Chapter 10:

Familial Frustrations


“Hand it over,” Abe demanded.

“Not on your life,” Kento shot back. “You set me up.”

Kento and Abe were having a drink together. It was just the two of them for the first time in a long while, and while they enjoyed the company of their friends from the other side of the gene pool, both had been itching for a guy’s night. Now they got it, at least until the girls decided to show up unannounced. They both knew it was only a matter of time, so they were getting caught up on some business.

“I won that fair and square!” Abe said. “And because you have more backbone than I thought you did I’m out twenty bucks, so hand it over.”

“How is it my fault you lost twenty bucks?” Kento asked.

“I bet Rin that you wouldn’t kiss Aiya last night,” Abe said as if it was a completely reasonable thing to say.

“Oh, yeah, that’s another thing,” Kento said. “Why were you two following us around? I spotted you when we came in but I didn’t want to spoil the night.”

“Rin thought you and Aiya were cute and wanted to see it,” Abe explained. He took a sip of his drink, clearly content leaving his explanation at that.

“And you?” Kento prompted. “What were you doing there?”

“I wanted to see you crash and burn,” Abe said. Again, he said this like it was a completely normal thing to say.

“You really have absolutely no confidence in me,” Kento commented. “I don’t know how I should feel about my best friend actively betting against my happiness. What made you think I wouldn’t be able to close?”

“It’s you we’re talking about here,” Abe said. “A month ago calling Aiya by her name was something that you’d never even think about doing. How was I supposed to guess that you’d become a completely new man in such a short time?”

“You dug your own grave on that one,” Kento said, stuffing a few pretzels into his mouth. “You got into my head with your special connection crap. If it weren’t for that I would have never given more thought to how I felt about her, and I would have never asked her out. It’s your fault you lost that money.”

“Don’t remind me,” Abe said. “Now hand over what you owe me, Mr. Shifutu.”

“Abe, I will give you a thousand right now if you call me by name,” Kento said. “Seriously, if I can let it go you should be able to as well.”

“Yeah, I’ll be cold in the ground before I do that,” Abe said. He finished off the glass in front of him. “Come on, drink up so I can get us a refill. Who knows when the girls will get here.”

“I didn’t tell them where we went,” Kento said, obediently finishing his drink. He handed the glass to Abe, who quickly returned with two full glasses.

“I know you didn’t tell them,” Abe said. “We even went to a different place than usual, but women are like bloodhounds. They’ll find us.”

“I think you’re being overdramatic,” Kento said, taking a sip of his new drink. “How on Earth will they find us.” A moment passed, and Kento’s eyes grew wide.

“What?” Abe asked. It took a moment before it dawned on him. He turned around to face the entrance. Sure enough, there was Aiya, Rin, Mirai, and Aiya’s friend Hina.

“How!?” Kento asked, ducking into the booth.

“I told you!” Abe hissed. “If they wanted to they’d find us in the middle of the Amazon jungle. Now keep your head down, maybe they haven’t spotted us.”

“Kento, Abe!” Rin’s voice rang out.

“I think they spotted us,” Kento whispered back.

Abe and he shared a look, desperately trying to think of some way out of this. It was the day after Kento and Aiya’s date. They both knew that would mean an endless parade of questions from the peanut gallery. It would be endlessly painful for Kento, who would have to answer the questions and even more so for Abe, who would have to sit in silence and listen to the answers. Both had several ideas on how to escape, ranging from pretending to have memory loss to burning down the entire establishment. Kento was in the middle of figuring out a plan involving overthrowing the British Monarchy when Rin poked his shoulder.

“What is your problem?” Rin asked. “Didn’t you hear me call your names?”

“Hey, Rin!” Kento said, faking enthusiasm. “What brings you here?”

“We girls wanted to take Aiya out and ask her about last night,” Rin explained. “We just so happened to run into you, so now we can ask you both!”

“Just so happened to run into us, huh?” Abe asked. He eyed Rin suspiciously.

“Yeah,” Rin said. “We didn’t even go to the usual spot. Total coincidence.”

“Has someone ever told you that you’re an awful liar?” Kento asked. “I would really like to know how exactly you managed to find us.”

Rin completely ignored Kento’s question and went and grabbed the other girls, dragging them to the booth. Kento sighed and stood, sliding in next to Abe. He could already see they were in for a very long night.

