Tadashi nervously adjusted his ninja cap on his head, before fiddling with the zipper on his jacket. Then he adjusted his ninja cap again. Without warning, he started tapping his foot.
"Tadashi, you're making me nervous," Aunt Cass sighed in exasperation, glaring at her nephew lightly.
"But Aunt Cass! I haven't seen Hiro in a long time. I just…I can't wait to see her again," he shrugged, giving a helpless grin.
It had been three years since he'd seen his sister, and though they frequently emailed, phoned, and chatted online and through video chat, it just wasn't the same. And the fact was, Tadashi missed his sister, and worried over her incessantly over the years, especially since he wasn't there to look after her personally.
Aunt Cass gave him a fond grin. "But she's still your little Hiro, so don't worry. I'm sure she's just as anxious to see her big brother again."
It made him feel slightly better, but he still couldn't help the small bit of anxiety left. Sighing to himself, he lifted up the big sign he made for her homecoming, hoping she'd see it immediately and come to them without any problems. Really, he hoped she liked it overall, given how hard he'd worked to make it…and because he just wanted his little sister to like it.
And then he was seeing his sister coming out from her assigned gate, looking so much taller and older than he remembered her to be. Even through video, he hadn't been able to make out the changes as well as he did now.
Her face was thinner, lacking the baby fat he remembered her having. Her body had filled out, and he knew he would have to buy a bat so he could be ready to fend off the boys away from her. Her hair had also grown from the short, shaggy haircut she used to wear, now up to the mid of her back.
All in all, she had grown up when he hadn't been looking, and become a beautiful young lady.
It made him sad for the missed years, and worried for the future. God forbid she'd get a boyfriend or something…
Eying her now, Tadashi decided that a trip to a sports store and buying that bat already was a sound idea.
"Mr. Hamada?" Mr. Alexander pushed his shoulder slightly. "Why don't you greet your sister? It's been a long time coming, hasn't it?"
The older man gave him a warm smile, and Tadashi was glad Hiro's supervisor had come with them to greet his sister home. Stepping forward, Tadashi held up his sign firmly.
"Hiro? Hiro!" that got her attention and she found him, waving his sign around and grinning at her.
A grin broke out on her face as well, and she started to run towards him. Dropping his sign, he ran forward as well and met her halfway, letting her jump onto him and holding onto her tight in return, twirling her around happily.
"I'm glad you two are happy to see each other. Now what about my hug?" Aunt Cass came closer, grinning at her niece and holding out her arms.
Hiro tightened her arms around Tadashi, before pulling away and going to Aunt Cass and hugging her as well. Then, spotting Mr. Alexander, hugged him as well. He awkwardly hugged her back.
"Glad to have you back, Miss Hamada," he said.
"Ah, are we going to have to deal with business now?" Hiro asked curiously.
He shook his head. "No, I was here with your aunt and brother to greet you welcome back. We can deal with business tomorrow morning, but I was going to treat everyone to lunch."
"Now that's a homecoming!" she cheered, grabbing her brother's hand and towing him off.
The two adults chuckled and followed after.
"Hiro! Silly imouto, we haven't even grabbed your luggage!"
Alistair Krei felt like he was at the top of the world. Everything seemed to be going right for once, and these days, haunting memories of his failure with Project Silent Sparrow seemed quieted as best as could be.
Idly, he pressed a button on the wrist gadget he wore, creating a holographic piano in front of him. He tested the tune, pleased with the autotune feature, and began to play Mozart's Rondo alla turca in delight.
At the end of it, slow clapping was heard by his door and he turned slightly to see his R&D Director standing there. James Alexander wasn't just a very loyal employee that had been with him for years –he was also Krei's uncle.
"Wonderful playing, Alistair," the man said neutrally.
"Thank you, Uncle James," Krei thanked him, though he was truthfully lost in thought. "This is truly a fantastic invention. We've never really focused on or had a huge market with the music industry, but this has landed us on the music board exponentially. The last three years has been very productive for us as well. And I believe it's due to an outsource employee. Why have I not been able to meet with them yet?"
"Hiro Hamada has been a great addition, but not officially hired due to age concerns. Hiro has also been traveling the last past years, hence why you have yet to meet her," his uncle raised an eyebrow. "She returned today from her travels, and as I discussed with her before, her employment status will be renegotiated along with the terms of the Instru licensing."
Krei turned to him at that, caught unawares. "The licensing? And what's this about her employment status? Is she not an employee of Krei Tech Industries, even if an outsource one?"
James gave him a stern look, making Krei feel like a scolded child again.
