Chapter 7: The Bitter Truth

Sou had no idea how long he had been waiting to see his biological mother again, but he knew that it was time. Although he had phoned her a few times, he had never seen her and at first, she was reluctant to speak. She even refused to admit that he was her son, yet Sou kept pressing her and eventually, she gave in.

“Sou, I’m so sorry,” she sobbed. “I was too selfish then, but you reminded me too much of him.”
“Why? Why . . . didn’t you try to find me? Why’d you leave?” he continued.
“If I found you, you would have never left me and grown to be a young man. I couldn’t afford to raise a child by myself. I could barely make ends meet.”
Sou had no idea what to say. His mother just didn’t want him anymore; she didn’t want anything to do with the Kobayashi family. “W-would it be possible for us to meet some day?” he decided to ask.
“That’s fine.”
“Sou . . . I didn’t think you’d be home this early,” that familiar, docile voice echoed in his ears.
There she was, his mother standing in front of him. In her hand was a metal ladle while her other rested on her hip. She had an apron covering her conservative apparel decked in khaki pants and a navy sweater. This was definitely not his mother. His mother wore extravagant pearls and jewels excavated from exotic countries. She dressed to seduce any man with deep V cuts and tight fitting clothing. She’d mask herself in different types of makeup and curl her hair to form wavy locks. Now, his mother was . . . so plain. She had even gained a few pounds all over her body and had wrinkles laced all over her face. There was even a bit of white in her hair. Where was that glamorous woman who knew no shame, who only cared about impressions and fame?
“Ka-san! Have you seen my lace skirt? I spilt orange juice on it, and you said you’d . . . whoa, who’s this, Ka-san?” A teenage girl a few years younger than Sou had raced down the corridor. She looked nothing like Sou’s mother. She had that rebellious attitude, yet she had cute facial features with large, round eyes and small lips. And out from her lips, she barked in a whistle, “You’re pretty hot, you know? I think you’d make a good movie star.”
“Akemi! Where are your manners?” Sou’s mother grimaced while scolding. “Didn’t I tell you that your step brother would be staying with us for a while?”
“We’re not related by blood right?” Akemi pouted her lips to ask.
“Of course not, you silly girl,” Sou’s mother grumbled. “You and I don’t have blood relations so how would he be related to you?”
Immediately, Akemi wrapped her arms around Sou and shouted, “Good! That means we can date! You’d want to date me right?”
Sou uneasily smiled, muttering, “I’m sorry. I’m not interested in a relationship right now.”
“So you’re gay?” Akemi sighed as she released him.
Chuckling lightly, Sou answered, “No, I’m not gay. I’m just not interested in you.”
“Geez! What a jerk!” she shrieked, stomping her way down the hall to where she came from.
There was a bit of silence shared between the mother and the son before she announced, “Well, just place your bags upstairs in Hideaki’s room. It’s the first one to your right. You’ll be sharing with him.”
“Okay,” he muttered. “Thank you.”
As he was ascending the stairs, his mother unexpectedly chirped, “And don’t disturb Hideaki! He’s in the middle of studying for an important exam. He’ll be skipping a few grades to go into junior high this year, and he needs to do well on those entrance exams. Got it?”
Sou only bobbed his head up and down. Then, he proceeded upwards to Hideaki’s room. Really, there wasn’t any need for instructions. They had constructed a wooden frame labeled with his name: Hideaki. Gulping down some spit down his throat, Sou knocked on the door a few times. There wasn’t an answer, yet he could hear noises that sounded a bit like groans and chafing of fabric leaking out from the door. Tilting his head to the side, he revealed a disturbed frown. It couldn’t be that . . . right? No, it couldn’t be, he laughed to himself. This kid should have stopped after hearing his knocks, and so, Sou decided to turn the knob and push the door open.
“Holy f.uck!” Sou swore before shutting the door.
It was too obvious what the kid was doing with his pants slid down to his ankles and two pillows clasped at that particular area. Sou just didn’t think the kid would be so oblivious to his loud knocking. Minutes later, the kid, who looked to be only ten and was about half of Sou’s height, opened the door, grumbling, “You should have knocked.”