“I blame you,” Abe said.

“How is this my fault?” Kento asked.

“If you just stuck to your principles and kept on being alone we wouldn’t be in this mess!” Abe hissed. Kento frowned back at him. Both dropped their expressions the moment the girls got to the booth.

“Hey!” Kento greeted, trying to sound enthusiastic again. He didn’t expect to have as much trouble with it as he did. Again, he really didn’t mind the company of the women, but it had been weeks since he and Abe got a chance to just hang out together. Men needed that quality time with the boys in order to survive, and the girls were actively depriving him of it.

“Hi,” Aiya said, sitting down next to Kento. The other girls slid into the other side of the booth. “I’m really sorry for what’s about to happen. I tried to keep them away.” Kento was surprised by this. Aiya sounded sincere, and by the tired tint in her voice, it sounded like she genuinely tried to spare him from this suffering. He felt a pang in his heart. Aiya understood. He couldn’t believe that he was this lucky.

“It’s not your fault,” Kento said. He turned to the other girls. “So, is this in interrogation or an execution.”

“I see no reason it can’t be both,” Hina said, surprisingly seriously. “After all, the night is still young.”

“I feel like this needs to be said again,” Abe said. “Mr. Shifutu, I blame you.” Kento laughed awkwardly. The vibe of the table was a little different than he expected. Hina’s eyes bored down on him. It felt like he was shrinking under her gaze. It took a minute before she burst out laughing.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I couldn’t resist. Don’t worry, we’re not going to execute you. At least, not yet. We just want to hear everything about last night!”

“Yeah!” Rin said. “Tell us every detail.”

“Why don’t you tell us, Rin?” Kento asked. That was the ace up his sleeve, and he knew it would be better suited to use later in the game, but he might be able to at least get himself partially out of answering questions if he played it now. It was a gamble, but it might pay off. Rin’s face went white, and Kento knew he had won this round.

“What are you talking about?” She asked, looking up at the ceiling. She really was an awful liar.

“Why, Rin, I’m talking about how you followed us around during our date,” Kento said. He rested his chin on his hand, waiting for a response.

“You followed us?” Aiya asked, surprise tinting her voice.

“It wasn’t just me!” Rin said, completely folding under the pressure. “Abe was there too!”

“I can’t believe you!” Aiya said.

“Me neither!” Hina added. “How could you not invite me along?” Aiya shot her a glare, and she backed down.

“I was just there in case Kento messed it up and needed emotional support,” Abe said.

“No, you were there because of our bet,” Rin accused.

“How dare you!” Abe said, with mock indignation. “I am a man of integrity, I would never!”

Kento smiled, sat back, and enjoyed a long draw from his drink. He had thrown Abe under the bus, but it was clearly worth it. This would keep them going for at least fifteen minutes, in which he could sit back and zone out all he wanted. He was distracted from distracting himself when he noticed Mirai staring daggers at him. He met her gaze, and she immediately looked away. He wondered what her problem was. It was like asking Aiya out triggered some sort of supernatural event that made her hate him. He wanted to ask her what exactly her problem was but now wasn’t the time.

Kento was just getting lost in distracting himself again when another distraction pulled him from his distractions. This time it was the sensation of someone gently leaning against his shoulder. He couldn’t deny that it was nice having someone this close to him. He savored the experience, but it turned sour when he saw Mirai glare at him again. This time when their eyes met she didn’t look away. Instead, she shot him a dark smile, one that made him break the eye contact.

He would have to find out what was going on with her, and he definitely would, but not tonight. Tonight was a night of celebration.


Kento stared at the watch mounted against the wall in the office. He is eyes jumped slightly as he kept track of the second hand, watching it slowly drift across the face of the watch. Aiya was late, once again. He hadn’t seen her since the Saturday they crashed his and Abe’s guy-time. They had exchanged texts the previous day, but it was Monday now, and she was nowhere to be seen. She didn’t answer her texts either. Even stranger was the fact that Rin was gone too. She usually showed up early too, sometimes even earlier than Kento did.

“Strange,” Kento said. He turned back to his computer and began typing away. If they were both missing they were probably missing together, so it was nothing he should worry about. Besides, he had his fill of being a hero. Now he was content just being a side character, or maybe even a background character. That would be the dream. He was working for an hour before he was interrupted by the ringing of his phone.

