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42 Futuba Chikafuji

They were able to drive ten miles along the coastal road towards Kure when the spare tire ran a flat as well.

After a snap discussion and decision, Kei drove them off route into a small village towards the waters of Hiroshima Bay near an island. Eiji warned them the island held former naval training base.

It was prudent to find cover, and a way to restock and repair without drawing attention from the Imperial Navy and Tonarigumi. Especially from the party following them, who were yet to reveal themselves.

Eiji's mouth lifted in a bitter-sweet smile when he saw the name of the village they had unwittingly found themselves in.

"I know a place we could seek refuge," he soberly advised the men.

Plans were quickly made with the decision to hide the car. They concealed the car skilfully within some bushes near a section of road that ended towards a secluded section of woodlands that led down to the sea.

Kei kissed the bonnet and groaned when they left his Blended Beauty behind and made their way to a small set of minka's and modern buildings on foot.

Sean and Tyne ensured they looked and walked the part as German business men with Kei and Eiji following behind has their lackeys.

Tama poked her head out of the wicker basket bag, curious to the new destination. She stayed within the bag, content to have Eiji carry her about. Especially when he kept feeding her with cat nibbles.

The men did divert to some bushes to allow Tama to relieve herself. They wondered on whether she'd run and never return. She returned to the bag Eiji carried after she was content and refreshed, settled down and fell sleep.

The cosy spring weather was also lulling the men into a relaxed state as they followed Eiji's lead down hill to an earth-stained Minka with a weathered rush mat roof, which was situated furthest from the cluster of the village's buildings.

A hit of fish and open sea wafted up their noses as they neared the Minka. The feel of a wet breeze stroked their flushed cheeks that were burning under the spring sun.

Eiji's heart raced at the sight of a woman kneeling down on the sandy grass ground before a bed of vegetables. His mind wandered to a memory of Hinata diligently working in the vegetable garden back at their country cottage. His mother in-law's bent yet meticulous posture and lean body in her modest grey kimono was akin to her natural born son's.

The woman gradually sat up when she saw and felt the sun blocked by shadows over her form. Her expression was a mixture of shock and surprise at seeing Eiji smiling cordially before her.

"Okāsan." He bowed before the woman whose slender face held a demure expression and soft round eyes as Hinata.

"Eiji-kun." The woman's voice and full sized lips quivered with tears.

She carefully stowed her tools in the weed buck next to her and stood to great his bowing body with a motherly hug.

Her brown eyes studied the strange men behind him; she frowned at the non Japanese in business suits.

"Eiji-kun, please tell me you aren't in trouble again." She carefully whispered into his ear, almost scolding.

Eiji sighed as he pulled out of her hug and faced her with desperation. He nodded.

She invited the men into the modest minka, ensuring they were seated comfortably around the low table of the small main room, which held enough furnishings for modest comfort and a kamidana holding an image of a stoic middle aged soldier baring chevrons and medals of an Imperial Navy Sergeant.

Eiji stood and bowed before the kamidana, reverently offering incense with a prayer of deep respect for the imaged man.

"He was proud to fight beside you." Eiji's mother said over his shoulder, drawing him back to the low table for tea.

Once tea was set before the men, Eiji's mother formally introduced herself.

"I am Chikafuj Futuba." Futuba coolly addressed the men with a polite bow.

"It is a pleasure to meet you Chikafuj-san. My name is Karl Weber." Tyne introduced himself using his German cover and extended the introductions to Sean and Kei, also using their cover identities.

"Doctors?" Futua asked surprised and confused. "Eiji-kun?"

"Okāsan. I'm sorry to ask, but could we stay here for a few days." Eiji politely asked.

"Of course! How can I turn away my son in-law?"

"But, Ojisan would be okay with us?"

Futuba reassured Eiji's concerns and moved the conversation to trivial topics that were away from matters of war and work.

Tyne could see why Eiji was fond of her. If she was a reflection of her natural born son whom Eiji had married to be part of her family, he was keen to met his Hinata.

"We will compensate for our time here, of course." Tyne respectfully addressed a matter of business over sips of tea.

Futuba waved off his compensation offer with a polite gesture.

"You are my guests here Senseis." She countered his offer with a room to rest in.

The men stood and followed her to a guest room they could share. She profusely apologized for the size and the guest room being only one.

Sean politely bowed and thanked her for her generous hospitality, which seemed to impress her.

"I must prepare dinner. Eiji-kun, ensure your guests are comfortable will you?" Futuba said as she left them to his care in the guest room.

"Wow, your partner's mother is amazing." Sean expressed his impression of Hinata's mother when Kei had closed the door.

"What the f*cking odds we'd breakdown near your Old Lady's home." Kei exhaled as he stretched himself on a futon Eiji had laid out.

He cursed when Sean seized an opportunity for a cuddle.

"Get off me you f*cking faggot!" Kei grumbled and struggled against Sean's strong hold around his waist.

Sean bit his exposed collarbone bitterly. "How many times do I have to scold you for saying the F-word?!"

"What, f*cking?" Kei innocently asked, confused.

"Ooh so bold. Maybe later." Sean teased him.

This gave Kei strength to pull out of the hold and off the futon. He stood next to Tyne, keeping his distance from Sean.

"Men! Please behave yourselves in my mother's home." Eiji scolded them.

The conversation was interrupted when the shoji door of the room slid open and two teenagers in black and white school uniforms stormed inside. The teenage boy tackled Eiji to the ground.

"Eiji-niisan!" The boy finished his tackle with a brotherly hug.

"Riku, get off him." The teenage girl sighed with her arms folded over her chest, so the white collar of her black-white sailor school uniform crumpled inwards.

"Keiko, Riku." Eiji fondly acknowledged Hinata's younger siblings.

"No. We might not see him again." Riku stubbornly clung to Eiji's waist, oblivious of the strangers chuckling in the corner.

"I apologize for my younger brother's ill form. He has yet to understand TPO." Keiko respectfully bowed before the three men.

"TPO?" Kei frowned, perplexed.
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"Time, Place, Opportunity." Sean politely answered.

Keiko lifted her head with pleasant surprise at his understanding and solid elocuted Japanese.

"My mother informs me you are German doctors?" Keiko formally spoke.

Her Keigo stirred a proud smile on Eiji's face, which ensured him another jealous tackle to the ground from Riku.

Eiji gulped when he was starring into a face of Hinata's past. Riku was at a similar age when he had met Hinata, and his features were growing into a similar image of his big brother.

"Riku, how old are you now?" He asked the boy.

Riku sighed and got off him. He sat pensively next to Eiji. "Same age when you first came home with Aniki."

"Say, Eiji-niisan, how's Aniki?" Riku asked with hope for good news.

"I don't know, sorry, I haven't seen him since I left for war." Eiji sorrowfully answered.

"You'll return to Aniki?"

Eiji held Riku's earnest stare for a while before carefully answering. "Of course. I'm doing what I can to return to him. These men, I owe them first for saving my life."

Riku sighed and relaxed into a warm smile. He nodded his head and patted Eiji's shoulder.

"Okāsan told us to call you for dinner."

The men followed the children back to the main room for a family dinner.