We walked up the front steps. Manami’s parents joined us too. Including Ichizen’s sister, a total of ten people would be in the house.
“Welcome, welcome, please come inside. She’s still upstairs getting her things in order so you’ll have to wait a few minutes. Manami, I’m glad you could make it. Everyone, please make yourselves at home,” Ichizen’s mother greeted us.
The living room looked different. Granted, it had been awhile since I was here. Not since discovering Ichizen’s display case was missing. I knew for sure the layout was altered. The couches were brand new.There was also a new television and coffee table in the corner. Did Ichizen’s death prompt them to change?
“Mirei, our guests are here!” Ichizen’s mother called.
If my hunch was correct, the character for “unknown” or “uncertainty”. Another possible meaning was “not yet”. A rather fitting name. I didn’t know if she retained the same family name but I assumed she would. Even if they left her behind, it wouldn’t make sense to alter her family name.
“I’m coming down right now!” she responded.
I glanced over at Manami, gauging her reaction. She appeared calm, but I had no idea of any potential raging emotions. Mirei’s voice sounded normal, nothing too strange. When she finally arrived downstairs, I stared at her. Pretty rude but fuck it. I never met her before so it was only natural. She had shoulder length black hair pushed over the left side of her shirt. Looking at her face, I could see the family resemblance. Definitely Ichizen’s sister.
“Mirei, this is Tomo Yuki. She was Ichizen’s long time friend. They knew each other since they
were little,” Ichizen’s mother introduced me.
“Nice to meet you,” I greeted.
“You’re the one Ichizen was close to, huh? Hm, not too bad. You must be my cousin, Manami, right?” Mirei inspected me for a few seconds before turning her attention to Manami.
“Yes, I am,” Manami said.
“I see. And you are?” Mirei questioned, glancing over at Yukie.
“Forgive me for not introducing myself earlier. I am Yuki’s cousin, Tono Yukie. I am currently staying at the Tomo household,” Yukie answered.
“I get it. Nice to meet all of you. Sorry if I’m a little grumpy, but I just got in a few hours ago, and there were so many things to unpack. Mom, is dinner ready yet?” Mirei apologized.
“No, we should apologize for bothering you,” Yukie disagreed.
“You’re really polite, aren’t you?” Mirei laughed.
“Dinner should be done within an hour,” Ichizen’s mother informed us.
“Okay. I’m going to head back up and unpack,” Mirei nodded, returning upstairs again.
“By all means, please sit down. Don’t just stand here,” Ichizen’s mother pointed at the couches.
“Let me help you out. Yukie, want to tag along? Maybe you can steal a few recipes to try out at home,” Mom offered.
“Yes, of course,” Yukie agreed, heading to the kitchen with Mom.
Ichizen’s father and Dad walked off somewhere, leaving Manami and me alone. I actually preferred that anyways. There were things I wanted to talk about.
“What did you think?” I asked, checking the teapot.
“She’s normal. I expected resentment but everything seems fine. I admit that I’m glad she’s not hard to deal with,” Manami replied, flipping the table teacups up.
“Yeah. I don’t know how it’ll be in the future, but looks we were worried for nothing,” I agreed, pouring Manami tea.
“She’s gotten used to things really fast. Already calling Auntie “Mom”. I thought it might take her a few days or a month,” Manami noted.
“Yeah. Well, it’s better this way. If there was something wrong, it would be a pain in the ass to deal with. I much prefer it this way,” I said.
“Yuki, by the way, you seem to have a lot of admirers,” Manami said, giving me a sly smile.
“What do you mean? You’re not talking about….,” I realized her meaning.
“You know what I mean. Zhuyu, was it? It’s rare for you to have people come over,” Manami said, pointing at me.
“He said it the best. Just one of Tess’ friends. She was busy so he came over to give me the stuff,” I dismissed her claims.
“Right, Yuki, keep telling me that. Although I actually can believe you since he didn’t seem too interested in coming over. I’m sure he’d be smiling if that was the case,” Manami said, pouring another cup of tea for herself.
“Zhuyu always looks either serious or just doesn’t care. That’s just how he is. I’m sure even if he liked me, it’d be the same, which he doesn’t though. I know for sure since he’s dealing with other things,” I informed Manami.
“Oh, he already has someone else. I’m surprised you’ve even taken notice of someone’s facial expressions. Normally you don’t care,” Manami pointed out.
