My peaceful sleep was rudely interrupted by my children who were shaking me desperately for whatever they wanted. Saeko isn’t around, and my husband usually leaves and arrives back from work without his presence known. I seem to be the only one who didn’t see him as my children and Saeko saw him. Speaking of my children, I don’t really know much of them, including their names. Saeko does seem to treasure them a lot, and, when they are younger, they couldn’t tell Saeko and my husband apart. How a child grows depends on what their parents do (or don’t do) to them, things they encounter, and actions of others at a particular given time. Something as simple as not letting the children out or fetching them directly from school can make a difference in them finding a friend, encountering something dangerous, discovering something new, and so on. They could have not even unveiled their hidden potential and might rely on me too much if I am too protective of them. I don’t know what I want them to be: I only had them as I can’t live forever. Now I know how mom struggled to take care of me like how I take care of them.
Looking at myself, I never understood why I look like a mix of a foreigner and a local, with more towards the latter. This cause some misunderstanding that I dyed my hair and wear contact lenses even though those are my natural colours I was born with. Everyone except mom and my great-grandmother on dad’s side look like typical Japanese, but where does my foreign look come from? It seems to have diluted as generations passed as my children has inherited very little of it as they look more like my husband and mom. It turns out that my great-grandfather was the foreigner in question who came from Russia to escape from communism and their harsh ruling and law enforcement, which meant that staying there would meant living a poor, miserable, life, or get killed. It wasn’t easy for him to escape due to tight border controls preventing people from escaping. (Was studying about the Berlin Wall when I came across this.) I don’t know how he escaped: he could have pretended to be “politically sound” or smuggled out via plane or ship. He somehow met my great-grandmother along the way, married her, became a naturalized citizen, and adopted her family name. It was not clear what happened to him after he married her.
I heard the sound of a car parked outside and soon afterwards, footsteps that stopped at the door with the sound of keys. The timing of these are done in a pattern that is unique only to Saeko.
Saeko: “Okay kids, I bought your favorite snacks with me. Kotomi? You’re still here? You should learn to take care of your own children before they think I am their mother.”
I already know this… but I don’t know what to do.
Me: “Well, something happened last night. I took some time off today to…”
Child: “Mommy fainted last night! Daddy helped her.”
Saeko appeared slightly shock on that. My child shouted out loud what I didn’t want to say, but the significance of this is that they do recognize me and my husband as their parents, contrary to what Saeko had just said. But what do they see Saeko as, the one who takes care of them the most?
Saeko: “Your dad told me about it. Come on, you need to get ready for school. Kotomi? Could you come along too? We ran out of food and ingredients after last night. There’s also stuff at my office that I need your help with.”
Me: “Sure, I don’t have much to do. I’ll go get ready.”
She gave a hint that she has something important to say to me, but not in the presence of my children. One of them is in kindergarten, while the other in primary school. Both of their schools are near enough for them to get back by themselves. There’s even a train station and a shopping street somewhere in between.
After my children had been sent to their respective places, Saeko maintained the same expression until a few minutes later. Suddenly, she burst into tears and snuggled at me without caring that she was the one driving the car we are in now. Uh oh… who’s controlling this car? Certainly not me.
Saeko: “I can’t take it anymore! I’m being treated like a thing that nobody cares about, but won’t let me go free either! I should have died after all the poisoning, suffocation, drowning, suicide, and being slaughtered, but why haven’t I died yet? If that event didn’t happened back in 2005, and the idiot occupying my original body you now have children with, my life would have been completely different now. Instead, I’m forced into this unfamiliar new life where even how I do things are different.”
This girl is my actual husband whom we first met, My body fails to recognize that the soul of that person has changed into the body that is with me now and still see her original body as the person in question: I’m stuck with a curse that forces me to see that body: The soul of my lover is stuck in a body of the same gender as me, so obviously I can’t marry her. I feel sorry that she’s not a parent of my children even though her original body is. Saeko and Itsuki are, except for gender differences, are genetically identical and would behave the same if either one is place in the same situation, which might explain why my children couldn’t tell the two apart when they were younger.
Saeko: “Oh well… I have lived like this for almost as long as the time between the day I was born and me becoming like this, that I kind of forgot what I was like back then. With what your child said earlier, I’ll take back my words earlier about you having to taking care of them as stress could actually reduce your life span. I wonder what do your children see me as?”
Me: “Say, do you know why I’ve never seen Itsuki come home from work before? He is always either already at home when I arrive back, or without me noticing. What’s stranger is that you and my children have seen him doing so, as though I’m the odd one out.”
Saeko looked as though she wasn’t expecting me to ask this question and neither does she want to answer it.
Saeko: “You do know about Hatsuya having branches in colleges like the Mihara Academy, right? Well, he was posted to Mizuho a year before you got back from college because of me after what happened to me in Hong Kong. This was also about a year before I was admitted there too.”
