Note: This takes place a week after "Jun."
The address for the party was simplicity itself. "Takahashi Residence, Jinsei Tower." The reality of the location was far more extravagant. The invitation had served as a security pass for Jeremy and Kami as they ascended the famous arcology, to come to one of the top levels. The pair were amazed by the splendor they found themselves in. An entire level had been devoted to three distinct and finely built homes. The walls and ceiling were hidden by an amazingly realistic holographic projection, and the floor they stood on resembled an open road. It was as if they had stepped into the countryside.
Their destination was constructed in traditional Japanese style, and was composed of a large, main house with two smaller buildings surrounding a finely landscaped garden. As they approached they could see other guests making their way around to the garden. A finely dressed security guard stopped them briefly, then directed them to follow the other guests when presented with the invitation.
As they made their way around the house, they couldn't help noticing an oddity among the other guests. They were uniformly middle-aged people, finely dressed and displaying their wealth in outfits and jewelry. They could quickly tell there was no-one else their age.
Soon enough they spotted a small knot of people standing by a pond. Both recognized Reiko's father, Retsu Takahashi from the files. He was an imposing Japanese man with long, straight hair, a narrow gaze and sunken features. Next to him was Gillian Greaves, Jun's American mother. She was a blonde woman, almost as tall as Retsu, wearing a loose gray dress and shawl. She was waited on by a tall, handsome man with long pale blue hair; he had the perfect features they had come to expect from synthetic humans. And by the adults were Reiko and Jun. The pair looked like perfect opposites; Reiko wearing a modest black dress, while Jun was clad in an extravagant white dinner suit.
Vivian was going strong. "I think we should go over and introduce ourselves brother dear," She said with a glowing smile.
"Agreed dear". He smiled and slowly headed towards Reiko carrying the white and small box with the present. When he approached her, he smiled brightly and said. "Congratulations Reiko".
Reiko looked up in surprise. "Brian!" She called out. The rest of the group turned in their directions. Reactions were mixed - Gillain looked confused, while a broad grin spread on Jun's face. Retsu's eyes narrowed as he stepped forwards, barring his daughter's way. "And you are?" He asked in a flat tone.
Vivian stepped forward boldly, bowed appropriately, and presented her gift for Reiko to Mr. Takahashi. "Greetings Takahashi-sama I'm Vivian O'Neal and this is my brother Brian, a new acquaintance of Reiko." Her Japanese was well practiced from the week slipping the American pronunciation for the names seamlessly into conversation.
Brian followed his sister in the bow and presented his gift also.
Retsu regarded them coldly and passed the gifts to the synthetic, who quickly stepped back. He then looked down at Reiko with a piercing gaze. "Reiko?" He prompted.
"I invited them, father," she replied quietly, her gaze turning down to the ground.
Brian just watched them and their expressions as he kept calm.
"If you excuse me" he said slowly turning to walk away.
"Brian?" Reiko softly asked as he departed.
He quickly turned to her. "Yes?"
"May I join you?" She asked. Her father frowned.
"Sure!" he smiled. Retsu watched the pair depart with a cold gaze.
As they departed, Jeremy asked Reiko in a low voice, "Is there a problem?"
"I don't think my father's happy with me."
"For inviting you," she replied.
"What is the problem?"
"I didn't tell him..." Reiko said softly, turning away.
"Oh... Well, umm, should I leave?"
"I don't want you to," she replied, a hint of defiance in her voice.
"Hmmm, I think I can't leave then." He smiled and picked 2 glasses of drink
"Thank you," she said. She gently gripped his arm, smiling faintly.
"How was your day?" He asked.
She sighed. "We spent all morning gearing up for the party. I haven't had a moment to myself since we last met."
"Oh, I see." Jeremy looked around, "I wonder this is more of a business party than anything else" he smiled. She nodded quietly. "Is your brother here?"
She nodded. "He's inside, with mother. Father doesn't want him embarrassing the guests."
"Ohh, I see. How old is your father?"
Reiko glanced back at her father who was deep in conversation with Gillian Greaves. "He's forty-five now. He says he's been looking forward to this."
"Hmm, he seems to be younger." He smiled. "Why has he been looking forward this?" Reiko sighed to herself, but said nothing. "Ohh, come on." He smiled.
"It's not just a birthday party," she said quietly.
"Well, I suggest you take a look at your gift." He smiled
She nodded. "I'll fetch it."
"Did your father give you the car you wanted?"
She shook her head. "Excuse me," she said, bowing, then turned back to her father's group. He watched her leave and gave the signal to Kami, then returned to glance around the party
Soon enough she returned with the present. "Let's head inside. I..." She looked around at the businessmen around her. "I just don't feel comfortable out here."
"Oh, sure." He left his glass and followed her.
Reiko lead the way inside. They picked their way between the caterers to find a quiet place; a sitting room off from the main hall.
"Hmm, this is a nice place. Might be very comfortable."
Reiko took a seat and carefully unwrapped her present. She held her breath and carefully removed the crystal rabbit from its package and gently set it on the table. "It's beautiful," she whispered.
"Glad that you liked. I didn't have any other ideas."
She nodded, trying to hold back tears. "I don't know what to say..."
"Oh, come on, no need to say a thing."
Reiko surged forwards and swept up Jeremy in a hug, sobbing quietly all the way.
Jeremy hugged her tightly. "No need to cry, please."
