Chapter 21: Enzan’s Theory


Netto waited on the street corner, debating whether or not to just go home. He had come this far, yet he wasn’t sure he wanted to go any further. Not after what happened yesterday. Not after seeing Enzan in such a vulnerable state.

Oi! Netto!”

Netto turned to see Meiru and Dekao running up to him. “Hey, you guys!” he called, waving at them.

Meiru slowed to a stop and paused to catch her breath. “What are.. you doing… in  this neighborhood?” she gasped. Dekao nodded his head, unable to speak at all.

Netto gave them an odd look. “I got an invitation,” he said shortly. “Why have you guys been running?”

“An invitation? From Enzan?” Meiru asked. She held up her PET, revealing an e-mail displayed on the screen. Roll was studying the e-mail thoughtfully, her back turned to Netto.

“Yeah, I got one just like that!” Netto exclaimed.

“‘If you want to know the truth behind everything, come to my house at noon,’” Roll recited, reading the e-mail out loud. “Then it just gives directions. It’s not very helpful, is it?”

“Not with finding out what he wants, no,” Netto said. “I just can’t figure that guy out.”

“No one can.”

The three jumped back from the source of the voice in alarm. The woman in black who had spoken looked at them, no emotion in her eyes.

“Miyuki-san!” Meiru squeaked. “What are you doing here?”

“I was sent the same invitation,” Miyuki replied. “Higure Yamitaro, Midorikawa Kero, and your teacher were sent invitations too.”

“Mariko-sensei?” Dekao repeated. “Just what does Enzan have in mind that he would want Mariko-sensei to be there too?”

“Maybe he just wants to prove what a jerk he is.”

Netto yelped and whirled around. “Yaito-chan! Don’t sneak up on me like that!” he yelled.

Yaito smiled at Netto innocently. Beside her, Tohru wore a sheepish look and was rubbing the back of his head.

“Are you all going to Hikari Enzan’s house, or are you going to stay here and talk about what a jerk he is?” Miyuki asked, rubbing the crystal ball she held in her hands with her fingertips.

“Are you going?” Tohru asked.

“It sounds interesting,” Miyuki said flatly. “And business has been slow. From what I understand, everyone else who received an invitation is going.”

Netto looked at his PET and noted the time. “We better decide now. I say go.”

Yaito and Meiru nodded their agreement.

“I guess so,” Tohru said. “I was hoping to receive a letter from Papa today, but I guess it can wait.”

“I’ll go,” Dekao said sulkily.

“Where’s your father?” Meiru asked.

Tohru shrugged. “He’s on a business trip. I’m not sure where he is or when he’ll be back.”

“That’s odd, my father is on a business trip too,” Yaito said thoughtfully.

“No, it’s not,” Netto argued. “My father has been on a business trip for some time too.”

“My parents are on vacation,” Meiru said. “They would have taken me with them, but they left before school started.”

“My father left right before school too,” Tohru said, frowning.

“We are going to be late,” Miyuki cut in.

“That’s right,” Yaito said. “Let’s go!”

“What were we standing around talking about anyway?” Dekao asked Netto as they started down the road.

Netto shrugged. “I can’t remember. It must not have been important.”

--                        --                         --

“Does anyone want tea?” Haruka asked brightly, looking around the living room. Higure was sitting on the couch, muttering to himself. Kero was sitting on the same couch and fiddling with her hands. It was obvious by the look on her face that she was wondering what she was doing here. Mariko was sitting next to Kero and wore a similar look. Miyuki was sitting at the far end of the couch, looking into her crystal ball intently.

Netto, Tohru, Meiru, Yaito, and Dekao were sitting on the floor around a small table. They all looked around Enzan’s house with interest, for they had never seen the inside of it before. Those looking for torture devices or other signs of evil (Dekao and Yaito in particular) were disappointed. From where Netto was seated he could see into the kitchen. There was a brown-haired man sitting at the table, sipping a cup of coffee and staring at a picture. His eyes were red and there were bags underneath them, but his face was shaven, his clothes were clean, and he looked like an average person. Netto wondered if he was recovering from a cold.