“Let’s focus on something else. I’m not sure if I should be cautious or just be my normal self around Mirei,” I said.
“You’re always cautious, Yuki. What’s the difference between that and what you were going to do anyways?” Manami asked.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Hey, I hear her coming down,” I responded, noticing the sound of footsteps.
Mirei wore a long, warm tunic which extended down to her knees. She walked over to us, sitting down near me. I filled a teacup, handing it over to her. Mirei thanked me with a nod.
“I know it’s pretty awkward talking to me. And trust me, it’s the same for me. I heard Ichizen was a really good friend to you. And well, I can’t really say anything since I didn’t know him. Yeah….,” Mirei finally said.
“Don’t worry,” Manami told her.
“Yeah, I thought it might be. I’m not sure what else to say,” Mirei nodded.
“Sorry, but I’ll probably ask a lot of questions,” I revealed.
“Go ahead. You’ll want to since I came out of nowhere,” Mirei understood.
“When did you find out you about Ichizen?” I inquired.
“Only a few months ago. My foster parents finally told me. They thought it might be a good idea for me to live here after what happened with Ichizen,” Mirei answered.
“Did you know if they were going to tell you even if nothing happened to Ichizen?” Manami questioned.
“I don’t know much about the family tradition. Mom or Dad can tell you more. From what I heard, once we turned twenty, they would tell us,” Mirei replied.
“It’s so weird to wrap my head around. I’m from one of the branch families and I’ve never heard of anything like this. Did they ever give you any hints or were they pretty quiet about the entire thing?” Manami asked.
“Mom and Dad would come by a few times a year. And they were always introduced as just relatives. I’m having just a hard time as you putting everything together. The one good thing though is I get to go to university here,” Mirei answered.
“Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that. Which university are you going to?” I asked, curious if she would attend the same one as me.
“It’s the one half an hour from yours. I think it’s called Choushan if I remember,” Mirei revealed.
“Oh, one of the top tier schools. I passed their admissions test but decided to go somewhere out of the area,” Manami said.
If Manami passed their admissions test, then it must be a really good school. After all, she was attending one of the top ten ranked universities within the country. I should look up the school later and find out more.
“Everyone, time for dinner! If you don’t hurry, I’m going to throw away the chairs so you have nowhere to sit!” Mom called out, interrupting our conversation.
“You heard her. Let’s go. She actually might if we don’t go,” I decided, finishing my cup of tea before leaving.
“Your mom is scary,” Mirei said.
“I guess? I’ve gotten used to it,” I remarked.
“Yuki, how can you say that? I do know what you mean. Auntie can be really scary when she’s serious. Since she jokes around so much, that only makes it more scary,” Manami agreed.
When we entered the dining room, I saw two tables full of food. Mom stood at the first table, a large smile on her face.
“You three are getting along,” Mom commented.
“Yeah. Where’s Yukie?” I noticed her missing.
“Right here, Yuki. I was inspecting the boiler,” Yukie answered, exiting from a room to the right.
I sat at the second table with Yukie, Mirei, and Manami. The adults sat at the other one, enjoying their wine. As always, the food was delicious and I could taste which dishes Yukie worked on. There was no discussion about the circumstances involving Mirei. I thought that was for the best. It was her first day so I’m sure a stream of continuous questions would tire her out. Overall, it was a festive atmosphere.
“Hey, Mirei, if you ever need anything, contact Yuki. I’m heading back to university next week. Yuki is a pretty dependable person even if she’s pretty cynical,” Manami informed Mirei as we all departed.
“I’ll be sure to. I don’t know anyone else in the area yet so I don’t have much options, right?” Mirei joked, smiling at me.
“Yeah, you really don’t. I was wondering, are you staying in Ichizen’s room or the guest room?” I asked her one last question.
“I know how much it means to them so I decided to move into the guest room. I think it’s nice to just leave his room there for now. I’m sure eventually they’ll want to move things around but it’s really not my place to do so,” Mirei replied.
“It was nice meeting you, Mirei. I’m sure we’ll see each other again. I hope everything goes well for you,” I said, waving at her.
“You too, Yuki! I’m sure that we’ll meet again very soon!” Mirei nodded, waving as well.
I wondered how Mirei would adjust to her new environment. While she didn’t have Ichizen’s exuberance, I’m sure she would fit in just fine. My doubts about her weren’t cleared just yet. Maybe they wouldn’t be until I knew her better.