Woo! Was able to tighten up the rest of chapter 10 tonight, so let's get this sucker out of the way!
Akira on the left, Sayaka to the right, they kneel together on the mat, the first course of dinner assembled before them. As Sayaka had hoped, the early evening air is cool but pleasant, allowing them to indulge themselves with an outdoor meal in the well-kept little yard.
Her husband opens the new bottle of sake, a ginjo brew with the rather flamboyant name of Shashi na Shippō, “The Seven Extravagant Treasures”, and pours a little out into the two ceramic cups. They lift their cups, smiling, and Akira begins the toast. “To today, this most special of days… a gleaming white crossroads to lead us out of the swirling, dark abyss.” He laughs, apparently quite aware of how flowery he sounds, then directs his gaze intently upon Sayaka. “And to you, Sayaka… the one most precious to me, without whom I am nothing.”
It's at once both sweet and off-putting, but she supposes she'll have to take the morose with the uplifting for now. Raising her cup a nonce higher, she tips her head to him and says, “Kampai.” He echoes her, and they both take a sip. She's immediately struck by the rich and subtle flavor, very pleasantly layered. Sayaka sips again, savoring every moment of it. Afterward, she comments, “This was an excellent choice, Akira.”
“I'm glad you approve,” he says. “I've never had this particular variety before, but my last experience with the brewery's ginjo was a good one, so it seemed like a worthy gamble.”
They then set into their dishes, starting with the stew and rice. Akira digs into his deluxe-sized portions with the same famished bearing as before. If he keeps this up, his body's contours ought to soften for the better in no time at all. While she's always appreciated his tall, slender physique, she's never been quite comfortable with his bones showing.
They eat together in quiet for a time. A warmth of serenity gradually spreads from her bosom on outward, swallowing up all Sayaka's little worries. The ambiance is lovely. With the array of fall blooms spread out before them on either side of the main pathway, and the off-white of the cement wall closing everything in, it feels like they're in their own little nest of color where no one can disturb them. Not the intermittently passing car, not the calls of birds, not the distant sound of children playing. The pleasant calm here and now couldn't be more different from the uncomfortable deadlock of silence besetting them only an hour or so ago.
After her verbal faux pas, she couldn't bring herself to say anything to him, and a dour silence fell over the meal preparations that felt like they would destroy everything. But Sayaka's worries had been for nothing. Akira held nothing against her, and soon he set about lifting the mood back up. He flipped the record, turned the player back on — and started to sing along. It wasn't a repeat of his buffoonery from the morning, either: he was really flexing his diaphragm and putting all Sayaka's past tutoring into effect.
It was… nice. Of course, there is only so much one can compensate for a fundamental lack of ability, but Sayaka doesn't expect professional-grade singing from him. Something warm and heartfelt, that's more than enough — and he provided. She quickly felt herself loosen up, her own singing voice creep out line by line, a feeling of liberation taking her over. They entered an impromptu duet, and, there, she experienced an uncanny affirmation of their bond, what she can only describe as a resonance.
She wants to keep that feeling close and never forget it.
“What kinds of flowers are those?” Akira asks, gazing out over the yard with its patches of orange, white, pink, and yellow. His dishes are on the mat, already scraped clean.
Sayaka takes a moment to finish chewing, then replies, “Chrysanthemums. Lovely, aren't they?”
“Very,” he says. “I love the way you've distributed the colors. It's like you've painted a picture with petals.” Scratching the back of his head, he adds, “That probably sounds corny, but I'm not sure how else to describe it.”
Sayaka's face flushes slightly. “Much obliged. Though, I'm afraid I can't take all the credit.”
“Oh?” Akira utters. “Well, I guess it would be quite a feat if you did all this on your own. Who's your helper? Misato?”
“Here and there,” she says. “Mostly it's Eri, though. She's a much better gardener than me, so she at least helps me with the big things. Why… are you interested?” Sayaka winks.
Akira smiles awkwardly. “I can't guarantee I won't kill everything I touch, but… that could be nice. Working with the earth, making something grow…” He looks thoughtfully at his hands — so pale, soft, clean, and skinny. They're not like Sayaka's own tanned, well-worked mitts at all. “I've always wanted to try. Always wanted to help you. But I've been afraid, I guess.”