“I did,” Sou uttered and finally dropped his bags close to the entrance. For some reason, Sou felt a bit guilty. He had stepped into this child’s private moment. “I promise I won’t tell,” Sou unexpectedly blurted.
The kid scoffed as he made his way back to his table. Taking a seat in his leather chair, he crossed his legs and declared, “I won’t let that happen, so there’s no point in you promising anything to me.”
Then, the kid pushed his round glasses up his nose before grabbing onto a glass of water. Out of the blue, he poured all of the water onto his laptop and positioned the glass to look like it had tipped over.  Sou couldn’t believe his eyes. Was this twerp out of his mind?
“What the fuck are you doing?” Sou hollered. “That’s your—“
Flashing a devious smirk, the kid shouted, “What in the world did you do, Kobayashi-san? How am I going to study for my exams now? I was writing a paper too! What are you going to do to repay me? Huh?”
Before Sou could even argue, his mother already marched up the stairs, shrieking, “Sou! What did you do this time?” Once she arrived at the scene, she brushed past Sou rather brutally and hugged the kid. “It’s okay, Hideaki,” she whispered in a soothing tone. “Your father and I will buy you a new one. Did you, at least, get to save some of your work?”
Hideaki, pretending to sob, urged, “No! Kobayashi-san spilled the water I offered to him just because I asked if he was really my half-brother! I-I-I just thought he looked nothing like you, Ka-san!”
Sou was met with an instant, terrifying glare from his mother. She didn’t even ask for his side of the story, and instead, concluded, “Sou, I’m very disappointed in you. I don’t understand why you can’t be mature about this. Then again, you were always so rebellious, just like your father.”  
Sou felt his fists clench. If he could, he would have pounded them against the wall. What did she know? What did she even know about him? She knew nothing. She never even bothered to care aside from those rare moments. Other than that, she just treated him like rubbish. Why did he even think that she’d change? Oh wait, he now chuckled to himself, she did change. She was uglier on the surface as well; that completely matched her already ghastly personality.
“Ka-san, when do you think you’ll be able to—“
“Sorry to interrupt your exquisite conversation,” Sou remarked while bending down to retrieve his belongings, “but I think I better be going.”
“Wh-wh-what are you talking about Sou? You just came,” his mother reprimanded with a deep frown.
Sou almost burst out laughing after hearing her sentence. Instead, he grinned peacefully to warn her, “You know, speaking of coming, I think your son did come to an interesting event. I think you should have a nice chat with your son about sex. I mean, masturbating is normal. So, he has nothing to be ashamed of that and should be mature about it.” Sou then exploded with a joke, “You know, I think he should come forth with the truth. Really, there’s just so many things that could make him come . . . to his senses.”
Thus, Sou left the house cackling down all the steps. The kid said he didn’t need to keep a promise right? So why even bother? His mother already hated him anyways. There wasn’t much more to do to keep her from disliking him. However, all that joking, he couldn’t help but release a long sigh. This wasn’t the place for him to go; he was an outsider at most. Where could he live then? His grip tightened on the handles of his bags as he walked ahead. He had no idea where he was going. He just understood that he had to keep on moving ahead. Sure, Sou probably had to ask one of his friends’ to help. He needed someone that wouldn’t care about him in any way nor would he care about that someone. He closed his eyes to think of everyone he knew . . .
Then, he opened his eyes and he knew who to find.
It was going to be perfect.
Now, he just needed to follow his plans.
So, he gulped. For now, he’ll just be homeless.
------
It was another boring day at school and already Jihyo’s mind was only focused on what had happened yesterday with Jun and Gyuri. She had probably missed out on so much when she was resting at home. She had never seen Jun so serious. Well, it wasn’t like she had met him a lot either so she couldn’t really have much to support that. Before she could think anymore, her arm plunged into another body. “Ugh,” she groaned and shifted her head to identify who the culprit was. It was Sou.

She knew that the day would go downhill every time she met him and since he was in practically every class of hers, every day went horribly wrong. She was just about to walk into the classroom when Sou grabbed her arm and ordered, “You should learn to apologize when you bump into people.”