"Thank you," She muttered between sobs. He gently touched her face and cleaned the tears. She nodded silently, waiting for him to speak.
"So?" He smiled gently
"We should probably get back to the party," She said slowly.
"Do you really want to?"
She shook her head. "But I have to."
"I understand." He smiled brightly and stood up. She nodded quietly and stood with him.
As they stepped out into the dining room, Jeremy spotted Reiko's father, Retsu, entering from the garden. The older man immediately spotted the couple. Jeremy acted as if he hadn't see him. Retsu made his way past the serving staff towards the pair.
Jeremy smiled to Reiko and tried to see if she noticed her father. It seemed that she had, although she was trying to look away from him. "So Reiko, when are you going to the states?" He asked.
"I don't know just yet," she said quietly. Behind them, Retsu cleared his throat noisily.
Jeremy turned slowly to him. "Oh sir, sorry. I didn't notice you"
He frowned, but did not reply to Jeremy. Instead he looked down at Reiko. "Your guests request your presence outside," he said in a stern voice to her.
Jeremy just glanced at Reiko. She nodded quietly and broke away from Jeremy, heading for the door.
He glanced around, noted that Kami hadn't returned yet, and walked outside. As he left, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Behind him, Retsu said "A word about my daughter."
He slowly turned to the older man. "Yes?"
He nodded towards the sitting room. "In private."
"Okay." He followed Retsu into the sitting room.
Retsu closed the door behind them, then turned to Jeremy. He regarded the younger man in silence for a few seconds, then asked "What's your interest in her?"
Jeremy felt a bit uncomfortable for the question, and that was on purpose. "Hmm, well it is quite hard to explain, sir"
"It should be simple. Why are you so persistently interested in her?"
"I have been kept well aware of your recent activities with her. Why are you persisting?"
"Well, persisting? I don't think that this is the best word. I'd say we are having good time"
"Then why her?"
"How can I know?"
"It's that simple then? Fine." He turned to leave, but looked back at Jeremy. "I advise you to leave this party and forget about her. She's beyond your reach."
"Why is that, sir?"
He stared at Jeremy for a few seconds, before comprehension dawned on his face. "She invited you without telling you? Very well. This is my daughter's wedding day."
Jun watched in amusement as Reiko and Brian departed. She stifled a chuckle and turned to Vivian, snagging a champagne flute from a passing waiter and offering it to her.
"Thanks." Vivian took the drink from Jun and downed it. "I never though I'd bump into you here."
"Likewise," Jun said, chuckling. She nodded back to her mother and Reiko's father who were watching the couple. "It's too crowded here," she said quietly.
"Sure." Vivian nodded.
They departed the small group, walking slowly to the immaculate gardens. "Funny world, huh?" Jun said, smiling.
"Really, should I ask about your other hobby," Vivian mentioned.
"My other hobby?" Jun asked.
"The club," Vivian added.
Jun laughed out loud. "That? Oh, that's just for fun. Flattering rich people to steal their money," she said. She gently patted Vivian on the rump and winked to her.
Vivian gave her a sour look, "Judging from the party you're better off than they are."
Jun chuckled. "Oh, don't be mad. I went easy on you, you know."
Vivian snickered, "I'm not worried about that. It was a blast."
Jun leaned close and whispered in Vivian's ear. "I could give you another round for free."
"Sounds interesting." Vivian whispered.
She winked. "Tonight. Tonight, I'll have the house to myself." She nodded over to the large white country house in the distance. "Yumi will be there," she added.
"Oooh." Vivian purred, "Anybody else going to be there?"
She glanced over in the direction of the house. Following her look, Vivian could see Brian signaling for her to begin, with Reiko standing next to him.
"Her," Jun said, grinning broadly.
"Birthday girl?" Vivian looked a bit unhappy about that. "That doesn't mean my brother is coming as well?"
Jun chuckled again. "Hell, no. I've sworn off men now."
"Oh really?" Vivian smiled, "Why's that?"
"Remember the ring I bought?" Jun asked.
"Yes." Vivian replied.
"It's hers," she said. She watched Vivian's reaction as she sipped her champagne flute.
Vivian looked like she was going to choke. "Oh really."
Jun couldn't help but laugh at Vivian's reaction. "Oh, don't be like that. It's all for business."
"Business?" Vivian snickered, "Makes sense."
Jun nodded. "Good. Of course, I won't let a simple thing like being married interfere with my love life."
"Sweet." She whispered, "What's she think of the deal?"
Jun shrugged. "Who cares?"
"Only the curious." Vivian was clearly amused. "Then again I'm going to have to listen to my brother moan about it."
"Stuff him," Jun replied. "What does he matter?"
"Not much really." Kami was getting some rather interesting ideas.
"Ah!" Jun exclaimed, looking over to the house.
Rounding the corner of the house, newly joining the party and being greeted by Gillian Greaves was a tall, vital man who looked to be in his fifties. He had white hair swept back from his face, a square jaw, broad shoulders and a healthy tan. He was wearing a casual brown suit and carrying a bamboo walking cane, although he clearly didn't need it. His blue eyes sparkled with intelligence and he had a broad, shining grin.
He was none other than Quincy Rosencrantz, chairman of Jinsei International, and the most powerful man in the world.
"Godfather's here! Come and meet him," she said, tugging gently on Vivian's arm.
'Godfather?' Vivian thought as she saw the most famous businessman in the world enter. "Alrighty," she smiled.