She sets her hand upon his. “Well, thankfully, the worst that can happen is that the plants die on you. And if you're just a hobbyist, it's hardly the end of the world. You just learn from it and move on.” She rests her head against his shoulder. “Believe me, when I was little and just starting out, a lot of green things turned brown on account of my ineptitude.”
They share a little chuckle over that, but Akira's face settles into a mild frown afterward. “I guess it doesn't really seem fair. For a life to be needlessly extinguished because I messed up.”
Sayaka releases an exasperated sigh. “Oh, Akira! You get so morbid sometimes.” She pats his arm reassuringly. Knowing her husband, he's thinking about more than just plants. In fact, she's almost certain that he's stuck on Kimiko again and blaming himself for what happened, as he tends to do. “I know death doesn't sit well with you, but… it's just part of life. An individual life might end, but, because of that, life as a whole goes on.”
His frown deepens — and, to little surprise, he reaches for Igara-san's cross, his greatest source of comfort. Akira begins to stroke the object in his extremely methodical, even ritualistic, way. Watching him, Sayaka wonders if Akira feels, on some level, that the spirit of his great-aunt inhabits the pendant and is capable of providing her reassurances when the object is invoked. “I know,” he says quietly. “I know it. But it's hard to really feel it.”
“Hmm?” Sayaka inquires.
Akira provides no acknowledgment that he heard. Releasing the pendant and staggering to his feet, he says, “I'm still really hungry. Is it okay if I bring out the next course?”
“Sure, go ahead,” she says.
Taking the used dishes with him, he vanishes into the house, returning a couple minutes later with soup and salad. After he takes a seat, he pours out a little more sake into his cup. “Would you like more, Sayaka?”
“No, thank you,” she declines. It kind of bothers her that he's going back to the sake bottle, though, and she can't stay quiet about it. “Remember to watch your intake, Akira. You get sick so easily…”
“Don't worry,” he says, knocking the sake back. “I know my limits. That's all I'm having tonight.”
Another interim of silence passes as they eat together. Sayaka glances over at him from time to time, monitoring his expression and bearing. At a point, she notices that Akira seems to be fixated on the cement wall that encloses most of their property. He looks oddly intense about it, too. Very curious. “What's wrong?” she asks.
“Hmm?” he says, jolting out of his daze. “Nothing, really.”
“You were staring at the wall.” She points. “Very intently, I might add.”
“Oh, that.” He grabs a wad of salad with his chopsticks and shoves it down his craw. Once he can speak again, he says, “I was just thinking. Most of the time, I don't see it. It's just been there so long, you know? But it suddenly occurred to me, why is it still there?”
She's sure it's just a rhetorical question, but she goes along with it. “We thought we had the money to get it knocked down and replaced, but we ended up needing the funds for something else. So, only part of the wall got done.”
“Indeed,” Akira says. “But why wasn't the project ever revisited? Why have we just left that symbol of past failure standing?” His voice is weirdly passionate and he's starting to gesticulate.
Sayaka shrugs. “Money is tight. You know that.”
“Even so,” he counters, “there's no reason why we couldn't have rented some equipment and done it ourselves, is there?” Sayaka keeps her mouth shut, anticipating he's going somewhere with this. “No, there isn't. We could have even called up some friends and family to help. That sort of thing would be right up Tatsuya's alley, wouldn't it?”
“It would,” she agrees.
“We know a lot of other handy people, too,” Akira continues. “So, there's no real excuse for the fact that the wall's still standing.”
Sayaka just hums in acknowledgment and tries to enjoy her bowl of miso.
Akira straightens his back out and gives Sayaka a determined look. “And please, Sayaka… Don't think I'm blaming you or anything. Far from it. You do so much, and I have no idea how. I've taken it for granted, but, when I think about it, it really boggles my mind.” Quite the compliment, coming from someone whose livelihood would boggle all but a small handful of the Earth's current population. “You're amazing, Sayaka. Really amazing.”
