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Aunt Mito's Omiai

Sunday August 22nd;

A full week had passed since Keiko and Suzuka had returned from Panama and learned of Kakeru's condition. Keiko and her siblings, with the exception of Koichi, who was too young, had all been tested as possible live donors for a partial liver transplant, but none of them were a match. Saito his family tried as well, but they weren't a match either. Everyone who knew Kakeru, even his parents, also came forward as possible donors, but all tests determined them unsuitable.

Tariq had found work and a place to rent. Hiroki had his second match as part of the U-13 against the Russian Youth Team in a 5-1 victory, leading him to be offered a spot on the Men's Youth Olympic Soccer Team for the 2034 Summer Youth Olympics in Stockholm. Keiko had finally calmed down to the point she could talk with her friends and family in a civil way, yet she was still depressed about it, though she tried her best to hide it. Needless to say, everyone had more than enough sensitivity and tact not to bring it up.

"Why do we have to do this?" Yuki asked as she, Keiko, Natsumi and Miyuki cleaned the women's public bath on the first floor of Sakagami. All of them were wearing their swimwear so they wouldn't get their normal clothes dirty.

"One of the perks about living here, you get to clean the baths so you don't have to bathe in filth." said Natsumi

"How is that a perk?" Yuki demanded, spraying some cleanser on the floor in front of her

"At least we're getting paid for this." said Miyuki

"I get plenty of that from my job."

"You're a belly dancer, right? Maybe I should come by sometime." said Natsumi

"Don't!"

"Will you three knock it off!" said Keiko "Let's finish this so we can go practice."

"Been needing to ask: how did her siblings react when they were told?" Miyuki whispered to Yuki

"They were pretty distraught, but they didn't take it nearly as bad as Kei-chan." Yuki whispered back

"Only about another week and a half of Summer Break." said Natsumi "You two finished your homework?"

"I am." said Yuki

"Me too." said Keiko "It was thanks to Chloe that I managed to complete my English work."

"Keiko!" Suzuka exclaimed running into the baths, but slipped and fell on her butt "Ow, that hurt."

"That's why you don't run in the baths." said Natsumi

"What's the rush anyway?" Keiko asked as Suzuka got to her feet

"Ishiki-san sent this over. It came at last." Suzuka held out a magazine, that clearly looked foreign, and opened it to the fashion section, revealing a picture of Keiko

"So Aurora sent it after all."

"Who?" Yuki inquired

"While we were in Panama, I did a little one-day modeling for a magazine to help a new friend's mother out." Keiko explained

"With those looks, I wouldn't be surprised if they sold out instantly." said Miyuki

"There was a note with it as well." said Suzuka, holding up the envelope "But she was so excited that she wrote it in Spanish. I can translate. It says: 'Thanks again, so much. We never sold out so fast!'."

"Five points for me." said Miyuki

"Knock knock." said Mito, who appeared in the door

"Come to help?" Keiko asked

"Nah, I've come to ask a favor."

"Whatever it is, the answer's no."

"At least hear me out."

"(sigh) Fine, what is it?"

"My mom's been kinda concerned about me going through so many men, so she's set up an omiai for me."

"An omiai? Why matchmaking?" Natsumi asked

"'Cause I can't seem to find a match myself." said Mito

"And you want me to come along as well." Keiko concluded

"Bingo! I'd take someone else, but the other three are a little young and might give the wrong impression, Nana-nee's not a blood relative, and Kake-nii's.... ahem! So.... please?"

Keiko paused and scrubbed more of the floor before answering: "When is it?"

"3:00 this Tuesday.... No way, you mean it? Thank you so much!" Mito kissed Keiko on the cheek in gratitude before leaving the room

"I can't believe you let her manipulate you like that. You'd never catch me at an omiai." said Natsumi, and Keiko replied with a cold look "It's not like that, is it?"

Tuesday August 24th came rather quickly. Keiko was borrowing a suit from Yozora so she would be presentable. Saito wasn't completely for it, even though he knew it was Mito's omiai and not hers.

