"Good morning." Erika greeted politely as she entered the massive penthouse where Ryouji Akagi lived.
It felt different to the day before where it was full of people around. She took notice of the design and can't help feel impressed by everything in it.
"Good morning! Come in and make yourself at home." She heard Megumi said as she walked towards her. Erika found herself star struck once again despite meeting her already last night and knowing she's actually Kenichi's mom. Her face beaming as she blushed and was speechless.
"Morning!" Kenichi greeted and can't help but smile at the sight of her grinning from ear to ear next to his mom. She finally took her eyes of his mom and found his. They walked towards the dining table to find Ryouji putting down the newspaper aside.
"Ah, you have arrived." Ryouji greeted her and pointed her to sit down around the table. She nodded politely.
They exchanged polite small talk as they had their breakfast while Kenichi enjoying her presence among his family. Despite her admittance a while a go on how she wasn't good with parents, he found her to be holding on well when it comes to his parents. Especially when he announced to them that they're engaged.
His parents were genuinely happy for them and his dad was especially pleased. Deep down Kenichi was happy to be able to share his parents with her. Given her lack of acceptance growing up, he knew that his parents would make her feel accepted and welcome.
"So, Erika what's your plan next?" Ryouji asked her. "How are the engagement going to work? Are you still going to operate from Europe?"
Kenichi glanced her way, they haven't really talk in details either. She told him about her projects overseas and what she wished to accomplished but they haven't actually talk about the details of how things were going to be for them. He was too happy to seize the moment and to propose her and didn't want to think of logistic and everything else. He was happy enough for her not to come up with any excusss and actually agreed to marry him.
Erika smiled and put down her cutleries as she faced his parents formally.
"I'm leaving this afternoon after my final meeting for New York. There's still few projects that I need to finish over there and hand over few things to my business partner to manage our Paris office. So it will be a busy few months for sure but I'm planning to reside in Japan. I'm coming back to Japan as soon as I possibly can manage. I'm planning to set up an office here hopefully by next year."
Kenichi's eyes widen in surprise. He was aware of her projects overseas but she never mention about returning to reside in Japan so soon. It's all new to him.
"You're not joking, are you?" Kenichi turned to face her. An amused smile on her face.
"Why else would I agree to marry you if I won't be here?" She whispered softly and blushed when she caught Megumi and Ryouji was witnessing the exchange.
"Is that your original or a change of plan after Kenichi proposed?" Megumi asked. She looked curious.
"To be honest, I didn't know what to expect for this trip. I didn't plan to meet up with Kenichi since I haven't accomplished what I initially set to do. I wasn't even sure how he felt about me after all this years. So.. I had little expectation." She admitted honestly. "But after meeting Kenichi again, I decided that I should return to Japan. So I discussed it with my business partner yesterday before the dinner and agreed to part ways. I'm coming back to Japan for good."
"Wait.. Wait... wait... excuse us please, I need to talk to Erika in private. Won't be long.." Kenichi abruptly got up from his chair and pulled her up along.
Ryouji and Megumi exchanges glances and watched Kenichi pretty much dragged Erika away out of the room.
"Ok wow.. I didn't expect that." Megumi said softly while Ryouji let out a whistle and said nothing.
Kenichi pulled Erika towards his room and close the door before she could protested.
"Are you for real or you just say those promises to please my parents?" He faced her. His expression was unreadable.
"Let's not do this. The last time I walk away from our supposed engagement just because I was feeling foolish over finding out it was you.. it didn't end up well." Erika said making him paused as he recalled the exact moment she was referring to. "Let's get back and talk about it later, shall we? Your parents approval means the whole world to me. I can't bear it if they decided we can't be together because you forgot your manner and walk away just like that."
Kenichi laughed and shook his head at her reason.
"If that's the case then I might have to come with you to New York when they all disown me."
"Don't joke like that. I realised I haven't made great choices back then. I had a lot of growing up to do. Your grandfather was right after all. I wasn't the girl for you.." she paused when Kenichi look annoyed. "But... I work hard to prove that I'm good for you now."
Kenichi smiled at her heartfelt confession. He opened his arms and she stepped in automatically.
"I knew I wanted to be with you when I realised you still haven't give up on me."