Jun made her way through the crowd of partygoers, bringing Vivian in her wake, until Quincy caught sight of the pair.
"Jun!" he exclaimed loudly, reaching up one arm in a salute.
Jun stepped up and hugged the old man. She pulled back and turned to Vivian. "May I introduce Vivian O'Neil."
"Good evening." Vivian reached her hand out to the Chairman.
"Good to meet you," he said, flashing one of his trademarked grins. He looked Vivian up and down, clearly appreciative of what he saw. "Jun's friend?" he asked.
Jun nodded. "Viv's from America, and is here on holiday. We were introduced by a mutual friend," she said, glancing at Vivian to gauge her reaction.
Vivian smiled and was clearly enjoying herself, "It an honor to meet you." She then looked at Jun, "We really hit it off."
Jun nodded, smiling.
Quincy turned to Vivian again. "So tell me, has my little girl been behaving herself?" he asked with a mischievous grin.
Vivian smiled, "She's been an absolute angel." Vivian smiled.
Quincy let out a hearty chuckle. "I have no doubt," he said. "If you two will excuse me?"
Vivian couldn't help but notice how alike Jun and Quincy's laughter was.
"Its been a pleasure to meet you." Vivian grinned as she reached her hand out to Quincy.
He shook her hand heartily, then gave Vivian a peck on the cheek. Smiling to himself, he made his way into the crowd.
Vivian smiled then glanced over at Jun to see her reaction. She only smiled warmly at Vivian. "I think he likes me." Vivian eyed Jun.
"He treats all pretty girls like that," She replied quietly.
"Not surprised, It's good to be the king." She whispered back.
Jun laughed out loud once more, sounding almost exactly like her godfather.
"That's scary." Vivian whispered.
Jun grinned at her. "So what now? Care to meet the bride?"
"I'd love too." Vivian grinned.
"Here she is." Jun nodded over to the house, where Reiko had just emerged.
"Lets go." Vivian hooked Jun's arm.
Jun nodded, and lead the way over to the house's door, where Reiko was standing nervously. Vivian was grinning like the Cheshire cat as they approached. "Darling?" Jun said. Reiko glanced over at the pair, then turned away.
"I'm Vivian, Brian's sister." She said confidently.
Reiko turned back to her and bowed stiffly. "I'm pleased to meet you," she said in a stiff, almost mechanical tone.
"I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday." Vivian smiled gracefully.
"Thank you, miss Vivian," She said quietly.
"No need to be shy, there are so many girls who would be jealous." Vivian was confident as ever. Reiko sniffed slightly, and just looked at the ground. "Smile" Vivian eyed first Reiko, then Jun.
"Oh, she won't," Jun replied, watching her fiancˇ.
"She should, I mean all things considered, other than one technicality, she pretty much has everything that could possibly make her happy. And if this isn't enough to make her happy, she's only going to succeed in making herself miserable."
"Well put," Jun said, beaming at Vivian. "Can't you be more positive, like her?" She asked Reiko. The girl simply stood rock still.
"Is she ticklish?" Vivian asked coldly.
"Haven't gotten to try," Jun replied. Reiko seemed to shudder briefly.
"Sorry to hear that." Vivian looked at Reiko and grinned. Reiko turned her back on the pair. "Besides, I imagine she has a rather pleasant smile, when she wants." Vivian prodded.
"Oh, she does," Jun replied. Reiko's head seemed to sink even lower.
"Its amazing what you can do with a pleasant smile." Vivian replied. Jun only nodded in reply. Vivian whispered in Jun's ear, "You really tease her a lot don't you?"
Jun nodded. "Why not?" she muttered back. "When it comes down to it, she'll do what I say."
"I'll explain later." Vivian whispered. Jun only nodded.
"Why don't we all have a drink and talk?" Vivian muttered loud enough for all to hear.
"I'd love to," Jun replied. She glanced out at the crowd, and added "But I really should see my other guests.
"What about you?" Vivian asked Reiko.
She turned to Vivian and shook her head. "I don't drink," she said quietly.
"Have you tried?" Vivian asked. Reiko shook her head slowly. Vivian chuckled. "Why don't we give it a try? We'll start light."
"No thank you," she said, still looking down.
"What's wrong?" Vivian asked. She eyed Jun.
Jun shrugged. "'scuse me," she said, nodding to the crowd.
Vivian leaned over and kissed Jun on the cheek as she left, "See you real soon" Vivian had a sparkle in her eye. Jun winked back at her and walked off into the crowd.
Vivian turned her head back to Reiko. "Let's grab some champagne or some wine, that won't hurt anything will it?"
"I'd rather not, thank you," she said quietly.
Vivian walked up next to Reiko, "Then I'm going to have to drink for the both of us and get you a soda or something. Let's go." Reiko nodded glumly and followed her.
Vivian led Reiko over to the bar, humming Happy Birthday. The girl kept glancing oddly at Vivian, but never kept her eyes on her for more than a second.
Vivian kept up her attitude. She knew that this girl had a great deal of potential, and wanted to catch this little fly with honey. "One champagne and one of whatever she likes," Vivian called out to the bartender.
"Mineral water," she said quietly.
Vivian motioned to a spare table. "Let's have a seat and chat for a few minutes." Vivian couldn't help but to wonder where her brother was. Seeing no sign of him, she sighed and lead Reiko to a table. "Why so quiet?" She asked as they sat.
Reiko looked up at her briefly. "I don't have anything to say, miss."