"I still don't like this." said Saito as Keiko finished getting ready

"Oh, stop worrying." said Keiko as she applied her magnetic earrings then started putting her hair in a bun "This is for my aunt. I'm just going with her to meet her potential partner. He could become my new uncle."

"Matchmaking in this day and age." said Saito as Keiko applied the Taishō Era hair-sticks her mother gave her

"I know. How do I look?"

Saito surveyed Keiko's outfit. A blue suit, Amethyst earrings, her hair in a bun with hair-sticks "Like a completely different person. It's amazing how mature a suit can make someone look. To think, just a few days ago, you were crying your eyes out over...." Saito stopped talking abruptly

"I'll be back in a few hours." Keiko left without another word

"Smooth move, Saito Shirayuki." Saito said to himself

Keiko went downstairs where Mito, Yozora, Natsumi, Miyuki and Haruto were waiting for her

"I knew it! You look great in that suit!" said Yozora when Keiko arrived

"If I didn't know better, I'd think this was your omiai." said Haruto

"Can it." said Keiko "Aunt Mito, we're meeting Grandma at the meeting place before your potential husband shows up, right?"

"That's correct." said Mito, who was wearing her best kimono for the occasion

"A husband is so nice. I wish I could go." said Miyuki

"Wish granted. You're driving us there, Miyuki-chan." said Mito with a sly smile

"What?!" Mito handed Miyuki her car keys, a clear sign that she wouldn't take "no" for an answer "Great." Miyuki said dully, while Natsumi sniggered

"Let us know how it goes." Yuki called from her room door at the last second

That done, Mito and Keiko were in the back of Mito's car while Miyuki was their "chauffeur".

Meanwhile in town, Nana and Ushio were hanging out together.

"Remind me why I'm hanging out with you on my time-off?" Nana asked as they took seats in a Yakiniku restaurant

"Because I finally have some time-off myself," Ushio replied as she placed an order for drinks "and you and I hardly ever hang out even though our kids are dating."

"Don't you have some patients to look in on? Like a certain expectant mother we know?"

"Mai-chan is someone else's patient, and she's not due 'til November. All mine aren't due for another month or so. But enough about that, order anything, my treat."

"Thanks. But I wanted to visit Kakeru today."

"Didn't he ask you not to drop in so often, but to look after the kids instead?" Ushio inquired, and Nana replied with an annoyed look "(sigh) Nana-chan, look, I'm terribly sorry about Kakeru. I can only imagine what you and your family are going through."

"I had myself prepared for something like this for years, but that doesn't make it any less difficult." Nana admitted

"I understand." Usiho said sympathetically, but then all of a sudden let out a small giggle

"What's so funny?" Nana inquired as the waitress placed their drinks and meat on the table

"It's just.... I used to be so jealous of you."

"You were jealous of me?"

"Yeah. Because you had the one thing I didn't have.... A devoted husband that loved you and your kids."

"He really was devoted, and we loved each other dearly. He gave me a wonderfully happy married life, and through that came four wonderful children. You're a divorcee as I recall, right?"

"'Divorced'? My ex-husband just up and left, the marriage was never legally dissolved. Though if I had my way, it would've been."

"What was your husband like?" Nana asked as they started grilling their meat

"A complete loser!" Ushio exclaimed

"Was he that bad?"

"You've no idea. He was an unfaithful douche, a horrible father, violent in bed, and a pain in my ass!" Ushio took a swing of beer in frustration.

"If it was like that, why did you marry him?" Nana asked

"It was an arranged marriage. I didn't have a choice. I never loved him, even in the slightest. Furthermore, though his parents and mine seemed to think he did truly love me, the only thing he wanted from me was my body. He'd do me every day without warning, and without protection. I gave birth to Sanae just before I graduated from high school as a result."

"Maybe he was just in a hurry to have kids?" Nana suggested while taking a bite of the grilled meat, Ushio stared back in response "That wasn't the case, was it?"

"No. In fact, he hated the thought of raising kids." Ushio took a bite herself before speaking again "When we learned I was pregnant with Sanae, he said 'You got some nerve getting pregnant on me! Who's the father, it can't be me! You whore, you're getting an abortion!'. Creep."

