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“Hyde scared him that much? I almost feel bad for that poor boy.” Mahiru laughed softly when Licht finished telling her about the dinner they shared with Lucy’s new boyfriend. While her friend had returned to Austria, they would often talk to each other over the phone to keep in contact. From where she sat in the living room, Mahiru glanced to Kuro who was making tea in the kitchen.

She smiled to herself and said, “Kuro is much more easygoing than Hyde. I wonder how he’ll act when Machi’s date comes. Tonight, her school is having a dance. I hope everything goes well for her. She must be both excited and nervous because this is her first date. I felt that way with Kuro. If their relationship turns out as happy as ours, she has a lot of great memories ahead of her.”

Mahiru continued to talk with her friend until Machi leaned out of her room and waved to her. “Mama, can you help me with my hair?”

“I’ll be right there, Sweetie! I have to go, Licht, but I’ll call you later and tell you how it goes.” Mahiru promised and ended the call. She placed her phone in her pocket and walked to Kuro. She stood on her toes to kiss his cheek fondly. “Machi’s date will be here soon. If we’re not done before he arrives, make small talk with the boy.”

“What do kids talk about these days? I feel so old right now. Can’t deal. Hopefully, her date likes vintage games or else it’s just going to be an awkward silence.” Kuro groaned and lifted his tea cup. He only stared at himself in the water. “Time passed quickly, didn’t it? It feels like she was learning how to walk yesterday. Machi is going on her first date now.”

“We raised her well so we don’t need to worry about anything.” Mahiru said confidently. She patted his shoulder reassuringly before she left his side to help Machi. He knew that Mahiru was right so he pushed his worries aside. Kuro brought the tea into the living so he could enjoy it with Mahiru later. When he set the tray down, he heard a knock.

He opened the door and the teenager on the other side greeted him politely. “Hello, Mr. Shirota. I’m here to pick up Machi.”

“She’s still getting ready but you can sit down and wait for her. I think she’ll be finished soon.” Kuro stepped aside and gestured to the living room. He sat down on the couch and watched the boy in the corner of his eyes. He thought of the first time he met Mahiru’s uncle formally and he remembered how nervous he was. “Machi told me you two are schoolmates. Are you in any clubs or sports?”

“I run in track.” He answered and Kuro nodded.

“At your age, I liked video games more than sports. Well, I still feel that way.” He tried to keep their conversation light and casual. “Machi would play fighting games with me when she was little. She’s a strong person like her mother. I should tell you—”

“Is this the part where you threaten me? I already know what you’re going to say so you don’t need to give me that stupid speech.” The boy interrupted him and Kuro’s brows drew together. A smug smile appeared on the kid’s face. It was obvious that he felt proud of himself for the retort. Kuro merely leaned back against the couch and he looked thoughtful for a moment.

He raised his voice only enough for his family down the hall to hear him. Kuro spoke in his usual lazy drawl as he asked: “Machi, is your tournament this Saturday or next Saturday?”

“It’s next Saturday.” She answered him. “I marked it on the calendar already.”

“I wanted to double check.” He said nonchalantly. Kuro tilted a cold, assessing glare towards her date. “Remember, if your opponent is taller than you, you should aim for their throat. Even if it’s a soft punch, they’ll be disorientated and you can hit other vital areas.”

“But, Papa, judo is more defensive throws. I would get disqualified if I did that!” Machi corrected him and Kuro grinned to himself.

The warmth in his eyes turned cold when he faced the teenager. He calmly told him: “Machi is a sweet but, like her mother, you can’t call her weak or naive. If you try anything, she’s perfectly capable of dealing with you herself. Whatever’s left, I’ll take care of afterwards. But we don’t need to worry about that if you treat her right. That’s your intention already, right?”

“Yes, sir!” He said frantically and nodded.

“Also, make an effort to learn more about her if you’re serious about dating her. If you don’t know her hobbies, your relationship won’t last long.” Kuro said. He might not have made the best impression on Kuro but he wanted to let Machi make her own decisions. He would always support his daughter and comfort her whenever she was hurt.

At that moment, Machi and Mahiru came out of the room. Machi smiled when she saw her date. “Takashi! You look great in your suit.”

“You’re beautiful too.” He returned the compliment. “Should we head to prom?”

“Okay! Bye, Mama, Papa, I’ll be back by ten. If anything happens, I’ll call you.” She promised and hugged them briefly. She waved to her parents before she left.

Once the door closed, Mahiru joined Kuro on the couch. She sat next to him and he handed her a cup of tea. She hummed pleasantly as she took a sip. Mahiru cuddled against his side and she glanced up at him. “So, you talked with the boy. What did you think of him? It can’t be good if you brought up Machi’s judo tournament. Machi said he was a nice boy but I can’t help worrying.”

“He’s a little cocky but he seems like a regular teenage jock. Machi can take him. Our daughter is strong and we’re here for her.” He shrugged and she giggled at his answer. “I would rather she finds someone sweet like you, Mahiru. She’s smart so she’ll make the right choice.”

“At least you didn’t try to scare him away like your brother did.”

“Hyde called earlier to complain about Lucy’s new boyfriend. As a father, I can relate to why he did it. He just wanted to protect his little girl.”

