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55 ★ To Evade the Tonarigumi

Futuba greeted Eiji with both a firm hug and angry curse.

"What is going on Eiji-kun?"  She calmly asked him when she had calmed down and everyone was seated in the main room.

Eiji glanced towards Sean and Tyne who both sighed and lied that they had been singled out by the secret police because they were foreigners, despite having valid papers that clearly showed their line of work and purpose as prosthetic specialists for Wiesmen. 

This plausible explanation was accepted by Futuba and Haru, who nodded their heads with understanding.

"Yes, that would make sense. I don't know what is happening with the war, but I fear it is making men desperate." Haru sighed. His voice croaking with disappointment. "Tonarigumi are seeing anyone doing something not normal as being spies."

Eiji gulped with concern. "They thought you were harbouring spies?"

Haru nodded, eying him carefully. "Because of your doctor friends being here."

Eiji stood to leave. They couldn't stay there any longer than necessary.

"If us being here is going to cause you trouble, we have to go."

"Nonsense!" Haru snapped at him. "I know you're in trouble, but we're your family. Whatever trouble you're in Eiji, you can trust us."

Eiji sat back down. "No. I... I'm fine. The last thing I want to bring you is trouble."

He held back tears that threatened to fall from his eyes. He wouldn't forgive himself if any wrong doing happened to the family he loved because of him.

Haru sighed again.

He explained that not long after they had left, the whole village was being searched for spies by the secret police and tonarigumi.

It seemed the sight of Tyne and Sean had spread words of suspicion to the local authorities who had alerted the imperial navy stationed nearby.  

Everyone had undergone questioning and were cleared. 

They kept questioning and visiting Futuba and Haru, probing for their guilt. The final straw was when they threatened to incarcerate her for potentially harbouring secrets against their country. Treason.

Riku was in the main room and rushed to his mother's defence that saw one of the guards knock him to the ground with a punch. 

Of course, the threats were empty as a means to extort information through fear. Since their reactions and responses were consistently innocent, they were left alone. 

However, no doubt kept on watch just in case.

Eiji cursed at himself for bringing them more trouble. Regardless of intention.  Just being in the house was going to bring guards on their doorstep again.

Tyne stood to leave.

"Apologize Chikafuji-san, sama, but we should be on our way. I will not want to cause you further trouble."  He bowed before Futuba and Haru.

Both nodded their heads with understanding. Everyone rose to see the men off at the back door.

"Wait!" Futuba said to Eiji. 

He watched her hurry away down the hallway and shortly returned carrying something in her hand.

"When you see Hinata again. Give him this and tell him he always has a home here." Futuba tenderly handed Eiji an intricately designed hair comb.

It was the missing half to the one Hinata always wore in his hair.  

A tear slipped from his eyes to land on the shiny dark surface of painted love birds snuggling innocently on a delicately painted cherry blossom branch.  This was Futuba's treasured comb and the last loving memory of her husband she deeply respected and cared for.

"And you too Eiji-kun. You're home is here too." Futuba reassured the man she was proud to call her son. Even if he wasn't born from her womb. 

"Where're you going?" Riku questioned Tyne with shrewd eyes.

"We came to retrieve our car." Tyne answered matter-of-factly.

"The car in the bushes. You won't get to it. The tonarigumi have it watched on shifts."  Riku stated a fact. "I saw them keeping note when I was coming and going from school."

"Why?" Kei gasped.

"Cause it's a car. It looks fancy and it's in the bushes." Riku stated an obvious.  "Anyone with that sort of thing has to be high up and bound to go back to it." 

Kei groaned. Tyne and Sean looked troubled. 

"I'll get you to it, Eiji-niisan." Riku proudly declared. "This time of night the shifts are thin."

"No Riku! Absolutely not!" Eiji protested. "I've caused you enough trouble."

"Yeah! You have." Riku manly stood before Eiji. 

His stubborn determination reminded Eiji of Hinata. 

"I'll make it right. You'll get to your car, leave this place, do whatever you have to do to get back to Aniki." Riku ticked off. "Then you tell that fool to come home." 

Eiji smiled weakly when he saw tears well in Riku's eyes. Of course, he missed his big brother.

"I'm coming too." Keiko declared, dressed and ready to go.

"No! Both of you stay here!" Eiji snapped at his siblings in-law. "There's a curfew, you'll be both be arrested! It's not safe. I'm not fighting a war for you to get caught in the firing line!" 

"Riku, Keiko, listen to your big brother." Haru croakily called out to the gung-ho youngest. "He's fought battles to know wisdom."

"Ojisan. I have to do this." Riku faced Eiji. 

"When you left the first time for war I was too young to know why. You told me to be brave and look after mum. Then Aniki was gone when we moved from our old home."  

Riku explained at his anger and rage at not understanding why the men he looked up to went off to die, and he was left behind to pick up their slack. Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.

He kept wanting to hate his father and elder brothers for not being around to help him fight off bullies or defend their family from thieves or mean people. He couldn't. Especially when their mother was able to make him understand why they weren't there. Eiji and Hinata were young boys who had to be men quickly.

"I understand now Eiji-niisan. You, dad and Aniki sacrifice so much for us and our home here. I want to sacrifice something for you. Let me do this." Riku waited earnestly for Eiji's answer.

Eiji heaved a weary sigh. "As long as it isn't your life. Don't let mother carry that burden." 

"Riku. Keiko." Futuba said, her eyes weary with tears. 

Her children were strong, stubborn creatures who was cursed that trait from her side of the family.

"It'll be okay mother. We'll return. I guarantee it and no one will be the wiser." Keiko gently reassured her.

"That's true. I'd be worried with Keiko wasn't with Riku. Who else can get him out of trouble and safely home?" Haru chuckled. 

"Ojiisan!" Riku frowned, not impressed with his family's lack of confidence for his safe return without Keiko's aid.

"You're that good?" Eiji flashed Keiko a lopsided smile.

"Someone's had to keep this family away from trouble." Keiko stoically confirmed. "I've been acquiring some information from my friends whose fathers are part of the tonarigumi. Small pieces that I've been able to formulate a picture."

Keiko explained that the timing of their visit, and car, had coincided with information she had pieced  from various conversations.

The night before their arrival, there had been a coded message transmitted on the tonarigumi's radio airways. It was suspected to be transmitted in error by the enemy, and so they were intent on decoding it to glean inside information for the navy. Their attempt to intercept caused their radio signal to go silent and be out of action for a few hours. It was restored just before the air raids had attacked them that night.

Sean was fascinated at her ability to decode patterns and events from stringing together pieces of gossip and harmless materials. Her mind was an astounding wonder. He suddenly felt a desire to meet Eiji's lover, for it seemed he held a similar mind. 

"Hey Eiji, can we take her with us?" Sean carefully whispered into Eiji's ear.

He yelped at the harsh pitch Eiji gave to his lobe.

"Something the matter?" Keiko innocently asked.

"He was saying rude things." Eiji frowned at Sean.

Sounds of a siren being blown brought everyone's mind to present matters and tensions to rise.

"Another air raid?"

They were answered with sounds of shattering gunfire. 

Instinctively the family picked up their essentials packed near the door and ran towards the shelter.

This time, Eiji and the other men (along with Riku and Keiko) took the path that would lead back to the car.  Whilst Haru and Futuba fled to the safety of the bomb shelter.