Chapter Fifty-four 「Father and Mother」
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Wednesday, June 17th (Early Evening)

Entering through the front door of Granny’s dagashiya, it was that self-same persona who was there to greet us.

“Oya, if it isn’t Kouta… Oh, and Natsume-chan!  Are you here to see my granddaughter?”  Granny was quick to address Nacchan and I, though she looked at Shizu as well, she said nothing to her.  Perhaps Granny didn’t recognize her?  It’s not unreasonable, since Shi-chan might not have come here when she was a child, or perhaps looked quite different?  Turning gyaru can change one’s appearance significantly.

Granny shuffled into the back while we waited in the candy shop for a moment, before the door opened and Saya came out to greet us.  What was a momentary face full of happiness had lessened a bit when she saw the full collection of us three who had gathered here in her home.

I immediately bowed and apologised for intruding into her evening.

“It’s fine.  Just didn’t expect to see all three of you together.  Won’t you come in?” Saya extended her hospitality, and we entered into the rear of the shop and what was basically her home.  

“So, what brings you by?”  Saya kept the conversation directed at me, though it was certainly obvious with me being there together with Nacchan, the elephant in the room was already obvious.

“I was accompanying Natsume-san to visit…”  I let the rest of it hang in the air.  Satoko had told me the secret, though Saya had not.  Not yet, at least.

Nacchan stepped forward and took Saya into a hug.

“Thanks for always looking out for him.”

Saya only responded with a simple “Un.” before patting Natsume on the back and then releasing her from her hug.

“I’m actually in the middle of bathing those two.  Granny went in to watch them while I came to greet you.  Why don’t you all have a seat, I’ll make you something to drink.  A cola for you, Kouta?”

“Ah, yes, please.”

Saya returned with four glasses, two with cola, one of which was for me, and the other for Nacchan, and two with a golden liquid with a bit of white foam popping away, for Shizu and… herself.  After we each drank a bit, and Saya quickly showed me she could put the whole damn glass away in a couple gulps if she was serious, some friendly talk came from her lips.

“Shizu… It’s been a while.  Are things with Kouta going well?”

“As well as can be hoped for at the moment.”  Shizu answered dryly.  “Taking care of yourself, for Satoko-chan and Kibou-kun’s sake?”

“I try to keep as safe as I can, but you know how… it gets.”

“I do…  or at least I did.”

I couldn’t understand the strained conversation between them precisely, but the second video clearly showed Shizu being… in that clubroom.

“Umm…”  I interrupted, “Is it alright if we leave business related to that place aside?”

Shizu looked at me immediately when I said that. I closed my eyes and nodded.  I understood enough to see at least the reality before me.  All three of these women who were now connected to me belonged to that club at some point, even myself as well.

Saya sighed, with a little agitation in her exhale.

“Sorry.  I didn’t expect you to bring your lover with you.”  Saya said bitterly to me.

“That’s not how it is.”  I replied.  “Shizu is here as support for Natsume today.”

This caught Saya off-guard.

“Support?”

Nacchan fidgeted a little before opening her mouth to speak.

“I came to see Kibou, but not as his Auntie…”

Saya’s eyes opened wide!  Her beautiful dark brown eyes pierced through everyone at the table.

“Natsume…”

“I’m not going to abscond with him, Saya.  I just… need to understand the weight of the choice I made back then.”

Saya downed the rest of her glass of beer. “Please… just don’t say anything unnecessary in front of Satoko.”

Nacchan nodded.

“Don’t worry, the only difference in this visit is internal.” Nacchan said as she held her hand over her heart.  That seemed to be enough of an explanation to Saya, as she got up, and said she’d go check on them.

Leaving us alone, Shizu passed a glance at me and I nodded my head.  I was aware she was part of the Anatomy Exploration club the previous year, as were Saya and Natsume.

“Hey, we’re all friends here, right?”  I said in a diffusing manner, though I felt I was the one under the most stress right now.  My relationship with Saya was mostly secret, and now adding Nacchan to the list of girls I had been with… I hoped honestly that Saya wouldn’t have some otherworldly sense like Shizu and be able to pick up on what we had been doing only hours before.

“Oh, are you friendly with Saya-san, Kouta?” Shizu asked me bitterly.

“For the short time I was in the club, you could say we didn’t dislike each other…”  Well, it wasn’t an outright lie.  I went to take another healthy sip of my cola.

“Get to suck on those MILFy milkers?”

I nearly choked on the sip of cola at that sudden statement.

“I think he missed out, Shi.” Nacchan replied.

“A pity.  Her milk is quite nice.” Shizu commented.

“It really is…”  Nacchan agreed.

“Oi… what the heck!”

Shizu, I couldn’t tell if she was serious about that or not.  Nacchan, according to Satoko’s report, was a special friend of Saya’s, so I would absolutely believe it coming from her mouth.

“Did I do something wrong?” I asked, carefully.

Shizu only smiled at me.  “I don’t know?  Did you?”

I frowned.  I did not like where any part of today has gone since leaving my bedroom this morning.

“Maybe I should go…”

But, it was too late already to go.  As I stood up, suddenly two arms lashed themselves around my legs.

Yeah.

A short little cutie, hair still damp was holding onto me and looking up at me with a huge smile.

“Hello, Satoko.”

