Good Evening, Everybody!I hope it was a happy Monday for you. Here's Chapter Ten for 'Silent Challenges'. Thanks for reading!Title: Silent ChallengesSeries: Chapter Ten, 1995 wordsPairing/Character: Mori & HaruhiRating: TSummary: "It had been a long day, with the next promising to be an even longer one. "Cross-posted to ouran_fanficsFF.Net
Heat waves emanated off the concrete as their small airplane gradually descended toward the ground. Haruhi found herself slightly surprised to have not landed on some kind of basic dirt landing strip somewhere near the jungle. Instead, they had arrived in the bustling, tourist-centric city of Da Lat.
Midway through their summer vacation, a mere few weeks after returning home to Japan, Haruhi was joining members of the Morinozuka and Haninozuka families on what was essentially a mission trip to Vietnam. They had filled their small plane with the sort of provisions that even she had come to take for granted. Boxes loaded with vitamins, toothbrushes, and first aid kits would be given to villagers who struggled simply to attain basic items that every person needed. They had brought enough clothing to ensure that for a while, thread-bare tops and bottoms would be a thing of the past.
It wasn't long before the plane had taxied toward a more private location on the runway, where they were greeted by men of a professional nature.
Takashi gave her a smile before asking Haruhi to wait for him on the plane. He then followed his father, as well as Huni and his own father, off of the plane where they were received by the men on the ground.
Watching them through the window, Haruhi had not expected it when another body sat in the vacant seat next to hers. She turned to acknowledge Morinozuka Sora, the matriarch of Takashi's family. Tall and lean, with a mane of black hair, she was a laid back woman who carried herself with elegance. The notion of meeting Takashi's mother had at one time intimidated her, but once introduced, it was clear to Haruhi where the makeup of Takashi's personality had come from. Sora was a woman who could easily put people at ease.
"It's just a formality." Sora nodded toward the men. "He's a business associate of Akira's who is helping us. They're greeting one another properly to keep the appearance that this is nothing more than an extended visit between partners. A glorified business meeting."
Haruhi nodded, though she could not quite see why such a façade was necessary.
"Vietnam is a communist country. The government boasts that there is religious freedom, but throughout the country, only registered churches, temples or shrines are permitted for worship. Not many are granted approval, and the ones who are must put up with government monitoring. Religious books are in short supply, mainly because most of them are illegal."
Before Haruhi could respond, the two women received a motion to join the rest of their party outside. Sora found herself somewhat pleased to see a look of frustration across Haruhi's face. Her son had told her of this girl's sense of justice. How she did not hesitate to call out men of stature who failed to recognize the achievements of their sons. It was clear to his mother what Takashi could see in this young woman.
Leaving the plane, Haruhi found herself greeting a Vietnamese man close to Akira in age, as well as a man who couldn't be any older than his early twenties. With a silent smile, she offered them a deep bow to show her respect.
Speaking in Japanese, the older man greeted Sora, taking her extended hand and giving her a bow. He then turned to Haruhi and smiled, introducing himself as Pham Trung, and the younger man as his son, Pham Tuan. The CEO of a well-established Vietnamese bank, and long-time business partner of the Morinozuka family, Pham Trung remained an inconspicuous ally for an underground church movement looking to bring a governmentally unhindered message of faith to his country's people. For men like Trung and Akira, to share their minority faith with other prominent Asian families was a rare and important thing. Their connections allowed them to bring hope and relief to their longsuffering countrymen with safety and discretion.
Trung motioned his guests toward the terminal, "Please, let's continue on to our home for the night. Tomorrow there will be plenty of work for us all to do."
It had been an evening filled with conversation and laughter amongst friends. Extending their guests the courtesy of speaking mostly in Japanese, everyone attempted to speak one another's language, while Haruhi, Takashi, and Huni impressed their hosts with their fluency in English.
Trung clapped, delighted. "Fantastic! Speaking English will prove to be a very useful skill while you are here. My family and I are obviously able to interpret for you with the villagers, but there will also be some who understand English from working with other missionary teachers. Very helpful, indeed."
It came as a surprise when Tuan, who proved to be quieter than Takashi, invited him on a private tour of their home. While not entirely interested, but unwilling to be rude, Takashi excused himself from the rest of the company and obliged.
Huni's spirited demeanor seemed to wane as the two young men left, which Haruhi had dutifully noticed.
She gave him a gentle nudge of her shoulder. "What's the matter Senpai? I'm still here!"
He gave her an unlit smile. "I know, Haru-Chan. Maybe we should go for a walk, too!"
Without further delay Huni turned and addressed their host. "Trung-Sama, I'd like to thank you for opening your home up to us, and for your family's generosity. May I take Haruhi to visit your gardens?"
