“Back then I had believed that there was no way I would ever make it out of the cage that Takuya had kept us all in. I had joined late sure but I had suffered most…because I was like the free bird that had come to be trapped. Erika and Nao had always been there.” Meisa's voice was soft as she lifted her hand slowly to open the box in front of her and Mao was sure she saw her godmother’s eyes start watering.
Why had Meisa disappeared from her life anyways?
“I want you to have this Mao.” Meisa lifted a picture from the box. In the picture it was her mother, Shota, her Majesty Maki with a little boy in her arms, Meisa, and two other men she did not quite recognize clearly, one who was quite clearly holding...
“This was the first moment your mother realized that the world did not end when your father left or you weren't there.” Mao let her fingers slowly graze past the old photo as she felt tears touch her own eyes.
Erika had her arms around Meisa and Mao was struck at how beautiful the two of them looked together.
“Keep it all actually…I used to have these to remember your mother by but if anyone has deserves these photos..you do.” Meisa pushed the box towards her roughly and stalked out of the room as Mao was left alone with all of Meisa’s memories in her hands.
They shook as she tossed aside the other picture in which her mother could not stop looking at his royal highness.
Her fingers found another. It was one of her in her baby crib at the hospital, she frantically looked through more. There was fabric of an old dress attached with a note.
“Mao’s first dress.” Why did Meisa have all of these? Why did Meisa have all of these memories of her?
She gulped as her hands reached an envelope and she quickly flipped it over so all the contents dashed and flew around her as she let her hands search through the information enclosed. Trying her hardest to look at it objectively.
Erika won’t reply to any of my letters. Meisa please. I need to tell her to wait. Please.
Please. I need my family back.
She tossed it aside trying to ignore the way her heart beat furiously underneath her chest making her every cell shiver in pain as she grabbed onto other letters that had tumbled out.
Is Mao all right? Please tell me she’s all right. I understand that you have now left Takuya. I hope that you are faring well…he never deserved you in the first place.
Did I ever deserve Erika?
Then there was one dated after she knew her mother had disappeared from her life completely and she flipped it open quickly as she scanned the contents.
Both Nao and Aya say I cannot take Mao. We have fought and I can’t take it anymore. I want my daughter! I want to raise her! I want to make sure she has everything her heart desires. I want her to know she has a father who loves her beyond measure. Meisa. Please help me.
She has no one now.
No one except me and I need to be a father to-
She couldn't read any more as she crashed her back against the wall as she felt the tears finally roll down her cheek the hot air of the room resting cool against the watery surface of her cheeks.
He had loved her. She had meant something to him.
Akanishi Jin, ambassador to China, her mother’s first true love, and her father.
She couldn’t control it as her memories floated back to her…except this time they were altered with every single fact she found out about her parents she found herself drowning in the idea of a happy childhood.
Instead of a clipped and angry Toda Takuya she had a loving, smiling Jin in her life. Instead of the sarcastic and wittily bitter Toda Nao she had a beautiful and extremely graceful mother teaching her all the little things she had to know to grow up.
Mao had grown up well…but not the way she had perhaps wished she had.
“SHUT UP!” She had punched them all out she could remember it easily as she rubbed the back of her hand against her nose and let out the pain in her chest.
“Mao?” She looked up at the voice and saw the man standing in front of her and she didn’t understand the way her heart reacted to him. The way it felt as if it could mend itself just a little with him around.
How long had she known him? Less than 24 hours…and yet with him by her side she had never felt more supported in her life. Within seconds of watching her quiet down at his appearance he walked towards her and enveloped her in his arms.
“He loved me.” Her words were muffled into his sweater as the tears soaked into his strong frame. She tried to ignore the way he smelt absolutely perfect like waffles and butter. She pushed her hands around him and clutched on like a little girl as she felt the tip of his chin land on the crown of her head.
“Your father?” She felt him pull her in closer so that she was practically on his lap as he rocked her from side to side as she sniffled in his grasp.
“All these years,” She hiccupped as she shut her eyes tightly looking onto the piles of information that just lay around. Her eyes finally landing on a photo of Kuroki Meisa and Akanishi Jin at Jin and Erika's wedding.
Both of them looked shockingly meant for each other she couldn’t help but remark with their perfectly structured high features. They looked like they were aristocrats…not Toda Takuya’s personal dolls.
“I always thought he was the coward my grandfather whispered into my ears. I never thought-“ She struggled for her words as Ryo lulled her quiet as he attempted to comfort her as best he could. His mouth let out a gush of air as she sobbed relentlessly and he could only repeat one phrase as he held onto her tighter with every cry from her heart showing itself.
