Nearly nine A.M., I was halfway done with the searches on my side of the hallway. I had already been at work for ten hours and was nearly dead on my feet. Two other nurses were helping me conduct the search, which not only sped things up significantly, but took some of the physical exertion away from me.
Thus far, however, the search had been unfruitful, and I could feel Ryo's hopeful eyes watching us as we continued sweeping the rooms. Each time we would exit a room, his face would droop in disappointment. His negative aura was beginning to affect me, and with each room, I felt less and less like we would succeed in finding the missing photo album.
It occurred to me that it was a very slim chance that someone had stolen the album. Who would want to steal something full of someone else's memories? It had no value except to the person it belonged to. The only thing I could think of was that someone had done it out of spite. I knew no one that had a grudge against Nishikido, though. It was true that he was an unpleasant kid, but he minded his own business.
Not finding it wasn't the only reason why I was nervous, however. Tadayoshi's room was on my side of the hallway. I was desperately hoping that the album would be found before we reached his room and I was forced to see him again. Something about the way he had looked at me the previous night had sent shivers down my spine.
We were now only one room away from his, and I could feel my entire being swell with dread. I took my time searching the last room, not wanting to continue on to the next. I knew the nurses had finished the search on their side of the room, and were now waiting impatiently for me at the door.
"I don't think its here, Yasuda-san," one of the female nurses spoke up, watching me crouch down and peer underneath a patient's bed.
I nodded, standing up from my kneeling position. It was true. The album was not here and there was no reasonable excuse for putting off moving onto the next room. I followed them out the door.
The walk to Tadayoshi's room seemed to stretch on forever although it was only a short distance.
Inside the room, Subaru was lounging on his bed, reading a magazine. Our eyes met. He nodded, smiling at his success in hiding the magazines. I had hoped that I would be able to search Shibutani's side of the room and avoid making contact with Tadayoshi. But of course, the gods hated me and had other plans, as the nurses hurried over to Subaru's side of the room.
I should have known better. Subaru had the female nurses wrapped around his finger and could have them on their knees with just one of his charming smiles. It didn't matter that he had no interest in them. He was good at charming people into getting whatever he wanted. In fact, as the ladies gathered around his bed, half-heartedly looking through his things, I could hear him complimenting one of the nurses legs.
If he wasn't gay, I had no doubt that he would have easily bedded each of the nurses now (except Maru, who seemed completely uninterested in every living thing that wasn't Murakami).
I stood in the doorway for a moment, avoiding the other side of the room. I thought that I could feel Tadayoshi's eyes on me, and when I finally worked up the nerve to look over at him, he was staring out the window. I knew he was purposely ignoring me, and suddenly a very tense atmosphere filled the room.
I took my time looking through Tadayoshi's closet. This way, my back was facing him and I didn't have to look at him. I could feel him glaring at my back, and I shifted uncomfortably, trying to hide as much of my body behind the closet door as possible. When I felt that I could no longer avoid searching the rest of the room, I exhaled, perhaps louder than I should have because the nurses stopped their search and looked up at me, "Are you getting tired?"
I nodded and smiled, "Let's hurry and finish."
The nurses went back to their searching and I found myself standing next to Tadayoshi's bed. He ignored my presence, appearing to be immersed in the book that he was reading. I knelt down next to the bed, hoping to quickly search under it and get as far away from the object of my obsession as possible.
There was nothing underneath his bed, which was strange, considering that his side of the room was rather messy. I sat up and put my hand on the bed so that I could boost myself up into a standing position. I moved my hand slightly, feeling it brush against something hard and pointy.
I moved my hand, looking at the area between the bed frame and the mattress, seeing something familiar. It was a book; blue, dirty, and torn in the corner. Exactly as Ryo had described it.
I glanced quickly at Tadayoshi and he was staring me down, defiantly. He wasn't at all concerned that he had been caught as the culprit.