“What we would really like is to know what this is about,” Higure replied. “No offense, Hikari-san, but your son is the one who invited us all here. We show up and he’s nowhere in sight.”

“Oh, Enzan?” Haruka tilted her head to the side and smiled. “He’s upstairs in his room. I was so surprised at seeing so many people, I completely forgot to tell him you were here.”

“I hope we’re not being a bother,” Kero said apologetically.

“Of course not!” Haruka said. “Today’s my day off, so I’m happy to have company to entertain.” She made her way up the stairs, leaving the group by themselves.

“I hope she makes it fast,” Dekao said. “I want to go back to my game.”

“Dekao, don’t be rude,” Yaito admonished. “Enzan may have a really good reason for having us all here.”

“But I don’t understand why I’m here,” Mariko said. “I haven’t seen you all in several weeks! And Midorikawa-san—”

“Please, just call me Kero,” Kero interrupted.

“Kero-san hasn’t met any of you in person,” Mariko finished, correcting herself.

“Then why did you come?” Meiru asked, looking at the newswoman with interest.

“I couldn’t resist such an interesting e-mail,” Kero replied, laughing a little. “Besides, I was hoping to get some interviews from some of the participants in the N1 Grand Prix. I’m doing a cover story on it and interviews would really help my story.”

“Interviews?” Dekao repeated, his eyes lighting up. “You mean, you’d interview all of us?”

“This is all very nice,” Higure said, interrupting. “But why are we here?”

“You’re here because my son asked you to be here,” the man in the kitchen said. Netto watched him get up from the table and walk into the room.

Kero gasped, recognizing him. “Hikari Yuuichirou!”

Dr. Hikari glanced at her, but he kept his attention on Higure. “My son is very smart, and he knows what he is doing. If you’re here because he’s invited you, then he has a good reason for doing so.”

The group gaped openly at him as one. Meiru couldn’t believe someone so handsome could be the idiot who nearly blew up the Science Labs. The other netbattlers had similar thoughts, although the boys glossed over the handsome part. Dr. Hikari was young and his features were flattering, although time and wear had given him a rough appearance. His expression was serious and his eyes were hard.

“I can’t believe it!” Higure exclaimed, breaking the silent awe of those around him. “You’re the ‘great idiot’ who nearly destroyed the Science Labs?”

“I’m not sure on the ‘great idiot’ part, but I am Hikari Yuuichirou, if that’s what you mean,” Dr. Hikari said coldly.

“Higure, you shouldn’t judge people by their appearance.”

Enzan stepped out of the shadowy stairway and returned the stares he was receiving. “After all,” he continued, his voice emotionless. “None of this is real.”

…                         …                         …

Count Elec stared at the man wearing the fish mask for a second. “You’re crazy, Beef,” he said incredulously. “What you’re suggesting is suicide!”

“Elec has a point,” Mahajarama said, watching the two men glare at each other from a safe distance. “Breaking into the building and rushing in without knowing what to expect is a rather rash plan.”

“We have some idea of what to expect,” Saloma said. “I have a map of the entire  building, including the part hidden underground where Immersion keeps their little toy, the NetWorld and its machines. We have other people working on taking out whatever security they have.”

“Our only worry should be breaking into the NetWorld and stopping it from the inside,” Beef said, picking up on Saloma’s words. “Everything else should be taken care of.”

“That is more well-planned then just rushing in,” Mahajarama commented.

“But it’s still crazy!” Madoi cried. “We don’t even know what the NetWorld is for, much less how to break into the system.”

“Madoi brings up another good point,” Mahajarama said dryly.

“We do know some things about the NetWorld’s systems,” Saloma said. “It’s based off standard virtual reality programming, only using more powerful and integrative technology to create the high quality world. That’s why they call it the NetWorld, because it mirrors the real world almost perfectly. Using our net navis, we should be about to have them navigate the NetWorld without trouble.”

“Ah, an excellent comeback,” Mahajarama said.

“Do you ever do anything except agree with people?” Madoi shouted, pointing at the dark-skinned man.

