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Chocolate & Matcha Chapter One

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Chapter One

Osaka, Japan


In the garden following the path of arranged onyx marble stepping-stones, past the water basin and near cherry blossom trees in tranquil bloom, Kazuhiko Wakahisa sat on the stone bench sipping green tea he prepared. His eyes wandered past the shrubberies arranged simplistically around the garden to the jade fountain. Two intricately sculptured jade dragons twisted around a miniature jade Mount Fuji. Crystal clear water serenely flowed through their fangs, cascading down Mount Fuji until the water trickled into the base.

Kazuhiko continued observing the flowing water wishing he could wash away the events of the past year. Taking a deep breath, he inhaled the peaceful air and sipped more of his tea, gazing upon the dragons in awe, silencing his thoughts. The fountain was his favorite escape from a busy day as a teishu, host of a tea ceremony. His job as a teishu wasn’t demanding. However, the mastery and sophistication within his family name brought stress from the innumerable guests wanting to taste the tea of the last remaining male teishu in the Wakahisa family.

As a Wakahisa, his family name meant superb and well-prepared tea. As a tea host, his skills passed on from a long line of Wakahisas led tea drinkers to say, Wakahisa ryu no aji ga hoshii (“give me that Wakahisa flavor”). His family talents and history gave him high esteem amongst the aristocrats of Japan and around the world. His high grade of tea sold worldwide as an international delicacy giving him global fame. Kazuhiko was the only Wakahisa left that could continue his great-grandfather's legacy over nine generations ago, Tenoshi Wakahisa, the first Wakahisa to become a master at preparing green tea. Being a teishu was a heavy burden, but Kazuhiko took pride in his honorable profession. If only he had shared the same standards concerning his love life, he might have been happy.

Allowing the sound of the fountains streaming water to dissipate, Kazuhiko looked at his simple black-colored ceramic teacup and admired the handiwork. He studied the kintsugi, repaired with gold, cup. It was a priceless family heirloom passed down from his great-grandfather Tenoshi, crafted by an artist who had become his great-grandfather’s dearest friend. Tenoshi had conserved dozens of dishes, sculptures, and paintings from the wandering artist and philosopher Yazushi. Tenoshi had provided lodging to Yazushi, who had wandered around Japan for ten years during the Meiji period.

Kazuhiko had heard Yazushi and his grandfather had been retired samurai, but he hadn’t found any concrete proof to validate the story. His great-grandfather’s past was still a bit of a mystery.

Rubbing the kintsugi cup, Kazuhiko gazed at the cloudy blue sky. Despite its rarity, the kintsugi cup was his favorite. It embodied true love. The only love Kazuhiko was willing to submit himself to anything else was for his carnal pleasure. The modest rustic black kintsugi cup was unique. Unlike its sibling tarnished yellow replicas, the cup was strong, well designed, and full of history. The kintsugi cup burned at an extraordinary temperature for stability, splendidly varnished to enhance the beauty of its deep black pigment, proclaimed the genius of Yazushi’s craft. Kazuhiko’s heart swelled with longing and sadness. He could only imagine his great-grandfather Tenoshi’s suffering from having found and lost the love of his life.

Unlike his parent’s brutal façade of love, Kazuhiko could easily envision true love from journals left by his great-grandfather recounting the love he had for his wife. His great-grandfather had loved his wife with the full force of his spirit, mind, and body that after witnessing his wife’s death after giving birth to their only son, the cup had slipped from Tenoshi’s hands, cracking its side and spilling tea intended for his wife.

In the journal, Kazuhiko had read how Yazushi overwhelmed with empathy for the tragedy that had occurred, mended the broken cup with gold in hopes of restoring Tenoshi’s broken heart. Kazuhiko’s widowed great-grandfather never remarried and never got over the loss of his soul mate. Centuries later, the kintsugi cup felt weightless and perfect in Kazuhiko’s hands as a reminder of true love’s heavy burden.

Kazuhiko sipped his green tea savoring the pleasure of its bitter taste within the accompanied kintsugi cup. A smooth breeze disturbed the densely lined cherry blossom trees scattering soft pink petals around the garden. Kazuhiko, for a moment, forgot the hardship that he had created.

“Kazu, peace seems to have returned to you. I’m glad….”

Upon hearing his nickname, Kazuhiko turned to the voice of his best friend, Kenshin Hayashi. Kenshin, dressed in an ordinary but well-crafted black business suit, had just returned from working at his family’s law firm, Hayashi Lawyers.

His meticulous friend appeared weary as he yawned, stretching his hands above his head.

“Seems you had a hard day?” Kazuhiko replied.

