66 – Proposal Prep
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Monday, November 11, 2024. Early morning.

"Thanks for taking me out shopping today, Uncle Kai." Rin smiled and buckled herself into Kai's car.

The former yakuza and current businessman shook his head, giving her a warm smile. "Any time, Rin. Don't hesitate to call me if you need something."

Rin returned with a bright smile of her own and said, "Will do!"

Sakura waved from the doorstep of their house and said, "Have fun with Uncle Kai, Sweetie!"

"I will, Mom!"

Sakura smiled. And then that smile promptly faded as she looked at Kai, her eyes sharp. "Don't get her involved in any funny business, Kai. I'm not above asking John for favors if I have to."

Kai sighed. "Put a little bit more trust in me, will you, Sakura? I wouldn't ever let any harm come to your daughter."

"So long as you know." Sakura nodded and said, "And remember to drop her off for her lessons!"

Kai rolled his eyes. "Yes, Mother. I know."

"You-!"

Kai chuckled and rolled up the window, driving off.

Sakura waved her fist at Kai as he did, but then she sighed and went back into the house.

Rin shifted her gaze away from her mother and back to Kai, staring at the man with graying hair. "You and Mom get along really well, don't you?"

Kai glanced at Rin and shook his head. "I don't know about getting along well... but we've known each other for a while. It's just the thing that childhood friends do when they get older. You know, right? Like how your friends act around you?"

"Um... I don't have any friends, so I don't. Mom and I were always moving around a lot when I was younger, so there wasn't a chance to make any."

"O-Oh." Kai coughed. "That's... I mean... sorry."

Rin shook her head. "It's fine! I have a lot of friends now! Like the Ohana, Miss Beta, Mister John, Alpha nee-chan... Ah, and Tsuki too!"

Kai smiled. "That's right. And thank you for that. Tsuki's been really happy to see Hana stream... and to talk with you too."

"That's nothing to thank me for, Mister Kai! I like talking with Tsuki too! She um... also reminds me of myself, so I'm happy to help."

An awkward air filled the car again.

Kai cleared his throat and said, "So, you mentioned that you wanted to buy your mother a car?"

"Mmhm!" Rin nodded and said, "Not one too expensive, but one that Mom can use to get around easier. We used to have an old car, but we had to sell it when Mom got sick..."

Rin still remembered that. Her mom had laughed it off saying that she could work from anywhere. But she had been really worried about Rin having to take the trains by herself to school.

Well, her mother didn't have to worry about that now since Rin had withdrawn from school. But it *had* been pretty scary going by herself too.

Come to think of it, being able to have someone drive her around like this instead of getting into the packed train or walking was really nice...

"Rin?" Kai was giving Rin a concerned look through the rearview mirror. "Are you alright?"

"Ah." Rin nodded. "Sorry, Uncle Kai. I was just thinking about how lucky I am... and how fast this has all happened."

Just over a week. That was how long it had been since Rin's life had completely changed. Not only that, but it had gone from the depths of desperation to something she couldn't even have dreamed up.

"Well you've more than earned it. You and your mom have gone through hell and back, so it's about time that some good things happened."

Rin nodded, brushing faint tears away from her eyes. But then she realized what Kai had said. "Um, do you mind if I ask you something, Uncle Kai?"

"Go ahead, Rin. I don't mind."

"Then..." She stared at Kai and said, "Just how do you know my mom? She's never talked about you before, but she seems really happy to be around you. Did something happen between the two of you in the past?"

"Ah. That's..." Kai sighed. "That's a complicated question, Rin."

The traffic light at an intersection up ahead flashed red. Kai pulled the car to a stop and then lightly tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. "Your mother and I... we go way back. Grew up together, went to the same school... Well, I'm three years older, so I guess we only really went to the same school once."

Rin tilted her head. "You must have been really close then."

"Mm. We were." Kai nodded. "And since your mother's parents passed away when she was young, she basically grew up with me and my parents."

Rin gasped. "Then you really are like my uncle!"

Kai laughed. "That's right. Though, I'm not a really good uncle... Or a father." His face fell.

Rin shook her head. "That's not true! Tsuki says you're the best Dad!"

"Does she now?" Kai looked troubled. "I don't know about that. I was out late yesterday, and I'm here with you instead of her right now after all." He frowned and said, "The girls were happy to stay with Tsuki in the meantime, but..."