“Hello?” He answered.

“Kento, it’s Rin!” Rin’s voice came through the phone. Her tone of voice instantly put Kento on edge.

“What’s going on? Where are you?” Kento asked, jumping out of his chair.

“I’m at Aiya’s place,” Rin said. “She called me and asked for a ride. When I got here there was already a car parked outside. It was her dad. He just took her away.”

“What?” Kento asked. He couldn’t make sense of what Rin just told him.

“Aparently someone told him about you and Aiya,” Rin said. “He didn’t approve, so he came here to take her back home. That’s as much as I managed to glean from the situation.”

“Are they gone yet?” Kento asked, already running to the elevator.

“They just left,” Rin said. “I tried to stop them, but that man is persistent and pigheaded.”

“Then I’ll just have to go after them,” Kento said, stopping just short of the elevator doors. “I know this is a big ask, but can I borrow your car?”

“Of course,” Rin said. “I’ll be by the office in a few minutes. Do you know where they’re going?”

“Yeah, I do,” Kento said. “Aiya showed me her parents’ house once on Gooble Maps. I’ll just look it up again on my phone.”

“Ok. I’m driving now,” Rin said. “I’ll see you in a few.”

Kento paced up and down the office while he waited for Rin to arrive. It was times like these that he was somewhat thankful for the fact that almost all of his coworkers were pathetic bottomfeeders. He had the whole office to himself, and no one was around to see him having his little panic attack. It felt like an eternity passed before Rin finally stepped off the elevator. She rushed out and quickly hugged Kento.

“Do you know why this is happening?” she asked.

“I have an idea,” he replied. “Aiya’s from a rich family. Apparently, her dad wants to put her in an arranged marriage to benefit his business. It makes sense that he wouldn’t exactly be thrilled by her getting a plebian boyfriend like me.”

“Oh, is she your girlfriend now?” Rin asked, clearly trying to tease Kento.

“Rin, is now really the time for that?” He shot back. “Keys, please.” Rin snickered and tossed him her keys.

“If there is even a scratch on my car I’ll fire you,” she threatened. “Now go get her.” Kento nodded and sprang into the elevator. As the floor indicator counted down to one he contemplated when his life had turned into such a strange adventure. He figured it all happened a month ago when he met Aiya. Kento stopped dead in his tracks. That wasn’t true. The first strange event was the night before that. The girl at the train station. His eyes lit up, as a part of his brain that had been struggling to connect the dots finally found resolution.

It was Mirai. He had met her for the first time that night, though he didn’t learn her name, because she just… vanished.

Kento pushed this to the back of his mind. He could think about it later. Right now he had to play Knight-in-Shining-Armor again. He was seriously getting tired of it. He would have killed to just have an average boring day, if only just once.

Kento rushed out of the building and leaped into Rin’s car. It was a completely reasonable sedan. Good mileage, plenty of space both in the interior and the trunk… Kento cursed. He wouldn’t be able to catch up to Aiya’s father in this thing. He probably had some luxury car that could drive circles around him. Kento would have to face Mr. Hisakawa on his own territory. It wasn’t ideal, but it was all Kento could do. He started the car and began driving. He immediately noticed something was wrong. He stopped the car and got out, inspecting it.

Kento’s palm met his face with such speed and ferocity it almost went straight through his head. He picked up his phone and dialed a number.

“You drove carelessly to get here, didn’t you?” Kento asked.

“Why?” Rin’s voice rang out over the phone.

“You have a flat tire!” Kento nearly shouted over the phone.



The flat tire had cost Kento almost a full day. He would have just swapped in the spare, but to his utter dismay, he found this one to be just as flat. Rin said that she got a flat a few months ago, and just forgot to get the spare tire patched up. For a shining moment, Kento remembered exactly why he thought he didn’t like Rin. A tow truck had to come to get the car, and a mechanic spent a day fixing the wheels and trying to sell Kento on repairs that weren’t needed. Now, he was finally on the road, heading to Aiya’s parents’ home.

He had tried calling Aiya several times and sent well over a dozen messages, but all remained unanswered. He even went so far as to try to find the Hisakawa’s home phone number, but unfortunately, all that warranted him was an awkward conversation with an elderly gentleman who was hard of hearing. Luckily it seemed like his troubles were behind him, and it looked like it would be smooth sailing from here on out, and it was. Right up until he reached the gate of the Hisakawa residence.