"There's no such thing as give up in my dictionary." Kenichi told her smugly. She rolled her eyes at him.
"You have no idea how much the thought of you motivate me to keep going when the going gets tough. You made me want to be a better person. Someone that you can be proud of."
"I told you long ago that I believe in you. I like you just the way you were."
"Like? Just like?" She teased him.
"Well.. She lied to me.."
She kissed him, stopping his words.
"Thank you for waiting. You might have to wait a bit longer but I will be back soon. I will work hard to make sure that."
Kenichi smiled at the promise. "You don't know how happy I am to hear that."
"Let's get back before my new business partner change his mind and sending me away again."
"Ahh I still can't believe you made it. My dad's business partner huh? Do you think it won't make it complicated to have him as business partner as well as inlaw?"
Erika laughed. "I think we are quite similar in our way of doing business. He can be very ruthless but fair. If anything I hope he would be easier on me if I'm his inlaw."
"I still can't believe this is all happening." She can't stop smiling making Thierry chuckled at the sight.
For all the years he knew her, she hardly seemed as happy. Seeing her happy truly made him happy. He could remember those days where she was weighed down by so much and how high her wall of defence then. The past few days, Erika seemed more relax, confidence and easy going. Ever since she met Kenichi Akagi again.
"All work and no play finally paid off huh?" He smiled as she nodded almost instantly.
"Ah.. talk about work, we need to go over our project schedules. I want to move few things around and re organise our timelines." Erika told him. Thierry looked amused.
"We haven't even left japan and you already want to plan your way to come back here as fast as you can?"
Erika smiled widely when her phone ring and Kenichi's name flashed on it. She gestured for Thierry to go ahead while she took the call.
"Hey you! Leaving for your meeting now?"
"Missed me already?" Erika grinned even when she knew he couldn't see her. "What's up?"
"Is it possible to have lunch together at my office before you leave for airport?"
Erika closed her eyes and mentally cursing her tight schedule. It would be difficult to move things around last minute.
"What about on your way to airport then? Stop by at my office and let me take you to airport."
"It might work better that way. I think I can do that. Hopefully the meeting goes as planned and I will try to finish things early. I will send my luggage with Thierry and he can check for me at airport."
"Ah.. glad to hear that. I hope to see you later then."
She hung up with the biggest smile on her face. She walked out of the hotel in a rush to catch up with Thierry that she almost bumped into a man who was on his way in.
"I'm so sorry." She muttered and gasped as she realised the man was none other but Naoto.
"Erika?" He sounded equally surprised.
Her gaze laid on his fingers. She was aware that her sister and Naoto got married. She wasn't invited. It was all over the news in Japan for Okura heirs to married their long time business partner's son. Perfect match was what many labelled their wedding announcement.
"It's been a while. How are you?" He asked and followed her gaze before pulling his hands off her. "Ah yeah, I'm married now. Incase you wondering.."
Erika smiled at him. "I heard about it. Congratulations! Are you happy? How's Tomomi?"
Naoto gave her an awkward smile. "I'm sorry that I couldn't tell you in person. It was.."
Erika patted his arm softly. "I totally understand. All is good with me. I gotta go for a meeting now and I'm leaving for New York this afternoon. So.. it was great to bump into you. You look great, Naoto. Wish you and Tomomi the best ya." She was about to turn when his hand caught her by the elbow.
"Erika.. wait... are... are you..." he shook his head feeling frustrated. "What time is your flight? Can I at least see you off?"
She just smiled at him and shook her head slowly. "I will be back to japan again. I will contact you then, ok?"
She turned and walked away without looking back. Naoto belongs in her past. A past that she didn't want to mix with her current present. There will be time to revisit the past later.
"I know you heard I said this many times before but let me reminded you again just how amazing I think you are." Thierry gushed making Erika chuckled at the overflowing praises. "You're one amazing woman who clearly knew what she wanted."
"Stop it already, Paris office will be yours. What more do you want?" Erika said in between her laughter. Deep down she was too happy to stop smiling. She hold the folder in her hand closer to her body. Their meeting went well and she had time to go over to real estate agents to inquiry over a building she wanted.
"I can't believe this is all happening." Erika finally said. "That was a perfect."
