the arm and led her out. "I'll miss drinking with them. Your father had a liver of steel!"
She grinned weakly at his joke, a dull thud knocking at her cranium. The adrenaline had worn off. It would be a miracle if she did not get ill by tomorrow. At least I would be able to stay in bed. Sighing, she amiably patted the older man's forearm. They reached his slick Lexus where Makino helped her into the passenger's side before taking residence in the driver's. He pretended to chide the young woman once he started the ignition. "Oh, you've gotten everything wet. Now I have to go to the cleaners."
Sayomi blushed and shifted her sight to the sopping leather seats. Admittedly, it was her fault and she tried to feel happy that he cared enough to lift her spirits. But… it was too soon for that. She could not bear the thought of happiness when Mother and Father had passed so suddenly. It made her feel a little better though, as always when Makino-san comforted her. He had been there for her more often than her own parents. He would come to visit when they were working for no other reason than to check on her.
"You must be extremely tired. Let's get you home now and then tomorrow we must talk." He began to maneuver through the busy streets of Sapporo. He reached into the back seat and handed a towel to her.
"Of what?" She dabbed her face and hair, sliding the towel around the back of her neck.
"…Your inheritance. It involves your older brother."
He spoke again after a few minutes. "I assume all your servants are at home?"
"Yes, they paid respects yesterday," she said blandly. Her hands fiddled with the limp cloth.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. She stared at the dark scenery the whole way there. Makino left her to her own thoughts. The lawyer had always understood her very well. Soon, they drove up to her parent's luxurious home secluded in the hills and met her driver, Ren Kaidou, who was armed with an umbrella. The handsome raven-haired man opened the car door for Sayomi, gesturing to the main entrance smoothly. It was made of cloudy glass and ingrained with fine golden strands that curled in vine patterns from the creamy white door frame. The whole house was a slightly darker off-white color in the form of a modern Western model. Beige roofing tiles took to her sight, its tilt allowing rain drops to fall. It seemed as if the home was crying for its lost masters. Dotted on its walls were curtained windows. A circular balcony jutted out from the center room on the second floor, supported by elegant columns all around. Needless to say, a gloomy air circled the place morosely…
She exchanged a grateful goodbye with Makino for the ride and made a beeline for the warmth of the home huddled by the servant. Watching his car take off, she kicked off her shoes and went inside. Ren exchanged the umbrella for a fluffy towel from the supply closet near the stairs, then shook the water off of his black uniform. His eyes met hers in a scrutinizing gaze before he wrapped her in it. That searching look left her chilled and slightly confused; she hardly knew the man.
"Stay warm, Ojou-sama*," he said.
"Thank you…" she replied softly.
"It is my duty."
She must look ridiculous, standing there dripping water all over the marble floors. Dripping… Flushing, she stared at the growing puddle under her feet in mortification for the servants.
"I'll call someone to clean it. Please go to your room, I was informed there is a bath waiting for you there." He tipped his hat and stalked off.
What a strange man. He was rather kind, though. It was her duty to get to know the servants, so she made a mental note to speak to him more. She shook her head and started up the twin staircases spiraling around a shining crystal chandelier to the spacious second floor. Her room was second on the left.
Slowly, she walked into her sanctuary, clicking the door shut. The slight ache from earlier evolved into a full grown migraine, conjuring images of the funeral. The faces were different, yet all the same in the crowd. She was tired. More so sick and tired of remembering the looks people gave her. She did not want pity, or even sympathy for that matter. Selfish as it sounded, she just wanted everyone to disappear. The girl walked through her main living area and threw all the towels down by her four poster bed in the small bedroom behind it. A desk with a large computer atop it that she got for her 20th birthday winked mockingly at her. It had been the last time she had seen her parents.
She bit her lip, tears coming into view. All she could do was rip herself away from the sight. I won't cry. I won't cry. Sayomi roughly pulled her closet doors open, selecting her clothes with a choked sob. Her feet stomped through the plush carpet to the cold marble of the bathroom adjacent to her bedroom. She flung the clothes onto the counter and started stripping her kimono off. I'm stronger than this.
The warmth of the bath did nothing to help. She still shivered all over. She scrubbed her hair and half-heartedly cleansed her body before stepping out and drying. Clothes on, the girl escaped to the warmth of her bedspread.
Hugging her knees to her chest, Sayomi tried desperately to clear her mind. She whimpered in pain from the pounding in her head. Nothing had gone right today. Shakily, she took a quick glance around her bedroom, landing on the white monstrosity living on her desk. The computer screen leered like an angel of death. It silently dared her to keep her normal manner. It dared her to ignore everything Mother and Father had done for her. To stuff it all in a tiny box and ship it to the past where all of her disappointments lay. The joy, the difficulties, all her experiences with them. She was bleeding her heart dry, breaking her resolve with each passing moment. Until she snapped.
"It's just not FAIR!" she screamed into a pillow, cries muffled.
And they fell.
The tears poured down her white cheeks. She cried about everything and nothing. About the pain she had kept inside for so long at the funeral. She cried about being in charge of the home. Bitterness welled up inside. All she wanted was a normal life to be with those she loved. Life isn't fair. It never will be.
Sleep did not come quickly enough.
*Ojou-sama literally means "esteemed young mistress."