「 We’re arriving 」
Kudou-papa says from the driver’s seat.
Our motorcade reached the bay coast area before we noticed.
I speak to the girl in the back seat.
「 Uhm, speaking of which, how old are you Takahata-san? 」
She talked a lot about the past problems of Anna-san’s house and Takahata-san’s house. And the problems Takahata has now.
Despite that, I haven’t heard of any data about Takahata Marika-san herself.
「 I’m sixteen. Freshman in high school 」
So she’s the same as me. She looks a little bit more mature though.
「 So, where do you live right now? 」
「 In our school dorm. Uhm, I’m attending a music high school 」
「 Oh, I see. Do you play instruments? Or do you sing? 」
「 I play piano. But, I don’t think I can continue at this rate 」
Takahata-san looks down.
「 The tuition in music schools is expensive. I don’t think I can rely on the same thing I had so far anymore 」
Oh, I see.
That’s one of the reasons why Anna-san is opposing her father, that she even ran away from home.
「 How long are you okay staying out tonight? Does your dorm have a curfew? 」
Nei changes the topic. It’s to brush off the gloomy mood.
「 I have permission to stay out for tonight. Seki-san talked to them saying that I will be staying in Mother’s apartment today 」
「 Right…if unlucky, the conversation might reach midnight 」
I see. Shou-neechan’s not cutting her corners here.
「 Depending on the results of the discussion tonight, I might leave school for real 」
「 But you want to continue playing piano, don’t you? 」
I confirmed with her.
「 If possible, yes. But I know that I can’t ask for that in my place 」
「 But, I want to hear Takahata-san’s wishes. Do you want to continue? 」
「 Well, I want to. But… 」
「 Can you do anything as long as you can continue studying piano? 」
Nei asks Takahata-san from the sides.
「 Uhm, if I can continue, then… 」
「 Okay. You want to 」
I confirmed Takahata-san’s determination.
「 But, I have no right to do as I please 」
「 Then, if you can’t continue playing piano, what will you do, Takahata-san? 」
I continued asking.
「 That’s…I don’t know. If you ask me, it’s so sudden today, that the truth is, I never knew where my tuition is coming from, and uhm, I never asked Mother at all 」
「 She told me not to worry about my tuition, and I just enrolled in the music high school on this year’s spring 」
「 For a musical instrument like piano, a high school student can’t continue their studies while doing part-time work too 」
「 Yes. I know that I had to stop going to school 」
So far, she has never had to struggle with her school or living expenses.
「 So, anyway, our first priority is to keep Takahata-san’s status quo maintained, and let her continue her dorm life, right? 」
「 Wrong, Yo-chan, I believe that the minimum is to guarantee that she can pay for her tuition and living expenses until she graduates from music high school and music college 」
「 No, I feel guilty asking that far 」
Takahata-san’s voice is becoming smaller.
「 I never knew who was the one supporting my living expenses before… 」
「 But, you see, if you don’t graduate from a music college, then what’s the meaning of graduating from a music high school? 」
「 Yes, therefore, if I can’t go to a music college, then I have no choice but to stop coming to high school 」
Though she says that, she’s got no plan on what to do after that.
I can see in her expression how sudden this story is developing from Takahata-san’s view.
「 We’ve arrived 」
We see a huge hotel in the bay coast area.
The dark night sky is dazzled with cast light.
「 I can understand Takahata-san’s situation now. Leave the rest to me 」
I promised her.
「 Ah, yes. Please take care of me 」
The long-haired beauty replies with a small voice.
「 But, I don’t mind if it’s impossible. I know the situation I’m in 」
「 Yes, I can understand how Takahata-san feels 」
This girl shouldn’t stand in the negotiation that decides her fate.
That’s why I’ll have to speak for Takahata Marika-san.
「 Your time is almost up 」
The motorcade gets into the basement parking lot of the hotel.
「 Kudou-san, where will you bring Takahata-san? 」
I asked Kudou-papa in the driver’s seat.
「 After sending you off inside the hotel, we’re going to be in a different room on the same floor as you 」
Oh, we still have to hide to Anna-san and her father that Takahata-san is here.
「 This hotel is affiliated with the Kouzuki house, and so Kouzuki SS rented the whole floor. This girl can watch the discussion you’re having in her room 」
「 Okay. Kudou-san, look after Takahata-san 」
「 I know 」
「 Takahata-san must be feeling uneasy, wait here. We’ll bring Anna-san to you once the conversation is over 」
「 Yes. No matter what the result is, I will accept it, it’s my fate. It’s just that, I wanted to meet Anna Erica-san tonight no matter what, and so that’s why I came here 」
「 Yes, I’ll make sure that you two meet up. I promise you that 」
◇ ◇ ◇
The car stopped at the bottom layer of the parking lot.
In front of us, Shou-neechan’s minivan opened.
First, Michi checks the safety of the location then, Tsukiko and Ruriko come down.
「 Yo-chan, we should 」
「 Yeah, well then, see you later Takahata-san, Kudou-san 」
「 Yeah, I got this 」
I opened the door and went out.
The basement parking lot has a dark mood. It’s heavy.