"I know! Perfect location, great for what you had in mind too." Thierry said. "Are you sure you won't change your mind?"
"I thought over it. My goal was never to stay overseas forever. The end goal was to come back. It's just a matter of time."
"You do aware that you could have use Akagi to get what you need right?"
"Ah.. yes but then I don't want to rely on anyone for making this possible. The reward will much much sweeter if I do this on my own. That way no one can accuse me for having it the easy way."
They stopped as Thierry hailed a taxi. "I will see you at the airport then."
Erika nodded and let him take her luggage along.
It was a short stroll to Kenichi's office. She went into the lobby before dialling his number while taking a look around the great building.
It made her think back of that moment in the alley, just how ignorance she was when it comes to him. It made her smile.
Such a great man. Just what exactly did he find in her? Her smile suddenly disappear as she saw a man she recognized approaching her. She swiftly bowed her head in a polite greeting.
"Okura.. Erika, isn't it?"
Kenichi's voice on the line made her quickly hang up her phone as she focused on the man before her.
"Yes. That's me. It's been a while. My apology for how we met last time." She bowed in a full apology while the man said nothing for a while leaving her bowing for a few moment. The silence was unnerving.
"I think it's best to talk in my office. You do have time this time and won't just leave abruptly, would you?" He turned around without waiting for her reply and left her no choice to but to follow. She was about to tell him she was there to see Kenichi but decided not to. She noticed Kenichi was calling her but there's no way she could pick up the phone now. What a timing!
They rode the elevator in a total silence that made her nervous all of sudden. It transported her back to few years ago when she was a nobody and how her life changed ever since that day.
The elevator door opened and he stepped out without a word. She cautiously followed him while noticing a number of people who seemed surprise at his presence and almost automatically everyone stood up and bowed in total respect. He didn't acknowledge anyone until he reached a big door at the end of the room and motioned for her to come in before closing it behind her.
She knew the room well. She designed it. It was a board room overlooking the city. One of the proud achievement that she managed to pull before leaving for Paris few years back. She managed to transformed the board room to be a grand room that showed elegance yet masculine and professional.
"Take a seat." A deep voice startled her from admiring her own work and bright her back to the matter at hand. Her phone was still lighting up. Kenichi most likely worried sick by now and wondering what's going on. She wanted to excuse herself to take his call to at least let him know she's ok and she's in fact in his board room but she's worry about offending his grandfather.
She nodded politely and took the designated seat, preparing her mind for whatever he was about to tell her.
"I assume that you're here to see Kenichi. So Let me cut to the chase and be totally honest with you. I want to plan an engagement party for Kenichi with a girl of my choice that would benefit my company's future. I heard that you were cut off from Okura since the last time we met. So I hope you would understand that you won't be a favourable candidate for my grandson who's my only heir for this company."
She was speechless at the directness and how it was delivered. She couldn't say anything but stared at him and hoping that he would start smiling and tell her that he was joking. But he didn't.
She stared at her trembling hands in her lap trying to calm her heart beat that started to build up from both anger and panic. She looked up to find him watching her and probably expecting her to accept it meekly.
She might choose to run away in the past but she reminded herself or her hard work to where she was today. She took a deep breath and met his gaze.
"I appreciate your honesty which means I hope you don't mind for me to be honest with you as well."
He nodded to let her know he's willing to listen to whatever she was about to say.
"We're actually engaged."
The pure shock on his face told her that he truly wasn't aware of it. But then again, they were only officially engaged last night and got his parents blessings today.
He blinked a few times as if trying his best to gather his emotions and thoughts before suddenly slammed his hand on the table firmly.
"I wasn't aware of such things. I'm afraid he needs to rethink of the engagement and break it off." He said it sternly. "It's not about you as a person. I'm sure you're a nice person but you are not the kind of fiancé or wife that he needed as the CEO of Mizuho."
Erika shook her head in disbelief at what she was hearing.
"We're engaged. With his parents blessings." She repeated and omitted the later part hoping that he misunderstood their engagement.
He let out a heavy sigh. "Ryouji gave you his blessings eh? Why am I not surprise? Well... I guess I have not much choice but to make Kenichi step down from his position."