She sends him a fond smile. “Thank you, Akira.” And then, she braces herself for whatever is coming next. He's clearly compensating for his crying fit earlier, with the confident chatterbox taking the reigns from his baseline state. From experience, she knows that there's not much she can do once he's become fixated on some odd little thing, other than to let him talk it out to the end. If it starts going to unhealthy places, naturally she tries to redirect it. But ultimately it's like a high pressure system: the energy must be released, one way or another.
“But me? I've been useless. That wall is still there because of me, and only me. I want to crush it, Sayaka. Knock it down, and replace it with something new. Just like I want to demolish the useless, miserable person I've been and replace him with someone better.”
It's always been hard to know how to respond to these 'tracts', since they quickly escalate into the realm of the bizarre and it becomes increasingly difficult to follow Akira's thought patterns. Saying something neutral is probably best, though. “You can't rebuild yourself overnight, Akira. Helping me with meals is a great place to start. Even if it's just on the weekends. If you can keep doing that…”
He doesn't seem convinced, though. “That's not enough, Sayaka. I need to help you more than that. Much more.”
What angle to take now? “Would you have the time for that, Akira?”
“Well…” He gets an obstinate look in his eyes. “Really, what have I been doing that's so important?”
Not much to do but give him the benefit of the doubt. He's more than capable of tearing himself down without her help. Sayaka tries a more playful tone to see where that takes them. “Trying to save the world… no?”
Akira apparently doesn't want to talk about that, responding with nothing but a dismissive sputter. He comes off as so insolently childish that Sayaka can't help but find it oddly cute. Maybe because it highlights how, in spite of everything, Misato really is her father's daughter.
Even as she laughs under her breath, she attempts to draw emphasis back to the side of prudence. “Well, that aside… Just in general, but especially until we know what's going to happen with that job offer, I don't think you should try to extend yourself too much. You'll just overwhelm yourself that way.” He looks about ready to protest, but she ignores it and goes on. “If you're going to aim for anything, Akira, try for another weekend like this one first… where you spend time with us, and we do housework together and go on little trips.” With a faint blush, she adds, “Or just you and I spend time being close…”
Akira's eyes twinkle upon hearing the last part.
Sayaka doesn't let it distract her, though, and she finishes the thought. “If you're comfortable with all that, and eventually feel like you can take on more, you can start to look at your work schedule for openings.” She tilts her head. “Right?”
He turns his head away slightly and releases a long sigh. “Yeah, I suppose…” He runs his fingers through his hair. “Monday can't come fast enough, Sayaka. Why did Haru have to pick this weekend of all weekends to make that trip?”
“Now, now,” Sayaka gently admonishes. “Haru deserves some time to himself, doesn't he? I'm frankly astounded by how much he's done for you all these years, even with everything else on his plate.”
“I don't understand it, either,” Akira admits. “It would've been so easy for him to just walk away and never have to deal with me again.”
“Is it so hard to accept, Akira, that people care about you?”
He frowns and looks away. “Sometimes.”
Sayaka wraps her arms around him. “I know.” And she pulls herself closer to him, and lets her head rest against his gently heaving chest. The reassuring sound of his heartbeat pulses into her ear. She can feel it quicken, little by little.
It's not long before the warmth of her embrace truly reaches him and, with imposing abruptness, he starts to return her affections. Right there in the yard, on that mat, both of them exposed to anyone who might peer through the gate. The impassioned kisses are one thing, but the wandering hands are quite another… When he attempts to slide his fingers under her skirt on into her panties, she seizes his wrist firmly and gives him a stern look in the eyes.
“I'm gratified that you're feeling so frisky, Akira,” she says, “but you know we can't do this here.”
A weirdly determined look appears on his face, and, before Sayaka knows what's happening, he's broken from her grasp and… is lifting her into the air? It's so unexpected that she whoops with surprise. But, no, there she is, hoisted between his arms in a bridal carry! Akira isn't what she would consider a strong man, and, despite the confidence evident in his spontaneity and his ravishing, amorous expression, she can feel a slight unsteadiness in his scrawny arms.
Somehow, though, she knows he won't drop her. He would never drop her.