"He said all of that?"

"Yeah. It was only through our parents' intervention, and a paternity test confirming it was him, that prevented Sanae from being aborted. Nevertheless, he never made any attempt to be a father to Sanae. When Saito came along, he seemed to reach a breaking point, but kept his head down due to pressure from our fathers. But while I was pregnant with Sanae and then Saito, he seemed to want less and less to do with me and spent every night, without fail, out with other women. Not that I really cared. But then Michiru came along, and that was the final straw for him. He left and abandoned us when I was only four months pregnant with Michiru."

"What a horrible man!" Nana exclaimed

"Tell me about it. I was already struggling to raise my kids without his help, and things got tougher when he left. Nevertheless I thought 'good riddance' to him. After that, when I was only six months along with Michiru, I moved to Italy. Once there, though it was hard, I raised Sanae, Saito and Michiru on my own while attending university. Six years later I returned to Japan with my degree in Obstetrics and Gynecology and I've been working at Kamakura General Hospital ever since."

"Must've been tough without any support."

"I didn't really have no support whatsoever. The only ally I really had was my brother-in-law. He's always been good to me, and funded me to live and raise my kids while in Italy. Even today he still takes care of me and the kids, though I haven't seen or spoken with him for a year now."

"I take it you don't regret having those three?"

"Of course not. Tough as it was, they're the best part of my life. I wasn't too thrilled when Sanae lost her sight and her ability to walk though. Three years ago she lost her sight from cataract, to this day we don't know what caused it. Then she lost mobility in her legs due to an accident caused by her blindness. It's a miracle she didn't lose her ability to bear children along with it."

"Hopefully, one of these days, she'll find a man who'll love her despite her being disabled." said Nana, taking another bite of meat

"I hope so. Speaking of finding someone, your sister-in-law's attending an omiai today, with Keiko-chan accompanying her." Ushio remarked

"How'd you know that?" Nana inquired

"Keiko told Saito, and Saito told me."

"Never underestimate the power of gossip."

"Especially when the gossipers are our kids, a potential bride-and-groom."

Both of them giggled at this comment.

"By the way, do you know the name of the man she's meeting?" Ushio asked

"I don't. But Mito-chan gave me a copy of his picture."

Nana handed Ushio a picture of the man. Ushio took one look at it and got stunned in surprise

"WHAAAAAT! It can't be!" Ushio exclaimed

"Wha-what? Do you know him?" Nana asked

"Where are they meeting?!" Ushio demanded

On the other side of Kamakura, in the more rural area, Keiko, Mito and Miyuki arrived at the omiai meeting place; a small traditional inn, and Mrs. Aizawa was waiting for them.

"Hi, Mom!" said Mito, getting out of the car and running up to hug her mother "I've missed you. You look great."

"As do you." said Mrs. Aizawa "And Keiko, sweetie."

"I've missed you, Grandma." said Keiko, hugging her grandmother

"What a nice family reunion." said Miyuki dully from the driver's seat

"Sorry my daughter made you drive her." said Mrs. Aizawa

"Don't worry about it. You three go on, I'll just wait here in the car."

"Shall we go inside?" Mrs. Aizawa asked

"Thanks again for accompanying me." said Mito when they sat down at the table in the meeting room

"You owe me big time for this." said Keiko "Saito didn't like the idea of me coming here, so you better treat us both to sushi."

"Who's Saito?" Mrs. Aizawa asked

"Keiko's boyfriend. They both started living together at Sakagami earlier this month." Mito explained

"I didn't tell you because I knew Grandpa wouldn't like it." said Keiko

"Ryo-chan didn't like it either, but at least you got her to understand. So... what's this guy I'm meeting like?"

"Apparently he's a semi-wealthy man who's recently been hired as a principal to succeed another who's retiring. His brother, who's accompanying him, is also the president of a small business firm that makes sports goods." Mrs. Aizawa explained "Also it seems he's been married once before, but it didn't work out."

"Any kids from that marriage?" Mito asked

"I don't know."

