Character Directory at bottom.


.

.

.

what if there's a footprint i left a life ago

.

these too shall pass

.

"Kiku," said Otou-san, and Kiku looked up from his copy of Weekly Shonen Jump. "I'm getting remarried."

"Oh," said Kiku, blinking in surprise. "Congratulations, Otou-san."

"She's a good woman," Otou-san said. "A real-estate agent. I met her during my business trip to Osaka last year." He paused, as if considering whether or not to continue speaking. "She's Chinese."

Kiku stared.

"She speaks fluent Japanese, of course," Otou-san said hurriedly, "and her children can speak it passably well. I do hope you guys will get along—"

"Children?" Kiku asked, and for once did not care if he was being rude.

"Oh, of course," said Otou-san, "she's remarrying as well. She has four children from her previous marriages and three from adoption. If I'm correct, four of them are older than you. The eldest, from I've heard, is a prodigy who has already graduated university."

"Oh," repeated Kiku.

"I know this may sound rushed," Otou-san continued, "but I'm planning to introduce her to you this afternoon. They're moving in today, and we're getting married next week."

The magazine fell into a crumpled heap on the ground.


The doorbell rang. Kiku opened the door with a indifferent trepidation, steeling his heart for the worst.

"Ah, you must be Kiku-kun," the beautiful woman standing on the front doorstep said to him. She had shoulder-length black hair and amber eyes, and a long stretch of unmarred pale skin. She smelled faintly of vanilla citrus perfume. When she moved, the multiple Chanel earrings in her heavily pierced ears chimed quietly. "Is your father home?"

"Yes," Kiku said, feeling rather awkward. "Would you like for me to send for him?"

"You don't have to be so formal," the beautiful woman said. She lifted a set of perfectly manicured nails on his shoulder, smiling reassuringly. Her teeth were a brilliant shade of pearl white. "You can call just me Okaa-san."

Kiku flushed faintly. The woman seemed almost too perfect. It was rather disconcerting.

"Wang-chan, is that you?" Otou-san hurried from the living room, clutching a bouquet of purple lilies. "I thought I heard that beautiful voice of yours. These are for you, dear."

"Honda-kun, you didn't," the woman—Wang-san—gasped, wrapping her arms around him in a passionate embrace. "Oh, you are so awfully kind, and your son is simply the sweetest thing."

"Our son," Otou-san teased, caressing her face. Kiku wondered if he was dreaming. Otou-san was by nature one of taciturn personality, and, unless he had been suppressing his inner romantic for fifteen years, would only act like this if extremely drunk.

"You are as charming as ever," Wang-san laughed, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Oh, but where are my manners? I must introduce the rest of our children. Of course, two of them currently at their universities, and will be here tomorrow, and the eldest is currently still in China. Jia Long, stop hiding behind the hedge and come here where your new Otou-san and Onii-san can see you."

The shrubbery rustled, and a teenager glanced up sullenly. Her mother's soft features were visible but overshadowed by her angular foreign face; she had choppy short tea-brown hair and honey-brown eyes, and her skin was noticeably pink underneath her red changsan-style shirt. "Mama..."

"Please forgive my son," Wang-san said apologetically. "I'm afraid he's going through his rebellious stage right now. He had a foreign father, you see. British. And he used to be teased awfully for not looking like everyone else."

"No worries," Otou-san said, clasping her hand tightly. "Kiku had his rebellious period a long time ago, so I'd almost forgotten what it'd been like."

Kiku silently gaped. Son...?

The boy-who-looked-like-a-girl walked stiffly next to Wang-san, giving a wooden bow. "I am Wang Jia Long. Sixteen. Nice to meet you, Otou-san, Kiku-nii-san."

"A pleasure to meet you as well, Jia Long-san," Otou-san smiled, not unkindly. "Where are the rest of your siblings?"

"In car." Jia Long pointed to the black Porsche parked on the edge of the property, where it had previously camouflaged in the shadow of the surrounding trees. "They say they don't want to meet Otou-san until wedding."

"Of course, it's always good to follow family tradition," Otou-san, although, Kiku thought, studying the slightly strained smile of Wang-san, it probably wasn't family tradition that was keeping the rest of his step-siblings from entering. "Could you tell them that I will respect their wishes—"

"There's no need for that," Wang-san cut in sharply. She said something in rushed Chinese to Jia Long, who reluctantly shuffled towards the direction of the car. "I'm afraid my children have been awfully rude. Please don't take this personally, dear."