Sayaka wraps her arms around his shoulders and kisses him, signifying her trust. He seems to relax, the shakiness smoothing out into a more assured hold, and he kisses her tenderly back. And with that, the two of them disappear into the house to finish what they've been putting off for hours — leaving all the food and dishes outside on the mat, to be cleaned up whenever they happen to be done.
“Gods, there's so much drifting on this course!” Kei complains from the other side of the twin cabinet, her Chum's grinding into the outside of a curve, as usual. “Why'd you have to pick this one, Misa-chan?”
Her eyes glued to the screen, Misato casually drifts out of a curve, ramming one of the CPU-controlled vehicles along the way. “Hah! Eat dirt, sucker!” With a decisive hand, she shifts gears and the speed on her red Scorpio climbs rapidly during the next straightaway. Before long, the track throws another sharp curve at her, but she goes through it effortlessly, barely slowly down. “There's drifting on all the courses, Kei. Thought you told me you were okay at this game?”
“Yeah, 'okay', meaning not 'expert'!” Kei crashes into another car and releases an exasperated groan, knocking her forehead against the steering wheel multiple times for dramatic effect. She glances over at Misato's monitor just in time to see the Scorpio claim 1st place and trigger the credit roll.
“Wooooo!” Misato cries, raising both fists over her head in a celebratory “V”. She turns to her friend, smirking broadly. “In your face, Kei!”
Kei spins the wheel ineffectually and sputters. “Yeah, sure. Daytona USA 2 sucks anyway.”
“Spoken like a true sore loser!” Misato gloats.
“Keep that attitude up and I'll have to get Ryusaku over here to put you in your place.”
Misato snorts. “Just because your cousin insists on using the Phantom, it doesn't actually make him better than me. But you're right about this game sucking. Who cares about the US? I want my European cars! F355 Challenge can't come out soon enough.”
“Meh. All cars are the same to me.” Kei hops out of her driver's seat and starts rubbing her rump. “I think my butt is numb.”
Misato follows, practically vaulting off the machine. Beating the hardest course like it's nothing always feels good. “Well, why don't you go ask your boyfriend to massage it for you?”
Kei turns red. “Shotaro is not my boyfriend!!”
“That's not what Kiyoko said!” Misato provokes, her face twisting into an almost feline grin.
Kei crosses her arms and lightly stomps a foot. “Kiyo's just a skank. What the hell does she know?” After a moment's pause, she adds, “Aside from skanky things, of course.”
Misato's grin broadens. “Does your momma know you talk like that?”
“Of course,” Kei says. “But what's she gonna do about it? Spank me?”
“Bet you'd like that,” Misato retorts, playfully smacking one of her friend's butt cheeks. Kei squeals and retaliates by pulling on Misato's ponytail. No sweat, though; Misato quickly puts the other girl into a head lock, stopping the potential cat fight dead in its tracks. “Hah hah!” Misato cackles, giving Kei a noogie. “Can't get out, can you?”
Kei squirms against her friend. “Seriously, Misa-chan? Not fair!”
“If you were still going to practice,” Misato chides, “you'd know how to get oWWWWWWW!” A flash of pain registers on her face and she lets go of Kei, grabbing the afflicted part of her arm. There's a nice, soggy wet spot on her sleeve. “Oh, gross, Kei. You bit me?!”
She shrugs. “It was through your shirt. You won't get any diseases. …Probably.”
“That's not the point!” Misato glowers. But it doesn't really seem worth a fight. “Whatever. I guess I deserved it.”
Kei nods smugly. “You totally did. Anyway, want to grab a drink from the machine? I'll pay.”
“I can live with that.”
Kei, as usual, gets a canned coffee. Never mind that it's around 8 at night — the girl needs her buzz. Misato gets a green tea, but the can's so hot that she needs to pull her sleeve up over her hand just to handle it. The temperature of the beverage itself is fine, though, so she just tries to drink it very quickly. As she's doing that, Kiyoko — who's really stood out ever since she bleached her hair white, the weirdo — shows up to excitedly announce the makeshift tournament they're starting on the SNK machines.
“S-weet!” Kei intones. “I might actually win this one!”
“Don't tell me you're going to play as Terry again?” Kiyoko sighs.