“I do,” Mahajarama said. “However, I like to know what I’m getting into before I get into it, if you know what I mean. If we wait much longer, we won’t have a say in what Immersion does. They will obtain their goals, and we will be at their mercy. In what I have seen and discovered here, I have concluded that we have no choice but to follow Beef’s plan.”

Saloma looked impressed. “That’s the most words I’ve heard him say at one time,” she said to Elec.

Elec nodded. “He doesn’t do it often. I believe Mahajarama is right on this one, Madoi. In order to defeat Immersion, we’ll have to become Net Agents ourselves.”

Madoi shuddered. “All right, all right! I’ll go along with this plan. But I’m no Net Agent, do you hear me?”

“We hear you,” Mahajarama and Elec said at the same time.

Elec leaned over and whispered into Saloma’s ear. “This is the way we always have to get her to do anything. She’s very stubborn when she wants to be.”

“I see,” Saloma said, feeling a little unnerved at Elec’s friendliness.

“Are we all prepared?” Beef asked grimly. “This may be a mission of no return, where danger—”

“Get on with it!” Elec cried in English.

Beef sighed. He hated cutting his speeches short. “Let’s go.”

…                         …                         …

“What do you mean, none of this is real?” Netto asked suspiciously.

“I mean that everything you see around you isn’t real, and the things you hold as true are lies,” Enzan replied, walking closer to the group. “This world isn’t real. It’s created by an advanced virtual reality program.”

Silence filled the room for a moment. Dekao looked confused, Netto and Tohru were exchanging looks of disbelief, Meiru was trying to hold back laughter, and Yaito was watching Enzan’s face carefully. The adults also had mixed reactions. Kero had leaned forward and was listening intently, her journalistic instincts kicking in. Miyuki’s face never changed its emotionless expression, while Higure looked torn between shock and amusement. Dr. Hikari looked startled, but he, like Yaito, was also watching Enzan carefully. Haruka, who had followed Enzan down the stairs, emitted a small gasp and covered her mouth, staring in horror at her son.

Higure snorted. “You are crazy. You can’t prove that!”

“Would I call you all here to announce something like that without proof?” Enzan asked. “If you’re willing to hear me out, I’ll give it to you.”

“I think,” Dr. Hikari said firmly, speaking before anyone else could, “That we should hear this evidence of yours, Enzan.”

Enzan spared the scientist a glance. Dr. Hikari was now sober, although evidence from his previous drunkenness showed in his red eyes. Those eyes were cold and calculating, and he looked like he hadn’t smiled in years. He was very different from the friendly man that Enzan knew to be Netto’s father.

“Let’s start with Hino Ken,” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets. The PET was in its carrier and Rockman was listening intently. Enzan would bring him out only when necessary. “He was, as some of you know, an official of the N1 Grand Prix.”

“No, he wasn’t,” Kero said, shaking her head. “I’ve never heard of him.”

“He told us he was an official!” Yaito cried.

“And he was telling the truth,” Enzan said grimly. He pulled out two pieces of paper from his back pocket and handed them to the closest person, which happened to be Netto. “These papers are printouts of a list of the officials and participants at the N1. Rockman got them from the webpage run by the officials. Notice that Hino Ken’s name is on the earlier dated paper under the officials listing, but is missing from later page. There’s also an added participant, Fireman, who wasn’t there before.”

“So how does Fireman figure into all of this?” Dr. Hikari said, catching on quickly.

“Fireman is Hino Ken’s net navi,” Enzan replied. “I know this for a fact. During the netbattle Netto and I fought with Fireman, we both noticed that his movements were obviously forced. He wasn’t fighting by his choice; someone was making him do it.”

“You also claimed that Hino Ken was Fireman,” Netto replied. “How do you defend that?”

“It backs up my theory,” Enzan said smoothly. He had been expecting the challenge. “Unfortunately, only I saw physical evidence that seemed to indicate that Hino Ken was Fireman. If this is a virtual reality program, it would be easy to disguise Hino Ken as his navi and put him into a netbattle. After all, the Internet and everything electronically controlled is just another part of the program.”