She then looked at the current company who joined me at the table.

“Auntie.  Oh, Gold… no, Yellow-oneechan!”

“Why hello again!” Shizu said with a smile. “Play any new shooting games lately?”

Satoko only shook her head.

“I haven’t gone to the arcade since then.  Auntie Ume was busy, so she couldn’t take me, and Mommy needs me to look after Baa-chan and Kibou.”

“Aww, too bad.  Maybe we’ll meet up again there sometime.”

“It’s okay, I got to go to an event with Gold-oneechan and Big-oneechan!” Satoko said cutely.

“I heard.  It seems you played a special role, didn’t you?”

Shiori talked to Shizu about the event?  Not that I would be surprised, they are twins.  I’d imagine they’d talk about everything.

“Uh-huh.  I got captured by WARUMAN!  Big-oneechan came out as Rider Banchou and beat up everyone!  Then we went to eat hamburger steak!  And we saw Masked Rider at the movies after that!  It was super fun!”

I smiled.  Satoko was like a small oasis of cuteness for me, and not even the strange amount of bad luck I was feeling could penetrate that.  Not even when Nacchan got up suddenly and walked over to the new arrival.

Saya was carrying Kibou, and he was carefully passed over to Nacchan who gently took him and cradled him in a hug.  It seems that even though Saya was doing the actual heavy lifting in his rearing, caring for Kibou wasn’t something strange or foreign to Nacchan.

It was a heartwarming moment.  I could see both the weakness and the strength of Natsume battling each other as she held on and gently rocked Kibou back and forth as he looked up at her and smiled.

“Papa!”

A word which rang out every bit as sharply as the iceberg which gouged a hole into the side of the titanic echoed into the ears of everyone present.

I looked down at Satoko who was eagerly throwing her hands up in the air, practically begging me to pick her up.

Three additional stares in the form of each of the women present, two mothers, and one I’d like to make one out of someday all fixated on me, and the cutest troublemaker in the world who was now a living weapon, having entered in the secret launch code with and unlocked the start of pandemonium.

None of the women present said a word, perhaps waiting on my reaction.

What on Earth should I do?  Should I scold her for not calling me Onii-san?  Would Saya… react poorly if I did?  Nacchan… how would she react?  Shizu?  If I already had a child… would… it cost me Shizu!?

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

Then I reached down and picked up my daughter.

Her tender and short arms wrapped around my neck as I brought my hands together to make a platform for her butt to rest on.  She gave me a kiss on the cheek and said it again, cleanly and irrefutably.

“Papa daisuki!

I committed to it.

I didn’t refute her claim.

I didn’t scold her and tell her to call me Onii-san as a corrective action.

I just hugged her close.

Who was going to be the first to break the unspoken standoff?  Shizu?  Saya?  What ring of hell was I about to fall into?

“Oya, oya, isn’t that precious…!”

It was Granny. She came over and pinched Satoko’s cheek.

“Baa-chan… it huwwwts!”

Granny however, just laughed.

“Came over just a few times, and she’s already calling you Papa…  Saya dear, perhaps it’s time you should start thinking about the future of these two…”

“...”

Granny walked over to Kibou and Natsume, placing a kind and withered hand on Nacchan’s arm. “Kibou will always be welcome here, Natsume-chan.”

Natsume looked to be on the verge of teetering over. “I’m sorry for burdening you all this time, Uesugi-san.”

“Nonsense.  No child which is loved can ever be a burden.”

Nacchan began to cry again.  “I’m such a horrible person.”

Granny moved to wipe away her tears with a bony finger. “If that was the case, you wouldn’t come at all.  Yet you do all you can to care for him in the only way you know how, don’t you?”

I was standing witness to Nacchan being judged as a fit parent by the wizened candy shop granny, even though she herself truly doubted she was anything other than merely the body which gave birth to that young and energetic boy.

Satoko whispered in my ear, telling me to walk over to Kibou.  So I did.  When we got there, Satoko reached out to pat Nacchan on the head.

“It’s okay Kibou’s mommy.  Satoko is still his Onee-chan no matter what.”

Saya had to step in and grab hold of Nacchan as she held onto Kibou tightly even as her legs gave out and she was being crushed by emotions coming from the Uesugi household.

“Kibou!  Mommy’s sorry she’s so terrible!  Please forgive mommy one day!  Please… forgive… *hic*... Pl...ease…” Nacchan’s bottled up feelings and self-loathing came out all at once in a hysterical stream of apologies no one year old could ever hope to understand.

Shizu breezed past me and crouched down to hold on to Nacchan as well, on the opposite side of Saya.

“It’s okay… breathe, Nacchan… breathe…”

Shizu was rubbing her back in a circular pattern and Granny took the chance to walk over to me and Satoko again.  If I thought she was senile at all, that had been entirely dispelled with what just happened.  Granny’s grip was strong and she pulled me some distance away from the three girls.

“That girl is stubborn beyond belief.  She gets it from her father, but she’s not all bad.  She’s waited patiently with Satoko-chan all this time for you, but why not make a little time for yourself and her to be sure?  Satoko already is.”

Granny said it quietly to me, but the implication was clear between her words.  She knew I was Satoko’s father.