“Oh course! Terry's the man.” Kei chucks her empty can into a wastebin and turns to Misato. “You coming?”
Misato shrugs. “I'll watch, I guess.”
“No way!” Kiyoko says. “You're better than the boys. Letting you sit this out would be such a waste!”
“But… I don't really like SNK,” she quips.
Kiyoko laughs. “Yeah, well, Capcom vs. SNK doesn't come out until next year, so deal with it.”
Misato crosses her arms. “How would that help? All fighting games are stupid!” Whatever — she's clearly not going to win this one.
Takashi and Masaru are busy beating each other up on the King of Fighters cabinet. “Alright, Misato,” Kiyoko says, “you take on whichever one of them wins, and make sure you hit him so hard he's crying for mommy, okay?” Misato just grunts in assent. Kei and Kiyo get started on the adjacent Fatal Fury machine — as always, pitting the Bogard brothers against each other. Misato settles against a nearby wall to wait her turn.
She sticks her hand into the pocket of her jacket and plays around with the few remaining tokens. Feeling the bulk of her cell phone, she pulls it out and pops it open to get a refresher on the current time. Almost 8:30 now, even later than she thought. She should probably head back home soon; definitely no later than quarter of. Checking in on the boys' progress, she clearly sees Takashi win, but Masaru just goes, “Best three out of five?”, and they keep on playing. So much for the 'tournament'…
Suddenly, she becomes aware of someone in her peripheral vision, silently joining her at the wall. Her head quickly pivots, and there's an older boy there who seems vaguely familiar. He's a high schooler, but really short for his age, not much taller than her. His jet black hair is slicked up into spikes with an overabundance of gel — kind of gross-looking, really. And that forehead, so huge it looks like he could break rocks with it… she's definitely seen that before. He nonchalantly chews on a cigarette as he absently gazes over at her.
Misato squints, trying to get her memory to cooperate. He's one of Kei's acquaintances; she remembers that much. Eventually, a name finds it way out. “…Shima-kun?” Yeah, pretty sure that's right.
“The one and only,” he replies, sliding the cigarette behind his ear. “Long time no see, Katsura.”
“Katsuragi,” Misato corrects. Trying to make conversation, she asks, “So… where've you been? I haven't seen you since…” Huh. Shima-kun's been enough of a satellite to the main group, she honestly can't remember.
He folds his arms behind his head. “Since before you entered puberty, I'd guess. Kei didn't tell you? I was sent to live with my grandma until my parents worked their issues out. And, well, they finally did. Separated a couple of months ago.”
“'Separated'?” Misato repeats.
“You know… divorced?”
“Oh,” she says, feeling kind of stupid. “Sorry to hear that, I guess.”
Shima-kun shrugs. “No big deal. My folks have hated each other since before I was born, so it's about time they split, really. Getting displaced from Sakyo-ku for all those months was the worst part. And I guess my mom getting custody by default sucks, too. But whatever. I can deal with her and her shitty boyfriend for a couple more years.”
Misato stares at her feet for a moment. She hasn't met many kids whose parents have separated. Her mind is swarming with questions, but she decides to keep them to herself. Instead, she just comments, “I wish my parents would get divorced.”
Without moving his head, Shima-kun's eyes roll back toward her, a skeptical look on his face. “Do they actually hate each other's guts?”
Misato twiddles her thumbs. “Well, no, not really…”
“If that's that case,” Shima-kun says, “then no, you don't.”
“What do you know?” Misato growls.
“Nothing, I guess,” he admits. “Just a feeling.”
Hoping to keep him from prying any further, Misato looks desperately for an out — and she finds it, tucked behind the older boy's ear. “Don't tell me you're one of the people giving cigarettes to Kei?”
Shima-kun chortles. “Giving? She basically steals them. Kind of a klepto, that friend of yours.”
“Yeah, I know,” Misato admits. “Nothing I can do about it, though. If she gets caught, it's not my problem.” As an afterthought, she adds, “At least she doesn't steal my stuff. Not that I've noticed, anyway...”
Another short laugh, this one a bit more derisive. “From the way Kei talks about you, I'd have thought you were more loyal than that.”