"Anything for you, darling," Otou-san said. "Ah, are those them?"

Kiku followed his gaze onto the emergence of three unfamiliar people: a girl and two boys. All were in their late teens, and dressed in similar outfits to Jia Long, with the exception of the shortest boy among them, who wore a kimono-like blue robe.

"Yes," Wang-san said. She grabbed the shoulders of the first teen, the girl. They bore an uncanny resemblance together, the only difference being that the girl's hair was dyed an ombre brown and cascaded all the way to her lower back. "This is Mei, my second daughter. She's fifteen this year."

"Hello," Mei said indifferently. Her gaze instantly fell on Kiku, before her expression changed to a more genial one. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Otou-san. Is this the Onii-san I have heard so much of from Mama?"

Otou-san smiled. "Yes. This is my son Kiku. He's older than you by three years, I believe."

"Hello," Kiku said awkwardly. Mei giggled, but did not answer.

"This is Andre," Wang-san said, breaking the silence. She presented the oldest-looking of the teens, a tall boy with expensive-looking wire glasses. He was foreign-looking as well, with tan skin, tea-colored hair and golden eyes, and a deceptively thin face many would describe as handsome. "He's eighteen as well, so he's the same age as Kiku-kun."

"It is a pleasure to meet you," Andre said. He spoke fluent Japanese, with only the faintest of an accent. "I am looking forward to having you as new additions to my family." He extended out his hand, smiling in a way reminiscent of his mother.

"Indeed," Otou-san said. "I'm impressed by your manners, Andre-kun. My son would improve a great deal if he strived to be like you."

"You are very polite, but I am afraid I cannot accept the praise, Otou-san," Andre said. He glanced sideways through his glasses at Kiku. "Kiku-san, I will be honored to be your brother."

Kiku swallowed quietly. "Yes. I must say the same, Andre-nii-san."

"And last of all, Yong Soo," Wang-san said, and unless Kiku was seeing things seemed very reluctant to speak. "He is sixteen this year, the same age as Jia Long."

The boy smiled. It was obvious that he was one of the three adopted children Otou-san had mentioned about earlier; his facial features were notably sharper and more defined, and he looked nothing like his siblings or Wang-san. "Hello, da-ze! I glad to meet you!" He pressed his hands together and nodded slightly, causing the sleeves of his robe to fall onto the crook of his elbows.

Otou-san smiled as well, mimicking the bow. "Glad to meet you too, Yong Soo-kun."

"You more handsome than Mama say," Yong Soo said. He grinned impishly. "Though she always talking about you."

"Yong Soo," Wang-san warned.

"Oh, did she?" Otou-san asked conspiratorially, and Wang-san flushed a bright red.

"Honda-san, you delight in teasing me," she said, and gently pushed his shoulder away in mock-rejection. "It hasn't been a week since we decided to get engaged, and I'm already experiencing the post-marital cruel husband." Otou-san laughed, pulling her towards him in an embrace.

Kiku stared, finding that he was unable to speak. Had Otou-san gone mad? Even if he really had known Wang-san for a year, to have the distance between engagement and marriage separated by only two weeks was a bit too short of a time, wasn't it?

Nothing seemed to make sense anymore.

I must be living in a manga written by some cruel, sadistic mangaka, he thought to himself, leaning against the wall for support. Or maybe just a really, really badly written fanfiction.


Kiku woke up the next day on a futon. Nearby, the prone forms of Yong Soo and Jia Long lay on his bed, his precious limited edition Nana blankets crumpled and wrinkled around them.

At least the body pillow of Akeno Himejima in his closet hadn't been discovered.

Yet.

He stood up slowly and walked into the kitchen. On the counter, two unknown teenagers—a boy and a girl, both older than him—looked up from their Western-style breakfast as he entered.

"You must be Kiku-san," the boy noted, smiling as he set down his newspaper. He was tall and tan, with a pair of square wire fences around his honey-gold eyes. His voice was deep and rich, although he had an obvious accent. "I am Kasem, your older brother, ana. And this is—"

The girl nodded, "Lien." She was pretty in the modern sense, with hawk-like features and a strong chin. Her choppy brown hair was tied in a side ponytail with a dingy red ribbon at the end. Her eyes glinted amber in the light, like a predator searching for prey. Kiku made a note to avoid being alone with her at all cost; in some strange manner, she terrified him.

None of them looked anything like Wang-san, so it meant that Wang-san's genius eldest son had not arrived yet.

