Chapter 2.Winter: Gifts
Two weeks after Takashi came to stay with the Kishigami family, his father Yukio suddenly arrived for a visit. He had taken a couple of days off from work. It was a clear and calm day.
The three families, Uemura, Araki, and Kishigami, had dinner together in a restaurant in town. Kanalu and Ryoko joined them midway through the meal. "How do you do, Takashi-kun, I am Kanalu Aso."
Takashi had the feeling that he had met Kanalu before. He thought it was deja vu, that Kanalu had helped him in some way, but he could not remember when or where. He had the same feeling about Tsubasa's father, but he said nothing. "He developed the RUICA you have," Ryoko said delightedly. "Don't you feel you are connected with someone when you use this? You are not alone at all." Kanalu did not miss the suspicious look on Takashi's face. "Takashi-kun, I just administer the RUICA's server. I do not know who you talked to or what you talked about," said Kanalu guilelessly. Takashi said nothing. There was an uncomfortable silence at the table. Yukio could not bear it and punctured the awkward atmosphere by crying out to Takashi, "Do you still hold a grudge against me? I have not read your e-mail since that time. I do not know who, where, or what you communicate via e-mail!" Takashi still remained mute. Ta-kun started crying and Yuri pacified him. Yuri seemed worried about Takashi as well. She had become so attached to him that she called him brother.
After Takashi left the restaurant with the Kishigami family, Yukio began to speak about the background of his troubled relationship with Takashi. "It was about two years ago. I could not talk with Takashi and I did not know what he was thinking. He did not keep a journal. Sometimes when he came home from school he seemed very depressed. I presumed that something had happened, but he did not say anything and just stayed in his room. I worried whether he was being bullied or perhaps could not get along with his teachers. However, I had to take frequent overseas business trips. I did not have enough opportunities to talk to him. One day when he was asleep and his mobile phone was being charged, I secretly checked his e-mail. I felt guilty about that."
Everybody listened attentively to him. They drank sake with delicious pickled vegetables, a local specialty of Takafu-cho, but that day the pickles seemed a little bit salty. "Takashi entered a private junior high school that he wanted to attend. However, in his new school, he was no longer able to maintain the high grades he achieved in elementary school. Most of his classmates were from rich families and some were so wealthy that their family drivers brought them to and from school. My wife enrolled him in the school to show off, but she was exhausted from trying to keep up with the other mothers. In addition, she had to work harder in order to make a large donation to the school in addition to tuition, and she was hardly ever home. I was very relieved that he had gained admission the school. Takashi, though..."