I looked over my shoulder at the nurses who were too involved with Subaru to notice what was happening on my side of the room. I hurriedly pulled the album out of it's hiding place and tucked it into my suit coat. I stood awkwardly, keeping the book in place by holding it between my arm and my side.
"Let's go," I said, "I don't think its here."
The nurses nodded and bid Subaru farewell, giggling and blushing at him. I hurried from the room, but not before taking one last look at Tadayoshi, who was returned to pointedly looking away in an effort to ignore me
Outside in the hallway, Murakami seemed to be waiting for me. "I'm sending Maruyama home. Why don't you go too? We have enough people from the morning shift here to finish up."
I nodded, feeling sweat break out on my forehead. I needed to escape as soon as possible, and I left the search party as quickly as possible. I went to the office and grabbed my briefcase, stuffing Tadayoshi's file and the photo album into it.
I wondered what had possessed me to take the photo album. I had again done something completely unprofessional. I knew that if Tadayoshi had gotten caught with stolen property, he would have gotten kicked out faster than he could blink. I was risking my career to save Tadayoshi, and I could have kicked myself for the stupidity of it all.
Once outside the clinic, I turned a corner and prepared to cross the street towards the train station. Instead, I ran headlong into Yokoyama You.
"Watch it," He grumbled before noticing who it was. "Oh, Yasu. I didn't know it was you." He grabbed my arm and helped me steady myself.
"Oh. Yoko. Hisashiburi," I muttered, preparing to continue on my way. I needed to get as far away from the clinic as possible. And a police officer was the last person I needed to see when I was carrying around something that had been stolen.
"Wait," he stopped me again. "I'm glad it's you. Can I ask you something?"
I turned back to him and nodded. I should have gone over to him, but I wanted to leave as soon as possible, and retracing my steps would be too tedious.
He scratched his head and took a few steps closer to me. "How is Subaru?"
"Subaru?" I wondered aloud. "He's good."
Yokoyama nodded and I saw a blush rising on his cheeks. "Good. Good." He stood there, awkwardly staring at the ground and then I found myself wondering how long he had been standing around out there.
"He's awake. Why don't you go in and visit him for a while?" I suggested.
He hurriedly shook his head. "I just wanted to know if he was doing okay."
It finally clicked that the reason why Yokoyama hadn't been around lately was because he was avoiding the young patient. I wanted to stay and question him about what had happened, but I had more pertinent things to tend to.
"Are you sure? You're the only visitor he gets. He's probably feeling lonely."
A look of guilt crossed over Yokoyama's face briefly. "I have to get back to work."
We parted ways then, and I crossed the street, holding my briefcase and its precious cargo under my arm.
I hurried into my apartment, closing and locking the door behind me, as though someone was following me. I kicked off my shoes and brought the briefcase into my kitchen, setting it down on the counter.
I walked over to the refrigerator and opened it, bending over and looking for something to eat. The only things in there were and expired cup of yogurt and the leftovers from the lunch Tadayoshi had made me two days earlier. I pulled out the plastic containers that held the remaining portions of the lunch.
I popped them into the microwave and walked over to the counter, undoing the clasp that held my briefcase closed. I pulled out the contents and walked them over to the table. I heard the microwave beep and I rushed over, opening it and removing the hot containers. Too lazy to put it on a plate, I just grabbed a fork from the silverware drawer and brought it back to the table with me.
Sitting down, I shoveled a forkload of food into my mouth, staring intently at the photo album. I had no idea what to do with it. I couldn't keep it. It belonged to Ryo and he seemed heartbroken over the thought of losing it forever. I rested my chin in the palm of one hand, using the other one to continue eating. I would have to figure out a way to sneak it back into the clinic and miraculously find it without anyone suspecting me or Tadayoshi.
Somehow, I realized, I had become an accomplice to Tadayoshi's crime. I scratched my forehead, wondering what had possessed him to take it. It must have been carefully planned. He had waited until Ryo was gone from the room and done it at the only possible time when a patient wouldn't be suspected as the culprit.