"The terms we first agreed upon would be that she would be hired on a part-time basis, and being an individual asset and not fully bound to Krei Tech Industries, as she was still 13 at the time. In three years, now present time, we would revisit that part and hire her fully, while also officially introducing her to her staff and inducting her into the company. At the same time, we would also renegotiate the patent licensing, since originally we'd agreed on a 10 percent royalty to her, with the licensing ending up becoming expired around this time."
"Well then, make sure to have that patent license renewed especially. We wouldn't want this invention to be taken up by competitors," Krei turned off the holopiano. "And with that meeting, I wish to attend it."
James nodded his way. "It's tomorrow morning, Alistair."
"I'll make sure my schedule is cleared," Krei mused to himself.
His uncle left him back to his own devices, and Krei stared out of his sky view windows. Truthfully, this was the first he had really heard of the Instru's inventor's name, much less the actual young age and that it was a girl. He hadn't actually even been aware of the actual details of the tentative agreement between Hiro Hamada and his uncle, and he was surprised at the terms, and slightly worried –they weren't solid enough to keep Hamada with them and make her want to stay with Krei Tech Industries and not look to other opportunities and companies.
Perhaps, when coming along to this meeting, he could add something to sweeten up the deal and keep her interested in working for Krei Tech Industries.
"Miss home?" Tadashi asked her as she lay on her front on his bed lazily.
"Yeah," she said quietly.
Tadashi bit his lip. She was…quieter and more solemn than he remembered…
There were other things he'd noted back at the airport that he thought more on now. As Hiro had exited through her gate, he'd noted there was a tired look to her eyes, a sort of world-weariness that hadn't been there before. There was a slump to her shoulders that spoke volumes on her beleaguered state. A sort of drag to her feet that showed her reluctance to keep moving forward…
He plopped himself onto his bed and lay down next to her, front first as well, scooting to the edge of his bed until he was head to head with her.
"Hiro, you know you can always tell me anything, right?" he gave her a tender smile.
She gave one back, but it was laced with that horrid weariness.
"I know, Tadashi-nii. That's why you're the best brother ever," her smile widened just a little.
Knowing he wasn't going to get anything out of her then, Tadashi decided he needed a change of subject. Remembering his friends, he playfully prodded Hiro's shoulder until his sister exasperatedly swatted his hand away.
"What?" she rolled her eyes.
"I was thinking, tomorrow after your meeting with Alexander-san, that you could come with me to SFIT," he hesitantly suggested. "You could see what I do, meet my friends…"
Hiro frowned and looked reluctant. "I'm not sure I'm…ready to meet other people and be social."
Tadashi pinched her cheek and pulled. "I thought this trip of yours was supposed to make you more social."
"Ow, ow, Tadashi!" she slapped his hand away and rubbed her red cheek, pouting at her brother. "I am more social. More social than before at least. And no, my trip wasn't to get me to be more social, baka! I wanted to gain more experience and learn all about the world and people and stuff."
Tadashi reached over and pulled both of her cheeks this time. "Who're you calling 'baka', imouto?"
"Sorry, Tadashi! I'm sorry!"
He was having too much fun, but it really had been too long since he'd been able to tease and have fun with his sister like this.
"In Japanese too."
"G-gomen nasai, Nii-san!"
Tadashi laughed and finally let go of her cheeks. "Alright, alright. The 'Nii-san' was a good touch, Hiro. I'm mollified. Now just agree to come with me to SFIT to see my workspace at least. You can see what I've been working on."
Obviously curious about that, Hiro consented and agreed to go with him. She surprised him next by scooting closer and then burrowing her head into his chest, hiding her face against him. Tentatively placing an arm around her, Tadashi contemplated how much he wanted to pry into her travels and her problems, but it seemed like he had to force himself to be patient.
But he really didn't want to be.
Krei glanced at his door watchfully, before turning his attention back to his computer. From there, he clicked on a window and enlarged it, showing a webpage about bot-fighting. There was one scheduled downtown that night. Perhaps he should check it out…
He admitted that he was rather interested in the street sport. Partly because it was interesting, but also that it helped to scout out the popular interests and what the people wanted, in order to come up with products they'd be willing to buy.
He even had a product line dedicated to bot-fighting, with a popular build-your-own kit for the amateurs and beginners, and the more experienced and serious bot-fighters going after Krei Tech Industries' more expensive and technical materials, especially if they wanted to customized their own bots.
Krei had been accused and criticized for encouraging the street sport, which drew plenty of crime and gambling, but business was business and he always went after trends the people were excited for.
