Chapter 7--The Valley of Unrest
Daisuke expertly guided the Jaguar around a box truck through the Saturday morning traffic. Normally a part of the weekend elsewhere in the world, Saturday in Japan was the exception. Still, there were a few more pedestrians along the streets of the fashionable Shibuya business district, young people in particular; then he recalled that some of the schools had already released their charges for the break.
Asuka had a week of exams coming up, and Daisuke had recounted some of his experiences to her over dinner the previous night. It had not been so long ago for Daisuke, either; the examinations at Harvard Law were the hardest he’d faced. He tried to reassure Asuka that what she faced at Katsuhashi would be nothing compared to those.
He adjusted his Ray Bans at a red light. Sunglasses, he mused were a way of life in America, but the wearing of them here was not so common. Most Japanese did not, except to make a fashion statement. The attitude towards them, especially among the elder generations was that the hiding of one’s eyes also meant the hiding of one’s intentions, and inferred the wearer had something to conceal. School children were often counseled that any strange man wearing sunglasses was not to be trusted.
Daisuke cared not for such superstition; his boss didn’t mind, and Daisuke’s eyes were light-sensitive anyway. Even without such a convenient reason, the shades lent to Daisuke’s position beside Keru. It made others wonder just who he was; an associate, a bodyguard or something other? In his customary dark suit, Daisuke’s hairstyle and shades lent to the image that he was a gangster. He of course was not, and Keru had no such associations.
That man sat in the passenger seat. He was on his cell phone, issuing orders to someone at the office, where they would soon arrive. Keru had been working the past several weeks to set up a series of new accounts on the American West Coast, and the talks had been protracted.
Keru said a few more gruff words, then snapped his phone shut. “That settles it,” he declared, and he placed the cell in his inner coat pocket. “We’ll have the staff meeting once we arrive, and I should be there most of the day.”
Daisuke nodded while he maneuvered the Jag around a rank of taxis that blocked the left lane as they queued at a standing area. “Right; what time do you want to head for the club tonight?”
“I suppose seven will do,” Keru replied. “Nanae says she will be ready by then, and Asuka will be done with her studies, or whatever it is she’s doing. We can pick them up beforehand, and have dinner down there. Oh,” he then added as an afterthought, “and I believe Sunday I should be over to the boat. I have more to do to get her ready.”
“I detect a little worry, boss.” At this casual (but not completely so) comment, Keru looked over at Daisuke. “In what way?”
Daisuke kept his eyes forward as they approached the modern tower structure that housed the offices of Keru’s company. “When you mention Asuka,” he replied, “I sense a certain change to your tone of voice; it has been more often of late. You had no secrets with my father, Keru,” Daisuke continued, with a glance in the man’s direction, “you know I will share nothing, upon my word.”
Keru chuckled. “Yes, Daisuke,” he said at length, “you are very much like Eiji. You have that way about you; but you are correct,” Keru went on as he adjusted his seatbelt, “I am concerned for Asuka. She has done very well, in school, in athletics, in everything she has turned her hands to, really. I can be nothing but proud of her; that said,” Keru continued, “I admit I do worry about her.”
“How so?” Daisuke asked, as he turned into the parking garage beneath the.
“I wish for her,” Keru said, “the same wishes I think, that all parents want for their children. Nanae and I have done all we can to secure Asuka’s future. I do not want to see her spoil it.”
Daisuke pulled the Jaguar into a reserved space on the first level. As they alighted from the vehicle, he asked, “And why would she do that?”
“It is not why,” Keru replied, “but how.” Withdrawing a silver case, Keru extracted a Corona and bit off the end. Discreetly removing it from his mouth, he flipped the offending bit toward the cement wall of the garage; Keru then lit the cigar with a lighter that matched the case. He did not offer one to Daisuke, as his right-hand man did not smoke.
The sounds of their footsteps echoed through the cavernous structure. “I want,” Keru explained, “for Asuka to have the best, and that includes the best of people around her. That girl she was with yesterday…what was her name again?”
“Aimi Okuda,” Daisuke reminded him. “Her family owns a shop in Ameyoko,” he continued. “The last name was familiar to me; her father is a craftsman of sorts, and the mother is a painter of some ability. The one given Asuka is quite indicative of that.” Daisuke in fact had not known most of these details; Asuka had provided them in a brief moment of privacy the night before.
Keru snorted. “She seemed a decent girl,” he admitted, “but if what you say is true, then these may not be the kind of people my daughter should be around too much. I’ll have to meet a bunch of them tonight,” Keru added and not without distaste, “but then the club gets all kinds.”