"I take it you're not happy about the situation." Vivian probed.
Reiko looked up at her. "No," she said firmly. "Not at all."
"Mind if I ask why not?"
She spared Vivian a piercing glare. "Jun tells me you're... Well, you wouldn't want to marry a man, would you?"
"Don't be so naive. That's not the point," Vivian shot back. "Millions of girls, straight girls, would kill to be in your position."
Reiko fixed her with an intense stare, unlike any Vivian had seen from the otherwise calm and shy girl. "I still don't care." She said in a low voice.
"Good attitude, you're asserting what you want." Vivian was quite nonchalant. "That shows me that you have an idea as to what you want."
"Yet you still think I should get married, even if I hate the idea," Reiko replied coldly.
"Will getting married get you where you want to go?" Vivian probed.
"If you're not wanting to go to the top where are you wanting to go?" Vivian was a little surprised by this.
"I want to make my own choices," she replied. She looked around at the house, at the partygoers and then back to Vivian. "Everything here is my father's doing."
Vivian smirked, "I can tell." Now she started resorting to theory she had read. "Frequently giving people what they want in the short term will get you where you want to be in the long term."
She frowned. "You're saying I should go through with it?"
"Don't think of it as their decision, think it as being complicity to get yourself into a position where you are the one making the decisions. Leaders and decision makers get their position by being cooperative." Vivian pushed.
"I'm not interested in their world," she replied solemnly.
"But you said that you're interested in making decisions for yourself." Vivian continued.
She shook her head. "You wouldn't understand. I want to decide what to do with my life, not be forced into it."
Deep inside Eve understood all too well. But she was not in charge.
"How many people out there do you think actually choose what they want to do with their life?" Vivian's arrogance was showing through.
"You seem to be content enough," she spat.
"You know nothing about what I've had to do to get here." Vivian looked her dead in the eye.
"If my position is so wonderful, you can take it," she replied coldly. "Ask my father. It's his to give away."
"Before you do giving things like this away, ask yourself what is going to happen after you do?" Vivian eyed her. "I've met many girls who ended up as prostitutes and eventually dead, because they decided to do what they wanted to do."
Eve felt a kindred spirit in this young girl, but yet she couldn't find it in her heart to side with her.
Reiko regarded her coldly, then turned away. "It doesn't matter. I can't change things anyway."
"Did yo ever stop to think that by cooperating with your father and Jun, you will get what you want?" Vivian regarded.
Reiko shook her head. "I've been trying to explain... It doesn't matter." She stood and said "I must see my other guests. Please excuse me."
Inside Eve sighed.
"Before you go one more thing to think about." Vivian was in a slightly evil mood. Reiko merely glanced back at her. "Why do you think most of the synthetics you see outside to the military and industry are female?"
Reiko shook her head. "I don't know."
Vivian grinned, "They're bisexual, and in private a surprising percentage of what you would consider straight women take advantage of their company."
Reiko looked at her in disgust. "I don't see why that's relevant."
"Just ask some of you're more out going classmates." Vivian gave her a knowing smile. Reiko regarded her coldly.
Vivian smiled, "Come here for a moment, don't worry, I'm not going to do anything weird." She remained standing, and merely watched Vivian cautiously.
Vivian reached out her arm, and in a loose fist, "Touch my hand."
Reiko slowly shook her head. "Why?" She asked quietly.
"I want to give you something to think about, but like I said, I'm not going to do anything."
Reiko nodded cautiously and gently stretched out her hand to touch Vivian's.
"You can do better than that." Vivian gently encouraged.
"What do you want from me?" She quietly asked.
"I want to just feel how soft and smooth my hand is. And I want to explain something that's all." Vivian's voice was almost that of Silver's.
Reiko gently touched the back of Vivian's hand, watching her all the while. "You feel how soft and gentle that is?" Vivian asked softly.
"I just want you to understand and think about why I like girls the next time you touch a guy." Vivian's voice was almost apologetic.
Reiko recoiled her hand quickly. "I- I have to go," she stammered, gave a quick bow, and departed.
Vivian had to laugh silently to herself. Reiko was amusing enough, but now she had work to do.
She rose from her seat, fingers delicately wrapped around the computer tap hidden in her handbag. Jeremy had given her a target; Retsu's personal computer. With the tap installed, he would be able to access it from his own machine.
She made her way across the garden, and stepped up into the main house. Turning a corner, she bumped into Brian as he was leaving the sitting room.
Vivian was the first to respond, coolly asking "Brian dear, how are you doing?"
"I am quite fine, yourself?" he replied in a similarly impersonal tone.
"Just wandering in for a couple of minutes, taking care of some personal business." He couldn't help but notice how smug she looked.
Brian nodded. "Yeah, I know... But have you followed my orders?"
Vivian gave him a startled look. "I'm taking care of that now," she said, almost indignant.
"Good to hear, Viv"
She nodded. "Well I need to take care of business." Vivian quickly brushed him off and went on her way.
"See you," he called after her. He turned around and made for the front door.
Jeremy stepped out into the artificial sunlight, casting a sweeping glance over the party. A sight nearby caught his interest, and held him transfixed. Talking to Jun and Reiko was none other than Quincy Rosencrantz, chairman of Jinsei International, and the most powerful man in the world.
Jeremy thought how interesting would be talking to him but couldn't. He just decided to stay some meters away.