“Nothing a few drinks can’t solve.” Kenshin paused to yawn. “A nice cold beer would be nice right about now.”

“I have no alcohol. How about a nice cup of tea.” Kazuhiko turned on the stove built into the grey stone table and waited for the kettle to steam.

Kazuhiko was proud of Kenshin’s continued success. Kenshin’s reputation as a winning lawyer brought fame to his family law firm. His friend was a cunning debater, fluent in four languages, and possessed a vast understanding of law and medicine. It was no surprise that he had never lost a court case. Kenshin saved him from a grave embarrassment that could have ruined the Wakahisa family name and tea's legacy.

“Of course. Your mother is out of the country in the states. What kind of trouble shall we plan?” Kenshin continued as he walked the short distance to sit next to him.

“Ken, I love my mother…when she is far away. These last few months have been worse than the chaos Hanako brought to my life. If I have to meet another of mother’s female acquaintances, I’m going to lose it.” Kazuhiko said. He drank the remainder of his tea and grimaced at his friend’s smiling expression.

Scooping a few teaspoons of powdery matcha into each of their cups on the stone table, Kazuhiko picked up the kettle pour hot water over the matcha, and whisked the water and matcha until it was perfectly blended.

“Not like you’re underserving of this treatment. You’re lucky not to be in an arranged marriage now. After all the effort we all had to endure to clear your name, it could have been worse. She could have forced you to marry Hanako, but I think your mother saw through that woman. Hanako would have done more harm to your family had you two married.” Kenshin paused. “Now that things have settled down, what misfortune will you conjure while the witch is away?” Kenshin smirked, his eyes gleamed with an identical mischief Kazuhiko knew reflected within his own.

“I know not the misfortune you speak of, after all, I’m a chaste man,” he jokingly replied, clasping his chest.

“I call bullshit.” Kenshin laughed.

Kazuhiko joined in on the heartfelt laugh. His best friend knew him better than his mother.

“Drink, old friend, it has been a hectic year for us, but thanks to you, it is done now,” Kazuhiko said, handing Kenshin a beige teacup.

Taking the cup, Kenshin thanked him, “Here’s to hoping never again, old friend. On a good note, you’re free to come out and play at Lotus. As long as you don’t make a scene, we should be fine.” Kenshin said, wagging his eyebrows mischievously.

Kazuhiko smiled at the idea of going to Lotus. Lotus was one of his frequented nightclubs in Osaka. It had been almost two years since he had partied at the club. The last time he had met a woman who had created one of the biggest and longest headaches he had ever experienced. He cringed at the thought of the incident.

“I’m one lucky bastard. That psycho almost cost me everything.” Kazuhiko disturbed his hair in annoyance, loosening his bonded tail.

“If I hadn’t been such a great defender, you would have been screwed. Next time choose someone who’s not psychotic and devious with millions of adoring fans. I might not be able to bail you out again.” Kenshin paused in his words of warning to sip his tea. “But Hanako was a great actress. She has the public’s confidence, a formidable opponent and a truly crafty one.”

“I don’t believe Hanako will ever receive just desert. Still, no reason for me to remain chained to the doghouse. I need my freedom to explore the clubs of Osaka again.” Kazuhiko exclaimed.

“That’s what got you into trouble in the first place.” Kenshin laughed. “But you better enjoy these last few days before your mother marries you off.”

“A few more nights can’t hurt. How about it, you and me, the special Ks,” Kazuhiko said, referring to their nicknames.

“Kazu, have you learned anything?” Kenshin smirked at him.

“Keep a legal contract with all my clandestine affairs.” Kazuhiko smiled back at his friend, who began laughing.

Sobering himself, Kenshin placed his teacup on the table. “And the Prince has returned. So what’s the first course of action?”

Kazuhiko laughed at the mention of his infamous nickname. At many of the nightclubs in Osaka and Tokyo, he held the reputation of being a playboy. Crowned Prince for his charismatic charm resulting in the many lavish affairs he had conquests. He was proud of his stature, but it was his secret never meant to reach the populace. One woman had changed everything and almost cost him his family’s legacy.

Deemed the Prince, anyone who caught Kazuhiko’s fancy and agreed to be his was Princess. The rules of engagement were simple one lucky Princess could expect his lavished attention, and he took part in her treasures in return. None of his relationships ever lasted over a month, and Kazuhiko was upfront about the deadline. His rules were frank and straightforward, to date, dismiss and quickly forget, yet there were still women lining up to fill the position. Women pleaded to become his Princess across every class, age, and racial spectrum, and most didn’t seek him for his money but his charm and appeal. Who would have believed Japan’s well-known teishu was also one of the biggest flirts. It was a perfect system until one particular woman didn’t fancy his rules and had decided their relationship wasn’t quite over.