"Nice to meet you, Kasem-nii-san, Lien-nee-san," Kiku said, bowing slightly. It felt strange to address someone as an older sibling. Over the course of the day, he had gained three.

There was an awkward pause.

"Mama made food for everyone," Kasem said, in an obvious attempt to break the ice. "Western. It is good, ana. Toto thinks so too."

"Toto?"

Kasem pointed outside. "My pet. He is shy, so do not move quick, ana."

Kiku stared at the giant elephant sitting at the front of the property. "...I don't think that's legal, Kasem-nii-san."

"He fine," Kasem shrugged, pointing to the frying pan over the stove. "Food in there, ana. You can serve yourself."

Kiku walked over to the pan, glancing at the contents. There were six untouched servings of scrambled eggs, neatly separated in clean strokes, with bacon slices, toast, and a cut tomato for good measure accompanying each serving. He contented himself by scooping up the food with the spatula tucked under the lid, placing it neatly on his plate and sitting across the counter from his new siblings.

Mei walked into the room, yawning something in Chinese. She was still in her pajamas, pink with small Hello Kitty designs on them, and her hair was tied in a messy ponytail. She froze when she saw Kiku, her face instantly turning bright red.

"Kiku-onii-san!"

He nodded stiffly. "Mei-chan, good morning."

"A-ah, yes," she said, giving him a strange smile, like she was having a heart attack and trying to suppress it. She walked to the frying pan, serving herself. "Good morning."

"People in Osaka talk different, ana," Kasem mused, eyeing the bacon slice between his chopsticks. "They say -tan instead of -san and yell a lot. Tokyo so much easier to understand, ana."

"Kasem-ge, that's awfully rude," Mei said, sitting in the stool next to Kiku. Perhaps it was an accident, but when she moved, her hand grazed his lower back, sending chills of foreboding up his spine. "Just because Jun-obaa-san talked like that, that doesn't mean all other Osaka people do. Anyways, you went to International College for two years in Tokyo, what do you know about Osakan people?"

Lien muttered something derisively in Chinese under her breath, her expression cold and uninviting. Kasem shrugged, replying in a different language that Kiku didn't recognize, before chuckling deeply. He looked pointedly at Mei, smirking.

Mei colored even deeper than before. Evidently she had an inkling of what was going on, although she seemed too mortified to explain.

Kiku finished his breakfast quickly, leaving the kitchen for the solace of the hallway closet. He suddenly regretted agreeing to his father's impromptu marriage so easily, feeling a sense of horror that could only be felt when ensuring his own downfall.


To his surprise, his new siblings did not create as much stress as he had anticipated. As a rule, they avoided him, congregating in the spare guest room and speaking in fluent Chinese.

"Yao-kun will be coming home tomorrow," Otou-san said to him on the fourth day after the unexpected announcement, looking as serious and stern as ever (and nothing like the lovesick fool that had been with Wang-san moments earlier). "Treat him well. He's coming to Japan just for the wedding, although he's a very important figure in a Chinese medical company."

"Oh," Kiku said, without thinking, the second time in four days, "alright."

"I'll depend on you, then," Otou-san said, and his demeanor somehow became intimidating. "Wang-san and I will be preparing for the wedding. Please don't accidentally disturb us, alright?"

"Mmm," Kiku agreed, returning his attention to his gaming device. "Yes, Otou-san."

If only he knew.


.

Character Directory:

Honda-san (Otou-san) is Honda Kiku's (Japan) father. He is a widow.

Honda-san marries Wang-san (Okaa-san), who is a divorcee with seven children.

Wang-san's first marriage with a Chinese man produced Wang Yao (China). Together they adopted Lien (Vietnam) and Kasem (Thailand), a pair of orphans they found in Yunnan, and Jung Soo (North Korea) and Yong Soo (South Korea), twins from Korea. She divorced her husband.

Wang-san's second marriage was with a Portuguese man (Portugal). She gave birth to Wang Andre (Macau) before her husband had an affair with a man called Antonio Fernandez Carriedo (Spain) and they divorced.

Wang-san's third marriage was with an English man named Arthur Kirkland (England) and resulted in Wang "Leon" Jia Long (Hong Kong). However, they were not compatible and divorced.

Wang-san remarried her first husband and gave birth to Wang Mei (Taiwan). He died in a fishing accident a year before Wang-san became engaged with Honda-san.

Jung Soo ran away after his adoptive father died. He has not been seen since.

.