“Ebissan came from that class,” Daisuke pointed out, “and Minoru as well, of course.”
“Ebi was different, an exception,” Keru replied quickly. “She had fine qualities, great potential, as does Minoru.” He sighed. “What happened to her still causes me pain,” he went on, after another puff. “She worked harder than I ever did, and she did not need to.”
They reached the doors that led to the mezzanine and elevators of the office complex, and the two stopped nearby them while Keru smoked. “I have not,” Keru added, punctuating his words with his extended cigar, “sacrificed so much to have my daughter throw it all away.”
Daisuke said nothing in response. He looked away, as Keru continued to puff on his Corona.
Dear Kira: Forgive me if my writing is hurried, but I don’t know how much time I’ll have. I am waiting right now, outside the school. The half-day is over, and I’m excited for the fun we will have this evening. We’re all going to see Kaldera perform at Asuka’s father’s club. We don’t usually get out like this, but Mom and Dad are both anticipating a good time. They deserve a night out.
Talking with Asuka yesterday was a gift; she really was very reserved around us that first day, but she’s opened up to me. That’s good, for now I understand her a little more, and Minoru as well. I also think she needed someone to talk to. By the way she spoke, I feel she’s been rather protected.
That isn’t always bad; Mom and Dad have shielded me from some things, but as I grow older I learn a little more about the way our lives are. Yet I don’t see much difference; Asuka and I are from two different worlds, but we are now friends. I am glad of that.
Kaz is coming out now, I must go. I love you, Kira…Aimi.
Aimi closed her notebook, slid it inside her bag and stood up from her friend’s favored picnic table to greet Kaz. He had his own bag in one hand, his guitar case in the other. After an exchange of hellos, Kaz asked, “So where are the others?”
Aimi smiled as the two sat on the table together. “Mei and Midori are going up to Harajuku to see the cosplayers,” she told him. “They’re getting changed.”
“Oh, no,” he said with a mock groan, “more like to be seen. What will Mei come out as, this time?”
The Harajuku section of Tokyo was a hotbed of activity, where the points of interest were usually the people themselves. Costume play, or cosplay was that curious habit of young people (and some older ones) dressing up as their favorite anime or other characters. It was a fun place; Aimi and Kaz had been there many times, though they’d never gotten into it with the enthusiasm Mei and Midori had for it.
“It is perhaps another outlet for Mei,” Aimi said.
“That it is,” Kaz agreed. “I do have to admit, she didn’t buy into it like so many others.” Kaz had touched upon the fact that Mei made her own costumes, and these often bore the detail that made her outfits look as good, if not better than the originals.
“Oh, my…” Aimi’s comment caused Kaz to follow her gaze, and he just shook his head when he saw their friends pass through the doors. Everyone else still on campus also did double-takes, turned, stopped and stared as well.
Mei and Midori cut a bizarre figure as they walked across the courtyard. Midori was dressed in a dark blue outfit, not unlike the school uniform, but the skirt was cut extremely short; she wore blue legwarmers that left only a couple of inches of her thighs exposed. Aimi and Kaz knew the character Midori was emulating came from an anime called Bleach. She did look extremely cute, Aimi thought.
Mei however, was a refugee from Gothic Lolita. Her black hair was blown out and hung long and wild down her back, and her customary makeup around the eyes was now black and silver; her lipstick was black as well. The black maid’s dress she wore was also very short, at both the top and bottom; most of her large breasts were exposed, and her thick legs were encased in fishnets and knee-high Doc Martens.
“Hey!” Mei shouted her and Midori’s approach, “think we’ll scare the old people and the foreigners?”
Midori giggled, and Aimi and Kaz joined in the laugh. “You both look great,” Aimi replied, “and any man with an ulterior motive will think twice.”
“Good.” Mei loved to shock people. “Anyway,” she went on, “Midori and I’ll see you at the club. Dad’s back in town, and he’s promised to look in on Mom.”
“My folks will meet us there,” Midori added.
“You’re not going to change back before you go to the club, are you?” Kaz asked; his grin matched Mei’s.
“Hell, no!” Mei shot back. “That wouldn’t be any fun!”
Midori laughed again. “Why would we?” She asked. “This is all in fun, and I love looking like this. Besides,” Midori went on as she took Mei’s arm, “I have Mei to protect me.”
She then rubbed up against Mei like a cat, which caused the girl to blush violently, even through her makeup. This made the others laugh even harder, and Mei did as well.
The cosplayers then headed for the train station, while Aimi and Kaz remained behind. “Midori’s been good for Mei,” Kaz commented. “She’s been a lot happier this past year.”
“I know. Mei’s needed someone beyond just us,” Aimi added, “you know, to be friends with.”
