Wakayama Tadao looked at Natsumi when she let loose another barrage at Mitsuo.
There's no stopping you when you're like this. Then he smiled. I guess that's why I fell in love with you.
Love or not. He still felt a bit bad for their friend who got caught in the crossfire.
Both their kids, Noriko and Ryu, were out skiing, or more accurately, Ryu was out snowboarding with his girlfriend while Noriko stumbled around in the children's slope alone.
Tadao grimaced. Noriko's boyfriend hadn't shown up because he got swamped with some kind of model job back in Tokyo. That was the reason his Noriko was all alone since she had inherited Tadao's acrobatic skills, which were all but non-existent.
Ryu, however, got his from his mother, and she had been like a frenzied monkey during their high school years. My beautiful monkey, Tadao thought and smiled at his wife.
“I know you said you'll stay out of it, but I'll have none of it. I need those hundred years of experience you have, and I'll have them or else your wife is moving in with us come January.”
Give up Mitsuo. You married Natsumi's best friend so you had it coming sooner or later. Because if Natsumi placed one phone-call she'd leave that onsen back at Ise and get right back to Tokyo, and there just wasn't anything Mitsuo could do about it.
A light snowfall obscured the view of the mountainside, but it was nowhere dense enough to prevent Tadao from seeing the kids in the slope closest to the hotel. One of them had to be Noriko, probably one of those sitting on their butts.
Well, it was time to come to the rescue, and in so doing betray his best friend.
“Love, go easy on him. We're supposed to celebrate hatsumode together in a few days.”
“We are?” Mitsuo said, and from the look in his face Tadao saw a glimmer of recognition.
“Yes. Three or four of us. What would you prefer?”
“You bastard!” Mitsuo said as the trap closed around him. “I need our place staffed over New Year's. Three, three of us.”
“Isn't that wonderful?” Natsumi said and gave Mitsuo a cheerfully false smile.
Poor sod. Your fault to begin with. You taught us manipulation when we were kids. Which was the one area where Tadao had caught up faster than his girlfriend. She was just too gleefully open with whatever did. So of course she trapped him and married him. Not that he was ever been hard to trap to begin with, he knew that, and he didn't regret a single day they had shared together.
“You could at least tell me why,” Mitsuo said.
Tadao saw how his wife looked around to make sure no-one was within earshot.
“Some moron had the two arrivals targeted.”
Mitsuo sighed and bowed his head. “I know that, but I know it had nothing to do with the factions, so not good enough.”
It was his time to nail the coffin shut. Tadao swallowed a mouthful of lukewarm tea and turned to his friend. “It does now.” Hot damn! What did they use instead of tea?
“The kids brought that Red Rose asylum down pretty much on their own,” Tadao said. He licked the inside of his mouth to get rid of some of the awful taste. “Sure, they got some help from Nakagawa, but your granddaughter turned out to be a monster when she got angry enough.”
“I would expect nothing less. She's my family after all,” Mitsuo said, and Tadao could see how proud he was of the girl.
He sighed and made the mistake of drinking some more of the swill. It was just as disgusting as before. “Someone pulled rank. They got a member of the diet involved. It was all I could do to save Hamarugen-san's company.”
A flash on anger flared alive in Mitsuo's eyes and vanished. “OK, I accepted him as her boyfriend, but he'd better run his own business. What's it to me?”
“You met him, didn't you?”
“Sure, so what?”
“Would you picture him as someone who'd crawl around begging for help?”
Mitsuo grimaced. “No, he's way too arrogant for that.”
“Well he did. While they dragged his company down he was pleading for me to help your Tina.” For the first time Tadao felt irritation at his friend's stubbornness. “If you're not willing to help Natsumi you'd damn better be prepared to help the man who was willing to sacrifice his future for your granddaughter!”
It was like watching someone turn on a switch. Mitsuo's face froze into an absolutely neutral expression. You had to have known him for years to know how he expressed rage.
“You're going to tell me everything that happened. And by everything I mean everything, got it?”
Tadao flinched but nodded. Across the table Natsumi did the same. When Mitsuo looked this way he was scary, but only the two of hem knew exactly how scary he really became. And they needed that hidden demon.
“I promise,” Natsumi said. “We both do. You can trust us.”
“What do you want,” Mitsuo growled.
Tadao felt something cold crawl down his spine, and from Natsumi's eyes he knew she felt the same.
“I want that diet member destroyed. I want every remnant of the lunatics behind Red Rose permanently disgraced...” Tadao began.
“I want you to side with us,” Natsumi interrupted. “The other faction is going down, and you'll help us pull them into the abyss.”
You always had a flare for the theatrical. I must have caught some of it, Tadao added in his mind and grinned.
“You won't like what you'll see. I did some things during my previous life that I'm not very proud of,” Mitsuo said, and Tadao saw something in his friend's face that belonged to another man from a very different time.
Tadao understood part of it, and right now he needed that part of his friend. “We'll have your back, like we always did. We're your friends.”
A little bit of life left Mitsuo's eyes. “I hope you will still be when we're finished. With your help I'm going to hurt a lot of people.”
Even though he had requested it, Tadao still shivered despite the foyer being anything but cold. “I understand,” he said and met his wife's eyes.
“No you don't,” Mitsuo said. “When we're done you will. It will haunt you for the rest of your lives.”