Reito leaned forward on the railing of his room's balcony, enjoying this momentary freedom from responsibility immensely. In his brief conversation with Suzushiro-san, he'd picked up on several signals that suggested that the master of the house agreed with him that a relationship between Reito and his daughter would be a disaster. Of course, they were probably coming at the issue from two completely opposite perspectives, but it was a relief to know that he had an ally in the enemy camp. He could relax and enjoy himself, now.
Perhaps he should seek out Tokiha-san. He'd found himself genuinely enjoying her company when they strolled through the festival together, and had gone well beyond the bounds of duty to try and ease her unspoken pain. She was a delightful young woman.
And stacked, too. (He was a well brought up young man, but still a guy underneath it all, after all.)
Before he could get up to go look for her, though, he heard the pad of footsteps behind him. and turned to see a tiny dark-haired head poking its way through the door to his balcony.
"Hello," he said, as though he wasn't being intruded upon. "It's Miinagi-san, isn't it?"
"Mikoto," she said quietly, avoiding looking directly at him. "Mai isn't here."
"No, she's not. I was just about to go looking for her, actually."
"I thought she might be," Mikoto continued as though he hadn't said anything. "She talks about you a lot."
"And when she's with me, she talks about you a lot," he told her. It was the truth. A bit of a disturbing truth, actually.
Now Mikoto reacted, lifting her head to look right at him. "Really?"
She sagged again. "But she's not here now." Before he could answer that observation, the small girl was fishing in the neck of the shirt she wore over her swimsuit, to pull out a tiny charm that she wore around her neck. "Do you know what this is?" she asked quietly.
He looked at it for a moment, and then spoke the absolute, unvarnished truth. "No. I'm sorry, but I don't know what that is."
"My aniue gave it to me," she told him then. "You, you look like him, a lot. I think so, anyway," she added, clearly uncertain.
"Well, I'm very sorry. I'm sure that anyone would be glad to have a little sister like you, but —"
"Ah, Miinagi-san," came a voice from the next balcony over. "It's a bit of a surprise to see you here." Shizuru had just come out onto that balcony, opening up a parasol as she did so.
"Madame President," Reito said politely. "Why so surprised?"
"Mister Vice President," she answered in the same manner. "It's just that I chanced to see Tokiha-san heading away from the manor, in company with my Natsuki, and I expected that you'd be hot on their trail by now."
"Eh?" Mikoto said, coming fully alert. "Mai and Natsuki are off having fun together? Without me?
" Before anyone could respond to that, she leapt off the balcony and dropped down to the grass below, dashing off the moment she hit the ground.
"How remarkably athletic," Shizuru observed a moment later.
"Do I detect a certain amount of jealousy?" Reito asked, faintly amused.
"Why, good grief, whatever are you implying, Mister Vice President?" Shizuru asked, with unfeigned shock. "I am certain that I have nothing to be jealous about. And I am certain that it should remain that way. It looks to be a pleasant evening, wouldn't you agree?"
"Yes, shut most of them down," Haruka said to the maid she'd appointed as the head of video surveillance. "Except for the one observing the room where we display the Van Gogh, and possibly the good grief what are those two doing
in the hot tub!"
"Well, I think the technical term is —"
"I don't care what the technical term is, shut it down shut it down shut it down! Agh, my tender maiden eyes!" she groaned as the feed cut out. "I can't believe those two desperates! To do such things when they're under the same roof as a teacher and —"
"C'mon, Midori-chaaan," the vaguely slurred voice came from the speaker, courtesy of one of the cameras that also had audio pick up. "You heard the big man, they're gonna shut down allll the surveilllance. Let's have some fun! I've never done it on a pool table, have you?"
"Yohko-chan, you're drunk! You don't know what you're doing! You're going to claim it was all a bad idea tomorrow! And yes, actually, I have, but, but, oh, please, stop kissing me, or, or, oh, fuck it."
"Shut that one off too!" Haruka snapped, hand over her eyes. "I should apologize to the delicates, they're clearly the victims of terrible role models. I'm glad that I have such a good —"
"Damn pushy wench! Worse than her mother ever was!" came a voice from another audio pick up. "Always with the bossy attitude, and the superiorority, and, and —"
"I really think Haruka-san is just trying to be a good daughter to you," a quiet voice replied.
"Um, do you want me to turn that one off, too?" the maid asked uneasily.
Haruka was no longer there to answer the question.
Yukino had been in more uncomfortable situations than this, but that was a poor pathetic comfort as she watched a respected business leader get more and more drunk as he sat alone in his office, chugging down cup after cup of fine sake, and complained about her best friend and partner.
"And the surveillance? How d'you justify something like that? what sort of mind comes up with that? I didn't raise no totalitarian kids!"
Since Haruka's upbringing had largely been in the hands of nannies after she turned nine, Yukino could only agree with the sentiment, if not the self-pity behind it. "I think she was really just very nervous about all these people in the house, sir," she told him, trying to sound as diffident as possible. It wasn't easy, since she actually had a very strong opinion on the subject. "And she wanted to make sure that nothing bad happened while she was in charge. That's what she always does, sir. She wants to make sure that nothing bad ever happens to anyone. She wants to protect the world and everyone in it."
Yukino abruptly fell silent as she realized that she was getting a bit too emotional, and could tell that she'd gone too far from the way that Mr. Suzushiro was also silent.
"You're a good girl, Yukino-chan," he told her at length.
"Not really," she said, faintly.
"No, no, you are. A very good girl. And you've gotten very, very pretty, too. Just like yer mother, really."
Yukino froze as he got up from behind the desk and shambled in her general direction. It was the worst thing she could have done, and she knew it. Running would have been the much wiser course of action —
But then he was pressing up against her, his lips on hers, and it was too late, too late to run, and —
The doors to the office slammed open, and Haruka stood there with an expression that she'd never seen there, not even when the voting results on the student council election had come in. "Yukino," she said, in a voice only a few decibels louder than Yukino's own normal speaking voice. "Please go to your room. Immediately."
Since he'd let go of her as soon as the door open, Yukino's first impulse was to do just that. But first, first she had to say something, "Haruka-san, I —"
Yukino left. It wasn't until the door to her room was firmly closed, and locked, that she started crying.
She hates me now. I know she hates me now. I love her more than anything, and she hates me now.
"That, that wazzn what it looked like," her father said as she came into the office and closed the doors behind her.
"I see," she said.
And a second later he was bent backwards across his desk, her hand closed around his throat to cut off the airway.
"If you ever, ever so much as lay a finger on her again," Haruka told her father, voice even and level, "I will kill you. Nod if you understand me."
He nodded, to the best of his ability.
"That's good," she said. "She looks just like her mother, you said. She doesn't look a thing like her mother's husband, does she. Why do you think that is, you lecherous son of a bitch?"
As the realization rose in his eyes, she let him breathe again, and stepped back to let him collapse on the floor.
"I am what I am," Haruka said at last. "I am what I am, despite