Nei also gets off the car.
She meets with Shou-neechan.
Everyone, even Shou-neechan, got off the car now.
Anna-san hasn’t noticed the girl in the rear seat of our car.
「 Seki-san! 」
A male bodyguard from the Kouzuki SS comes running towards Shou-neechan.
Seems like he whispered a report.
「 I understand. Thank you 」
Shou-neechan turned to us.
「 Anna Kenichirou’s already here. He brought in extra people 」
She smiled wryly.
「 Who is it? 」
「 Anna Erica-san’s fiance or I should say that he’s still just a candidate. Madohori Tadashi-san is here 」
Err, it’s that “Mad Hori” who wants to become the first president of Japan.
「 Oh, it’s gonna get messy then 」
Momoko-neechan smiled at somebody else’s problem.
「 Also, Anna-san’s mother is also with him 」
Shou-neechan said. Anna-san froze.
Seems like it’s beyond her expectations that her father would bring her mother into the discussion.
「 So, do you have some instructions? 」
Shou-neechan smiled at me.
She probably is asking about what I have to say after talking to Takahata Marika-san in Kudou-papa’s car.
「 No, nothing special. I know that Shou-neechan still hasn’t revealed all the cards at hand 」
「 I’ll just get in Shou-neechan’s plan for now 」
「 Okay. Well then, let’s go 」
We follow Shou-neechan and enter the hotel from the parking lot.
There are Kouzuki SS escorts in front of the elevator too.
They handed over several keycards to the rooms to Shou-neechan.
「 The guests are in 2504. 2503, 2505, and 2506 are open. These are the keys, please use them as you please. 2513 is the staff room 」
「 What about the lawyer? 」
「 He hasn’t arrived yet 」
「 I understand. Thank you 」
The Anna couple and Mad Hori are already in room 2504.
The lawyer, it’s probably that lawyer that’s managing Anna-san’s inheritance from her late Grandfather.
Also, I think that Takahata Marika-san will be in 2513.
That’s where they can watch our discussion in real-time.
「 Do you want to go to another room to calm down before talking to your father? We have prepared some waiting rooms for that 」
Shou-neechan asks Anna-san.
It’s 2503, 2505, and 2506.
「 No, we should go 」
Anna-san replies with a stern expression.
「 We don’t need to go to the waiting room either. We’ll go with Kou-chan. Instead of peeking from the waiting room, I also want to be in the conversation 」
「 I understand. Then, let’s go 」
We get in the large elevator.
Then, we go up to the 25th floor.
◇ ◇ ◇
Even on the 25th floor’s elevator hall…
There are Kouzuki SS bodyguards.
Ruriko from Kouzuki house and Momoko-neechan from Kaan house are both here after all.
Naturally, they’ll have strict security here.
「 This way 」
This is a floor that Kouzuki SS rents regularly, so…
Shou-neechan goes straight to room 2504.
I can see that Anna-san’s nervous.
The heavy atmosphere is in the hotel’s corridor’s air.
We stand before the door.
「 Ah, wait a second Shou-neechan 」
I stopped Shou-neechan
「 Anna-san, you should take deep breaths at times like this 」
「 Deep breaths? 」
Anna-san looked at me.
「 Even without it, I… 」
「 No, you should do it. Calming down your emotions is necessary. Michi 」
I looked at Michi.
「 Yes, it will be Kudou style’s breathing exercise 」
「 Right. Teach Anna-san that 」
「 This is a breathing technique passed on to my family, to calm down our minds when dealing with our enemies 」
Anna-san should know that Michi is Misuzu’s bodyguard since they both attend the same middle school.
A bodyguard of nobility should have some knowledge of martial arts.
「 Inhale slowly on the count of eight, and then, exhale slowly on the count of eight 」
「 Ooh, I’ll try that too. Let’s do it together, Ruriko, Sebastianus! 」
Momoko-neechan joins in, so Anna-san had no choice now.
Nei and I joined in.
「 Then, count 4 」
Shou-neechan also joins in. Now everyone’s doing breathing exercises.
「 Then, two counts. Breathe in, out. 1, 2! 1, 2! 」
「 One count! 」
Ha, fu, ha, fu!
「 Then, two counts, and then four… okay, now go to 8 counts. Then, 16 counts 」
Our breathing starts to slow down.
「 Okay, we’re done 」
Yeah, when you breathe in fresh air, your body feels refreshed.
And yet, it’s relaxing.
Above all, it connects everyone nicely with our breathing.
「 Anna-san, I’ll say it beforehand, I didn’t come here purely out of my curiosity 」
「 You’re my cute junior, so I don’t want to see you feel unhappy. I won’t do anything bad 」
Then, she looked at Ruriko and me.
「 Kou-chan and Ruriko too, everyone here feels the same way, right? 」
Momoko-neechan looked at each and one of us.
Michi, Sebastianus (Yamada Umeko-san,) Nei, Shou-neechan, and…
「 Kou-chan even prepared his last card for you 」
Momoko-neechan smiled at Tsukiko
「 After talking in the car earlier, you look like someone with a much more simple and good personality than I thought 」
As long as they make contact and a conversation, I know that Momoko-neechan and Tsukiko will get along.