It was lunchtime and Meisa had laid out a small spread of rice and greens for them.
“Would you like to know more Mao after lunch?” Her words were sagely even when they were common and Mao could only look at this woman differently as she remembered her fathers letters to her.
For the first time in her life she fought in her heart for her father. “Why didn’t Erika receive any of the letters?” She asked softly as she pushed her bowl onto the table roughly glaring at the woman in front of her whose eyes shot up and Ryo looked between the women who had been so touched by this story that they had come to battle with one another.
“Hikari? Do you want to show onii-chan your room?” Mao may have been intent on striking Meisa down but at this statement she shook out of her reverie to look at him with wide eyes.
“EXCUSE ME?!” This was the kind of guy she was trusting?!
At first Ryo looked like he didn’t quite understand what had happened but then his own eyes widened at the innuendo that she had presented and he gasped whacking her arm as she fell over lightly. “Not like that baka! What kind of childhood did you have that you’re thinking of things like that!”
“At least I’m not a-!” But Ryo quickly clapped a hand on her mouth as he glared at her.
“At least I’m not a cry baby who needs to have her hand held constantly.” At that he lifted his other hand to show that he was still enclosed in her hand tightly and she blushed furiously as she licked his hand so that he yelped and pulled it off her mouth.
That shut her up as she hissed at him. She hated that she relied on him so much in so short a while.
Actually she hated that she relied on him period. She had never allowed herself to become so vulnerable to Shun, or the Prince that had become enamored with her for those three minutes where she was the perfect woman of his dreams.
“Hikari iko.” The little girl looked relieved to leave the tense room as Mao glared back at Ryo who only stuck his tongue out at her and made funny faces behind Meisa’s back as he exited the room.
Meisa could only let out a small tight smile as she watched the exchange between the two but she became so entirely aware that Mao’s eyes were glued to the door even after Ryo had left that she came to a realization.
“You love the boy don’t you?”
That caught her attention as Mao turned back to the actress turned priestess. “Excuse me?”
Meisa grabbed her chopsticks and stirred the greens before she placed it on top of her rice. “You love him…whoever he is to you.”
Mao let out a bitter laugh. “I had sex with him for the first time last night. I don’t think I love him. I’ve known him 24 hours.” There was no need to be censored with Meisa...this was the woman who had been involved in an adulterous relationship for so long people had considered her his concubine.
Meisa smiled as she closed her eyes and let her mind drift back to her golden days. “I fell in love with Takuya within five minutes of meeting him. I fell in love with the man I was with when I first saw him. Love has no time limit on it Mao. You would do well to know that.”
“I’m sorry things aren’t like they were back then Meisa.” At this Meisa let out a loud aah.
“So you are into females then?” Mao spat out her rice. What was with these people saying these things that shocked her today?
“Oh oh. Sorry Bisexuals they’re called right?” Mao slapped her chopsticks onto the table and Meisa laughed, the lines on her face making themselves as apparent as her history in Japan, one of the oldest and brightest sex symbols the country had ever seen. “This old woman has not lost her sense of humor oh heterosexual one.” She laid a hand softly onto Mao’s hand as she answered Mao’s initial question. “You cannot ask me why your mother never got your father’s letters Mao. Those are the letters he sent me. I cannot tell you anything…you must ask your grandmother.”
At this Mao really started laughing. “Nao? Please that woman will tell me nothing. She hates the idea that I want to know more about where I came from. I still don’t understand why I must be kept sheltered like this.”
Meisa sighed. “It is not that you must be kept sheltered. Your life will just be easier to live if you did not know about Erika.”
Mao’s smile faltered as she shook her head determinedly. “That’s where all of you are wrong.” The entire reason she had decided to go into history had been for this reason to be able to uncover the past. That same past that had been kept so limited to her since birth. “Isn’t knowing better than wondering?” She looked at the woman in front of her who had barely been doing any eating since they had started.
“I have been wondering since I was born…who am I? Where did I come from? Why was it my parents seemed so much older than others? Why didn’t I have a mother to teach me lady-like things? Why my father was never able to quiet put me on his back? Why were there pictures of this woman under my mother’s mattress? Until finally when I became a child I was able to understand that it wasn’t even my mother at all. They were my grandparents…why did my parents leave me?” She let out a slow gasp of air as she stared at Meisa who looked back at her as she flicked her hair.
“So no Meisa… my life has not been easier not knowing Erika." She sighed as she tiredly lifted her had to the rice bowl trying to ignore the look of pity that touched her god mother's face.
"At the very least...I want to stop wondering now Meisa."