“Is that your only evidence?” Kero asked. She was fascinated by Enzan’s words, although she didn’t seem to believe them.

“There’s more,” Enzan replied. “Something else Rockman and I found was extremely interesting. It seems several people have been missing for some time. Many of them are related to most of you.” He gestured toward the younger group on the floor.

“What are you implying?” Meiru asked. “My parents are on vacation, that’s all!”

“And my father is on a business trip!” Yaito cried. Tohru and Netto nodded their agreement.

“How long have they been on vacation?” Enzan asked.

“Well, they left before school got out…” Meiru replied.

“How long ago was that?” Enzan replied. “Nearly a month. I bet the others have been gone for the same period of time. They all left on the same day, according to what Rockman found, and they haven’t been heard from since.”

“That’s not…” Yaito cut herself off, realizing something. “I haven’t heard from my father yet, actually.”

“I haven’t heard from my father either,” Tohru said softly. “I’ve been sending him e-mails telling him about the N1 Grand Prix, but he hasn’t replied.”

“Come to think of it,” Dekao spoke up suddenly, looking pale. “My brother are visiting relatives, but he’s been gone for a real long time. I haven’t heard from him either…” His voice trailed off.

Meiru bit her lip. It was obvious by the look on her face that she hadn’t heard word from her parents as well.

“Enzan…” Haruka whispered. “What are you saying? I don’t—I don’t understand.”

Enzan took a breath. “This reality is created by an advanced virtual reality program. For some reason, whoever is behind this didn’t feel it was necessary to program in their presence.”

“Program in?” Dr. Hikari repeated, frowning. “This is very fascinating, but I fail to understand how you reached this theory to begin with.”

Enzan took a breath. “I’m not Hikari Enzan,” he said quietly.

Haruka gasped and the rest of the group reacted with similar shock. Even Dr. Hikari’s serious expression melted into surprise.

“Hear me out!” Enzan said sharply before anyone else could speak. He pulled out his PET and held it up “Rockman can tell you I have no memory of being Hikari Enzan.”

Un,” Rockman said, nodding. “Yeah. Enzan-sama does not remember anything about being Hikari Enzan. He has knowledge and skills my operator previously did not know. I have been with him long enough to become convinced that he is not Hikari Enzan.”

“But Enzan…” Haruka said, drifting off. She stepped toward him and reached out to touch him, but her hand fell to her side before she could complete the motion.

“If you’re not our son, then who are you?” Dr. Hikari asked quietly.

Enzan turned away from Haruka, unable to stand the pain in her eyes. “My name is Ijuuin Enzan,” he said firmly, “And I do not belong here.”

The room exploded with noise as everyone tried to speak at once. Yaito and Dekao were shouting insults at Enzan, calling him crazy. Meiru and Tohru were trying to calm the two down. Higure was laughing and Kero was covering her mouth, trying to hide her amusement. Haruka had let out a wail at Enzan’s words and Dr. Hikari was trying to quiet her. Only Netto, who was watching Enzan closely, and Miyuki, who was stroking her crystal ball, were silent.

Enzan slipped his hand in his pocket and closed his fingers around the device. Not yet, he thought. I have to wait just a little while longer…

“Enough!” Dr. Hikari roared. The room slowly became silent. Dr. Hikari gestured toward Enzan. “He isn’t done yet. We should at least let him finish.”

“And then haul him off to a mental institution,” Higure said loudly. “Come on, Hikari. It’s obvious what’s going on here.”

“Is it?” Enzan asked calmly.

Higure snorted. “You’re jealous of Netto. He won the N1 and you lost, so you concocted this story to gain your revenge. Your father seems to back you up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t help you create this story or the evidence you have.”

“I had nothing to do with this,” Dr. Hikari said angrily. “I just want to hear what my son has to say.”

Enzan was about to respond when a hand tapped his shoulder. He turned to find himself staring into Haruka’s eyes.

“Enzan,” Haruka cried. There were tears in her eyes and she wiped them away. “What’s going on? If you aren’t my son, then where is he?”

Enzan looked away. “Ma—Haruka-san, I’m not trying to hurt you intentionally. Hikari Enzan doesn’t really exist. He is just a fabrication of this virtual reality program.”