Mizuho is school that strictly only allows females into its campus grounds, including staff and visitors, for as far as I could remember. I’ve never been in there before though. Wait?! What?! My husband works there?! How…
Saeko: “I knew you wouldn’t believe me. I didn’t believe it myself too, it’s like he has mastered the perfect jo…”
Her last word was interrupted. Common-sense (常識)? Cross-dressing (女装)? Movie Screening (上映)? Written report (上申書)? Assistance (助手/助力)? I don’t know… Saeko seems puzzled as to why she was suddenly muted, seeing that she was still talking after that last bit I heard, but with no sound coming out of her mouth. She tries to write it down, but her hands seem to have forgotten how to write when it got to the part she wanted to say. These were restored about 5 minutes after she gave up trying to say what she’s trying to tell me, by which, we had already reached the supermarket. Is this an unknown glitch, or is someone silencing her from telling me secrets she’s not supposed to say? Either way, she doesn’t seem to talk about it when it was restored.
This supermarket we are at isn’t quite new, but it didn’t exist during my high school days either. Maybe it’s because it’s built after my growing-up years that I still see the place as new, though this is partly because the supermarket keeps up-to-date with the design and equipment. The town is named after a village at the outskirts that it has now merged with. Except for improving infrastructure, the village is relatively untouched since it merged with the new town. You could find almost everything here from electronics (budget and common ones though) to clothes to food, but I would head to the nearest convenience store instead if I don’t feel like walking a lot or buy more things than I intended. We skipped food that require refrigeration as we could spend some time on where we are headed to next.
Me: “What is this place?!”
I could see this place from my cousin Nanami’s house, but I had never though it would be this big up close. In terms of facilities, it’s about the same as that of the Hatsuya headquarters, but this place looks more like a mansion with a large botanical garden (and a skyscraper that oddly blends in) than a hospital.
Saeko: “I know what you are thinking. Even I can’t believe that I own this huge place, among other properties, as mine back then.”
She had put on a pass with the name “Kanade Haneda” (羽田奏) that has a job title relating to the administrative department, and changed her hairstyle to something I’ve never seen before to the extent that I might think she’s someone else if she hadn’t done so in front of me. I want this ability to magically change my hairstyle too… As for me, I was just given an ordinary visitors’ pass.
Saeko: “I don’t want people who know me other than the name on this pass to recognize me. There are at least two staff from Kamisugi High here that recognizes me as both a schoolmate and the big boss here. Since I suspect that the supervisors might be covering something up when reporting to me, I might as well work undercover. I started this after graduating from Mizuho. Oh, and call me Haneda-san when I am dressed like this.”
Since I don’t know where everything is, getting around seemed like a long time. I don’t even know where we are headed to.
Saeko: “It’s still a normal workday, so everyone is here. Be careful about what you say to me, and expect me to behave differently from my normal behaviour. You can talk to me normally when I bring you to places like the staircase, a wide open area with nobody within hearing range, or my office as the founder at the old wing.”
Saeko… exactly why are you doing this extra things on to your self? It’s already a lot more than what a normal person would do, on top of taking of my children since my frist child’s birth.
We entered an office with a lot of desks. A man noticed us entering and walked up to us.
Staff A: “Thanks for the hard work you had put into for yesterday’s charity event. It was a shame that the big boss did not show up with her thight schedule. Her behaviour, however, is like the rest of us regular staff, and not our superiours that sits in between. Despite her odd behaviour of trying to hide her face from everyone to the extent that only a small handful of the staff here had seen her in person, she doesn’t seem to blindly agree with our supervisors, who tend to be selfish-minded at times. Last week, someone was almost fired from a misunderstanding, with the odds against him. The big boss overruled the supervisor’s decision and provides facts enough to set him free. I wonder where did she gather the evidence from?”
I bet she was there in her disguised self when the misunderstanding happened.
Staff A: “By the way, Haneda-san. Who’s that older woman with you? She looks strangely familiar, like she has been featured on TV or something.”
Saeko looked at me with a worried look. She did not tell me anything about situations like this on whether to lie or tell the truth.
Me: “I am her neighbour, Miyazawa Kotomi. I might have accdently appeared as there seems to have a camera crew around when I walk around and never thought that they are actually recording or as a live broadcast.”
Saeko appeared reliefed that I didn’t say what she feared I would say.
Saeko: “She’s a close mutal friend of the big boss you were talking about. She told the both of us to collect something here. Sorry, we can’t stay around for long as she needs to pick up her child and shopping for dinner.”
Don’t you feel strange talking about yourself from a third person’s perspective?
Staff A: “See you girls later then, Haneda-chan.”
Saeko grabbed a few things from what seemed to be her desk and brought me to the staircase hidden at a corner that is seperated by a door, before she talked to me in her normal self.
Saeko: “I was so scared that you would mention that you worked at the Hatsuya Institute. You should not openly go around saying out loud that you are a Hatsuya staff as the Powell has strong rivary with them and doesn’t like spies. It’s ironic that I, as their big boss, works at that “rival company” too.”
Me: “So, what are we doing next, and what did you grab from the desk?”
Saeko: “That was the keys of where we are headed to. I’ll let you know more about the details later as things go on.”
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