Hanako Love was one of the most prominent pop singers known for her mesmerizing voice, fashionable clothing line, and equally fascinating character. After serving tea to Hanako and her manager, she had approached him for a date. Knowing his rules and the month-long expiration date, they had begun their affair. At first, Kazuhiko thought it was fun to date a pop artist, but slowly Hanako’s façade began slipping.

She wasn’t the sweet, cutesy, sassy artist but an obsessively clingy, overly dramatic, and selfish woman who nagged and schemed until things went her way. Kazuhiko had become instantly disenchanted by the childish woman but kept his honor and waited for the relationship's expiration.

Hanako had been one of the most arduous lovers he had ever had. She had insisted that they wear promise rings even though the relationship was only a month arrangement. He bought her diamond jewelry piece not out of a promise but because he had often purchased jewelry for his Princess. He thought nothing of marriage when he instructed his assistant to acquire the gift, but Hanako had used the necklace, earrings, bracelet, and ring to announce that they would marry. Kazuhiko shared no matrimony sentiments. He had told her numerous times he had no intentions to marry.

Kazuhiko cringed as he recalled Hanako’s teasing response, “Oh silly, I know we won’t, but as my Prince for a month, you must agree to my fantasies, so let’s pretend we’re married, right Kazu-chan?”

Kazuhiko could almost beat himself dead he should never have given Hanako his agreement to fulfill any fantasy she had. But having given his word, he honored his promise and allowed Hanako to have a dream pretend marriage. If only he had realized she was setting him up. It looked like they were engaged to outsiders. In truth, Kazuhiko hated the experience but had played along. It was customary for Hanako to send him over 100 text messages in a day, to which he loosely responded. How many times could a person say, “I Love you” before it became meaningless?

On top of that, Hanako had interrupted a few of his tea ceremonies barging in on his guests. Luckily for him, the guests were so overcome by seeing Hanako Love, the pop artist they had allowed her to join in on the ceremony. It had become quickly awkward for Kazuhiko. Hanako would insistently tell the guest that they were engaged. Not wanting to embarrass Hanako, he never corrected her comment nor agreed.

Kazuhiko’s nightmare began when a celebrity journalist had snapped a photo of them hugging while they had been out on a date.

The tabloid opened the public to his private life, and the people believed what they read.

Kazuhiko had managed to convince Hanako to have an interview denying a relationship between them. He should have known then that the parasite was up to something. Hanako had promptly told the journalist that she was fond of tea ceremonies, preferred Wakahisa Tea, and had openly hugged him to show her appreciation.

The public believed their beloved Hanako, and things had returned to semi-normalcy between them. Afterward, Kazuhiko had ensured their dates in secluded areas. He took no chances at having any more attention brought to his personal life. He was happy that the publicity stunt had gained sales, as young people took an interest in drinking sophisticated tea after hearing that their favorite artist was an avid drinker of Wakahisa Tea.

With only two days to spare in their affair, Hanako had become his worst Princess from hell. Kazuhiko wished he had never met her. Hanako’s texting had increased. She insisted that they go out into public places and kept openly fantasizing and planning a wedding that would never happen. She had even bought a wedding gown and arranged for him to be fit for a suit. But, Hanako didn’t stop there as she had confessed her love and tried to bribe him into extending their affair.

Beguilingly he had declined her advances, and she never showed her disappointment.

Kazuhiko recalled the day he had finally arranged for the conclusion of their association. He settled the affair as he usually did with his lovers. He invited Hanako on one last date at a location of her choosing. Hanako preferred an elegant restaurant where the dress code was formal attire, and she had looked stunning in her crème colored gown, but Kazuhiko was no longer interested. It was the tradition that he always ended the affair with his Princess at midnight, his way of keeping to the midnight deadline in fairytales.

After their last dance on the balcony of the restaurant, Kazuhiko bowed, formally ending their affair. Hanako still hadn’t given any indication that she was upset she had warmly smiled in his face. A smile he had often seen her give fans whenever they had been out in public. He remembered Hanako had even curtsied.

“It was fun, Kazuhiko. Are you sure?” Hanko’s pitchy voiced asked with a ring of cheer.

“It was, but you should find someone eager for marriage. I told you I couldn’t give you that nor love.” Kazuhiko replied.

Still, Hanako presented no signs of distress or any emotions other than her usual merry self.

Tilting her head to the side, she smiled again and said, “I thought I could tame the unattainable Prince. I guess I was wrong.” She cheerfully laughed.