“I’ll do that… but the circumstances are…”

“Water has no memory.  An aimless pool of it moves along the path of least resistance until it cannot anymore, yet a fierce current can hewn stone, steel, and bone given enough time.  What kind of water are you, my boy?”

Again with the water references.  It made me think of Mina and Gorou-jii.  Mina said I was a well, but Gorou-jii made references to being a river.

“If I said I was a well of water?”

Granny smiled at me when I responded with that.

“What’s better than a splash of cool water on a hot summer day?  There is no one who wouldn’t enjoy or appreciate it.”

Her reply made something Kanae said to me come back into focus.

My sex… heals broken women.

I had done the deed with Nacchan, and now she was rethinking her whole life.

I had done the deed with Ibuki, and she had the fortitude to cast aside everything to find her place with me.

I had done the deed with Rina, and she found the confidence to follow her heart properly, even if Kawazu was a casualty.

I had done the deed with Kanae, and she more than ever stood to support me.

I had done the deed with Shiori, and the despair she had over her sister was removed.

I had done the deed with Ruru, and her fears about love fell away.

There was probably more, but… it was slowly taking shape in my mind.

Eventually, it would become Saya’s turn.

Even though Shizu had me promise her not to make another woman mine… It would eventually be a promise I would be unable to keep.

Saya wasn’t Nacchan.  Saya wasn’t someone I could only lay my hands upon once or twice.  She came with Satoko.  She came with a promise of a future.  It was a package deal already built by my own hands long ago.  Like a freshly planted bamboo stalk that only now shot up overnight, just the right size to harvest after the long gestation and cultivation period was reached.

Saya, too, was broken.  Maybe it was because of my actions, or just as likely not at all.  I was obligated to help her, regardless.

But first, there was one insurmountable obstacle in my heart that needed to be dealt with, before I would ever be able to truly help any of these women in my life.  The wall I put around my own well, for my own selfish reasons.  The wall that was called Shizu.

“Satoko, can you back up your papa? He has to do something really stupid, otherwise he can’t help your mommy.”

“Papa!  You can count on me!”

“That’s my good girl.  I’ll trust you to know what to do, because I sure don’t.”

“That’s okay, DQN’s break through with their stupidity in the first place!”

I sighed.

I hope she was right.

I really hope a five year old is smarter than me.

I put Satoko down and approached the trio once more.

“Shizu,”  I began, for the first time not considering a dogeza to apologize with, for there was nothing I was ashamed about. “I’d like you to meet my daughter, Uesugi Satoko.”

All three women looked up at me immediately.

“Satoko, this is the person I love the most in this entire world.  More than myself, more than my onee-chan, more than my wife, and even more than your mother.  This is my Shizu.”

“Hello!”  Satoko put her arms around Shizu’s neck and hugged her tightly. “It’s nice to meet you, Auntie Shizu!”

Shi-chan at first stayed stock still, hit with it all at once.  Then her arms gently wrapped around my daughter.

“So, Kouta’s your papa…?”

“Un. He kissed mommy, so that means he can be my papa now!”

Fuck.

“Is… is that so?”

“Shizu-san…”  Saya struggled to say her name “...about that…”

“It’s fine.  Even if Kouta and you did it… it’s fine.” Shizu said unsteadily.

“Shi-chan…  Satoko is my daughter.  Is our daughter… Saya-san’s and… mine.”

“...?  How…?  You were a virgin when I met you, right?”

“Yes.”

“...it takes sex to make a baby, though?”

Saya spoke up.

“That’s not quite true.  When Kouta and I were much younger… we had fooled around without actually… doing it.  Neither of us knew it could happen, but it did.  Kouta’s sperm shot onto me, and well…”

“Wait.  Waitwaitwaitwait.  What you’re saying…” Shizu interrupted forcefully.

“The summer between elementary and middle… I got Saya pregnant.  Satoko was born from the first time I ever uh… released.”

“Eh?” Shizu looked to me, then to Saya, then to Satoko, and back to me. “A joke?”

I shook my head.

“Look at her.  She looks a bit like Kanae and I, doesn’t she?”

Shizu stared at Satoko.  Scrutinizing the shape of her face and its features.

“...”

“Wait… Papa… is really my papa!?”  Satoko also reacted similarly to Shizu, looking at both me and her mother in a back and forth until she too was overwhelmed.

“Kouta Onii-chan is my actual Daddy!?”

“Yes, Satoko.  I planned on telling you eventually, when it would be easier to understand…” Saya softly spoke.

“Who cares!  This is awesome!!!  I wanted Kouta-Oniichan to be my Daddy!!!”

Satoko launched into me like a toy freight train.

“DADDY!!”

I scooped her up, and held her properly… not as her Onii-san, but as her father.

“I’m sorry I was late coming home… I got held up by some things.  But I won’t disappear again.”

“DADDY!!!”

Satoko just yelled that single word, over and over as she squeezed me tighter than any plush doll she ever slept with.  My eyes however met with two pained women’s expressions… Saya’s and Shizu’s.

I had two allies at the moment, one being my established daughter, and the other being Natsume.

Why Natsume?

Because when I knelt down, Satoko jumped off of me and went to hug Kibou.

“Did you hear that Kibou!  You have a Daddy now too!!  Daddy told me that to be a daddy meant he had to love me and you, even if you aren’t really mommy’s!!!”