“Well, I consider Midori a great friend, too,” Kaz said, as they left the courtyard and headed down the street at a slower place. “Midori kind of needed some, when she came here.”
Aimi nodded and replied, “I’m starting to see things in another light, too, after talking with Asuka.”
“What is she really like?” Aimi noted that Kaz was looking at her closely.
Aimi shrugged. “Asuka is a very nice person,” she said. “She seems quite closed off, but I don’t think that is by her own choice.”
“Minoru has told me she is very privileged,” Kaz related. “She has the best of all things, but he says there’s a price to be paid for that. Asuka has little understanding of the world around her.”
“I see.” Aimi thought about this for a moment, then said, “After meeting her father, I am not surprised. She is like the bird in a gilded cage: protected, watched over, but to the point where she is stifled.”
Aimi then thought a moment more, then turned to her friend. “Kaz,” she said, her voice now one of concern, “you should have seen her yesterday--when she was lost on our street, she was genuinely frightened. I didn’t say anything, but Asuka looked and acted like she’d just landed on another planet. Asuka,” Aimi continued as they passed through the electric doors for the Metro station, “has never seen what it’s like for people like us, and I think it shocked her.”
They stopped near the fare card machines, and Kaz said, “You know, this might be a good chance for her.”
“What would be?”
“Well…” Aimi could tell Kaz was trying to find the right words. “Minoru says,” he went on, “that if Asuka got out more, she would understand things a lot better, and she’d shed the attitude that her father has drummed into her. What do you say that we try to include Asuka in things, like the sailing trip that Kaldera has in mind, and the other stuff? That might just do the trick.”
Aimi nodded and smiled. “That’s a great idea,” she told him, “I’ll help if I can.”
“Okay, I’m off to help Kaldera get ready for tonight, so I gotta run.” Kaz hugged Aimi with his free arm, and she did the same. “I’ll talk to him about it.”
“See you tonight.” Aimi watched Kaz leave; then she turned for the line she would need to take for Ameyoko. Kaz thinks of others so often; he’s wonderful that way. I can’t wait for tonight. This could the beginning of something special, for all of us.
Minoru sat back against the main mast of the Kudo. Stripped to the waist and barefoot, he scribbled lines in his notebook while he waited for Kaldera. Preparations for the coming evening were not yet complete, but right now Minoru was focused on the words that flowed from his pen. He hurried to finish, as he could feel as well as hear the light tread of Kaldera’s feet on the deck.
Kaldera swung himself up from below, sat across from Minoru and folded himself with ease into the lotus position. He was in his usual cargo pants and a tank top; he then removed the hair tie to allow his locks to flow back behind his high forehead. Eyes closed, Kaldera stilled himself and patiently waited for Minoru to finish what he was writing.
A few moments later, this was completed and Minoru looked over. “I have written a lyric,” he said.
“Let me hear it.” Kaldera’s eyes remained closed, and he smiled in anticipation.
“I have no name for it yet,” Minoru told him as turned back to the first of the two pages he had produced, “but here it is.”
“In your eyes I see honesty
In your face there is kindness
Your lips speak only truth
And your smile is as real as true love
All things about you
Are those we aspire to
Your stand is perfection
Which no man can achieve
How have I met you
What good did I commit
To bring you
You, into my life?
For all my life
I waited and searched
And the one moment I didn’t look
There you were.”
Minoru passed the book to Kaldera, who took it. “This is beautiful, Minoru,” he replied as he examined the passages, “and all one long stream of consciousness by the look of it.”
Minoru smiled. “Yes, thank you. I am not sure what to call it, and I wonder if there is more.”
“Well, there could be,” Kaldera admitted, “but this is exceptional as it stands. Who is it about?”
Minoru turned away. “It sounds to me as though you already know,” he said at length.
“Believe me, I’m not trying to find out.” Kaldera handed the book back to him. “You write from the heart, about someone close to you.”
Minoru sighed. “Do not take it to mean a love poem, in that strict sense. It is just about someone I have met,” he explained, “someone who has struck me. I have been inspired, and yet I don’t know what it all means.”
“You don’t have to know,” Kaldera said. Minoru noted he was smiling, not in a conspiratorial way, but in the kind way that had attracted him from the start of their friendship. “If you don’t,” Kaldera went on, “then the answer will present itself in time. I’ll be inside.”
Kaldera uncoiled his body and slid to the deck, and Minoru watched him walk away. You do know, Kaldera, you’re just too kind to infer it. I know as well, but I cannot say, nor can I ever. As one would say, I am in the Valley of Unrest. I may never leave it.
There you have it!