“And you should learn to be a gentleman and forgive a lady’s unexpected error,” Jihyo argued.
“I won’t make a scene here,” he sputtered with a smirk, “if you tell me what you’re thinking.”
 He let go of her arm now for he felt her twitch. She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms firmly. “Dear lord, why are you so nosy?” she howled.
Sou let another smirk slide by. Only he knew why he even bothered to care about Jihyo at this moment. “I’m your friend.” He coated his words with a sweet smile. He even patted her on the shoulder before adding, “Friends are supposed to be there for each other right? Talking to a friend should make you feel better, Mm?”
His voice had become so smooth sounding. There was, however, a particular emphasis on the word, friend, which ultimately made Jihyo feel like running to the toilet to throw up. Sou had never been the sort to care about others. He was always living in his own world and being the centre of everyone’s attention. He was, after all, Kobayashi Sou, the heir to Kobayashi Incorporation.
Kobayashi Inc. was one of the biggest entertainment agencies in Japan. Sou was fatefully the only child of the CEO of Kobayashi Inc. Since the day that he was born, he was already destined to be wealthy. Anything he wanted was given to him. Jihyo remembered being awfully jealous of Sou for he had the best birthdays and the greatest birthday gifts. Every year, Sou’s family would invite all the kids from their grade to their house. They would hire the best party planner to organize a themed event. As always, everyone looked forward to Sou’s birthday, except for Sou and Jihyo. Jihyo remembered how Sou would never smile for his birthday photo. All the children would be squeezed into a frame with Sou sporting an imminent frown at the centre. His mother would try to coax him to make some sort of grin, yet he’d never listen.
“Come on, Sou,” his mother urged. “The camera man wants everyone smiling, and it’s your 
birthday! It’s even sunny out!”
Sou cocked his head to the side and then blinked. He shook his head several times while stating, “No. I don’t feel like smiling.”
“I’ll give you candy if you smile!”
Sou rolled his eyes, which prompted his mother to grab him by the wrist. Pulling him aside, she uttered a few inaudible words. From the way she was glaring at him, she was probably threatening him. No sooner, Sou ran back to the crowd, and when the photographer shouted cheese, Sou had the widest smile ever, the fakest Jihyo had ever witnessed.
Jihyo’s jealousy also subsided when news of his mother’s disappearance spread across the business realm. Sou’s father, Kobayashi Shouhei, had made sure that word didn’t spread to the media. He didn’t want anyone knowing that his wife had eloped with another man, especially a commoner working as a real estate agent.
“Did you hear about Kairi?” Her father sighed as he sat stiffly in his leather chair.
“Yes, I did,” Her mother answered. 
Jihyo had been looking for a place to hide from Itsuki because they were playing hide and seek. She was about to hide in her father’s office at home when she overheard her parents talking. Being an overtly curious child, she put her ears close to the wooden door.
Her father muttered hopelessly, “It was about time she left the Jung family though. She never did seem happy.”
“She wasn’t happy,” her mother explained. “She was living in hell. I mean, the way he treated her and the reason that they married . . . I’m just surprised that she didn’t take her son with her.”
“You mean, Sou?” 
“Yes, Sou. That poor child . . . Without his mother, I wonder what will happen to him.”
“He’s a boy. He’ll tough it out.” Jihyo could hear her father lean against his swiveling chair, which squeaked in the process.
“I suppose so,” she murmured. “We could let him stay with us from time to time . . . you know, to keep him company. I mean, Kairi and I have been best friends ever since we started out in the show business. She loved her son so much. I should help look after—“
“That’s what I was getting to.” Jihyo could hear his father leaning in for the chair made another screech. “Shouhei and I have known each other for a while now. He has kindly requested that we do not look after his son, Sou. Shouhei also doesn’t want you to interfere—“
Jihyo could hear her mother slamming the table with her fists. “So what if I supported her eloping with that man?” Her mother hollered. “Does that mean that I’m a bad influence?”
“Gain, I didn’t mean it that way,” he answered gently. “It’s just that—“
“I found you!” Itsuki shouted too cheerfully. 