The dinner was a little tense because Hyde continued to glare at his guest across the table. His daughter was oblivious as she excitedly told her parent about her day. “They put up the cast for our recital, The Nutcracker, today! I was chosen to be the lead, Clara. Kota has a smaller role but he’s more interested in being an actor than a dancer.”

“I can’t wait to see you dance.” Hyde’s expression softened whenever he spoke with his family. “I knew you would be a brilliant dancer since you were five. You would dance and twirl whenever your mom played a song for you. We still have pictures and videos of you dancing.”

“Dad, you promised no baby pictures!” Lucy blushed and quickly stopped her father. She was grateful for her mother who pulled Hyde’s ear and twisted it mercilessly. Even though her dad could be embarrassing at times, she loved him.

Gil walked into the room carrying a large box. “I bought desert like you ordered.”

“My pie and ice cream! I’ll help you plate them and carry them out.” Lucy said sweetly and jumped to her feet. Honestly, she wanted the chance to sneak an extra large slice of pie for herself. She took one of the boxes from Gil and skipped to the kitchen.

“I’ll go help them. Behave yourself, Hedgehog.” Licht ordered before she followed her daughter to the kitchen. “If you don’t, you can’t have desert.”

“Don’t you trust me, Lichtan? What do you think I’ll do? Stab him with my fork?” Hyde laughed but it didn’t reach his eyes. He twirled his fork between his fingers and then stabbed his food. “I might be an overprotective demon but I won’t hurt the kid. That would make my angels upset. I can’t do that.”

Licht recognized the mischievous glint in his eyes but she only sighed. She left the two alone to help the two in the kitchen. Tension quickly filled the room once they were gone.

“So, you want to be an actor?” Hyde asked slowly once Licht and Lucy were too far to hear them. “It’s hard to break into the industry so you have to work hard and be ambitious. I actually worked as an assistant for a few celebrities when I was younger. It was… interesting. I met my wife through work. I knew a lot of celebrities but my Angel of Music will always be the brightest star I know.”

“Do you still keep in contact with those actors? I would love to speak with them.” The young boy asked excitedly but Hyde’s eyes narrowed. He was far too familiar with how people used networking to forward their careers. He didn’t think it was evil or wrong but he didn’t want the boy to date Lucy for her family name alone. It was rare to find someone like Licht who genuinely worked hard and didn’t rely on others.

Hyde couldn’t be certain of the teenager’s intention so he chose his next words carefully. “I know some people in the industry so maybe I can help you. Do you have a criminal record?”

“No, Sir!” He thought that it was an ordinary interview question. Hyde had to note that the boy was suddenly became animated. It was the most he talked since the dinner began. “Thank you so much for the opportunity. My parents said that I need connections to get big roles in movies.”

“That’s one way, I guess. Letting your hard work and talent speak for itself is another though.” Hyde said but he recognized the impatient look in his eyes. He decided to change the subject.  

“About your record, I can’t take your word alone. They’ll likely conduct a background check. But you don’t have to worry about it too much. If you’re smart like me, you’ll know ways around the police. That’s my little secret though, so you shouldn’t expect me to give you advice.” The boy couldn’t respond immediately because he thought he saw Hyde’s now brown eyes flash blood red briefly.  

“May I ask about the celebrities you worked for? Do I know them?” He asked.

“The celebrities I worked for are all dead now.” His voice was cold and detached when he answered him. “A car crash took one and an unfortunate fall killed another. All tragic accidents, the papers said. I always wonder if that’s true. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to make a murder look like an accident. Well, it’s impossible to know what really happened because they’re all five feet underground.”

He shrugged and then changed the subject. “But that’s neither here nor there. This is about you and your dream to become an actor. It’s okay to reach for the stars but there’s no shortcut you can take. My little angel isn’t a tool you can use to forward your career. If the only thing you’re interested in is Lucy’s name, you’ll get nowhere in this world. I’ll make sure of it.”

Hyde twirled his fork around his finger again. This time, he let it fly towards the boy. He missed him but he threw it with enough force that the dull fork stabbed through the drywall. With a fake smile, Hyde stood and said: “Oh, how clumsy of me! I dropped my fork. I hope that didn’t scare you. Don’t worry, if I was trying to hit you, I would’ve.”

“Oh, really?” Hyde stiffened slightly when he heard Licht’s voice behind him. He slowly turned around and he gave her an apologetic smile. She was holding two plates of deserts in her hands but her glare told him she wanted to spill the food on him. Licht didn’t turn her anger against him though. She kicked the table and sent it flying.

“How dare you try to play with an angel’s heart? Lucy deserves the world, not your halfhearted ass. Get out of my house and never talk to Lucy again!” She yelled and stabbed her finger towards the boy. No matter how protective Hyde could become, Licht would always be more so.

In the next room, Lucy heard a loud crash and breaking dishes. She looked from the door to Gil. Then she laughed and leaned against the kitchen island. “Well, there goes another one. My parents are so dramatic, Uncle Gil!”

“I’m sure you’ll find someone soon.” Gil cut another slice of pie and slid it onto her plate.