Haruka drew away from him as if he had bit her. Dr. Hikari placed his hands on her shoulders and glared at Enzan. “That was uncalled for. Apologize to your mother, Enzan,” he said.

Enzan resisted the urge to snap at Dr. Hikari. “I am only stating the truth,” he said. “Hikari Enzan does not exist.”

“And neither does Ijuuin Netto, I suppose,” Netto said, standing up. “So what does that make me, Enzan? I have memories of being Ijuuin Netto. Does that make me a fabrication of  this virtual reality program?”

Enzan stared back at Netto, his expression unchanged. “You may be. If you do not know any other life than Ijuuin Netto, then you may be a part of the virtual reality program.”

“So by that logic, all of us who can’t remember anything but our lives in this ‘reality’ aren’t real?” Netto asked. “Are you saying that you’re the only real person here?”

“It’s the only thing that makes sense,” Enzan replied calmly. “An advanced virtual reality program is the only thing that explains how I can remember things that the rest of you don’t.”

“And what if we say you’re just crazy?” Higure snapped. “This is ridiculous!”

“So you’re saying—you’re saying we’re nothing more than data?” Yaito asked, sounding horrified.

“I’m sorry, but this is just too much for me to believe,” Kero mumbled.

“If this virtual reality system supports programming similar to navis, than that’s the only thing that makes sense,” Enzan said. “In fact, that has to be the explanation, because otherwise all your thoughts and actions would be preprogrammed.”

“Preprogrammed? That’s an even worse thought than being data!” Meiru exclaimed.

“Blues,” Netto said, looking down at his PET. “Is what Enzan’s suggesting possible?”

Blues frowned. “It’s highly doubtful, even if such technology were available. It’s more likely that Enzan believes something that is true to him, but him alone.”

“The chances are 35587943 to 1 against Enzan’s theory,” Numberman put in. “What Blues has said is much more likely.”

“I’m not crazy!” Enzan snapped, losing his temper at last.

“No one said you were,” Yuuichirou said calmly. “We’re just trying to make some sense of what you’re saying.”

“It makes perfect sense,” Enzan said angrily. “What about all the evidence I’ve given so far?”

“You have no solid evidence,” Dr. Hikari replied. “All you have are theories and things that could easily be forged.”

“But I know he isn’t Hikari Enzan!” Rockman cried.

“You’re his navi and you could be in on the whole thing,” Higure pointed out.

“I’m not!” Rockman yelled, nearly in tears of frustration.

“It’s all right, Rockman,” Enzan said calmly. “He has a point.”

“Let me get this straight,” Dr. Hikari said. “You’re not Hikari Enzan. You’re someone else placed in a virtual reality program. Everything around you—including us—could be nothing more than something created by the program.”

“That is a possibility,” Enzan admitted. He wasn’t sure where Dr. Hikari was going.

“So we’re not real, in other words,” Dr. Hikari replied.

“I didn’t say—” Enzan began.

Dr. Hikari held up a hand to cut him off. “Now it’s my turn,” he said.

Enzan gritted his teeth. Dr. Hikari was treating him like a child. He hated being treated like that. He had spent his whole life proving himself to people who thought he was nothing more than a child.

“So, we aren’t real, and Hikari Enzan doesn’t exist and this world isn’t real.” Dr. Hikari pausing, looking around the world. “However, we believe we’re real. We have memories, emotions, and individual thoughts. If we believe we’re real, then what right do you have to tell us we’re not?”

“I never said—” Enzan tried again.

“So, in essence, you’re superior to us because you’re real and we’re not,” Dr. Hikari interrupted. “Therefore you have the right to tell us the truth and what to do.”

“Papa!” Rockman cried. “You’re not listening!”

“I am listening, and I’ve heard enough,” Dr. Hikari said sharply. He walked up to Enzan and studied the boy. Enzan took a step back, unnerved. “Tell me, Enzan,” Dr. Hikari said gently. “How long have you believed this?”