That logic…  I did say something to that effect though.

Nacchan stared at me after Satoko said those words.  She tried to open her mouth, but she couldn’t form the words.  She didn’t dare to.

So I did.

In front of Nacchan, Shizu, Saya, and Satoko, I knelt down and put my hand on Kibou’s head.

“Hello, son.”

And the world fell apart.

An hour and a half later, only Shizu and I exited the dagashiya.

We walked quietly together until we got to the Seven.  I went and bought a slushy, and since Shizu’s acquaintance Sato-san was working, she picked up a very tall can of beer and bought a package of her favorite brand, Golden 8’s, and we exited the store.

We walked together in the direction of my parent’s home as she openly drank and smoked.

When we got to where my house was… she continued down the walkway, and I had to assume she wanted to go inside.

When we got in, she said nothing.  She pulled me up into my room, and climbed into my bed.  I wasn’t sure if I should join her.  I wasn’t sure of anything at that moment.

But she was.

She patted the space next to her and I climbed in next to her.  Wordlessly still we held each other, and Shizu gave no indication of her mindset.  Was she upset, angry, depressed, suicidal?  I had no idea.  But she was wanting to be held, and damned if I wouldn’t hold her.

Clothes on, no kissing, no fooling around… just two people holding on to each other.  One with the firmest foothold he’s ever had in his life, and another with her foothold crumbling beneath her.

Eventually, the feelings she was mulling over came to a head.

“No.”

“No?”

“No.”

“...no to what?”

“You promised.”

“I did.”

“You broke your promise.”

“I didn’t.  Not yet, at least.”

“So you intend to?”

“It’ll happen, probably.”

“No.”

“Would you rather I hide it from you?”

“Better than what just happened!  A kid?  You have a fucking kid with Saya!?  I mean fuck, if you had lied to me and said you knocked Nacchan up and Kibou was actually yours, THAT I could deal with… but that fucking cunt Saya!?”

Shizu began to beat on me.  Not soft slaps, or even the occasional one that had some oomph behind it, but actual closed fist punches landed on me in rapid succession from her.  I had to actually put my own hands up to defend myself from her.

“A child with that goddamn lunatic!?  Do you even know her!?  Do you have even the slightest fucking clue what kind of fucking….!!!”

I had to grab her hands at the wrists, but when I did it only made her lash out with her legs, and those were far more damaging when they hit me.

“And even with all of that, not just that fucking whore’s daughter, but now Nacchan’s son?  You were just supposed to give her a gentle dicking, that was it!  Now Nacchan’s going to fall in love with you too!  Kouta… I love Nacchan with everything I have, I really do… but… she’s fucked up worse than I am!  I was just buying her off for what happened on Saturday night!  But that’s not even the shit that’s got me mad!

“YOU KNOCKED UP MY SISTER TOO, YOU FUCKING CHEATING SCUMBAG SISTERFUCKER!!!”

Two feet planted themselves firmly into my solar plexus and my grip on her hands came apart as the air burst from my lungs from her kangaroo kick.  I flew backwards off my bed and fell onto the floor of my room, the top of my head slamming into the wheel of my computer chair and sending mixed messages to my brain of which injury hurt worse.

I’ll save you the trouble of guessing, it was the kick to my chest.  That didn’t mean I didn’t grip my head in pain though, and if I thought that was it, I was dead wrong.  Shizu stomped over to me and began to kick me in the upper thigh, right below my hip and her legs ain’t just for show.  She was every bit the lioness, and I was prey.

I wasn’t sure when the kicking stopped, but when it did a body descended upon me and began to hold me gently.  It wasn’t Shizu’s however… this one felt… I can’t say it was familiar, but…

“Kouta, are you alright?”

The voice I knew.  That voice I would always know.

“M..mom?”

“It’s okay, baby.  I’m here.  It’s all going to be okay.”

For what I was sure to be one of the few times I could count on one hand alone… My mother held me.

“Where’s Shizu?” I asked.

“She’s downstairs with your Uncle Rui.”

“Oh… okay…”

It took me a little while to get up, I was sore all over, but at least my breathing was back to normal.  Assessing my situation, I was in my room, the sheets on my bed were a mess, mom wasn’t backing away from me like she usually did…

Yep.

Today is all kinds of fucked up.

Mom extended her hand to me.  “Shall we go downstairs and see what we can talk through, perhaps?”

“Whatever…”

I limped downstairs, surprised that my mother was helping to support me as I tacked each stair painfully.  I wasn’t bleeding externally, so that was a small mercy on Shizu’s part at least.

Downstairs Shizu was sitting at the kitchen table, smoking, and mom had me sit across from her.  The man who I vaguely knew as my uncle was sitting at the head, and mom was currently putting ice into a food storage bag so I’d have something cold to press against whatever hurt the worst.

“When did you get back?  Weren’t you and dad supposed to be in Hawaii still?” I questioned her.

“...We’ll talk about that later.  For now… just sit down and ice up what you need to.”

Mom turned to Shizu. “I’ll assume whatever happened was because Kouta did something insensitive to you.  That being said, are you alright, dear?”

“...I don’t know.  If you ask me why that happened, I don’t know either, I just exploded.”  she said, snapping an inhale and blowing it out with frustration.  “I am sorry to cause you trouble.”