The three eventually broke up, and Quincy made a beeline for Retsu. Meanwhile, Reiko and Jun looked awkwardly at each other, then Reiko turned away.
Is she marring that guy? he thought for a second and laughed a bit.
Reiko quickly stepped away from Jun, almost as if she was embarrassed to be with her. Nearby, Retsu and Quincy were talking in low voices that he couldn't quite hear. And Gillian Greaves had just stepped inside the house.
He watched the two men for a while, boredom creeping across his face. He wished he could know what they were discussing, but acknowledged that he could not find out. Eventually they separated and wandered into the crowd.
Jeremy watched with amusement as Retsu glared bitterly at Quincy's back. While the old man was drawing everyone's attention, the host seemed to be ignored.
He turned away from the party, glancing over to the girls. Jun was watching Reiko closely, amusement playing on her face. He slowly walked towards Reiko, asking "So?"
Reiko looked up at him in surprise. Her face flushed red with embarrassment, and she seemed almost paralyzed with fear.
"Hey, no need to be afraid..."
Reiko stood stock still, staring at him. From her expression, it looked as if she was about to cry.
"I will be inside if you want to talk..." He smiled and turned back to the door.
She nodded slightly. Behind her, Brian could see Jun stifling her laughter. He stared at Jun then returned to his pace.
Stepping inside, he could see that the staff had almost set up for lunch. He could feel the hour drawing near, and knew what Reiko would soon have to go through. He made his way back to the sitting room and sat. Reiko entered after a minute, her head bowed seemingly in shame.
"Reiko, no need to be ashamed"
"He told you, didn't he?" She said quietly.
"Well, yes and I know this is not your decision."
She nodded slowly, trying to hold back her tears.
"Who will be your husband?"
With that, she virtually collapsed against Jeremy and burst into tears. He hugged her softly and let her cry. "I'm sorry," she stuttered between sobs. "I should have told you... I should..."
"Well, you did what you thought to be the best. I am sure your husband will take care of you." She only shook her head. "Who is he?"
She looked up, trying to control her tears. "It's... It's not..." But she seemed unable to speak, and merely collapsed against Jeremy again.
"Relax. Please, sit here." He pulled up a chair for her. She eased herself into the chair, then slumped down, head buried in her hands. He approached her and cleaned her tears.
"I'm so sorry..." She said as her sobbing slowed.
"Don't worry," he said. She only nodded as she dried her eyes. After a while she slowly looked up at him, her reddened eyes drooping in sadness.
"Who is the guy?"
She drew a deep breath and looked up at Jeremy. Her face drooped in despair, and for a second it seemed as if she would cry again. But she maintained her composed, and croaked out a single name: "Jun."
"You are marrying her?" She slowly nodded, fighting back her tears.
Jeremy felt a bit confused. "You are marrying her?" He repeated, unable to believe his ears. Again she nodded, her eyes tightly closed. Jeremy looked around completely confused and didn't say a word.
"I hate her," Reiko said softly.
"She... She's cruel and selfish. She mocks me. She's going to be in charge In charge of..." Her body shook with revulsion.
"Me," she stated coldly. "For the rest of my life."
Jeremy sat on the chair near her wondering if Kami had accomplished her mission. He quickly scanned the room, checking for telltale signs of bugs or microphones. Seeing none, her leant close to her. "Do you want to go with me?" said in low voice.
She nodded, almost desperately. "You know the consequences don't you?" He asked. Again, she nodded.
"Okay, I am leaving tomorrow for US. We'll be waiting for you, is there any possibility of you coming with us?"
She nodded. "I'll try. Where can I find you?"
"The airport," he said.
She nodded gravely. "At what time?"
"10 am?" She nodded once more.
"I will be leaving now..." he turned her face to him and gave her a quick kiss on her lips.
"Thank you," she whispered as he pulled away.
He stood up and walked away, looking for Kami. "Time to go"
Dressed in her new leather pants and sleeveless leather top, carrying a large bottle of Dai-Ginjo Sake, Vivian was ready for anything. As before, Jun's invitation had served as a security pass, and she was escorted by security to the same level as the day's party.
This time her destination was the large white manor on the far side of the spacious floor. She made her way over to the building, lost in her thoughts. Deep inside Eve was having second thoughts about going to the party. But this was an opportunity to build a connection with the future head of Jinsei. She couldn't say no.
Making her way to the house, she spotted someone else on the path, wearing a long, shimmering blue dress.
Vivian met up with Yumi on her way to Jun's front door. "Hello," she said musically.
Yumi glanced over at Vivian in surprise. She smiled broadly and called out "Hey!"
"Nice to see you again." Vivian feigned a guilty look.
"You too," she replied warmly. "Enjoying your holiday?"
"Oh yes," Vivian smiled. "Sorry about the other night."
Yumi chuckled briefly. "It happens to everyone," she said warmly, placing a hand on Vivian's shoulder.
Vivian reached out a put her hand on Yumi's side. "Thanks." She smiled. "It just never happens to me, I'm so embarrassed." Vivian just had to push that little arrogant bit into her speech.
She crooked her head to one side, looking oddly at Vivian. Her eyes narrowed as she regarded the American girl curiously.
"Normally I'm more careful than that."
"I'm just trying to figure you out," she said. She looked from side to side, a faint smile growing on her face.
Vivian smiled, "I hope to keep you guessing for a long time then." Yumi couldn't possibly imagine.