Jihyo huffed, “It’s all your fault!” She then stormed off, leaving Itsuki completely confused.
“I’d rather not,” Jihyo mumbled under her breath. “We’ve never been on ‘talking’ terms.”
It was true though. Even though they were childhood friends, they had never had one of those profound conversations where they just spewed out their thoughts. They were usually bickering and trying their hardest to find the inconsistencies in the other’s speech. The alternative was a calmer activity: taking care of the tulip garden that Sou’s mother had started. She decided to leave a small lot of land for the children to use to grow tulips. This was decided right after the two reconciled from their first meeting. Jihyo always guessed that this was probably Sou’s mother’s way of trying to make them be friends.
It didn’t really work though. Jihyo ended up doing all the watering and planting, while Sou clipped the leaves and murdered the bugs. They never really said a word to each other during that time, except for the last time she visited the garden. It was one of those rare moments where Sou initiated the conversation.
He suddenly blurted, “I wonder who will water the plants in the future.”
Jihyo immediately turned around. Her delightful smile had become a concerned pout. “What do you mean by that?” 
“Nothing,” he mumbled too silently. 
She exhaled a loud breath, rambling, “Don’t scare me like that! You know I’ll always be there for these plants!” He gave a squirmy grin, which she had immediately caught on. “You’re . . . not joking?” she asked abruptly.
He didn’t say anything, but he knew that she understood what he had implied. There was a frown now painted on her face, yet her eyes continued to smile. This was her look of distress and it stung his heart as soon as his eyes witnessed that scene. The only thing he did was walk away from her.
That was the last time she ever visited that garden.   
Sou smacked Jihyo’s back playfully as he guided her towards their classroom. “We’ve been talking for a while,” he laughed. “So, you can’t say that we haven’t been on ‘talking’ terms.”
“What do you want from me, Sou?” Jihyo grumbled unhappily. Knowing Sou, he never became friendly to people unless he wanted something from them.
He wasn’t going to tell her the truth. That would mean that she would have time to build up reasons to reject his proposal. He was going to go for the element of surprise. After all, the hunter couldn’t become hunted. “I just want to know what’s wrong,” he tried to say as caringly as possible. He probably snatched those words straight from Youngmin’s mouth. Youngmin had a tendency of using that sentence whenever he wanted to know more gossip.
Jihyo snickered, “I’ll tell you what’s wrong.”
“What?” Sou asked.
“Your face,” she scoffed and proceeded to walk forward.
Sou sneered peevishly and cocked his head to the left, “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with you then.” He was not going to let her escape like that. She was always running away; this time, he had to be the one who stopped her from doing so.
“Yes?” she confidently replied.
“Gyuri,” he announced. Seeing Jihyo push Gyuri away, he was sure that there were problems within their friendship and so, he tried his luck to see if he was right. If today was his day, his answer would make Jihyo’s face disfigure into her infamous frown. “I’m right, aren’t I?” he confirmed.
He was absolutely right, but there was no way that he could have known. Sou wasn’t a mind reader. He was never an observer. He was probably just a good guesser. Then, it was her turn to guess. Jihyo snubbed, “If I’m having trouble with my social life, then you must have trouble with your love life. You look so  . . .”
“So what?”
Jihyo’s mouth pouted to taunt, “Dare I say it? I mean, can I say it, Sou-sama?”

“I’m so happy that you’ve finally realized that I’m worth that rank,” he continued with her teasing. “It’s about time. Anyhow, say it. I dare you to. I don’t care anyways.”
She knew he would let her say anything. He was just as curious as her, but he wanted to know everything . . . about himself. He was always so self-absorbed.
“You’re so,” she paused. “Unsatisfied.”
“Screw you!” he yelled. “That’s low!”
“And you said you didn’t care.” She chuckled and strolled to the classroom.
Sou had to admit that he had lost. He was actually hoping that he wouldn’t need to resort to the actual plan, but he had to, now that he was defeated. So, he reached into his pant pocket and found his phone. Then, he dialed a few numbers before stating, “Frederick? It’s me. I want you to look into something for me.”
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