Kento hadn’t thought this far ahead. He was so caught up in the idea of storming in there, telling Mr. Hisakawa off, and carrying Aiya off into the sunset. Unfortunately, he was being denied that fairytale by modern technology. It was an electric gate, so he had no way to open it himself. He decided to try for the Hail Mary pass and pressed the intercom button.

“Hisakawa residence, who is this?” a voice cracked from the small speaker.

“Special delivery for Aiya Hisakawa,” Kento said. He held his breath. This was a long shot, and he knew it. There was no way they would open the gate for an unexpected delivery, right? Kento kept believing that right up until the gate opened in front of his very eyes.

“Come in and park by the door. Ms. Hisakawa will be out shortly,” the voice said. The intercom cut off, leaving Kento alone in his disbelief that somehow his plan had actually worked. He slowly drove up the driveway, parking the car in front of the massive front door of the estate. He got out of the car and tried to make himself look cool by leaning up against it. A few seconds later the door opened, and Aiya stepped out. She was dressed formally and looked absolutely dejected. She looked up, and surprise dawned in her eyes.

“Kento!” she yelled. She rushed forward and dove into him, wrapping him in a tight hug. “What are you doing here?” She asked, pulling back.

“After all the crap I went through, did you really think I would let something like the CEO of one of the richest companies in the country disagreeing with my existence stop me?” Kento asked with a smirk.

“You shouldn’t have come,” Aiya said. “You’re going to catch a lot of flak for all of this.” She looked down. “You should move on and find someone else.”

“Come on, really?” Kento asked. “You’re going to throw line? And now I have to be cliche too.” He stepped forward onto the steps leading to the door. “Now come on, you need to introduce me to your parents.”

“Wait, what?” Aiya asked, in disbelief. “We have the car, why don’t we just leave?”

“Because then they’re going to keep coming back,” Kento said. “I know it’s a bit early to do the whole ‘meet the parents’ thing, but I think I can handle it.”

“Kento, this is a bad idea,” Aiya said, trailing after him. “Especially now. I just had a really bad marriage interview and Father isn’t pleased.”

“That explains why you’re dressed like that,” Kento said. “Now stop arguing and let me act irrationally based purely on my bravado please?” Aiya couldn’t help but laugh at Kento’s self-awareness.

“It’s going to go up in flames,” Aiya said.

“Then I’ll dance in Hell with you,” Kento shot back, giving his best suave look. “See, I told you I’m going to have to be a cliche now. This is your fault.” They shared another laugh. Aiya took him by the hand and led him down a hallway. Kento was a bit taken aback at just how big this place was. Compared to his shoebox apartment this might have been a castle. They stopped in front of an ornate door. Aiya raised her hand to knock, but Kento beat her to the punch, throwing the door open. She looked absolutely horrified, but he paid her little mind. He strode into the room like he owned the place, coming face to face with an intensely serious-looking man.

“Who are you?” he asked, clearly not impressed with Kento just barging in.

“Kento Shifutu,” Kento answered, dramatically bowing as low as he could. “You’re Mr. Hisakawa, I take it?”

“I am,” Mr. Hisakawa replied. “So you’re the commoner who seduced my daughter. What are you doing here?”

“First of all, if anyone here was seduced it was me,” Kento said, raising a finger. “I was perfectly content living my life until she came along. Second,” he said, another finger rising. “Don’t talk like you’re a king. It makes you look snobby. Third,” the last finger came up. “Mr. Hisakawa, I am here for the marriage interview.”

“You must be joking,” Mr. Hisakawa said, putting down the papers he was busy with and facing Kento. His eyes drilled holes into Kento, but he didn’t flinch. He had already committed to this crazy act, there was no way he was going to back down now.

“Not even in the slightest,” Kento said. “See, I could just take your daughter and run, but I’d rather not live my life in fear of you hiring an assassin or something. Instead, I’d like your blessing, so here I am.”

“That’s your grand plan?” Mr. Hisakawa asked. “You can forget it. I’ll never let her marry a man like me.”