There had been no animosity. With that, Kazuhiko gave his farewell and sent the pop singer off. The morning brought his nightmare. Because he hadn’t lived up to her delusional dream of marriage, Hanako called every news company in Tokyo and held a conference.

A weeping Hanako declared on national news that she was pregnant and that he was the father. Her revelation triggered the paparazzi to interrupt his life by following him wherever he went. There was a non-stop photographic and video coverage of their short affair. There were even pictures circulating of their last date right up to the moment he had ended the relationship. Kazuhiko wanted to go before the media to defend his side of the story, but Kenshin had stopped him.

“The press will eat you alive if you go out on your own. Keep quiet, and let’s legally handle this situation.” Kenshin said, towering over him as he had sat on the couch at Lotus in a stupor drinking his fifth tequila shot.

“If she is pregnant, then I’ll marry her to protect my heir, but I won’t love her.” Kazuhiko had dejectedly announced.

“Until we know for sure, continue with your daily life as a teishu, leave the women alone, and don’t say a word to anyone. You’re a chaste man until we can clear this mess.” Kenshin said, pacing.

Kazuhiko smiled, remembering his friend had been more concerned for his welfare. Kenshin had his back as things became increasingly difficult for him to carry on with his daily routine. The paparazzi had exposed information about his private life. They brought interest to women he had previously dated and others who just wanted free advertising—the public exposure to his playboy reputation could cripple his family legacy.

He became primetime entertainment on every newspaper, television network, and social media platform. The headlines labeled him a lecher and mongrel, causing the public to question him and almost morally ruin his family name.

With Kenshin’s help, he paid off the women to claim that the journalist was presenting fraudulent news or that they had lied about having an affair for personal gain. Kenshin’s plan worked in clearing his name momentarily. The only issue left was to deal with a supposedly pregnant Hanako. Kenshin insisted that he never speak with her unless he was around. Kazuhiko had managed just that until one night, she had cornered him. Hanako trapped him in an elevator at a hotel he stayed at during a Tokyo business trip. Her cheery smile was now a nightmarish requiem.

“Marry me, and I’ll make all of this go away. Then we can start a family for real.” She giggled. “If you don’t, I’ll tear down everything your family has created. Everyone will quickly forget about your tea after publicly breaking the heart of their beloved singer.”

Kazuhiko declined her blackmail. As a result, Hanako confirmed to reporters that she was also a part of one of his several clandestine relationships. In the process, she had gotten pregnant and had fallen in love with a heartless womanizer. She had renewed debauched publicity to severe his reputation of being a humble and respected teishu. Hanako had almost ruined him. Kazuhiko had been at the end of his networking capabilities and was losing the battle against Hanako.

Finally, after a court-ordered pregnancy test, the test returned negative, forcing Hanako to admit that she had lied about the pregnancy. She told the public she had done so because she had truly loved him and that he, in the end, had broken her heart. The publicity stunt was marketable in her favor. Her record and concert sales hit an all-time high.

Wakahisa Tea had slumped in sales in Japan but had a remarkable sales increase in America. But, as Hanako said, no one wanted to buy his tea after he had broken the heart of their beloved pop singer, at least in Japan.

Since the incident, his mother had been on a rampage to marry him off in hopes of reviving their company reputation in Japan and curing what she believed to be “a curse of being a male Wakahisa.”

Kazuhiko didn’t share his mother’s beliefs. Love wasn’t a necessity. His parents had proven that concept; he only needed an heir to continue the Wakahisa’s tea legacy. Until he could arrange an open marriage, Kazuhiko would bask in his affairs. Women were like flowers to him, some fragile, some strong, but all of them were enchanting and in need of his sunlight.

Kenshin cleared his throat, bringing him back to the present. “So, what’s the plan? You have to be more cautious now.”

“I’m thinking of all of those beautiful women who miss seeing my face. They must be freezing and distraught from their loneliness,” Kazuhiko said, smiling in reminiscence of his old relationships.

“And I thought you changed. I guess bad publicity made you stronger. Let’s not get caught again, dear friend. I might not be able to bail you out.” Kenshin chuckled, patting Kazuhiko on his back.

Kenshin had been a great friend and an even better lawyer throughout the incident and facilitated reconstructing his image. Because of Kenshin, the public was beginning to portray him as a virtuous man dedicated to his role as a teishu practicing chanyu, the way of tea, and a respectable son in search of a wife. However, Hanako’s latest album, “Shock”, reinforced how he had broken her heart, further simmering his character in the public’s opinion. His company was still recovering, but Hanako’s career flourished.