"Certainly, Mitsukuni! Please, enjoy yourselves."
Standing up, the two of them bowed in appreciation before taking their leave.
They walked in peace throughout the labyrinthine garden. Despite the oncoming darkness, it was impossible to escape the lushness of their environment. Beautiful bursts of floral color were nearly trumped by waterfalls of green foliage.
Haruhi almost hated speaking, seeing how Huni was now enjoying his surroundings.
"Huni-Senpai, what had you so down, earlier?"
He turned to look at her, his serenity replaced by a more serious face. "I'm not so sure about Tuan-Kun, that's all."
"Oh? Why is that?"
"I have no real reason. It's just a feeling. Takashi and I have known him since we were little, but Tuan is not like his father. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it seems that inside of his quiet, there isn't very much peace."
"That, and Takashi has been to this house several times before. He doesn't need a tour."
Sensing that the conversation was upsetting Huni, she decided to change the subject. "So, Senpai, were you baptized as a child, too?"
Haruhi was thankful to see in him a positive change.
"Mmhmm! Didn't Takashi tell you?"
"Not really. I don't know that much about religion except that for many people it's a private thing, so I mainly keep my questions to myself."
"I see. Well, I suppose it is a private thing. But for us, it's also not a secret. And I know if you asked him, Taka would be happy to tell you pretty much anything. When our families married into one another a few generations ago, it was Takashi's great-great-uncle who asked for my great-great-aunt's hand in marriage. He had been away from Japan establishing another dojo, and when he came back he had converted to Christianity. Not long after, our families blended and gradually came to share a faith. That was a few generations ago, so some people in our families take their faith lives more seriously than others. Just like anywhere else, really."
"Interesting. What about the rest of the host club? Do they know?"
"Uh huh! Tama-Chan's mother raised him Catholic in France, so he just kind of knew. Hika-Chan and Kao-Chan have known for a while, mainly because they've visited my house and recognized some of the religious art, but they've never wanted to talk about it much beyond that. Kyo-Chan says he's an atheist, but more than once he's asked Takashi and me about the logic and history behind Christianity."
Hm. Where was I during all this…
Looking at each other, they began to laugh. Before long they had come upon the walkway leading back toward the mansion. It had been a long day, with the next promising to be an even longer one. Haruhi was looking forward to retiring for the day, but not before thanking Takashi for bringing her on the trip and telling him goodnight.
"How come you never call me Mitsukuni?"
The question caught her by surprise. "Really? I don't know. Probably just out of respectful habit, I guess. But also just because you're sweet, Huni, to me."
"That's okay! I wouldn't mind it if you called me Mitsukuni. I think we'll end up proper family one day, anyway. You can call me whatever makes you happy, Haru-Chan, but no more senpai, okay?"
Having reached the front door, Haruhi was running short on things to say. "Sure, Huni. Mitsukuni…"
Well that just sounds weird… And back there, did he say what I think I heard him say?
With another short and playful laugh, Mitsukuni opened the door and ran inside.
Takashi opened the door to his guest room and stepped inside. It was the first opportunity he'd had to be alone the entire day, and he welcomed it immeasurably. Laying down on the bed, he closed his eyes and relayed recent events.
It had been an interesting treat to see his parents interacting with Haruhi for what was only the second time ever. Though she had not dropped the formalities, Haruhi remained thoroughly engaged in anything his mother or father had to say, and in a way, it seemed as though she had set the pace. She even did well with Mitsukuni's father, who while kind, was a rather rigid man.
After joining with their hosts, however, Takashi felt himself becoming defensive. Frustrated that he would subconsciously adopt such a notion, he was determined not to allow any such feelings to detract from the trip. While his father remained as pleasant as ever, Tuan seemed to become increasingly strained each time their families would share a visit. Each time he spoke, his words were terse in some subtle way. He had not always been quiet by nature, and Takashi had found it strange during the tour of the mansion, that seemingly nothing about the home had changed.
"I'm so glad, Takashi, that you were all able to join us for this trip. These villagers should be thankful for generous families like ours."
"We're their brothers, not their benefactors."
"Indeed, you are right. I misspoke."
A sudden knock at the door ripped Takashi away from his mind. Right away he knew the gentle rapping belonged to Haruhi, and he couldn't help but smile when opening the door.
"I just came to tell you how much it means to me to be here with your family; with you. Thank you."
Instinct demanded he throw Haruhi over his shoulder and bring her into the room, while his mind insisted he lean affectionately toward her without leaving the doorway. He opted for the latter.
"You're welcome. And thank you."
Not needing for him to elaborate, she wished him a goodnight, and made her way toward her own room.
In an effort to preserve the scent of her in the air, Takashi closed the door slowly before climbing into bed.