“A man like me?” Kento asked, his voice lowering slightly. “Mr. Hisakawa, you don’t even know me. For all you know I could be the greatest man in the universe. I’m not, but you have no way to know that.” Mr. Hisakawa sighed loudly.

“Mr. Shifutu, if I give you a proper interview, will you accept the outcome?” he asked.

“If you give our relationship your blessing, then yes,” Kento said. “Otherwise, we might have some issues. Either way though, I’ll be temporarily out of your hair.”

“Fine, sit down,” Mr. Hisakawa said. Kento followed his instructions. This was already not how a marriage interview was supposed to go based on Kento’s knowledge-based purely on TV shows and movies. Aiya stood behind him. She struggled to find something to say. She was completely speechless at Kento’s bold behavior.

“Shall we begin?” Kento asked.

“Mr. Shifutu, I have a simple question for you,” Mr. Hisakawa said. “The only one I plan on asking you. How can you be sure a man like you can give Aiya a good life?”

“Oh, that one’s easy,” Kento said. “I don’t. I could give you all the stereotypical answers like how I’ll spend every waking moment trying, and how I’ll give her my all, and all that crap, but I’m not going to because all of those answers are complete crap. I don’t know what the future holds. Maybe things between us won’t work out. Maybe I’ll end up breaking her heart, and maybe she’ll break mine. That’s the risk we take when we do this. There is one thing I can say for certain right now.” Kento took a breath. He was about to say something he hadn’t said to anyone but a relative.

“I love Aiya,” Kento said. “And, I might be wrong, but I think she feels the same way about me. If she doesn’t, I’ll back off, but if she does, I see no reason why we both shouldn’t be happy. Now I have a question for you, Mr. Hisakawa.”

“Well you’ve already failed this interview, so I may as well humor you,” Mr. Hisakawa said.

“Who the **** do you think you are?” Kento asked. Both Hisakawas stared at him with wide eyes. Kento rose to his feet. “Maybe I don’t understand because I’m not a parent, but I think you must be an exceptionally selfish and disgusting human to not only deny your daughter her happiness but to try to force her into a marriage with someone she doesn’t love just because it could benefit you. The only conclusion I can come to is that you hate your daughter and if that’s the case I have no qualms about dating her, regardless of what you say.”

Kento spun on his heel and walked out of the room. Once outside he nearly collapsed to his knees. He wasn’t a social person in the slightest, and the interaction with Mr. Hisakawa took a lot out of him. He was just happy he could keep up the act. He supported himself against the wall with his hand. He’d said what he wanted to say. Now he just had to hope it had the necessary effect. Aiya peeked her head around the corner. She still had shock written across her face.

“Please come back in here,” she said. Kento obliged. This time he walked in normally. He lacked the energy to put on the act he just had.

“Yes?” he asked, locking eyes with Mr. Hisakawa.

“If you hurt her they will never find your body,” Mr. Hisakawa said. Kento heard a slight gasp from Aiya behind him. He also could barely believe his ears. He had managed to topple the titan. He took a few tentative steps forward and offered his hand.

“Deal,” he said. Mr. Hisakawa shook Kento’s hand. He tried to retract, but Kento didn’t let go. “I have one more question. How did you find out about us?”

“I got a phone call from some woman,” Mr. Hisakawa said. “She told me Aiya was in a relationship with an indecent man who wanted to use her for money. I see now that she lied. I apologize for the misunderstanding.” Kento frowned.

“Do you know the woman?” Mr. Hisakawa asked.

“No, I don’t,” Kento said. “Thank you for your time, and I apologize for the disrespect.”

“You have guts, kid,” Mr. Hisakawa said. “And you disrespected me for the sake of my daughter. No parent will be mad at that. Now get out of my house.”


“How did that work?” Aiya asked. She was riding in the passenger seat of Rin’s car, on the way back home from her parents’ house.

“I have no idea,” Kento said. “Also, I never got to meet your mother.”

“She’s on a business trip,” Aiya said. “More importantly, do you really not know who called my dad?”

“Not a clue,” Kento said. He was lying. He was almost certain he knew exactly who called Mr. Hisakawa. “Let’s not think about that for now. I managed to convince your father to let us be together for the time being. I think that warrants celebration.”

“Yeah, it does,” Aiya said. “Oh, and Kento?”

“Yeah?” Kento asked, turning to face her.

“I love you too.”