Half an hour later.
A party was going on in the house. The food had long since finished cooking, and there were several half-eaten dishes on the table.
Gou uncapped a champagne bottle with his bare hands and poured the bubbling contents into his wet glass. He then proceeded to shout at the top of his lungs as he raised it into the air.
“TO LIFE! TO GOOD FORTUNE! TO AKIRA!”
“…Isn’t that your tenth cup, Tou-san?”
As soon as he had heard the news, Gou had rushed out of the house without a single shred of hesitation and come back 10 minutes later with bottles of expensive champagne and expensive meat. What had followed were several toasts and a hearty meal. Looking at her now drunk father, Akane smiled with her mouth open as if she wanted to say something, but had no idea how to put her feeling into words. Her eye twitched as her cheeks slightly cramped.
“Tou-san… what happened to no alcohol on the weekdays due to work…?”
To this, Gou’s jovial face turned into a overly stern expression as he raised one finger.
“Akane. My son, your brother, who has Mana Paralysis may I add, is one of the only two S-rank Maestros to be produced in Japan’s history. If we don’t celebrate this I’ll ban liquor from the house.”
“Right…” Akane replied as her eye twitched a bit faster and panic started to show in her face.
Tou-san… that’s nice and all, but, behind you! Look behind you!
”Akira! You’re today’s star! Have a drink for celebra-”
As Gou reached over to get a glass for Akira, the room’s temperature dropped by several degrees, literally. Shivers going down his spine, Gou robotically turned around to the sight of his wife serenely smiling while hitting the ladle against her palm slowly with a light sound. On the ladle, frozen bits of soup could be seen. His face drained of the drunken red into a ghastly white as sweat trickled down his forehead.
“…I sincerely apologize.”
Now sober, Gou plopped down into his chair and sipped his champagne quietly. Seeing her docile husband, Haruna turned to Akira who had broken into a slight sweat. As she spoke to him, his throat made an involuntary gulping sound.
“Y-yes?” he stuttered.
Seeing her stiff son, Haruna let out a slight laugh and the room became warm again. She walked up to her tense son and gave him a hug. Relieved, Akira’s loudly beating heart gradually silenced itself.
“Life has been tough,” Haruna whispered to her son while caressing his head. “I’m happy for you.”
“Yes.” Gou was speaking once more, his mouth forming a grin reminiscent of a certain vanishing cat from fiction. “Congratulations.”
Akira averted his eyes. Those heartfelt sentences along with the tightness of Haruna’s hug were more than enough for him for him to comprehend their feelings. Haruna and Gou had always worried about Akira due to his condition, and it had been obvious to him no matter how hard they had tried to conceal it. He felt a warm, comforting feeling flooding into his chest as if he had drunk a hot cup of cocoa on a cold, winter day. Hesitating, Akira stayed silent with his mother in his arms for a good ten seconds before closing his eyes.
“When I was younger… I wished to become a Maestro.” Steadily, he managed to get out the words he wished to say. “But, as you know, I soon gave up after learning about my situation and experiencing it first hand.”
As he paused, he found that the room had entered a silent state. Not a single breath could be heard. It was so silent, that he could hear the champagne bubbling in his father’s glass. Although he had closed his eyes, Akira instinctively knew that the gazes of his family were on him. Even though he felt slightly discomforted by the sudden silence, Akira continued.
“I thought to myself, ‘It’s impossible, I can’t do it,’ and so I never really felt anything even when I failed, because I thought such feats were out of my reach anyways. However…”-he opened his eyes a little-“Everyone here supported me and worried for me. I’ve put a great burden on everyone, and I want to apologize. But, I would also like to say this.”
Gently grasping Haruna’s shoulders, he slowly pulled her off of him and looked into everyone’s eyes.
“Thank you, Okaa-san, Otou-san, Akane. I swear that the support you gave me, all the times you worried for me, they won’t go to waste.I’ll make you all proud from now on.” Shaking a bit due to a swirl emotions ranging from guilt to resolve, he firmly made a vow.
Haruna was surprised for a moment, but her body began to shake as she let out her signature laugh. Brushing off Akira’s hands, she leaned in to once more embrace him.
“Ufufufufufu. But Akira, you always have made us proud.”
With this heartfelt moment, the party continued into the night.