“I guess I might have to turn down the charm. Don’t you think so, Ken?” Kazuhiko slyly replied.

Baka, idiot, don’t get caught,” Kenshin said, punching him in the shoulder.

Bakajanai, I’m not an idiot; it won’t happen again,” Kazuhiko responded.

Kenshin turned to Kazuhiko, giving him a knowing look, and they laughed together. Each understood the impossibility for him to remain out of trouble. The drama was always one step behind Kazuhiko Wakahisa.

“Are you prepared for the upcoming ceremony with the Kochiyama family? From what my mother has told me, your mother believes it’ll be a great opportunity for you to get closer to their eldest daughter and heir, Natsumi,” Kenshin said, jabbing at Kazuhiko’s side.

Kazuhiko clenched his eyes shut and ran his hands through his hair in frustration.

“Your mother has already begun planning your wedding, and you two haven’t even met yet,” Kenshin said, chuckling.

Natsumi was the heir and daughter of founder Toji Kochiyama of Kochiyama Bank, one of Japan’s banking corporations to reach global triumph. The Kochiyama’s were a wealthy and famous family. The reason why Natsumi was his mother’s primary choice for a suitable wife and the main key to terminating his nightlife, committing him to a dreadful life as a husband.

“Ken, if I play hooky at the ceremony, you think I could prolong this arrangement?” He looked solemnly at his best friend.

“If you do, other than another publicity crisis, the result would end with your mother forcing you to organize another tea ceremony with them. She might even be present to guarantee your attendance,” Kenshin said, patting his head. Kenshin was precise as always, but it didn’t help him shut down his mother’s interference with his marital decision and, ultimately, his life.

Kazuhiko shuddered. He could smell the sweet aroma of flowers dying as his mother dried out the many women he could have sampled but left to shrivel as his playboy life withered.

“Kazu, I think it’s in your best interest to serve the three Kochiyama women tea while your mother is out of the picture. It’ll give you more time to think of a way out of matrimony,” Kenshin said, stretching his arms outs and relaxing against the stone bench.

“I know it would require you to go along with being a pawn in your mother’s hand, but I’ve got a dreadful feeling that something major is going to happen if you refuse,” Kenshin continued and then paused to sip some of his tea.

“No matter how much you struggle, your mother is only going to push harder for your marriage. Why not do the ceremony and see what you’re up against? Maybe you’ll fall in love,” Kenshin sarcastically but half-serious concluded.

Kazuhiko gave his best friend a threatening look, his dark eyes becoming stern and cross at his friend’s aggravating jousting.

Kenshin laughed and gave him one of his amiable smiles that often seemed to calm people. Kazuhiko felt his annoyance boiling.

“Hey buddy, don’t be outraged at me. I am the voice of reason, and you know that I am,” Kenshin said, placing his hand on Kazuhiko’s shoulder in an attempt to ease the tension.

Kazuhiko took a deep breath and watched as water trickled down the mountain into the fountain’s basin. Then, feeling less motivated, he exhaled. He knew his best friend was right. Hosting the Kochiyama women would give him time to scheme a way out of his mother’s plan. For now, he would be a pawn and serve the Kochiyama women, but until then, his mind would be on more pleasant thoughts. His mother was two thousand miles away, and he had a few women he needed to meet.

“Ken, no more. Let’s party at Lotus. I don’t want to keep those beautiful women in waiting,” Kazuhiko said with celebration returning to his voice. He stood up to head inside the teahouse.

“Cool, but before we do that. Hang up the kimono you’re looking so out of style.”

Kazuhiko looked down at the extravagantly made light brown kimono and white jittoku, a short kimono coat. He could find no flaws in his clothing—elegance and beauty simplicity woven into the kimono.

Kazuhiko laughed as he tucked his hands in the long sleeves. “You’ll be surprised at how many women love this so-called outdated style.” Kazuhiko chuckled. He enjoyed wearing his kimono; it made him feel at ease as he clashed old tradition with its present eradication. Confidently he knew he could snag a woman with his traditional attire, but he wouldn’t dare wear it to Lotus. He had too much respect for his profession as a teishu to mar the garment.

“Shall we rendezvous at 2200 in our private lounge at Lotus?” Kazuhiko asked.

“2200 it is. I’ll orchestrate some stunning women to attend,” Kenshin winked, “Just don’t be a baka, baka.”

“I’ll be more careful, I promise.”

“You better, you got too much talent to be ruined before you could leave your legacy.” Kenshin stood and straightened his suit. “Later.”

Kazuhiko watched his friend leave. He knew that tonight would be a good night for one of his many clandestine affairs.

***


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