"But nothing." Rin crossed her arms and said, "The fact that you're worrying about her right now shows how much you care, doesn't it? Tsuki would be really happy to know that!"

"I suppose."

The light turned green and then the car started moving again.

Another awkward silence filled the air, so Rin changed the subject. "Um, so how did you meet up with Mom again? She never mentioned how exactly that happened. Oh, and how do you know Mister John?"

Kai laughed. "That's another complicated story. This one's pretty funny though." Kai shook his head and said, "It turns out that John, your mother, and I all ran into each other at about the same time. I'm the one who sold John the building where Myth Inc. is right now. As for how I met your mother again, I happened to run across her as she was walking out from being discharged at the hospital."

Rin blinked. "E-Eh? Mom walked out from the hospital after being discharged?"

Kai nodded. "Surprised me too. I had heard she was sick, but-"

"She was! And really sick too!" Rin frowned. "Mom said that she got a ride home... but did she walk out by herself? Without any help?"

Kai furrowed his brow in thought. "Come to think of it, I didn't see any orderlies or doctors with her."

Rin huffed. "And Mom yells at me for pushing myself."

"Well, your mother has always bounced back from being sick pretty fast. It doesn't surprise me that she's fine now." He paused. "Though it does surprise me how she's still trying to do things by herself. Hah... I really can't leave her alone, can I?"

"Mmhm." Rin nodded and said, "Mom really needs a husband to support her. She might act tough, but Mom's really a softy on the inside, you know?"

"Oh, I know." Kai nodded. "It's what got her into a lot of trouble when we were younger. She was always such a crybaby. But now..." He trailed off again, fatigue and guilt on his face.

"Well..." Rin poked her fingers together. "Why don't you marry her then?"

Kai flinched, almost turning the steering wheel. But he caught himself at the last second and held firm. "Hahaha... That's a good joke, Rin. But I don't think your mother would ever accept, even if I got on my knees and begged her."

Rin stared at Kai.

The man with graying hair seemed regretful. Like he really would do it, but had ruled it out as an impossibility.

Seeing that, Rin decided to give up for the moment and laughed. "Probably. Mom's pretty stubborn."

Kai smiled. "She definitely is."

"Anyway!" Rin glanced out the window and said, "Where are we going, Uncle Kai? We aren't heading to Roppongi Hills, are we?"

"Not quite. Even if we were, the stores aren't open at this time of day. I've got a few friends who are more than happy to help us pick a car out for your mother though, so we're heading to their shops instead."

Rin's eyes widened. "Really? But... won't that be troublesome for them? I mean, if they're working early because of us..."

"It's fine. Those guys owe me a lot anyway, so this is just them paying me back a little."

Rin blinked.

While Kai's words were casual, the man's mouth turned into a smirk near the end of it.

Seeing that, Rin narrowed her eyes. "Uncle Kai."

"Yes?"

"...Extortion is bad."

Kai coughed. "W-What makes you think I'm extorting them?"

"Are you?"

Kai started to sweat. "D-Don't worry about it. Everything is completely above board and legal."

"That's not a yes or a no..."

Kai coughed again and said, "A-Anyway, how's your job coming along? Tsuki said that you have a karaoke stream scheduled for today?"

Rin knew a deflection when she heard one. But since Kai didn't seem to be that bad of a person... and since she really wanted to get him together with her mom, she decided to let it slide.

Instead, she put on a bright smile and said, "I am! Hana and I are going to be singing a few more songs... With Superchats off this time." She frowned and said, "People are really reckless with their money. Hana keeps telling the Ohana to take care of themselves more, but they keep giving so much... Ah!" Rin suddenly remembered something.

"Hm?"

Rin crossed her arms and stared at Kai. "Uncle Kai! It's no good to let Tsuki use so much money! Did you know? In the last stream she spent two hundred thousand yen on Superchats! One to say that you let her, and then another with just one word! No!"

Facing Rin's ire, Kai coughed and said, "I-It's fine. Tsuki-"

"It's not fine! Do you know what else she could have used that money for? A new game console! A whole closet full of clothes! A year's tuition for school!" Rin shook her head and said, "You can't let her spend money so freely like that! Also...!"

Kai sighed.

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