It’s strange that this didn’t happen earlier, Genji thought gloomily when this kid’d materialized on their doorstep. She had only a shoebox with her belongings, tied up with a string. It contained several well-worn dresses and a pregnancy diary – the only reminder of her mother.
Everyone who tried to talk to her ended up on the receiving end fighter’s stare, she behaved as if she were a soldier taken prisoner. She only said that she was six, her name was Ai and her father was Takiya Hideo.
He had it coming, old tomcat.
At first Genji hoped that now father would come to his senses and stop bringing women home. It was due to one of his sluts they were saddled with this unexpected ‘present’, after all. No such luck. Father only chuckled and calmly gave some money for clothes and toys for his newly found daughter. He didn’t even bat an eye. Whores appeared in the house even more often than before. The difference was now every one of them spent half of the time with Ai-chan trying hard to show that potentially they could become a real mother to cute little daughter of the boss. Genji tolerated this shit for exactly one week, but when he heard father’s another one night stand coo, Do you want me to be your mama, Ai-chan?, he almost wrung her neck. He dragged Ai away by the suspenders and carried her into the back of the house, away from this whoring. Ai was his sister, even if an illegitimate one.
Curiously enough father looked at him approvingly the next day and Ai-chan too. The girl followed his every step leaving him alone only when he went to the bathroom. Genji’s patience was thinning, and father started fussing saying that important people were coming over, there was no need for his children to meet his business partners, Genji should take the kid and go somewhere till 10 p.m.
I’m not a nanny!, Takiya junior wanted to snap, but didn’t have that chance. Ai shrieked and hung on his trousers.
“Ani, let’s go to the park!”
“What? What park?” Genji freaked out.
“I want to go to the park! There are flowers, kittens, puppies there! Park! I want to go to the park!”
Genji imagined himself, the leader of Suzuran, sitting on the grass among flowers, kittens and puppies and shuddered.
“Alright, alright, stop screaming.”
“Are we going to the park?” Ai hopefully pulled at his trouser leg.
“Yeah,” Genji promised decidedly.
He remembered that there were a couple of trees on the Suzuran grounds.
* * *
“And I’m telling him: Gen-san, I have no idea how… erm… to deal with children…” Chuta’s stumbling sounded a bit panicked.
“And what did he say?”
“He frowned, you know, the way he can.”
“What about you?”
“Well, here I am.” Chuta nodded at the little girl drawing something in the dust nearby.
“What are you going to do?”
“That’s what I was getting to,” Chuta faltered. “I need to step away for a sec, could you look after her?”
He saw Makise’s frightened stare and quickly added, “It’s good for you too. You can call Rin-chan and ask her to help. I’ve heard that girls melt at the sight of men with children.”
Makise scratched his head thinking and groped for cigarettes.
“How long are you going to be away?”
“Half an hour tops,” Chuta promised.
“Ok, go, I’ll call Kyoko,” Makise finally gave in.
* * *
The closer Izaki came to GPS headquarters the louder howling became. It wasn’t even howling, it was wailing – high-pitched and sad. What the hell? Are they torturing cats? he thought bewildered.
“What are you…” he only managed to ask opening the door to the GYM when the sound wave hit him.
Deafened and a little shell-shocked, Izaki assessed the situation.
A little girl was sitting on their old sofa, crying her heart out and from time to time switching to the ultrasound. Greenish Makise was fussing around.
“Don’t cry, Ai-chan, please,” he muttered smiling pathetically.
The wailing became louder after his every smile.
“Shit is fucked up,” Izaki summarized.
“Izaki!” Makise almost hugged him rejoicing. “I’m telling her, Stop crying, but she doesn’t. What should I do, Izaki?”
“Where did she come from?”
“Genji brought her and asked us to babysit. She’s his sister, sort of.”
“And where is Genji himself?"
Izaki asked himself for the umpteenth time why he befriended such halfwits and crouched. Wailing immediately stopped.
“Hi, my name’s Shun, what’s yours?”
“Ai,” the girl smiled shyly.
“Do you know where your ani went, Ai-chan?”
In Izaki’s opinion, she was too cheerful for someone who didn’t know where her brother was.
“Listen, Makise, I’ll go and find him while you…”
He turned around and realized he was talking to empty air.
* * *
In about ten meters Izaki realized he was walking alone. He backpedaled and found Ai-chan crouching and sad.