He thinks I’m insane, Enzan thought. He thinks I’ve completely lost my mind, and I might have been like this for awhile. He just went and destroyed my entire theory and evidence by saying I think I’m superior to everyone else.

He closed his fist around the device in his pocket. Think, he told himself. Focus! There has to be something I haven’t thought of yet. There has to be something…

“Papa, he’s telling the truth,” Rockman said pleadingly. “You have to believe him!”

“Why should he?” Netto asked. “Why should he believe you? It’s obvious you’re just trying to please your operator so he won’t punish you. You don’t have to stand by someone who hurts you so much, Rockman.”

“Give me the PET,” Dr. Hikari said, holding his hand out. “I know about your punishment of Rockman, and that’s not what I made him for. Just hand him over, and we’ll talk. You can get some help, if you want.”

Think! Enzan mentally cried. There has got to be something! Anything! Wait…

“Hikari-hakase, what was it you did that cost you your job?” he asked, backing away slightly. “I’ve heard so much about that stupid mistake, but no one says what it was.” He looked around the room. “Does anyone know?”

“Of course we do!” Higure snapped. “It was nearly a nationwide disaster!”

“What was?” Enzan asked sharply.

Higure opened his mouth and closed it repeatedly. “I can’t remember,” he confessed.

“Midorikawa, you’re a newswoman,” Enzan said, turning toward the woman. “Surely you know what happened.”

“I… no,” Kero said, surprised. “I don’t know what it was. That’s funny, I just did a story on it…”

“Hikari-hakase, what was it?” Enzan asked. “What did you do?”

Dr. Hikari looked surprised. “You’re changing the subject—”

“Just answer me!” Enzan snapped.

“I don’t remember,” Dr. Hikari said quietly. “But that’s beside the point—”

“Isn’t that strange?” Enzan asked. “No one can remember what is was you were fired for, but everyone knows you were fired and that it was a near disaster.” He pulled out the device and held it up. “I may be the only real person here, but I can prove it. This device disrupts the virtual reality programming. I can hold it without being disrupted, proving there’s more to me than mere data. You want me to prove this reality isn’t real? All I have to do is hold it up against a wall.”

A loud crashing sound filled the room. Everyone in the room turned toward Miyuki, shocked. Her crystal ball lay in shards at her feet, and she was standing up. “I think not,” she said calmly. “Hikari Enzan, I’m placing you under arrest for the murder of Hino Kenichi.”

…                         …                         …

The office was large and lavishly decorated. It was only to be expected of the president of huge and successful company. The paintings, statues, and other various art pieces had cost him millions altogether. It was all to create an image of wealth and prosperity in order to impress rivals and partners. The décor was picked by the very best in their field and arranged by experts to create the impression of power.

It was as cold as it was worthless.

Ijuuin stared at his desktop, his head supported by his hands. He tried to focus on the excellent quality of the design and the rarity of the wood, but only one thought kept running through his mind.

It was worthless.

“Ijuuin, your son is in grave peril,” Beef said. “We know for a fact now that he was the first target of Immersion. They killed the bodyguards with him in order to get him.”

“I know all this,” he replied impatiently. He was angry at being reminded of the two dead men. They had worked for the company for years, and he had trusted them on several occasions with his son’s life, though Enzan wasn’t aware of the arrangement. The boy didn’t know that the men would often follow him when he was alone. The men had seen Enzan in danger and had done their duty, and for that they sacrificed their lives.

They had died for nothing. Enzan had been taken. The worst thing Ijuuin had done in his life was informing the families of the bodyguards that they would not come home.

“Ijuuin, they wanted Enzan alive for a reason,” Beef responded. “They’re planning on killing your son. They may have already done so.”

His son was in danger. He may already be dead. That fact alone made everything else worthless.

Ijuuin reached into his pocket and pulled out a small key with a shaking hand. His fingers traced the designs and grooves on the desk until he found the drawer he was searching for. He slid the key into the hidden lock and twisted it to the left. Once he heard the clicking noise that indicated it was unlocked, he slowly opened it and pulled out a large book.

Ijuuin opened the book to the first page and traced the picture on it with one finger. The small picture of Enzan, just three months old, filled his vision.

