Shi-chan’s mother led me to the living room.
There sat an adult man, who I assumed to be Shi-chan’s father.
“Welcome back, Shion. And you must be Takuya Ichijo. You must be Takuya Ichijo, and you’ve come a long way to see us today. Please have a seat.”
It seems that the man was Shi-chan’s father, after all.
Like her mother, he was probably still in his early 40s. My first impression was that he was a young, cool, and mature man.
He wore his hair in a neatly parted seven-triplet style and had a face that could be described as either stern or kind.
He had a very dignified appearance that made me feel that he could do his job well.
“Oh, this is a little something, but if you don’t mind, you can all have it together.”
I handed him a folded cake, a souvenir I had brought with me, even though I was not used to doing so.
“Ara ara That’s very kind of you. You’re still the same age as Shion, yet you’re so well-behaved.”
“Thank you. I’ll have some later.”
But I was relieved that they accepted it without worrying about my faltering.
Thus, the four of us, Shi-chan, her father and mother, sat down around a table.
“So, Shion. Are you dating this Takuya-kun right now?”
“Yes, I am.”
Shi-chan responded to her father’s question with a decisive answer.
I was happy that Shi-chan said so without any hesitation.
So I reminded myself once again that I had to do well here.
“…… I understand. That’s naturally the same for Takuya-kun, isn’t it?”
“Yes, we are in a relationship!”
Shi-chan’s father now turned the conversation to me, so I followed Shi-chan’s lead and answered clearly.
Shi-chan’s father nodded once and then looked at her mother.
Perhaps understanding his intention, her mother stood up and called out to Shi-chan.
“Shion, can you help me over there for a minute?”
“Eh? But I have something important to tell you right now.”
“Come on, let’s go. Takuya, take your time.”
Her mother smiled gently as she pulled Shi-chan by the hand, leaving her puzzled and confused.
I was suddenly left alone with Shi-chan’s father.
I felt a strange sweat pouring down my back, but I knew I couldn’t afford to make a mistake here, so I pulled myself together and tried to do something right.
“I am sorry for suddenly leaving to be alone with you. Please don’t be so nervous. ……Well, Takuya, may I ask you to listen to an old story?”
“Yes, I would like you to listen to me, Takuya. A story about our family, about the old days…”
Then the father slowly recounted an old story as if reminiscing.
“When Shion was still small, my wife and I were busy with work, and we worked very hard. Running a company is very hard work, because we are responsible for the work, lives, and even the lives of our employees and business partners. I couldn’t afford to fail. So I honestly didn’t have time to rest in order to get the company off the ground when it was still in the start-up phase.”
I have never run a company before, but I somehow understood the responsibility and the difficulty.
The manager of the store where I work may be small in scale, but he is also busy every day with organizing shifts, stocking products, etc. So I imagined, even though I was still a child, that a job that comes with that much responsibility.
“But, neither my wife nor I are superhuman. There is only so much one person can do. I was not very good at estimating that, and ended up prioritizing my work and not being able to do much at home at all. Because of that, we couldn’t spend the summer vacation with Shion, and now I think I’m disqualified from Shion so much that I always left it at her grandma’s house. I regret it … .”
Dad laughed self-deprecatingly when he said this.
So that must have been his real intention.
I thought that was the background behind Shi-chan’s being at her grandmother’s house, and I couldn’t find any words to reply to him.
“Sorry, I embarrassed myself. Shion grew up to be a quiet child who shut herself up in her shell. It was at that stage that my wife and I were finally made painfully aware of our own inadequacies. …… After that, we got back on track with our work and were able to spend some time with her, but unfortunately we couldn’t do anything about the personality that had taken root in Shion. ……”
I just decided to listen to her story, as I knew she had a past like that.
This is something I should know about, I thought.
“One day in elementary school, Shion came home from her grandmother’s house and looked completely different. We were surprised and asked her what had happened, and she happily told us that she had made friends with a nice boy over there. I was so happy about that moment that my wife and I both cried behind her back then in front of the real smile of Shion that we hadn’t seen in a long time — I was so happy about that moment. And then Shion smiled and said, “I’m so happy to see him again. I want to see him again next year.”
Hearing that, I was heartened as well.
I had no idea that the incident had that much of an impact on Shi-chan, and more importantly, I had run away after that.
On the contrary to Shi-chan, who was changing in such a positive way, I felt really sorry that I had run away from her.
“Unfortunately, she couldn’t meet the boy named “Takkun” next year, and Shion was very depressed. But even so, Shion was not the same Shion she was before. She still became a girl who could look forward to things, and not long after that, she even became an idol.”
The expression on the father’s face as he spoke of his daughter’s growth with joy was unmistakably that of a father who cares about his daughter.
“……And the rest, as you know, is history. I was very surprised at first, because just when I thought my daughter had risen to become the number one idol in Japan, she decided to quit her idol career and told me that she wanted to go to high school. But when my wife and I heard the story, we both agreed to go along with it. She said, “I’m going to quit being an idol and go to the same high school as Takkun.”
Even as a daughter, I think it’s too bold, no? Her father laughs and continues to say more.
“The quiet Shion, who had been so quiet, had grown up to be a strong and independent girl by the time she met a boy named Takkun and experienced the precious experience of being an idol. I was happy to see that. And this is a personal matter, but until then I had been a fool who sacrificed my family to work, making excuses that it was for my family, but now that Shion had become an idol, she earned more money than I could ever keep up with. At that time, I honestly laughed. I thought to myself, what have I been doing all this time? My daughter had already accomplished so much more than I ever could, and she had rejected me outright as a fool. So I am still learning a lot from her, and I have changed my way of thinking. It’s a wonder that my business is running better now than it did when I was working so hard.”
The father smiling at me like that was no longer the stern and nervous person I had felt at first.
I guess it was because I felt that he was Shi-chan’s father after all.
“I was sorry for talking for so long. So, Takuya Ichijyo-kun. Or should I call you ‘Takkun? –I am very grateful to have met Shion. And please continue to take good care of Shion. She seems really happy now, and we may be stupid parents, but just seeing her like that makes us happy too. That’s all because of you, the person you are. Therefore, thank you.”
Saying this, the father bowed deeply.
So I rush to tell him to raise his head.
“I- I didn’t do anything. I have received a lot of things from Shion-san. You said earlier that I found Shion-san, but it’s the opposite. I, who had nothing until then, was the one who was found by Shion. That is why, well, I don’t know how to say this, but, well, thank you very much.”
I was not sure what I was saying, but I said what I was feeling.
I was filled with gratitude for bringing Shi-chan into this world.
“—–Hahahaha, you’re a good boy too. If this is the case, I think I can entrust Shi-on to you, too– All right, then, today is New Year’s Eve, so let’s stop talking and take it easy today.”
After I finished talking with Shi-chan’s father about the old days, I was allowed to relax at her parents’ house.
Thanks to the important conversation with Shi-chan’s father, I decided to cherish Shi-chan even more.