"Sorry we're late!" said a man who just walked in enthusiastically, followed by another man behind him

"Actually, you're early." said Mrs. Aizawa as the two men sat opposite of them

Keiko looked at both men and saw that they really were brothers, albeit there seemed to be a bit of an age gap. The first man, the younger of the two, seemed like a friendly cheery fellow and looked easy to talk to. The older one didn't look so talkative, or friendly, and Keiko got a bad vibe off him right away.

"Let me introduce, good gentlemen;" said Mrs. Aizawa "This is my daughter, Mito. The young girl next to her is my eldest granddaughter, Keiko."

"We had no idea the woman big brother was meeting already had a kid." said the younger brother

"Wha? Oh no, she's me niece. My older brother's eldest." Mito explained hastily

"Well, that's a relief." said the older brother "I could never raise the child of another man anyway."

"Nii-chan!" the younger brother exclaimed

"I'm liking this guy less and less." Keiko thought "And who might you, gentlemen, be?" Keiko asked, as politely as she could

"That's right. How rude of us, we didn't introduce ourselves yet." said the younger brother "I'm Soji Shirayuki. This is my older brother, Kazuto Shirayuki."

Keiko was shocked, their surname rang in her ears. "Shirayuki? Could this man be...?"

"Wa-wait a minute. 'Shirayuki'? Could you two perhaps be related to Ushio Shirayuki?" Mito asked

The faces of both men lit with surprise, but Soji was the one to speak. "Do you know Ushio-chan?"

"She's... eh... she's Keiko's gynecologist." said Mito "I can't suggest that one of them is Ushio-san's ex."

"Do you know her kids, Sanae-chan, Saito-kun and Michiru-chan?"

"He brought it up himself!" Mito thought

"I thought there was a reason you had the same surname." said Keiko "So she really is...."

"My ex-wife, yes." said Kazuto "So you know her and her brats huh."

Keiko felt anger swelling up in her at this comment.

"Nii-chan, let's not get carried away here." said Soji

"This isn't going well at all." Mrs. Aizawa thought

"Let me apologize for that. He's really not good at this." said Soji

"Anyway.... Kazuto-kun, you really seem like a fine man." said Mito "I'm sure our children will be gorgeous."

"Forget that." said Kazuto "We're never going to have any kids. I'll make sure of that."

"Um.... Shirayuki-san...." said Mrs. Aizawa, but Kazuto just continued

"I said I couldn't raise the kid of another man, but I actually can't raise kids at all. Kids are a burden and a nuisance, and they get in the way. Yet that slut had the nerve to get pregnant on me. Who knows if the other two are even mine to begin with. How annoying."

Keiko snapped and threw her tea in Kazuto's face, shocking everyone.

"I hear you're going to become a principal, even though you hate kids." Keiko said, angrier than she'd ever been in her life "You're a pathetic excuse for a human being. I hope you die a lonely old man."

Keiko put down her cup and stood up. But when she reached the door, Kazuto addressed her.

"Young miss, Keiko was it? You're cute when you're angry."

Keiko ignored this and stormed from the room. Mito and Mrs. Aizawa stood up, bowed respectfully, and left as well.

"Over already?" Miyuki asked when they emerged from the inn

"Shut up!" Keiko exclaimed as a car rolled up behind Mito's. Out came Nana and Ushio. "Mom? Ushio-san?"

"Nana-chan, what are you doing here?" Mrs. Aizawa asked

"Is he still here?" Ushio asked

"It's over." said Mito "There's not gonna be another meeting. Who'd've thought it was your ex-husband I was meeting?"

"Of all the rotten luck." said Nana as Keiko rested her head in her chest

"I can't believe Saito shares the same blood as that... that..." Keiko groaned

"I know." came Soji's voice from the door

"Soji-kun!" Ushio exclaimed

"Ushio-chan, it's been too long." The former in-laws had a short hug at this, then Soji turned to Mito and bowed apologeticly "I'm sorry, Mito-san. My brother's a fool." Soji apologized

"Don't be. I have no luck with men anyway."