The girl nodded and chuckled to herself. Stepping forwards, she swept an arm across Vivian's shoulder and turned her to face the grand house before them. "So here we are," she said, almost to herself.
Vivian put her hand on Yumi's waist and simply nodded as she pressed the doorbell. Within seconds, the door was opened by a finely dressed Japanese man. He seemed impossibly handsome, with fine, narrow features and long, perfectly straight hair. "Miss O'Neil and Miss Kirishima?" He asked in a soft voice.
"Yes." Vivian replied, a little disappointed that she wasn't greeted by a cute 33s in a French maid outfit.
He stepped back in a sweeping bow, and indicated inside. "Please, come in. The mistresses are expecting you."
Vivian smiled and escorted her 'date' past the butler. "Thank You." She knew that she shouldn't have said anything, but it really didn't matter anyway. He swept the door silently closed, bowed once more, and retreated.
Inside was a spacious, richly decorated entrance hall. Yumi stepped forwards, openly gaping at the marvelous furnishings, and looked from door to door. At the back, the pair could see flickering light from around a corner.
This was more than Vivian imagined. Yet she bit her tongue, and remained visibly unimpressed. She was quite curious what the flickering light was. She made her way there with Yumi in tow.
The room beyond was the very vision of luxury. A trio of couches stretched around a flickering fireplace, with a soft white rug spread out on the ground. A pair of bookshelves occupied the back wall, along with an expansive stereo system. The light was dim and soft music played, washing over the room's two occupants.
As they entered, Jun turned from her seat on the couch. She raised her hand to show off a shining gold band around her finger. The same arm stretched out, almost letting the thin strap of her open red dress slip of her shoulder, to lay behind her new wife. Reiko shied away from her touch and self-consciously stretched down the hemline of her black wedding dress.
"You two look so lovely." Vivian greeted with a smile.
"Thank you," Jun said graciously. She stood and held out her hand, palm-down to Vivian and Yumi.
Vivian leaned over and kissed her hand. Yumi looked up at her friend in surprise, then kissed her hand delicately. Jun's face was locked in a broad smile. She looked down at the two girls, her eyes sparkling with mischief.
Vivian knew she was well over dressed, but after seeing that look from Jun she knew it wouldn't last long.
"Yumi, I don't think you've met my new... wife," she said slowly, as if savoring the word. "Yumi Kirishima, this is Reiko Takahashi."
Reiko stood and bowed stiffly, not meeting the girl's eyes. "It is a pleasure to meet you," she said quietly. Yumi simply returned the bow.
Vivian sighed as she thought to herself, "It Reiko would pretend to enjoy it, and hound Jun for sex, Jun would tire of her within a month."
"Jun, it it just me or does it seem a bit stuffy in here?" Vivian said, hinting at the oversized magnum of sake she held casually in her free hand.
"Couldn't agree more." Jun snapped her fingers. Within seconds, a finely dressed Japanese woman appeared at the doorway. "Drinks for everyone," she said, indicating to the bottle. The woman turned to Vivian and silently offered her hand. Vivian handed her the 3 liter self-chilling magnum of sake. The woman silently bowed, and departed as swiftly as she had arrived.
"Make yourselves comfortable. What's mine is yours," Jun said, glancing over at Reiko.
Vivian had a seat on the couch and gently pulled Yumi down with her. She casually glanced around, expecting to see restraints of some sort placed discreetly out of the way.
Jun claimed one of the soft armchairs for herself, and indicated for Reiko to sit on the couch.
"Don't be nervous, we're not going to bite." Vivian said gently.
Yumi stifled a giggle as Reiko cautiously sat between the two girls. She inched away from Vivian, and looked down to the floor.
Vivian gave Jun a wicked grin, "So aren't you going to join us?"
"You look quite cozy there," Jun replied, smiling at her and Yumi.
The woman appeared in the doorway once more, carrying a tray with Vivian's bottle and four small cups. She silently handed a cup to each of the girls, and set the bottle down by Jun's chair. She returned to the doorway and asked "Will there be anything else?"
Vivian glanced at the girls, and wished deep down inside that Aoi were here, and wouldn't be so uptight about things.
Jun shook her head and dismissed the woman. She then turned to Yumi and Jun and smiled. "Like them?" she asked. "They're our wedding present."
"Of course." Vivian grinned. She raised her cup, "I propose a toast to the newly wedded couple!"
Yumi raised hers in agreement. "Yeah. Cheers!"
Jun raised hers, and looked pointedly at Reiko. The girl only stared miserably into her cup.
Vivian leaned over and whispered in the girls ear, "If you pretend to enjoy it, you will be much happier, and you do want to be happy don't you?"
"Nothing could make me enjoy this," she said. She leaned her head back, staring vaguely at the ceiling, before draining her glass in a single gulp. Vivian shrugged and toasted.
Within seconds, Reiko was coughing and gasping for air. Jun couldn't help but chuckle, commenting "Dearest's first drink," in a distracted tone.
Vivian applauded as Yumi patted Reiko stiffly on the back. "You alright?" She asked. Reiko slowly nodded and blinked hard, holding back tears.
"You did well." Vivian soothed as she gently touched the girl's shoulder.
"I won't have any more," she croaked out.
"It's okay, you just have to take things slowly and be careful." Vivian smiled gently.
"I'm surprised to hear that coming from you," Jun said, chuckling.
"Just wait until she gets over her initial shyness." Vivian winked.