“I don’t believe you, doctor. That boy is not my son!”

“The DNA tests prove otherwise and the mother identified you as the father before she died, Ijuuin-san. He is your son.”

“So what if he is? That doesn’t make it my business what happens to him. Send him to an orphanage or something.”

“There are laws in this country, Ijuuin-san. You are his father, and therefore, it is your responsibility to take care of him. His mother is dead and she had no relatives we could find.”

“Fine, I’ll take the boy. What’s his name?”

 “The mother died before she could give him one. She was in ill health before she came to the hospital.”

He remembered staring down at the child, much like he was doing with the picture. Until that point, he hadn’t considered what the boy was going through. His mother was dead when the boy was brought into the world. For awhile his health had been in danger, and the doctors feared he would not make it. And now he did not even have a name to call his own.


“What was that, Ijuuin-san?”

“His name is Enzan. Ijuuin Enzan.”

Ijuuin turned the page. The next pictures were of Enzan at age two and three. It was amazing how much the boy had grown in so little time. The picture of two-year-old Enzan showed him laying on the floor, carefully filling in a coloring book. Ijuuin should have found it strange that a two-year-old would be able to color within the lines, but maybe the fact that Enzan was coloring the sun purple and the grass blue threw him off.

The other picture, of a three-year-old Enzan, showed him blinking owlishly at the camera. He was wearing glasses, and they made his large eyes look even bigger. Ijuuin smiled at the memory. They had discovered Enzan’s need for glasses when he was around three. The eye doctor wanted Enzan to wear glasses, but Ijuuin had insisted the boy was smart enough to wear contacts. It took the boy two weeks to learn how to put them in, but he had figured it out and preferred the contacts. He even picked out blue contacts to change his eye color and wore the blue contacts ever since.

Ijuuin continued the flip through the photo album, smiling occasionally at the pictures. Each page held a different picture of Enzan. Ijuuin stopped smiling as the pictures showed Enzan at an older age. The boy had changed so much from his early childhood. He smiled rarely in the pictures and always looked so serious. Ijuuin sighed. I pushed him so much… how could he possibly smile at the camera when he had nothing to smile about?

He reached the last picture and stopped. It was a picture of Enzan sitting at his vice president’s desk. He had his head bent forward and seemed to be studying some papers intently. Ijuuin remembered when this picture was taken. He had given Enzan his first major assignment. He had been too confident in his son’s abilities and had given him something that was above him. Enzan had tried his best, but he had failed. Ijuuin closed his eyes and rubbed them, remembering his reaction to Enzan’s failure.

“Father?” Enzan asked. “What happened?” He was standing in front of Ijuuin’s desk, looking concerned. No one had told him why he had been called to the president’s office.

“Get out of my sight,” Ijuuin growled. “You ruined everything!”

Enzan was taken aback. “I did everything you told me too!”

“Because of you we lost the contract!” Ijuuin roared, slamming his fist on his desk. “If they give it to our competitors, we could be ruined!”

“I apologize,” Enzan said softly. He had realized arguing with his father in the state the man was in was futile.

“You apologize?” Ijuuin repeated. “That’s meaningless, coming from you. You have ruined everything since the day you were born, Enzan. If it weren’t for you, your mother would have lived! Will you apologize for that too?”

How the boy had turned pale, Ijuuin remembered. His eyes went wide, and the skin of his face became white. He had turned and left without a word—and Ijuuin hadn’t cared. He didn’t even notice the boy was gone, he was so worked up over the contract. And like many things in business, three months later IPC was doing better then ever and Ijuuin had forgotten about the contract. He had forgotten about the conversation. At the time, it no longer mattered.

How much damage did he inflict on Enzan with those careless words? The boy had only been eleven at the time. He was only twelve now.

Ijuuin turned the last page and studied the picture on it for awhile. The woman on the picture smiled back at him. She was wearing a kimono and had an umbrella over her shoulder, but she was smiling for what was supposed to be a serious picture. Ijuuin slammed the book shut, unable to bare the pictures anymore. He slowly let his head sink down to rest against his desk, a tear escaping from his eye.