“Oh no, you don’t need to worry about that at all.  I’ll always owe you a debt of gratitude, besides, my Kouta is sturdy, just like his father.”

“Speaking of, where is he?” I asked mom.

“Still in Hawaii, probably.  Look, I’ll save you the trouble of wondering.  Your father and I have taken a break from our marriage for a little while.”

“...eh?  But… why?  Aren’t you two idiots always lovey-dovey?”

“Maybe once upon a time, but if that’s what you saw then I’m happy.”

I didn’t understand what mom was saying.

“Shi-chan, may I?”

Shizu passed the pack and lighter to mom, and she joined too.

“So, how’s Paradise Heights?”

I groaned.

The conversation ended up going in the direction of me explaining what I’ve been doing since Gorou-jii passed management of it to me.  Mom nodded at all the important things, and when I had finished she rubbed her temples.

“Mina-nee…  Rui?”

For the first time, I heard my uncle talk since he arrived.

“Well, at least she’s on Kouta’s side.  You did one thing right, kiddo.”

I groaned some more.

Mom stood up from the table. “Shizu, I do hope you don’t mind, but I have some business I need to speak to Kouta in private about.  Would you like a ride home? I’d be more than happy to have a small chat with you as well...”

Mom didn’t even give Shizu an option to stay.  I wonder what was so important?

“Fine.  Kouta, I’ll see you later on.”

“Shizu… when you see Shiori, don’t tell her what happened, okay?  I don’t need her to worry needlessly.”

“... bye, Kouta.” Shizu and Mom left and it was just Uncle Rei and I.

“It seems our old man dragged you into it after all…”

“Huh?”

“It’s been a while, Kouta.  How is everything?”

“Uh… well not counting what you saw earlier as the baseline, I think I’m doing alright.”

Uncle Rui laughed. “I take it you aren’t a masochist then?”

“Only emotionally, I think.  What, um… brings you here?”

“You.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you.  As I understand it, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume you’ve become aware of it, correct?” Uncle Rui asked me.

It?

“The divine blessing of Izanami-no-Mikoto, the latent power which exists in the blood of all true Shimejima men.”

“Oh… that.

Rui didn’t beat around the bush in regards to what it was at all.  I looked at Rui and could easily see many of the same physical traits as Gorou-jii and Myself.  Though I did take after dad in many respects appearance-wise, my eyes, and physical stature remained rather lean.  Dad in his heyday probably looked like a buff pro-wrestler or MMA fighter.  Even now he still turns the heads of neglected housewives.

“I’d rather not have ever known about it, if that’s what you want to know.”

“You dislike what privileges it affords you?”

“If you mean that it makes women fall into my lap, then yes.”

Rui laughs once more. “That’s only half of it.  Ryohei was still able to draw your mother’s eye under a full dose of it, so don’t sell yourself too short, kiddo.”

“...”

“Mind if I ask you a fucked up question, kiddo?”

“Only if you don’t expect to get a fucked up answer.”

“Do you love your mother?”

“?” Was he joking?

“I’m serious.”

“Well… I mean, she’s mom.  She’s done some disappointing things, and should have consulted me about others, but it’s not like I actually hate her or anything, not like Kanae at least.”

“No, I don’t mean as a filial child.  I mean, do you love your mother?”

“??”

“Do you see her and ever at all think to yourself you want to make her your woman.”

“EH!?  Yo… That’s mom, man…!”

“Even so, do you at all desire her?”

“No way, I mean…”

“Is it because she’s family?”

“...”

“Can I assume you and Kanae have exceeded the boundaries of being family?”

“Why are you… asking these kinds of things?” I said, not denying it.  I don’t think he missed picking up on that tidbit either.

“Because I need to know where you stand when it comes to my precious little sister.”

“...?  Is this related to Mom and Dad taking a break from their marriage?”

“You might say it is.  Let me ask you then, have you used your blessing selfishly yet?”

Selfishly…  Yes.  A glaring image of that platinum haired beauty of a sister to Ibuki came immediately to mind.  What I did to her, and what I couldn’t undo anymore. “Yes.”

“Good.  It’s good to have gotten that out of the way.  How did you feel knowing you could make her do anything your heart desired?”

“Like shit.  To be honest, I don’t see how it’s any different that just raping someone with their consent.”

Rui raised an eyebrow. “So you dislike it?”

“It’s something I don’t understand fully, so I can’t say that with certainty.  What I want to know is what actual purpose it is intended for.  I can’t see it as anything other than a curse if it means I could enslave a person’s heart.”

“Purpose?”

“Well, I mean… What is the point of it?  If it really is a blessing, shouldn’t it be used to help others instead of just being there so I can gratify myself if things aren’t going my way?”

“You say that, yet that girl your mom took with her was damn near drowned in your blessing.”

“Shizu was?”

“Are you not aware of it?”

“Eh, but… I wouldn’t use it on her… of anyone in the world… not on her.”

Rui tilts his head, then rubs his fingers on his neatly trimmed goatee.

“Kouta… can you sense those you’ve used it on?” Rui inquired.

I shook my head.  

It can be sensed?

“No.  Look, I just learned about it when I moved into Paradise Heights little over a week ago… mostly because of Mina’s help, though somehow Kanae knew about it, and Gorou-jii gave me a crude explanation, and not much else in understanding it.”