Jun didn't reply, instead asking Reiko if she wanted another drink.
"Have another, this time try it a little slower." Vivian smiled. Reiko only shook her head.
"I'll get you something soft," Jun said as she stood. Kami could swear the girl winked at her as she departed.
Vivian suppressed her amusement. "Here let me get that for you." She reached over to get Reiko's empty cup. Reiko quietly handed her the cup without meeting her eyes.
Vivian put the cups down the leaned back on the couch resting her arm across the back. She had an evil grin on her face. "Yumi, I know how to get her to smile." Her smile broadened into a grin.
"Now just what are you thinking of?" Yumi replied, a playful smile crossing her face.
"I'll bet she's ticklish." Vivian returned Yumi's smile.
Reiko shied away from Vivian, only to find herself bumping against Yumi. "Wanna try?" Yumi asked her.
Vivian said nothing, she simply beamed, reached out and began gently tickling Reiko. The girl sprung up from the couch in alarm, and backed away from the pair.
"I do believe that she's ticklish." Vivian grinned.
"I don't think we should press it," Yumi said, the concern clear in her voice.
"Alright." Vivian sighed. "Have a seat, we're not going to tickle you." Vivian patted the couch next to her. She quietly shook her head and stayed where she was.
"What's wrong?" Vivian probed gently.
"You of all people should know," Reiko replied bitterly.
"I know, but I also know that certain things are in inevitable and I want you to have as pleasant an experience as possible." She grinned, "Besides I have an idea that may help you out in the long run".
"I don't care for your ideas," Reiko said.
"Alright, cool it," Yumi replied.
Vivian sighed, "Alright." She looked up at Reiko and smiled, "Please have a seat." The girl warily watched Vivian as she resumed her seat.
As she sat, Jun returned with a glass. "Here you are. Apple cider," She said simply, handing the glass to Reiko.
Vivian patted Reiko on the leg, and smiled first at her, then at Jun. Drink up," Jun said, watching her eagerly.
Vivian refilled the other girls sake cups. "Lets."
Reiko nodded and drank from her cider as Jun refilled the others glasses, watching Reiko all the while. Vivian smiled to herself as she sipped her sake.
Inside Kami felt that this was a dirty trick, but she had a job to do and until it was over she was Vivian. She also realized that Reiko was about to enter a dangerous arena and she was going to have many more lessons to learn. Perhaps there was the potential for a job opening here for Kami, or even Evelyn.
Yumi glanced between Jun and Reiko, as Jun stood stock-still and Reiko polished off her glass. The smile broadened on Jun's face as Reiko's eyes drooped and she slumped back into the couch.
Vivian reached up to the back of Jun's leg. Judging by Reiko's immediate response, it was clear that Jun had drugged the drink somehow.
Jun raised an eyebrow and glanced down at Vivian. "Yes, dear?"
"Jun dear, she's no fun like that." Vivian looked a little disappointed.
"But much easier," she replied, smiling. "And she'll know just what we did."
Vivian wasn't sure that she liked the idea of easier, she glanced over at Yumi, "But will she enjoy it as much?"
Jun stepped up to the couch, took one of Reiko's arms and helped her to stand. "Who cares?" She replied.
"Jun dear, I'm thinking about long term relationship." Vivian chided, "Making allies is always better than making enemies, push her too far she may actually grow a spine when you aren't expecting it."
Jun shrugged. "At the moment, she's useless to me. A piece of fluff. If she changed, became aggressive..." Her smile broadened. "Nothing would make me happier,"
Vivian smiled, "Perhaps I know somebody who can be of some use to you."
"Later," she replied. "Dearest and I have to consummate our marriage."
Vivian laughed as she leaned back on the couch. "Of course I was forgetting myself." She smiled, "Would you like some help?" She began caressing Reiko's leg.
Jun shook her head. "Me first," she said with a crooked grin. "After that, she's open to share."
"But of course." Vivian looked over at Yumi, "Shall we entertain ourselves for a little while?"
Vivian was completely in charge here even though she knew the others wouldn't approve. She did know that it was in their best interest to do this. Even though secretly she felt bad for betraying Aoi.
Yumi merely watched as Jun helped Reiko out the door. She cast a concerned glance at Vivian and asked "Are we really going to let her do this?'
"Do you have any suggestions for talking her out of it?" Vivian sighed, "You do know what their positions are going to be don't you?"
Yumi blinked in surprise. "No..." She said softly.
"We're in a mansion, owned by a teenage girl in the middle of the Jinsei arcology, think about it."
Yumi face fell for an instant, but she shook her head to clear it. "I don't care. This is wrong."
"Okay. Short of physical violence do you have any suggestions for stopping her?"
Yumi looked at her in a mixture of fear and revulsion. "We've got to try, at least."
Kami came to mind. I've killed people for less, why am I so hesitant and not doing anything? Especially because of Eve, she was in a similar situation to this.
That's right Eve thought. This girl was in nearly the same situation she was in. Except she didn't run away, she stuck with this. She deserved the same chance Eve did. She deserved to learn what life and freedom was like.
That's right Vivian agreed. She would learn what freedom was, and that freedom had its price. Besides, you can't really help somebody who doesn't want her help, and this girl had certainly didn't want her help. Besides helping her now would only do more long term damage. It would get in Jun's way, something she didn't want. And Reiko certainly wouldn't be appreciative either.