Erika's eye widen in a total surprise that she actually let out a gasp.
"He's your only grandson. How could you do that to him?"
"He can work for his dad if he chose to continue with your engagement because he's no longer serve the use of being the heir of my company. He would always be my grandson but his position is not about family relation. It's more than that. He represent the company."
"I can't believe you would do that. What would it take for you to accept me to be suitable to your requirement?"
"If your family willing to acknowledge you..."
"That's not an option." She cut him before he even finished. The thought of bowing before her dad and family and beg them to welcome her back was just not an option she would take. It would be pointless anyway. Her dad won't welcome her.
Seiji Akagi seemed surprised but he cover it quickly as he nodded slowly.
"Well then.. I don't have much reason to consider you as a good match."
"I just made partnership with Akagi Trust. Wouldn't that be something you could consider and accept me without the attachment of my family?"
"Ah, Akagi Trust." He gave a humourless laugh. "I have someone in mind for Kenichi who would benefit both Mizuho and Akagi Trust. Her family is one of Akagi Trust's rival and so it will be beneficial for their business if there's a connection of marriage."
Erika was too stunned to speak. Her heart beat faster. She was too naive to believe that everything was too good to be true. Because it was. The reality was even with her accomplishment that she worked so hard to achieve, she still not acceptable in Kenichi's world.
"I'm sure you would be familiar with her and her family business since your area of work seems to be in that line judging from your partnership with my son. But Kenichi in his position would have more advantage being married to Miwako Mori than Erika with no strong family background. Surely you would understand that."
Erika's heart felt like it stopped for a few seconds at the mention of the daughter of one of a richest man in Japan who owned a leading realestate developer in Japan. Of course she knew who Miwako was.
"Like Kenichi, she's the heir of her father's company. As the CEO of Mori Building, she would be a perfect daughter inlaw for Ryouji and great contact for Mizuho. I'm sorry but this is how it is. If Kenichi is not my heir or CEO of my company, it would be a different story. He's welcome to marry you. If you both insisted to keep this engagement going, I had make him step down from his position."
"However, unless you willing to go back to your family, I would take that into consideration as well since Okura Group will also have its own advantage with the marriage. If that's not option like you said earlier, then break it off with him."
Erika felt her eyes hot from the tears that welling up. She heard the movement and knew that Seiji Akagi just stood up and left from the room without anymore word.
She didn't know how long has passed as she sobbed quietly in that big meeting room. She had to see Kenichi and a plane to catch.
She made her way out of the meeting room, ignoring all the curious stare from the staff on that floor. She needed to think.
Her phone rang again and this time she declined it and rushed her way towards the elevator to take her to the ground floor. As much as she wished to see him, she needed to think about everything that just happened. She didn't want him to cloud her decision.
"What happened? Have you been crying? Did something happened?" Thierry sounded concern.
She forced a smile but could feel her tear falling down her cheeks.
"I had a dream. A beautiful dream. But I guess I'm all awake now." She gave a humourless laugh and wiped her tears feeling frustrated with how her day turned out to be. How she was on cloud nine and now felt like crashing on the ground. "I need to call Kenichi. You better go in first. I will see you at the gate."
Thierry nodded in full understanding and gave her a soft pat on her shoulder before leaving her alone.
He picked it up on the first ring and hearing his voice she felt like crying all over again.
"I'm sorry Kenichi. I'm sorry I didn't get to see you today. I .. I'm in the airport already."
"I know." A voice from behind her made her turn so fast she nearly lost her balance if it's not for his arm around her steadying her and pulling her into his embrace.
She couldn't say a word and burst into tears as she put her arms around him feeling safe yet knowing it won't be long before she needed to let go again.
"I know there must be a reason for you not to show up today. And seeing you at least trying to call me and now holding me the way I hold you at least put me at ease knowing that it's not me that you're running away from." He held her tight and run his fingers through her hair, ignoring the stares they received from the people around them. "Tell me what happened."
She was about to say something when the announcement for her flight was boomed through the loud speaker.
"I have to go. I have so much I want to tell you. But I have no idea where to start. All I know that I need time to think." She told him trying to suppress her sobbing. "I'm so glad I get to see you but... but..."