Rui nods.

“How do you see your gift manifest?”

“Umm… I learned it from Mina… she said for me it was like a well.”

“A well?  Interesting.  Shall I tell you then, for me, it is a waterfall.”

“...you… also have it?”

“I’m a Shimejima, and Gorou’s son, aren’t I?”

I nodded.  It made sense.

“Do you mind trying something for me real quick?”

“...okay?”

“Close your eyes and visualize that well of yours.  Who is there beside it?”

I closed my eyes and imagined the well as Mina had taught me. Standing next to the well were almost all of the women I knew.

“Tell me, who is there?”

“From the well, there is a wall surrounding it.  Outside, are the women in my life right now.  My childhood friend, Saya. My Best Friend’s ex-girlfriend whom I stole away, Rina.  The woman I used it on selfishly, Haruka.  Gorou-jii’s Secretary, Tamayo.  My wife, Shiori…”  I listed all of them off, with the very last one being Ibuki.  Even Shiho… came before Ibuki.  Ruru, Kanae, and Shizu weren’t there strangely enough.

“That’s quite a collection you’ve amassed in this short a time.”

“I know… I didn’t even want any of them though.  That girl you just met… she’s the only one I want.”

That made Rui laugh uncontrollably for a moment.

“What?”

“I can see why you’d think of it as a curse, then.”

“I just want a genuine relationship… how can I know if any of their feelings are real if I can manipulate them into loving me?” I asked openly and honestly.

“I will answer that question with an equally important question.  How can you possibly know if their feelings are real even without the blessing?”

“Eh?  Well, I mean… They’d have feelings and love… me?”

“Kouta, not even the gods know what mysteries are in a woman’s heart.  Don’t you ever read a good romance novel?”

“Not really.”

“You should try one out sometime.  I don’t mean a manga, I mean a real novel, written words only.  Helps for the visualization.”

I nodded along but not quite following the importance of it.

“Anyway, if you’ll trust an old man’s experience here, how about if I equate the blessing to something like a coin flip?”

“A coin flip?”

“Yes.  Imagine asking ten women in a line one by one if they’d go out with you.  What do you think the odds are that any one of them would say yes?”

“I have no idea.”

“Then, imagine at the moment flipping ten individual coins and seeing the result.  Out of ten tries, how many times would it land on heads, and how many times on tails?”

“Isn’t that just... random chance?”

“It is.  Without knowing a thing about any of those ten women, and likewise them not knowing a thing about you, there is still a chance one or more of those ten would say yes for whatever reason.”

“...okay?”

“Now, imagine out of those ten women, three of them found you quite attractive, and were hoping you would ask them out.  How do you think the coin flip would affect their decision?”

“It’s a decision though, so why would they need to flip a coin?”

“Insecurities.  Fears.  Practicality.  Let’s say each of those three women embody one of those traits.  They still know nothing about you, only that they find you attractive, and perilously so.  The insecure one doesn’t think she can match up to you, so she’d hesitate.  Maybe thinking it’s a prank by a friend that you’d ask her out.   The fearful one perhaps came out of a bad relationship.  She’d want to try, but she’s afraid of what could happen again, even if you are a good guy and wouldn’t hurt her.  The practical one perhaps wants to know she’ll be taken care of.  Maybe she wants a certain level of financial or emotional stability in her life, but she’s not sure what you are capable of.  Are you a playboy?  Are you unemployable?  Even if each of them likes you, even if the coin is earmarked to land on heads, they themselves might cause it to flip to tails with their feelings.”

I had difficulty understanding, but I was getting the gist of it.

“So then it’s all still just random chance?”

“What if you could rig the coin?”

“Huh?”

“What if at the time of the coin flip, you could rig it to land on heads, and stay there for a limited time?”

“Then… they would at least consider it?”

“Exactly.  You can think of that as the underlying foundation of what the blessing is.  The more you apply it, the more it makes that coin harder to flip.  Harder, but not impossible.  Then there is another factor involved as well.”

“Which is…?”

“Their own willingness to want to flip it.”

“...”

“Let’s take a loved one as an example.  Let’s say… Kanae.  Now, Kanae made you something delicious to eat, your favorite food.  She still has to make other food for herself or others, but she makes yours first and puts it in front of you immediately, instead of keeping it to serve later.  She maybe asks you, or maybe doesn’t, but she wants to eat with you at the same time.  You can eat, and she’ll forgive you if you start without her, numerous times over, but eventually she would be disappointed somewhere down the road and may delay or withhold your food just so she can eat with you.”

“...”

“That is the moment she could flip her coin to tails.  Now, you can flip it back if you understand what you did wrong.  You can apologise to her, you can tell her you won’t repeat your mistake, any number of things, and she’d let that coin flip back to heads.  This is no different from a regular relationship that has communication and actions based on compassion for the other person.”

“So, what is the point of the Blessing then?”

“The ability to lock the coin in place long enough to make them hesitate to even touch it.  Couple that with the right words and actions, and they will forget the coin even exists.  If they forget it exists, then they wouldn’t even think to flip it to tails, even when a situation would warrant them to at least consider it!”

“A situation?”

“In our case, having multiple lovers.”

“Ah!”