"No we don't." Vivian responded. "Consider where we are Reiko is gonna have to learn to cover her ass or she is gonna end up floating in the bay." She sighed, "At least Jun's not going to kill her."
Yumi gaped at her in shock. "I can't... I don't believe it," she said. "I don't believe you." In a huff, Yumi turned and stormed out of the room.
Vivian for her part, merely leant back and waited.
The morning rolled buy, seeing the duo waiting at Mega-Tokyo international airport. They stood at the entrance to the massive glass and steel terminal, awaiting Reiko's arrival. Vivian's contented smile conflicted with Brian's nervous glances.
Vivian reflected on the night that had passed. Yumi's temper tantrum had only resulted in her being thrown out by the handsome butler, who Vivian later discovered was a 33S with additional domestic programming. After a while, Jun had returned downstairs with the maid, likewise a sexroid, in tow.
She was broken out of her pleasurable reverie by Brian's voice. Looking around, she could see him calling out to Reiko who was approaching quietly. Vivian rolled her eyes and turned away, not wanting to be a part of the happy reunion.
Brian waved his greeting and called out, "Hey Reiko, feel ok?"
She nodded slightly as she approached, yet remained silent.
Brian took her hand and gently lead her towards the gate. "Well, let's move then. When we arrive we will have much to talk about." She nodded silently once more, and slowly followed him.
He lead them both towards the departure area in silent just looking at the two girls' expressions. Vivian definitely didn't care for Reiko's presence. She wouldn't even look at the girl, keeping her head turned away in a show of disinterest. Reiko likewise wouldn't look at Vivian, but it seemed impossible to tell why not.
By the time they were at the gate, the silence had become almost unbearable. "Reiko, are you sure you want to do this?" he asked, glancing between her and the waiting plane. She nodded firmly.
"And are you aware of the consequences?" he asked. She nodded once again.
"Why don't you speak?" She glanced over at Jeremy, sadness in her eyes, but made no reply.
"Okay, I understand." He sighed and relaxed on his chair. She only looked down at her feet, again deathly quiet.
The flight went past in painful, almost deathly silence. By the time they reach Neo York, Vivian made her excuses and departed from their company. As she slipped out of the airport, she could see a familiar figure watching her from afar.
While Reiko and Brian stepped into a waiting limousine, she had a porter take her baggage outside. Glancing around, she finally spotted her watcher. She smiled, recognizing Aoi, and taking in her new look.
Her hair was out, hanging long and straight down her back. A sleeveless black Chinese blouse emphasized her slim build. She wore tight blue jeans, and leaned on a simple walking cane.
Vivian watched her coldly as the limousine pulled away. The moment it was out of sight, she relaxed visibly. Her cold stare became a friendly look, and her mouth twitched up into a pleased smile. Aoi smiled in response to the change.
"I can't believe he brought her with him," Kami mumbled as she approached Aoi.
"Who was that anyway?" Aoi asked casually, as if making light of the time they'd spent apart
"It's best for me to not discuss it." She sighed. "I really want to keep the business that went on there over there."
Aoi raised an eyebrow, but kept her easy smile. "Boss' orders?"
"No, professionalism." Kami replied.
She nodded, understanding perfectly. "That's how it goes, I guess. C'mere," she added, beckoning with a finger. Kami leaned over to Aoi. She let her walking cane drop as she swept Kami up in a hug and planted her lips on Kami's.
Kami returned Aoi's kiss as she relaxed into her embrace. After long seconds Aoi finally pulled back slightly. "Missed you," she said softly.
"I really missed you too." Kami buried her head on Aoi's shoulder.
Kami could feel Aoi's face flush as she glanced around her. "Let's not make a scene," Aoi muttered quietly.
"We can save that for our apartment." Kami grinned.
Aoi chuckled warmly and pulled back. "C'mon, let's get going. There's got to be *something* you can tell me."
Kami reluctantly broke away and hailed a cab. "I picked up some souvenirs for you," she said.
"Oh?" Aoi said. "Let's see!"
Kami slipped her a small box as they bundled into the back of the cab. While Kami gave the driver directions, Aoi slowly opened the box, gazing inside. Her eyes widened in delight, and she looked up at Kami, gaping widely. Inside were a pair of diamond-studded platinum earrings. Without a word, she pulled one of the earrings from the box and fixed it to her left ear.
"I take it you like them." Kami smiled.
"Do I ever!" Aoi let out a girlish squeal and hugged Kami again. Kami said nothing and simply hugged her back.
Again, Aoi slowly pulled away. "They're beautiful," she said, looking Kami straight in the eye. Kami returned Aoi's gaze and gently stroked her cheek.
She smiled warmly. "Let's get home." Her smile faded, and she let out a quiet sigh. "The kids will be waiting."
"Ah yes the kids." Kami sighed.
Aoi couldn't help but chuckle. "They missed you too. We even had Angel over for a while."
"You had Angel over?" Kami actually looked surprised.
"More like she invited herself. I uh... I busted up my leg, and the girls called her for help."
Aoi chuckled "Please tell you you broke a different leg this time?" Kami remembered Gem's first meeting with Angel.
Aoi rolled her eyes. "Yes, I broke the other one. So I got this little toy," she said, patting the walking cane.
"Still I'm sorry to hear that you got hurt." Kami patted Aoi on the leg and looked really sympathetic.
Aoi winced slightly at her touch. "Go gentle on me, okay?" she said.
"I will be." Kami grinned.
"That'll be a first," she returned, grinning.
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