“What’s up with you?”
“I’m tired,” the girl pursed her lips and thrust her hands toward Shun.
The gesture ‘I want uppy’ was hard to misinterpret. Izaki sighed and complied.
He thought he now resembled a Madonna with child. The worst thing was the boys who usually politely stepped away when he approached now smiled. The most reckless ones even tried to ask, Who do we have here? It looked like they addressed the girl (for now), but Izaki remembered their faces, just in case. Later he’ll find them and have a talk about beauty, so to speak. He had to do something otherwise his reputation will be in pink shreds come evening.
“Izaki,” a familiar repugnant voice came from behind his back. “I didn’t know you were a single mother.”
Of course, Izaki sighed to himself and turned around to face Tokaji’s cheeky wide smirk. It just had to be you, asshole.
“Hold her,” Izaki decided to risk it and thrust sleepy Ai-chan to Tokaji. He, being an idiot, held her.
“I’ll be right back,” Izaki smiled sweetly and disappeared around the nearest corner.
“Hey, blondie! You, son of a… je… fu… where are you going?” the brains of Serizawa’s army gurgled at his retreating back.
Izaki didn’t plan to leave Genji’s sister for long with this baboon. He wanted to smoke and to see Tokaji dart around the school yard with a sleeping kid in his hands, but five minutes later when he returned Tokaji and Ai-chan were nowhere to be seen.
* * *
The Mikami brothers winded behind his back like vultures over a dying wolf.
“Where did you get her, Tokaji?”
“She’s no longer there.”
“We can look after her, can’t we, brother?”
“We’re the best babysitters in the world.”
“Fu… get lost!” Tokaji stood his ground.
No matter who this girl was to Izaki, it was pure madness to give her to the Mikami twins. Tokaji hasn’t lose all his marbles yet.
The situation got worse when the girl woke up during their run. Now she was poking at his cheeks. He winced, but bore it.
“You’re pretty,” she said suddenly.
Tokaji almost tripped and almost dropped her on the Suzuran’s dirty yard littered with cigarette butts.
The girl stared at him with huge, absolutely black eyes. Tokaji looked around with pain in his own. When he saw Tsutsumoto’s dreads in the far corner of the yard he felt the breeze of freedom on his cheek and ran onward.
“Look after her,” he snapped and waltzed away in the opposite direction.
“Huh?” Tsutsumoto stared at the dust that rose after Tokaji’s departure till someone pulled at his hair.
“I want braids too!” a confident voice said from somewhere below.
Tsutsumoto shifted his gaze to its source, scratched his nose and decided to do the only right thing.
* * *
Genji ran up to the roof ready to murder, dismember and cover the whole school yard in body parts. Somewhat disheveled generals of both armies were following him. The Mikami brothers looked less battered, but wailed the worst.
“Even Maki held her!”
“And we didn’t!”
“That’s not fair!”
Serizawa looked up from the majong board and stared at the crowd somewhat confused. Tokyo who had a little girl on his lap raised an eyebrow. They made a rather sweet picture. Genji felt the people behind his back stiffen, though. He stared at his sister: Ai-chan was holding a sausage on a stick in one hand, her hair was braided in a very distinctive malvina.
Mini-Serizawa smiled dirty-faced and squealed, “ANI!”
“No!” Izaki mumbled behind Genji’s right shoulder. “No, no, no! I left her only for a minute.”
* * *
“Let’s go to the park,” Genji offered somewhat awkwardly to Ai after the struggle to get her off Tokyo’s lap.
“I don’t want to!” Ai immediately started crying.
“Oh no, don’t do that!” Makise whimpered in the background.
“There are flowers, kittens, puppies… everything that you like there,” Genji mumbled desperate.
“I don’t want to go to the park, I want to play majong!”
The sausage landed into dust, tears turned into real waterworks.
Genji watched his sister smearing dirt and tears over her face and looked sideways at Tokyo. He shuffled on the sofa inviting Genji over.
Both armies held their breath.
Genji sat down at the majong table across from Sarizawa in complete silence. Ai climbed on his lap and fell silent too. Genji looked at her malvina with a critical eye and tugged at it until it resembled his own funky hairstyle.
“We’ll beat you, Serizawa!” he said as usual.
Ai-chan sniffled on his lap in lieu of a war dance.