I stared at the book, curiosity taking over. There had to be something in the album itself that Tadayoshi wanted. I pushed the bowl of food away and picked up the book. I knew it was none of my business and in bad manners to look through it, but I was filled with the urge to find out why Tadayoshi stole it.
I opened it and flipped through the first few pages, finding nothing of significance. It was filled with old pictures of an infant Ryo, cradled in the arms of a woman, probably his mother. I flipped through a few more pages, filled with pictures of Ryo, at five or six, with the same woman. I shook my head in confusion. They were only childhood pictures of Nishikido.
I continued flipping through the pictures and paused when the pictures changed from Ryo and the woman to Ryo with another young boy around his age. This Ryo had to be about ten or eleven, and all of the pictures were of him and that same young boy.
I looked down then, and noticed that one of the photos was different. Instead of just Ryo and the mystery boy, there was a third boy present. They were crouching down on the ground holding stag beetle nets over their shoulders, Ryo on one end and the new boy on the other, each with their an arm wrapped tightly around the mystery boy.
The new face made me gasp in recognition. I moved my hand and glanced at the caption underneath the picture. In messy child-like handwriting it read: 'Me, Hiroki & Ohkura Tadayoshi-sama'.
I woke up a few hours later, glancing over at my night-stand to where I had placed the photo album before crawling into bed. It was somewhat surprising that I was able to fall asleep at all with the questions floating around in my head.
I picked the album up again, turning to the same page I had already looked at countless time. There was the youthful, plump face of Tadayoshi, staring up at me. He had a big, goofy, buck toothed grin and was leaning his head in towards the mystery boy known simply as Hiroki.
Two things had become clear to me after seeing the picture. The first was that Tadayoshi had known Nishikido as a child. The second was that he had stolen the album so that Ryo would not recognize him as the same boy in that picture.
"But why?" I questioned out loud, though no one was no one around to answer it.
"Ohkura Tadayoshi." The name fell from my lips with ease, as though I had spoken it a million times.
I set the photo book next to me, and lifted the covers off of my bed. I swung my feet over the side and hurried across the cool wooden floor to where my laptop was resting on my desk. I picked it up and hurried back to the warmth of my bed. Tucked under the covers once more, I opened the computer and turned it on.
As it started up, I picked up the photo album once more, flipping open to Tadayoshi's page and setting it on the bed. I clicked on my web browser and opened a search engine.
I typed 'Ohkura Tadayoshi' into the search engine and pressed the enter button, holding my breath in anticipation. The first result on the list was an online encyclopedia entry for Ohkura Hideo. I looked at the web page's summary, my eyes immediately shifting to where Tadayoshi Ohkura appeared in bold letters.
I double clicked on the link leading to the encyclopedia page and began reading.
Ohkura Hideo (July 8, 1955 - ) is a Japanese restaurant tycoon, currently number 17 on the list of richest men in Japan.
My eyes quickly skimmed the rest of the opening portions of the article. There was nothing about Tadayoshi yet, so I scrolled down past the information about Hideo's business deals and, landing on the section title 'Personal Life'.
On February 14th, 1985, Ohkura Hideo married model and philanthropist Nakagawa Megumi. His high profile wedding to the Japanese starlet created a publicity buzz around his restaurants, increasing their popularity. The new bride moved from her home town of Tokyo to Osaka, taking up residence in Ohkura's posh estate and putting her career on hold.
Trouble soon began for the couple as rumors circulated suggesting that Megumi was unable to produce an heir to the Ohkura name. The rumors were put to rest in January of 1987, when a press conference was held to announce the couple would be expecting a child.
Tragedy struck, however, and three months after the news conference, the media received reports that Megumi had been hospitalized. Two hours after the initial news broke, media reports began surfacing that Megumi had miscarried the couple's unborn child and had been diagnosed with the heart disease, restrictive cardiomyopathy, making it unlikely that she would ever carry a child to full term.