"Can we go home now?" Keiko asked

"Seconded." said Nana

"I'll drive this time." Mito told Miyuki

"Note: Saito is currently dating that girl. Keiko-chan I mean." Ushio whispered to Soji

"That's my nephew. Great taste in girls." Soji replied

Mito, Keiko and Miyuki returned to Sakagami while everyone else went home.

"What am I going to tell Saito? 'Good news is, your father's still alive. Bad news is, he's every bit of an ***hole that your mom remembers'?" said Keiko as they entered the building

"You don't need to tell him anything." said Mito "Just say the omiai didn't go well."

The three of them went to their respective rooms. When Keiko walked in and removed her shoes, she found Saito, Yuki and Suzuka all sitting around the table with small cakes

"Kei-chan, you're back already?" Yuki asked as Keiko took the hair sticks out of her hair and let it fall "How'd the omiai go?"

"A complete... trainwreck." said Keiko as she unbuttoned the suit jacket and threw it on the bed

"Ouch. I feel sorry for Mito-san." said Suzuka as Keiko sat down with them

"Don't be, the guy was a..." Keiko's eyes met Saito's, and Keiko noticed something. These eyes, which had given her so much warmth and assurance in the past, were Kazuto's color, not Ushio's. Keiko was slightly troubled by it, but brushed it off. "Anyway, what's with the cakes?"

"When I got off work I dropped by the cakery run by Nagisa's family and bought some." said Suzuka

"Okazaki Cakes. I was surprised that Nagisa-senpai is part of the family that runs it. I thought the similar surname was just a coincidence." said Yuki

"Well, it isn't. And really, what happened at the omiai?"

"I don't want to talk about it!" Keiko exclaimed

"Whoa, Keiko, even if it was bad, you shouldn't take it out on them." said Saito

"I know, I'm sorry."

"Well then," said Yuki as she and Suzuka got up from the table "I gotta go get ready for my shift."

"I need to make dinner." said Suzuka "My sister's coming over again. Probably another fight with her boyfriend."

The two of them left the couple alone at that.

"Was it really that bad?" Saito asked

"Saito, please."

A few hours went by. Keiko returned the suit to Yozora, then let Saito draw another picture of her. The entire time, Keiko felt a little bit awkward toward Saito, due to meeting his father. At around 8:00, the pair of them had dinner.

"Is Saito really that man's son?" Keiko asked herself as she did the dishes "They don't look like each other at all, true, but their eyes... they're the same color." Deciding to leave the remaining dishes for later, she dried her hands and went over to Saito "Saito."

"Yes?" Saito inquired as Keiko grabbed his face "Keiko... what..."

"Shhh." Keiko looked into Saito's eyes, hard, and saw, clear as day, what she couldn't see in Kazuto's "I knew it."

"Wha..." Keiko silenced Saito with a deep kiss

♫ Look at the sky, tell me what do you see? ♫
♫ Just close your eyes and describe it to me. ♫
♫ The heavens are sparkling with starlight tonight. ♫
♫ That's what I see through your eyes. ♫

Forgetting themselves completely, they found their way to bed and undressed each other until naked.

"Saito's nothing like that man." Keiko thought as Saito did foreplay to her "He's gentle and kind, and his eyes are warm. He makes me feel warm a secure." Saito entered Keiko at last "And when we're joined together like this, I can feel like we'll always be one."

♫ I see the heavens each time that you smile. ♫
♫ I hear your heartbeat just go on for miles. ♫
♫ And suddenly I know why life is worthwhile. ♫
♫ That's what I see through your eyes. ♫
♫ That's what I see through your eyes. ♫

"I can feel Saito's heartbeat, in sync with my own." Keiko thought as Saito gently moved back and forth, their arms wrapped around each other, their chests pressed against one another. "I love you, Saito." Keiko said aloud

"I love you too." Saito replied. They then kissed each other on the neck

♫ Here in the night, I see the sun. ♫
♫ Here in the dark our two hearts are one. ♫
♫ It's out of our hands, ♫
♫ We can't stop what we have begun. ♫
♫ And love just took me by surprise, ♫
♫ Looking through your eyes. ♫

How she felt about Saito confirmed, the fact that he had such a father now seemed too trivial to matter to Keiko. Keiko loved Saito for who he is, not who his father was.

