Shinichi hasn’t asked a thing since he was taken in by the Nakamura family.
Not why his parents divorced or why the rest of his family was acting like that, and not even about his dad’s second marriage.
Nobuhiko thought for sure Shinichi would immediately ask him all sorts of things.
He’d already prepared himself for the worst case scenario wherein Shinichi blamed him and accused him of abandoning his mother and running off to another woman.
But Shinichi never broached the topic once and just quietly accepted Shinji and Rinko.
Although Shinichi not asking was something to be happy about, as well as something that was a source of great relief, if he didn’t ask Shinichi why he’s not asking anything, he would only be repeating what he did before, where he basically took advantage of his son’s gentleness.
“If you have something you want to say or ask, don’t hold back.
Right now, only dad is here. I’m the only one who can hear you, so—”
No matter how you feel, I want to hear it… I want to accept it.
“—Dad. It’s alright. I know already.
And I’m also sorry. I should’ve known you would be troubled by me not asking anything.”
But Shinichi interrupted him with an apology of his own while trying to mask his own feelings with laughter.
“What do you mean by that?”
“I could figure out pretty much everything just from your conversation with mom.
Mom knew how weak I was, so she never believed I could survive in the otherworld.
But you couldn’t accept that, right? So you fought.”
It was a little painful to hear Shinichi say that in a jesting manner while laughing.
After all, he’d done that very thing in front of his children 8 years ago, causing him to become emotional.
When his son went missing in the otherworld, both he and his wife failed to keep their cool.
And after half a year of arguing and provoking each other, they eventually created a fatal rift between them.
And just like that the parents, who their son had thought to have an ideal relationship, broke off.
“…Actually, the reason I didn’t ask is because I’m a coward.
I’d like to wait a bit longer before knowing the truth.”
“Sorry. I said too much.
I just wanted to know your feelings… I guess it was a bad idea after all.
I guess I really can’t blame her… I really am a bad dad, huh?”
Why was he so impatient? He thought to himself as he sighed.
It hasn’t even been ten days since Shinichi found out that the world had advanced 6 years without him and that his family had broken up.
When you think about what kind of reality it was that he had to accept and the pain that came with it, it only made sense that he would want to take his time.
But then, Shinichi started to smile while submerged in the water.
“Dad, you worry too much.
It’s not like you went out of your way to make this mess of a situation for me, right?”
“…But isn’t half of this whole mess my fault, though?”
I couldn’t find you. I couldn’t protect your home.
I couldn’t persuade your mother and your siblings… I couldn’t do anything…”
When he finally said that out loud, everything sounded like self-mockery and his expression turned dark.
That being said, he wasn’t wrong, for he had indeed failed to find his son.
And even when it was announced that his son had ended up in an unknown world, which was only just recently revealed to the public at the time, and even as other children were found one after another, his son remained missing.
Given that situation, just how long could a normal parent keep up his cool without being emotional?
If you add the changes to the world brought about by the otherworld cultural exchange, just having to deal with those changes should’ve already taken all of his and his wife’s efforts, so there was no way they could’ve had the leisure to talk things out calmly.
“But you did a good job in the end, right?” Shinichi said.
“Huh?” Nobuhiko said.
But Nobuhiko didn’t want to hear that. He didn’t want to hear that the situation at the time was just really bad and that he couldn’t have done anything, so it wasn’t fault.
What he really wanted to hear was…
You did a good job.
“Rinko-san knew who I was just by seeing my face.
Doesn’t that mean that you showed her all sorts of things and talked to her about me a lot?”
Picture. Movies. Memories. Memories about his son.
And it was because she was the sort of person who didn’t find those things disagreeable that she thought that if he’s the son of her beloved husband, then she should consider him as a part of her precious family.
The one who picked such a thoughtful person was none other than Nobuhiko himself.
“Yeah. That’s why.
Although there were a lot of crazy twists when I came back, I was really happy to meet her.”
Nobuhiko was able to create proof that he had thought of Shinichi these past 8 years.
From Shinichi’s perspective, he was only gone for 2 years, but his family suffered four times longer than that.
Shinichi was both thankful and grateful for that, so he shared his feelings with his dad.
When Nobuhiko heard Shinichi say that he was happy with that gentle, peaceful face of his, he was speechless.
Now that things had come to this, just who exactly was being consoled?
Although it was a little pathetic, Nobuhiko would’ve teared up after his son’s words—
“But there is something I’d like to ask…”
—If only the next words weren’t suddenly void of that gentleness and softness.
For some reason, seeing Shinichi’s lips smiling faintly while he spoke in that light tone, made him sweat inside the bath.
Then after a moment, Shinichi grinned and asked him a question.
“So, just how did you manage to swindle such a young and beautiful woman?”
“S-Swindle!? Don’t say something that others might misunderstand!!”
Nobuhiko never thought that his son would point out something like this after making that mischievous smile for the first time.
Although he did think that he might blame him for his remarriage, he didn’t think he would use the word ‘swindle’.
Reflexively, he responded in an angry and denying manner, but Shinichi’s expression didn’t change.
In fact, Shinichi had a huge grin of his face like some scoundrel as he ignored his dad’s words.
“Now, spit it out. Depending on your answer, I might just reduce your penalty.”
“So it’s already been decided that I’m going to be punished!?”
What was with this execution-play? He argued.
And Shinichi was none the less happier to explain.
“Obviously, you shitty dad! How many years younger do you think you remarried!?
Do you know? Out of all the things that shocked me, what shocked me the most was when I found out that Rinko-san was just 28!
You’re 43 for crying out loud!”
Well, to be honest, even Nobuhiko himself thought that that age gap was a little concerning, so he couldn’t help but have his eyes go swimming.
Coincidentally, the age gap between them was exactly 15 years. A gap that was pretty much equivalent to one son, what with Shinichi being 15 years old and all
Moreover, considering that Shinichi should be 21 years old already if not for the time gap, then technically, he just married a woman who was just 7 years older than his own son.
And to finish things off, when his son went missing, she was just 20.
Guilty as charged.
“Now let’s come clean, dad. I believe I have the right to know just how exactly you committed this crime.”
“Is it me or are you using some really misleading words!?”
Shinichi firmly grasped his dad’s shoulders, and with a grinning face, approached him.
As Nobuhiko wryly smiled, he thought that while Shinichi looked like him, the way he smiled definitely resembled his mother’s.
He makes a really good smile whenever he’s trying to drive someone into a corner or is teasing someone.
“Ah, but don’t misunderstand, okay? I’m not unsatisfied with Rinko-san. In fact, I’d like to say you did a good job, but you know…”
Shinichi had a favorable impression of Rinko, so there was no reason for him to reject her.
After his dad became single, he must’ve been lonely, so it was only normal for him to remarry.
But even then, there was one thing he couldn’t accept.
“I can’t believe you actually managed to nab a person that good.”
“Y-You! That’s your real motive, isn’t it!?
You know I may be like this now, but I was pretty popular back in the day!!”
Bah. I give. It’s too long… and I’m out of time. This week for sure, we’ll finish this chapter. There’s like just a small part left.