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5 Another Hinata Comes to Home

Hinata lapsed into his usual housewife mode as soon as he entered his home. He made sure Akira was comfortable in the main room then worked the kitchen like an experienced chef. Soon the low table before Akira was laden with steaming bowls of rice, miso soup, plates of grilled fish and servings of tsukemono (Japanese pickles) and kobachi (vegetable side dish).

"I'm always impressed on how well you know my tastes." Akira smiled as he respectfully tucked into the meal.

Hinata provided Tama-chan his breakfast before getting into this own. They ate with comfortable conversation in between mouthfuls, and had just finished their meal when there was firm knock on the door.

"Coming!" Hinata reassured the waiting party.

He scrambled to his feet, quickly checked his image and opened the door. His eyes widen with surprise when he saw the town's school teacher and mayor standing before him.

"Watanabe-sensei, Ito-shichou-sama, good morning. To what do I own the pleasure. " Hinato formally addressed the men with a polite bow.

"Good morning Chikafuj-san," said a distinguished man in a grey kimono, light tabi shocks and getas fit for trudging the gravel roads with ease.

He readjusted his straw hat, so his aged eyes were visible and Hinata could see the his weathered crows feet to the corners.

"Watanabe-sensei." Hinata acknowledge the man again.
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"I hope we haven't caught you at a bad time," Watanabe-sensei said with his head poking over Hinata's shoulder to locate the source of the savoury bliss wafting under his nose.

"Of course not. Please come in side." Hinata politely invited the men in.

Watanabe-sensei was about to accept the offer, but was held back by a firm hand to his chest from his junior, Akihiko Ito.

"We do not want to intrude too much on your time, but we do require your assistance." Akihiko cutted in.

Hinata cocked his head to one side, peering at the man who was only half a decade older and already the town's mayor.

Akihiko Ito was indeed an impressionable man in a smart grey business suit and shoes, rivalling Akira in style with his slicked back hair, cool brown eyes behind silver framed glasses on a smooth round face with little lines to suggest he rarely cracked a smile. However, his appeal was far from striking in comparison to Eiji and Akira.

"What sort of assistance?" Hinata innocently asked.

The men stepped aside to reveal a woman and young girl. They looked like they had gone through a troublesome journey based on their downcast faces, grimy shirt waister and gingham dresses and worn soles on their Mary Jane's.

"Oh my! Please come inside." Hinata ushered the woman and child inside, oblivious to the satisfied looks the town's mayor and school teacher gave each other.

"Chikafuj-kun." Akira called out when he entered the hallway near the genkan.

He frowned when he saw the strange woman and small child standing over the threshold, and Hinata reassuring them it was okay to remove their shoes and feel comfortable.

"What is the meaning of this Ito-san?" Akira carelessly threw out to his old school rival.

Akihiko addressed his explanation to Hinata, hiding his satisfaction at Akira's bothered expression from being ignored.

"This is Akiyama Hinata and her daughter Miki. They have arrived from Osaka as part of the government evacuation process. We were hoping you could take them in, temporarily of course, until permanent lodgings are sourced."

Hinata instantly agreed, keen to help another evacuee. His agreement prompted the mayor and teacher's cordial exit.

"Chikafuj-kun. Are you sure this is wise idea?" Akira carefully whispered, keeping an eye on the strangers.

"What are you saying? Of course it's fine! As an evacuee myself, I understand what it means to loose a home." Hinata hissed in response.

Akira dropped his arguments and assumed Hinata's side.

"Why don't we become acquainted?" said Hinata, offering the mother and daughter a place to sit in the main room.

He relieved them from their lone suitcase with a heavy sigh, pushing aside his own similar memories. He placed the suitcase in the guest room that was adjoined to the sunroom, which was still perfectly clean in readiness for Eiji's return.

"Eiji would have wanted others to bring joy into this room." He convinced himself with a weak smile.

Letting the mother and daughter stay felt like the right thing to do. It was something Eiji would not have hesitated on. After all, he brought home Tama-chan and had always complained that their cottage needed more noise when it was too quiet.

Reaffirming his convictions on the matter, he returned to his new guests who were kneeling in seiza before Aikra.

Hinata gave Aikra a look of warning before relaxing his expression with a friendly smile towards the woman and child. He sat before them, mirroring their position.

"I am Chikafuj Hinata." He bowed in greeting. "This serious looking man here is Honda-san."

"Oh, forgive me to ask, but is there no woman of the house?" The woman bravely asked with a slight quiver to her voice.

"Chikafuj-kun is the person responsible for domestic affairs of this house." Akira blatantly answered her question.

His no nonsense response seemed to frighten the small girl, who hugged her mother's side.

"Honda-san, aren't you late in opening the store?" Hinata hinted to Akira through his teeth. "We wouldn't want to keep our patron's waiting."

Akira sighed, realising the cue to leave. He rose to bid his farewell, dragging Hinata to his feet. Hinata reassured them that he would return and saw Akira to the door.

"I don't know what that arrogant Ito-san is up to, leaving a woman and child alone with a man." Akira grumbled and was taken back by Hinata's glare.

"I wouldn't dare harm them!" Hinata defended his intentions.

"That's not what I meant. What happens if she finds out you prefer men?" Akira argued his point.

"You cross the line Honda-san! Ito-shichou-sama would not have left them in my care if he felt I would cause them harm! You mind your words!" Hinata scolded Akira.

Akira abruptly donned his shoes and yanked his jacket off the rack near the door, making it wobble unsteadily. He stormed out of the house.

Hinata heaved a weary sigh and returned to the woman and child. His tension eased at the sight of Tama-chan lapping up the generous pats the girl was giving him.

"He's Tama-chan." He introduced the fat cat to the girl. "Please make yourself at home. I will prepare your rooms, so you can rest. You must be tired from your journey."

The woman's face relaxed into a warm smile. "Thank you very much Chikafuj-san. My daughter and I are indebted to you."

She bowed low, so her nose almost touched the floor.

"Oh, no, please mention nothing of it! I'm very happy to have people here, but forgive me if I'm not well-prepared." Hinata reassured the woman.

"No, no, we arrived unexpected. We are very appreciative your hospitality."

Hinata gestured for them to follow him. He commenced with a brief tour of the cottage and surrounding lands to the meadows.