“I'm plenty loyal,” Misato insists. “I just won't let her drag me into the gutter with her, is all.”
Shima-kun's eyes narrow. “If you're afraid of getting in trouble, I think you've picked the wrong group of friends.”
Misato sticks her nose up into the air. “My friends are perfectly fine. Who the hell do you think you are, anyway?”
“Just some punk,” Shima-kun says, “no different from the rest of those losers.” He gestures to the SNK cabinets.
Misato doesn't like this guy's attitude, and she gets all up in his face. “Where do you get off, dissing my friends? I don't care how much older you are. I could still beat the piss out of you.”
He smirks. “Somehow, I doubt you will. You're a goody-two-shoes to the bone.”
Misato feels her teeth grit and her hands curls into fists. “Say that again!”
Shima-kun casually puts a hand on her forehead and pushes her away, but she escapes his grasp easily. He just smirks again in that really sleazy way of his. “You've got good moves, I'll give you that. But you're a daddy's girl, Katsuragi. I can see it in your eyes. You belong with the A students, not out with the trash.” He squints at her, his expression almost becoming… perverted? “Though, if you were a bit older, I'll admit… there's no way I wouldn't try to ask you out.”
With that, Misato's temper goes into the red zone. She can practically feel the smoke blow out of her ears, and she's just about to throw an open palm at the side of Shima-kun's jaw when Kei's voice brings her back to her senses.
“Oh, Misato!” Kei calls. “You found Shima-kun, huh?”
“More like he found me,” Misato says glumly, letting her arms dangle harmlessly at her sides. “He's a lot less cool than I remember. Where did you find this scumbag, Kei?”
“Whaaaat?” exclaims Kei. “Shima-kun is the best!”
He takes a bow. “Why, thank you, Kei-chan. It's a pity your friend doesn't feel the same way.”
“The hell?” Misato spits at him. “Only a second ago, you were saying that you and everyone else were nothing but lowlife punks!”
Kei smirks enigmatically. “Yeah, he does that. So, Shima-kun, why so late? We could've used you here hours ago!”
“I told you my job only ends at eight. Not a whole lot I can do, Kei-chan.”
“Oh, right,” Kei says. “Forgot about that. Anyway, want to compete in our SNK tournament? Masaru and Kiyoko are out, so we could use you.” She glares at Misato. “And you too, Misa-chan!”
Misato purses her lips. “The boys took their sweet time, so it's too late now. I really need to head back, Kei.”
Kei blows a puff of air up at her bangs. “Right, right. Because otherwise your mom will cry all night,” she mutters. “Pffft, fine.” With a swish of her hand, she theatrically emotes, “Go! Get out of here! Who needs you anyway?”
Misato just grins, pats her friend on the head, and slaps her leftover tokens into Kei's hand. “Later, Kei.” She looks warily at Shima-kun. “I guess… I'll see you around?”
He's chewing on the cigarette again and giving Misato a pretty creepy look. “Better believe it.” If Kei weren't there, Misato would, absolutely, break his nose or make him lose some teeth. And she could totally get away with it, too — after all, who'd believe that a 12-year-old girl beat up a boy in his late teens? She glares at Shima-kun and gladly gives him her back.
After saying her farewells to the other three, she claims her skateboard and bag at the front. Exiting into the dark, cool night, she confidently hits the pavement and makes her way home.
Misato makes good time, turning into the front gate only a couple of minutes before the hour turns. She takes her skateboard under an arm and approaches the door. Something's covering the central walkway, looks like. When she gets close enough, there's enough illumination coming from the nearest street light to make out that it's the old picnic mat, covered in their good dishes. There's a bottle of sake and some uneaten food there, too. Very curious, and she feels a pinch of anxiety in her chest.
She walks around the mess and goes inside, setting her skateboard against its designated spot on the wall and taking her shoes off. It's hard not to notice that Dad's giant clown shoes aren't there, but Mom's are. Not an unusual sight, by any means, but she thought Dad was staying in tonight? That's why she made a point of staying out, after all. Huh.