“Yes, our blessing specifically is about that.  A promise many generations back from the Goddess Izanami-no-Mikoto to the original priests and Miko from that time for our family being keepers of her shrine.  The Shimejima line should always prosper with children.

“But shouldn’t it be a fertility blessing then?” I said, not fully grasping it.

“What’s easier, do you think?  Genetic manipulation at a supernatural level, or picking rice from a field?”

“Rice, because anyone can pick rice.”

“Well, rice can be damaged if not plucked correctly, but you’re on point.”

“So, you’re saying… women are the rice field?”

“Yes, not every strand is perfect, some strands may be barren, and some might be too fruitful with many grains.  But you are the harvester.  You have the blessing from heaven to pluck as you see fit, and more importantly, to be able to give them happiness by knowing they are going to bring you happiness as you devour them.”

“By devour, I hope you mean sex.”

“I do.  Well, it’s an analogy anyway.  Rice doesn't get jealous of other grains of rice.  They all work in harmony to become the main or side to any japanese dish.  Ever present, and noticeably absent when not.”

“Then… what if a grain of rice… Happened to get jealous of the other grains?”

“Then there would never be harmony in that bowl.”

What he said, I wonder, did he realize it hurt me? Shizu was that grain of rice.  Of that I am absolutely sure.  She wasn’t a regular grain, but a genetically modified one, tastier than all the others, but conversely, that splendor would be lost amongst all the other grains.

The worry in my heart only increased.

“Now, back to my initial question…  Your mother.” Rui began again.

“...?”

“How far would you be willing to go to assure your mother’s happiness?”

“I don’t like where that question is headed, Uncle.”

“Neither did she, when I asked her.  However she made her resolve known to me.  And now, she needs you to make it known to her… Speaking of my dear sister, she’s returned.”

I didn’t hear the car pull up, but as soon as he said that, the door swung wide open and my mother appeared.

“Did you two have a nice chat while I was gone?” Mom said sweetly as she re-entered her house.

“I think so.  The rest is up to you two, now.” Rui then said.

My mother nodded.  She walked over to Rui and kissed him on the cheek, then she walked over to me and took my hand.  Where she led me… was to my parent’s bedroom.  And behind us, the door closed.

I am seated on my parents’ bed, not feeling relaxed or comfortable at all.  Mom vanished into the bathroom for a moment, before she finally made her return.  She’s dressed in a certain nightgown, one I… happened to remember clearly.  It was one of the first times I touched myself… as the sides of it were hitched up and dad was… being rough with my mother in the living room.

Her bitch lewd face at that time was still clear as crystal in my mind.

Through that gown, I could see what I shouldn’t.  My mother’s amazing breasts.  They were obscene and beautiful, and… desirable.  I wonder if they feel anything like Kanae’s?

WAIT! HOLD UP!

What the fuck are you even thinking about, Kouta!?  This is mom!

I shook my head and slapped my face, before I opened my eyes and saw her again, standing before me.

“Kouta… we need to talk, honey.  But before any of that, will you give your mother a hug?”

“...a hug?”

“Since the day you were born, I’ve neglected you.  I forced everything involving your care and touch to Kanae, and I know I’ll never be forgiven for that.  I’ll explain everything afterwards, but for now… will you give your mother a hug?”

As I said, on one hand I could count the hugs I’ve remembered receiving from her.  Now she was asking for one directly?

“Um… sure?”

She smiled, but I could also detect something she couldn’t hope to hide.

Fear.

Still, she was my mother.  Even if I broke ties with her because of Ibuki, I wouldn’t abandon her now.  So I got up and walked close to her, and saw her begin to tremble.  Was I so scary to her?  I didn’t understand, but she stood firm.  I put my arms out as well, and for the first time perhaps in my entire life, I shared a true hug with the woman who gave birth to me.

Her body shook tremendously as our arms wrapped around each other and my head came to rest on her maternal pillows.  They were warm and comfortable, and while not spongy pillows like Kanae’s were, they… felt like a part of me I lost long ago.

We stood there, embracing each other as mother and son, and she couldn’t stop trembling.

“Are you okay, Mom?”

“No, but… I’m trying.  Please let me try!” She eked out in a shaky voice.

“It’s okay, mom.  I don’t know what’s wrong, but I’m here for you.”

Mom pulled me tighter into her embrace and grasped the back of my head, pushing me further into her bosom.

Then she began to shake violently, but not only from fear.

From sadness.

“My son… my beautiful baby boy…”

Mom’s swollen belly pushed into me, and she cried on my shoulder.

“I’m so sorry, Kouta.  I’m sorry I was such a bad mother.  You didn’t deserve to be let down by me so much over the years.”

Mom was opening up in my presence for the first time.

My strong, cool, calculating, frivolous, sexy mother who always kept at least an arms’ length from me, was crying on my shoulder and telling me she didn’t know how to make up for a lifetime of neglect. I didn’t know what to tell her either, except for It’s okay, and I wasn’t sure if I even believed those words myself.

“Are you planning on stopping shaking anytime soon? I’m not going to hurt you.”

“I can’t stop shaking.  As it is, I’m about to pee myself.”

“Pee yourself?  Then go pee already.”

“...is that what you want?”

???