Preparing himself for the outing, he made sure to don a casual outfit that made him blend in and be unrecognizable. Removing his dress jacket, he put on a gray hoodie that he zipped up to his neck, put on a Giants cap and then the hood, and then jammed ordinary, plain sunglasses onto his prominent nose. Once he'd finished, he called up his driver and decided he'd meet him in Krei's private parking area that held a good deal of different cars for personal use or for him to travel for business. Deciding that the Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan would be spacious and luxurious enough, without drawing too much attention, he told his driver to go for that and bring it around to the elevator's entrance.
His chauffeur drove the expensive black Rolls-Royce out of its parking space in his private parking area, and drove over to where he waited in front of the elevator reserved for his private use. Instead of waiting for his driver to open his door, he slipped into the back quickly and shut the door. His driver already knew his desired destination, so he began to drive as soon as Krei was in the car.
It took a little over half an hour to get where he wanted, and Krei instructed his chauffeur to park and wait around the corner of the alley that he would need to traverse to find the secluded area hosting the bot-fighting "arena." He would call or text him when he needed him. Without further ado, Krei stepped out of his car and confidently but quietly walked down the alley and took at least three turns before he reached the now crowded space that held bot-fights and spectators all in that one place.
"Bet high, bet low, bet all! Put down your bets, because it's time for the next bout!"
Managing to carefully slip his way through the crowd and to the front, where the bot-fight would take place, Krei managed to then get a clearer glimpse of the bot-fighters and the bots. On one side was a young man, tattoos running down his arms, one peeking up his neck. The other was of a young lady, very young and who didn't look to be part of this type of scene at all –not by her age or look.
She looked around her teens somewhere, mid to late. He was guessing that for sure, especially since she wore the high school seifuku. She had expressive, large slanted Asian eyes, colored a warm brown (if a tinge weary), a cute button nose, and dark hair that was expertly twirled into a messy bun. She was short though, but it was a common trait amongst most Asians.
Her bot was peculiar though. While the other bot had hints of Krei Tech product woven into the design here and there, the other was simplified and almost plain, complete with a yellow smiley face.
"Easy win. This girl's going down," he heard one of the audience whisper near him.
He glanced at the bots again and for some reason felt that wouldn't be true, despite his scrutiny and almost dismissive overlook of the girl's bot as well.
In the next few minutes, he was proven both right and wrong. Right that it wouldn't be an easy win and she wouldn't just go down like that, and wrong in being so dismissive and scrutinizing so judgmentally of her simplistic and "basic" design.
It was clearly an underhanded cover to look so harmless, considering in the next few minutes her bot proceeded to annoy the hell out of her opponent, each limb that the opponent's bot disconnected seemingly coming alive and reattaching every time. And then the smiley face of the bot changed into a more menacing one, and then went on to utterly destroy the other bot.
"Now that's what I call an execution, people!"
The cheers and jeers of the crowd sounded around him, but he was too busy staring in awe at the girl and that bot. She just stared impassively at the announcer/host, who handed her the money. At the same time though, someone ran into the place yelling.
"Cops on the outskirt! Everyone's got to beat it!"
Krei grimaced. Even if he hadn't been gambling, it wouldn't look good to be found there. He started to leave with the crowd, though with less panic and trying to look like he'd done nothing wrong, and at the same time as trying to sneak away and not stick out amongst everyone, while texting his driver.
In the midst of getting away, nearer to the alley he'd gone through, he spotted the girl he'd been watching in the bot-fight. Hearing the police sirens, he sped up and passed her, grabbing onto one of her hands.
"Hey! What –"
"This way!" he hurriedly muttered to her, and was relieved to find his Rolls-Royce roll up to the entrance of the alley.
He was quick to open the door and throw himself in, dragging the girl in with him. Once the door was shut, he knocked on the window separating the back and the driver.
"Quentin, drive away nice and slowly, like we have nothing to hide and aren't running away from anything. Alright?"
Sighing in relief, Krei turned back to the girl, who was looking at him strangely. Then she looked around.
"Well, this is convenient," she raised her eyebrows. "I doubt the police would look twice at an expensive car like this being part of something shady…"
Ironically, two of the incoming police cars rushed passed them then, and Krei cracked a smile.
"It does come in handy, doesn't it?" he remarked candidly. "May I ask your name?"
She looked at him warily, but he was pleased when she gave him an answer. "My name is Hiro. Yours?"
What luck he had in meeting so many intelligent females named Hiro. Perhaps it was a lucky name?
He pulled down his hood and took off his hat, and then slipped off his sunglasses as he smiled widely and pulled down the zipper of his sweater jacket, all the while enjoying the shocked look on her face and her wide eyes.
"My name is Alistair Krei."
Did you enjoy my ongoing story so far? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Erica PacumbabaWrite a Review