The whole house is dark and quiet. Misato already feels like she knows what happened. Naturally, Dad ended up leaving, for whatever his latest stupid Dad reason was, and left Mom all alone, to do what Mom almost always does when she's left alone. Misato suddenly feels really bad about her decision to bullshit an alibi and not join her parents for dinner. She was only thinking about herself, not about Mom, not about the very real possibility that Dad would up and abandon her again like the yellow pansy he is. The shame is so overwhelming that Misato feels like she could cry, but she doesn't let a single tear fall. She can't be weak like her parents. And she especially can't be like Dad. Abandoning Mom is something Dad does, not her! Never her!
I messed up, Misato thinks, but I can be there for her now. I can make it alright.
She dissipates the darkness with a flick of the kitchen light switch and quietly makes her way to Mom's room. Once there, she puts an ear to the fusuma, but she hears nothing. “...Mom?” Misato whispers. Still nothing. She knocks a couple of times on the adjacent wall, but, again, nothing. Mom can be a pretty sound sleeper, so the lack of response isn't reason in and of itself to be alarmed. Still, just to be sure, Misato does want to get visual confirmation that Mom's in there and okay. “Mom, I'm coming in, okay?” As she anticipated, there's no response, but saying the words makes her feel better about breaching her mother's privacy.
Misato slides the door open, letting in just enough light to see by. And, as soon as she does, she slams the fusuma shut and quickly spins on her heel, hugging the wall in shock. Nauseous, violated shock.
Her mom is in there, all right. But so is Dad. And they looked like a singular pile of naked flesh, curled up in a tangle of sheets on the futon, with no clear indication of where one ends and the other begins. Thank gods they just seem to be sleeping, but, even though they weren't actually doing it, they obviously had been. Misato feels sick to her stomach. And so angry — just like earlier today, when she walked in on her parents' inability to keep that crap behind a door. Why do grown-ups do such gross stuff?? And if Mom has to do it at all, why… just, why, with HIM?! That batty bag of bones that's made her cry more times than Misato can count?
All her loathing and frustration pools into her fist, which launches right into the wall. Misato's at once relieved and disappointed that it doesn't break through. But if she lingers here much longer, there's no way she'd trust herself to not keep trying until that happens.
Misato attempts to take her mind off things by cleaning up the mess outside and helping herself to some dinner. It almost works, but then she gets the bright idea of watching a little TV… only to discover her parent's shirts in a pile next to the couch, with Dad's shoes hiding underneath. Ugh, seriously? They were doing the nasty out here, too? So much for using that piece of furniture ever again. And, for that matter, so much for chilling out in front of the tube before bed. There's no way she'd be able to stay out here without her mind's eye being haunted by the image of both her folks topless and snogging.
Hoping to keep herself from dwelling upon what other parts of the house have inevitably been contaminated by Mom and Dad's mating rituals, Misato retreats into the sanctity of her room. (There's no way they'd screw in there… right? Right??) She collapses onto her futon and, the reassuring squeeze of headphones round her skull, she blasts L'Arc-en-Ciel down her ear canals. All the meanwhile, she stares at the crack in the ceiling, doing everything in her power to not think about anything gross or upsetting. But it's no use. Getting her mind off the one thing only lets that slimeball friend of Kei's take its place and taunt her with his creepy pedo stares and wild accusations. “Goody-two-shoes.” “Daddy's girl.” Maybe she can live with the first one, but the second…?
There isn't a gram of truth to it. She hates her dad. Full stop. She doesn't want him; she doesn't need him. If she could switch him out for a different one, she totally would. The gangly bastard could get hit by a train for all she cares. Sure, that would make Mom sad, probably make her cry for days on end. But Misato and Aunt Yura would help her get over it. And, without that trash around to drag her down, Mom might actually start to care about herself again. Heck, maybe she'd even start looking for a guy who's actually worthy of her. Wouldn't that be something?
Too bad it'll probably never happen. Misato just isn't that lucky. And her mom… especially isn't.
Akira lets the clock tick down on the job offer, repeatedly refusing to give Tatsuta a straight answer. While Sayaka is probably okay with this, the mysterious individual behind ISTAA has absolutely no intention of taking anything but "yes!" as an answer.
EDIT: Chapter and character lists in OP updated.