"Erika... you're scaring me. What's going on? What happened?"
She couldn't speak when a fresh of tears flooding her eyes once again. "I gotta go.." was all she could repeat in between her tears.
"Let me know when you arrive. We talk then. But .. here..." Kenichi took out a box from his pocket. A beautiful mahogany box was shoved to her palm. "I meant to give it to your when you come by the office but you never came."
She stared at the box speechless. Her finger caressing the beautiful box too afraid to open them knowing what's inside would make things harder for her.
"Our engagement ring. We're officially engaged." She heard him said.
She shook her head as another announcement reminded her about the urgency to say her goodbye.
"I'm sorry Kenichi. I'm so sorry... but I can't accept this. Not now." She handed him the box without opening it. The surprise look on his face made her heart break.
"What are you talking about?"
"I need to rethink about our engagement. I'm so sorry... please... just please... " she couldn't speak as he pulled her into his embrace.
"What are you talking about? Why are you being like this? What happened between this morning and now that made you change your mind? What is it?"
"I gotta go. Just... please... don't make this anymore difficult than it is... I need time to think this through but for now... let's pretend the engagement never happened." She pushed him away softly and turned away before he could stop her. He was too stunned to move.
"Erika!" He heard him scream over her name but she continued to walk towards the gate.
Kenichi found himself running through the crowds to get to her and grabbed her by the arms and turn her around to face him just as she reached the immigration section.
"What's the meaning of all this? What are you doing?"
"I don't need your apology, damn you .. Erika. Don't runaway!"
"I'm not running away!" She almost yelled.
"Seems to me that you are.. somethings just never change huh?"
He looked hurt. She wished she could tell him everything but then what?
"I'm not running away. We'll talk." She told him. "I promiSe. I will call you."
Their eyes locked for what seemed the longest moment before finally Kenichi took out the box once again. Her eyes following his movement.
"Fine. We'll talk. You will tell me what happens but before you go, at least answer me this. You want to think over our engagement because you want to? Or because for whatever reason ... you feel like you can't?"
"I can't. We can't."
Kenichi nodded before shoving the box onto her palm.
"I thought so. Take this. It's yours no matter what you decided after we have our talk."
"Take it please. If you care at all. I chose it with you in mind. Keep it even if you decided to runaway."
"I'm not running away!"
"Great! Then we'll get through this together and the ring will still be where it should be. I don't see why you can't accept it."
Her fingers clutched on the box tightly and finally nodded.
The final boarding announcement was made and Kenichi pulled her into a tight embrace.
"I gotta go." Was all she could said before he silenced her with a kiss.
"She didn't call." Kenichi stared at the empty glass. "She didn't return my calls. She's running away."
Ryouji glanced at Megumi who looked so concern as she tried to pry the glass away from Kenichi's hand. He resisted at first before letting her took the glass away and rested his head on the table.
"Was he been drinking?" Ryouji asked her. She nodded to confirm his assumption.
"He came home already half drunk. I tried to talk to him but he was busy staring at his phone and start rambling about Erika randomly."
"Trouble in paradise already?" Ryouji raised his eyebrows.
"From what I can gathered from his ramblings, Erika was meant to see him at his office where he was going to propose with an actual ring and they would go to airport together. But she never came." Megumi told him.
Ryouji said nothing but stared at his now sleeping son before finding Megumi's eyes on him.
"He went to the airport anyway knowing her flight details. He was there just before she boarded but she was in a bad state and told him that she's rethinking their engagement. She promised to call him to explain what exactly happened but so far, after 2 days, no news of her."
Ryouji let out a humourless laugh.
"I can't believe this. Sounds too familiar."
Megumi look at him in total surprise at his tone. "What do you mean?"
"Something very similar happened to me. I remember it was our anniversary and I got us a couple ring and meant to pick you up when I couldn't find you anywhere and you left without any explanation."
"Take a good look at your son and how bad he feels right now, because at least... he could still easily find her and talk to her before she left. You left me in a much colder way and I was in a worst state than him."
"Ryouji!" Megumi gasped. "How could you make this about us?"
"Just like Erika... you take the easy way out. You runaway." Ryouji sounded angry as he stood up and left for his room leaving Megumi who was speechless.