Eight days later:

Wednesday September 1st;

The remainder of Summer had gone by in a flash. Summer break was over, and it was time to go back to school.

"Come on Saito, we're gonna be late." said Keiko as they left the room "That would be a great way to start off the second term."

"Waddya mean? We got plenty of time." said Saito

They soon arrived at the entrance, where Suzuka and Yuki were waiting.

"Finally, you two." said Suzuka

"What took you so... hehehe." Yuki laughed

"What's so funny?" Keiko inquired

"You two did it again last night, didn't you?" said Suzuka

"Why do you say that?" Saito asked

"Because... you two still have those hickeys on you necks." said Yuki as she held up a mirror for Keiko and Saito

"Are they that much of a bother?" Saito asked

"Maybe not for you." said Keiko as she covered it with her hand

"Just pass them off as bug bites." said Suzuka as they set off

"Everyone'll know who the 'bugs' were right away."

They parted ways with Suzuka at the shoe lockers and set off for Class 1-C.

"What's up everyone?" said Saito as they came in through the forward door

"It's Mr. and Mrs. Shirayuki." said one of the boys

"Chu-chu." said one of the girls

"What are you on about?" Keiko demanded

"Uh... Kei-chan." said Yuki, pulling on Keiko's sleeve

Keiko and Saito then noticed the black board. On it were their names with a shared umbrella, along with the phrases in kanji "私たちは誓いを交換を (we exchanged vows). 私たちは、赤ちゃんを期待している (we're expecting a baby)."

"You guys move so fast." said another classmate

"Who the hell wrote all of this nonsense?! " Saito demanded as he started erasing it "We're dating, that's all."

"But we heard that you two are living together now." said a couple of girls "When's the baby due?"

"Kei-chan had a miscarriage! There's not going to be a baby!" Yuki exclaimed

"Wait, Yuki!" said Keiko, but too late. An awkward silence rang through the class

"You mean... Shirayuki really did...." said another girl

"Nice one, big mouth." said Chloe

"So you knew?" Yuzuki asked

"That's enough. Everyone to your seats." said Mai, who walked in wearing maternity clothes for a change.

"Mai-chan, you're getting bigger by the day." said Miho as they took their seats, Keiko and Saito still blushing greatly

"I've pretty much stopped growing until the birth." said Mai

"Sensei, Shirayuki got Aizawa pregnant, but she miscarried." said the class rep

"I was well aware. And this is not to be repeated outside of this class. Are we understood?!"

"Yes, ma'am." the class rang

"Good. Now, before we go down to the opening ceremony, did everyone have an eventful summer break?"

"Did Saito-kun really get you pregnant?" Yuzuki whispered to Keiko as everyone started sharing

"Drop it, will you. I lost the embryo two days after we were knocked out of nationals." Keiko whispered back

The class joined the rest of the school in the gym for the 2nd Term Opening Ceremony.

"Welcome back students." said the vice-principal "Summer is behind us and more schooling awaits you. But also coming up is our annual School Festival. I hope everyone will give it their best to make it just a splendid as last year."

"The principal's the one who usually gives the speech." said Miho as the vice-principal continued "I guess the rumor that he retired at the end of last term was true."

"Who are we getting now?" Chloe asked

"I think we're about to find out." said Yuki

"And now let us welcome our new principal who will be succeeding M. Yoshimura as of today." said the vice-principal, as he stepped away from the mic.

The new principal stood up and made his way to the mic. It wasn't until he reached it that everyone could see his face.

"What the.... It can't be!" said Keiko

"What is it? You know him?" Miho asked

"That's... that's..."

It was Kazuto Shirayuki. Saito's father.

"Hello everyone. My name is Kazuto Shirayuki. I will be your new principal starting today. I look forward to getting to know my new students as much as possible." said Kazuto

"Wait a minute, 'Shirayuki'?" said Yuki "Saito-kun, is he...?"

"I think someone can answer that?" Saito replied as he and their classmates turned their eyes on Keiko

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