「 Although, maybe you already are manipulating my thoughts,… 」
「 I won’t do that 」
Tsukiko replies with a straight face.
「 I’m joking. Anyway, in the worst case, Tsukiko-san can lend her power to cut a way through so you don’t have to worry, Anna-san 」
「 As long as Kou-sama orders it, then I’ll do it 」
「 I-Is that so? I don’t get it, but… 」
Naturally, Anna-san can’t understand what it means since we haven’t explained Miko power to her, and she hasn’t seen how fearsome it is in reality.
「 Anyway, we’re here with you, you don’t have to worry 」
「 Then, shall we? 」
Shou-neechan asks Anna-san.
「 Yes 」
Anna-san seems to have resolved herself.
Shou-neechan knocks on the door.
The door opens, and a tall slim man wearing dark glasses shows up.
He’s wearing all black.
Black suit, black shirt, and black jacket.
「 Yes? 」
He glares at us with a face that’s in bad mood.
He brings in a threatening atmosphere
「 I’m Seki from the Kouzuki SS. I’ve brought Anna Erica-san 」
Shou-neechan replied to the young man.
Anna-san’s hiding behind Shou-neechan’s back.
「 Oh, Erica-san, we’ve been waiting for you. No, really, isn’t your disobedience to your parents a bad thing? 」
The young man tells Anna-san.
「 Well then, Erica-san can enter. As for everyone else, you can wait outside. Okay? 」
The young man tells us with a bossy tone
「 No, we will go in with Anna-san 」
Momoko-neechan tells the dark glasses man with an offended tone.
「 No, what kind of right do you have to say something that stupid? This is a problem within the family, you don’t want to increase outsiders, don’t you? 」
「 Aren’t you also an outsider? 」
「 I don’t think I need to answer you 」
The man said.
「 I see. Well then, let’s go back, Anna-san. It seems that this man doesn’t want to have a discussion 」
Momoko-neechan brings out that card.
「 Hey, please stop the jokes. We have Erica-san’s parents with us here. Erica-san is still a middle school girl, a minor. If you bring her away, then we’ll call the police for kidnapping a minor 」
「 So, go ahead? 」
Momoko-neechan speaks with a ridiculing expression.
「 But, are you sure that you can do that? 」
「 I-isn’t that obvious?! I’m only speaking of what’s socially just! Come here Erica-san! and you all should go home 」
A smart-looking middle-aged man in a suit comes in.
「 S-Stop it Madohori-kun!! 」
This Anna Erica-san’s father. Anna Kenicirou.
「 K-Kaan Momoko-sama. Please forgive his discourtesy. Kouzuki Ruriko-sama too, we apologize. Oh, Seki-san, I’m sorry for the trouble he’s causing 」
They apologize to Momoko-neechan hurriedly.
As expected of the representative auditor specializing in the large enterprise. They know that they can’t fight Kaan and Kouzuki house.
「 Erica. You’ve come 」
They call to her daughter.
「 So is it okay if we come in too? 」
Momoko-neechan talks to Anna Kenichirou.
「 Ah, y-yes, of course, please come in 」
「 Hey, Anna-san, I thought I’m the one doing the negotiations?! If you don’t kick them out it will come back to you during the negotiations! 」
Madohori Tadashi shouts.
Yeah, he’s definitely not Madohori. He’s Mad Hori.
「 Shut up for a bit! Besides, I don’t remember ever telling you that you can take care of the negotiations! 」
「 Nono, you shouldn’t say that this late in the game, Anna-san!! 」
Mad Hori whispers to Anna Kenichirou.
「 If we don’t show that we’re a monolith, they’ll pickle us! 」
「 And that’s why I don’t want that from you, shut up for now 」
「 No, I can’t do that! 」
「 They’re the daughters of the president of the Kaan group and Kouzuki group! 」
Mad Hori’s face went “Huh??”
「 Really? 」
「 Yep, really 」
「 Yes, we’re in our ordinary clothing today, and besides, we always place ourselves as far away from you as possible when in parties so you probably haven’t noticed, but… 」
Momoko-neechan smiled unpleasantly.
「 I thought Erica-san ran away to her school friend’s home? 」
「 You weren’t listening, were you? Erica-san ran away to the Kouzuki house!! 」
「 Eh, I haven’t heard of that?! 」
「 I already told you!!! 」
「 Nonono, I heard that they’re affiliated with Kouzuki SS, but having a relationship with Kouzuki house itself… 」
「 Shut up already! 」
I wonder when will this skit end?
「 Uhm 」
Momoko-neechan looked at Anna Kenicirou.
「 Oh, I’m sorry. Come in! Come inside 」
Room 2504’s interior is a mid-size conference room.
Oh, since we increased our negotiating team, Shou-neechan changed the room to a place where a large number of people can discuss.
In the back of the room, is a beautiful woman in her 40s sitting down.
She noticed us and bowed her head.
「 I’m Erica’s mother. I’m sorry for my Erica causing you trouble on this occasion 」
This woman is Anna-san’s mother.