In the months following the miscarriage, tabloids began running stories from friends and family of the couple who had witnessed fights. Rumors spread that Hideo was verbally abusive to the young woman, refusing to let her go back to work until she produced an heir. In public, however, the two portrayed a loving couple, despite claims from sources close to the pair that a divorce was imminent.
In October of 1990, another press conference was held announcing that Megumi was three months pregnant. "I will give birth to this child even if it takes every fiber of my strength," she was quoted at the press conference. "He or she will be the miracle born from our love" . The rumors concerning the troubled nature of the marriage ceased once more and on May 16th, 1991, she gave birth to a son named Tadayoshi.
Both the pregnancy and the birth took its toll on Megumi's body and she remained in the hospital for six months after the delivery. The media speculated that she would likely never return to her work as a model. In the following years, however, she remained in the spotlight as an advocate for heart disease research.
In the early hours of March 15, 1996, Megumi passed away after a long struggle with her disease. At the time of her death, she had been bedridden for 18 months. After her death, reports began surfacing that the couple's son, Tadayoshi, had also been diagnosed with heart disease. The young heir was rarely seen outside of the estate. Photos of the child appeared in tabloids, his pale complexion and small stature doing little to quell the rumors regarding his state of health.
After the death of his wife and the media fascination with his only child, Ohkura remained out of the spotlight until, in October of 2003, a young boy named Uchi Hiroki stepped forward with claims that he was Ohkura Hideo's illegitimate son. Although he was only eleven, he successfully won a court case ordering Hideo to consent to a blood test. In December of the same year, it was made public that Uchi Hiroki was, in fact, the biological son of Ohkura Hideo.
As the story was splashed across the headlines, details of the affair between Hideo and Uchi Mariko began surfacing. Uchi had worked as a maid at the Ohkura mansion since 1990. The majority of time she was in employment of the family, she lived in a servant's quarter located on the family estate. In September of 1992, Hiroki was born. Uchi and her son spent the next eleven years living on the estate until she died in a car crash in June of 2003.
After her death, Hideo sent Hiroki to Tokyo to live at an elite all-boy's school, claiming that he would take responsibility for the son he hadn't known existed.
He kept Tadayoshi out of the media spotlight until his thirteenth birthday, when it was announced that he would be attending the all boys' high school located on Kyoto Daigaku's campus, a school reserved for gifted and upper class adolescents.
Both young men have managed to remain out of the spotlight. School rankings released to the public show that both boys are in the tops of their classes. In recent months, it was revealed that Ohkura Hideo would be announcing an heir to his restaurant. A press conference was scheduled to announce the heir, but was canceled due to a family emergency. Details of the emergency remain unknown, although a spokesperson for Kyoto Daigaku's high school facilities reports that Tadayoshi had been absent from classes for over two weeks. There is speculation surrounding the state of the young man's health.
I stopped reading, my head aching from taking it all in. There was so much about Ohkura that I didn't know. Finding out every dirty detail about the person you thought you cared about would create a feeling of distance in any normal person.
What did we have in common? He was rich and I had been raised in a household that had to scrape to be considered middle class. His family was dysfunctional at best, and while mine was far from normal, we all loved and relied on each other. We had come from completely different lifestyles. The differences were so harrowing that I had expected it to make me feel as though Tadayoshi was too far out of my reach.
Instead, I found myself wanting to see him. I wanted to tell him that I knew everything, and that none of it was important. I wanted to hug him and protect him. In that moment I wanted nothing more than to be the person he relied on. The person he came to when he was sad or mad or happy. And I wanted him to feel secure with me.
I closed my eyes, finally comfortable enough with the idea. A feeling of peace swept over me as I murmured to the empty room, "I'm in love with Ohkura Tadayoshi."