Mom grabbed my hand and brought it down low, and I felt the soft fabric of her shirt slide up my arm until my hand was in a place it had no business being.  She held my wrist in place as my hand pressed against her naked passageway.  A passageway I traversed once before, a lifetime ago.

She shushed me for a moment, and with her other hand she pulled down the top of her nightgown and one breast spilled out of the translucent cup.  My mother’s beautiful and gigantic breast with a swollen and erect nipple dangled before me.  I was transfixed by it.

She moved it so the nipple was inline with my mouth.  I was frozen with panic and desire.

Desire?

My mom?

???

“Please, Kouta… just for a moment… let me relive it.”

I don’t know why I did.

You can ask me ten thousand times and I’d answer the same thing, but I did.  My mouth opened and my mother’s breast entered between my lips as I felt the absolute heat coming off her bare pussy.  I sucked and licked on her nipple and my mouth was flooded with a sweet liquid.  Her tit was coming in my mouth, and as strange as it tasted, I sucked and swallowed every bit of it.  Every bit of a sensation my body said belonged to me at that moment.  A tax I should have received long ago in quantity, from the source directly, but never did.

At the same time a soft moan escaped her lips, and a hot sensation washed over my hand.  As I sucked down her breast milk thirstily, she stopped trembling at last as her warm urine trickled away into my palm, unable to catch it, or make it stop.

“Haaaaaaaahhhhhhh~”

My socks became wet.

“My baby!  My baby! My baby, my precious baby!!”

Mom had long ago let go of my wrist.  My hand was there because I was too incapable of moving it away.  She however was well aware of where it was.

“Touch it if you want… the place where you came from.”

Again, I don’t know why I did.  But I did.

My fingers slid into her folds from the top, and slid down her inner gap until it reached her vagina and without an agreement they slid up inside of her.  My piss-covered fingers explored inside of my former home as I continued to suck on her breast, until finally the lizard brain I had, decided things went too far.

Her breast popped out of my mouth, though the sticky sweetness remained, and my senses reclaimed my hand, extracting itself from this situation.

“My precious Kouta.  If there is anything you would like from me, do so now, while I am still mentally sound.”

...mentally sound?

“Mom?”

“I remember it.  That night when your father ravaged me in the living room and you stood atop the staircase and discovered yourself.  I saw your eyes and felt your desire for me.  At that moment, did you plan to steal me from your father?  You never did, though.”

“What are you talking about!?”

“You are my son, but you’ve also inherited that terrible thing.  Ever since you were a baby… I was waiting in fear of when it would come for me.”

“Wait, are you talking about the blessing?”

“Hah.   Blessing?  I suppose it is in a way, but not for me.  Well, not until Rui used it in the only way he could to save me.”

“Save you?”  What is she going on about!?

“Kouta, are you… prepared to use it now, on me?”

“Huh?  What in the world would ever make you think that I would?”

“...then I’m finally undesirable to you?” She asked, a cross between relief and despair on her face.

“...you’re saying this after you have me suck your breast and touch your privates?”

“Isn’t that… a fair exchange?”

“In what reality!?” I raised my voice.

“Haaaaaaahhhhhh~” Mom deflated and fell into me.  I had to quickly catch her and drag her two steps backwards to her bed before gently seating her on it. “I don’t understand…”

“What don’t you understand… for that matter there’s a lot of shit right now I’m not understanding either!” I said, not understand what on earth was going on here!

“...aren’t you going to make me your woman?”

“HA~AH!?” I responded with incredulity.

“It’s… something that should have happened long ago.  I was always terrified when it would happen… what would happen when Ryohei would eventually discover it… if it would have pleased Rui that it finally happened… but it never did.” Mom started saying strange things. “...then do you plan on waiting for her?”

“Her who?  Shizu?”

Mom’s hand took mine again and showed me what she meant.  She placed it on top of my unborn sister.

“No. Nooooo way.  Uh-uh.  Nope.”

“But… you took Kanae, didn’t you?  I thrust you on my defenseless daughter and she became yours instantly.  Is she treating you well?  Are you happy with her, Kouta?  Did I do a good enough job raising her until that point so that she’s not a burden to you?  That she’s everything you needed growing up?”

“Please explain it properly, I’m… not getting it.  What you’re saying is making no sense to me, mom.”

“You’re the heir.  The heir to Shimejima.  All of the women in your family… must belong to you.”

“...”

I moved to the bedroom door and opened it. “Uncle Rui, please come here.” I called out.

I returned to stand by my mother, and Rui came to join us.

“I think she’s gone off the deep end, Uncle.”

Mom looked up at Rui with the sad eyes of a child, and I had no idea what was coming. Rui just ruffled my hair in response.

“I told you, Rei-rei.”

Mom only began to weep.

Rui comforted her. “It’s a good thing though, since that means he’s not like Dad… or even me.”

“But… What am I supposed to do now?  I can’t… I can’t… continue like this.  I’m half a person, Rui-nii!  I’m still a child trapped in this old woman’s body.  Furthermore… there’s another child going to be born… I can’t… do it on my own.  He was supposed to...”

“Shh… calm down Rei-rei.  I’ll explain it properly to him.  Just calm down and relax…”

Mom laid back on the bed and Rui then addressed me.

“Kouta, Listen to me carefully: You have to make your mother your woman.”

The fuck I have to do WHAT!?

14