It was the stupidity which threatened to eat him alive.
There was anger. An inkling of frustration. A semblance of grief. None of it was as bad as the sheer idiocy of the situation.
The fact that his father had allowed their fortunes to come to this stage defied belief. Keigo would understand if it was due to competition, market forces or even bad business decisions. What he couldn't comprehend were the bizarre risky ventures which his father had entered into and which had placed Wada Corporation in precarious financial health.
To top it all off, his father had gone to get himself killed a year ago in a drunk driving accident.
In his very expensive Ferrari. On the way to an exclusive escort club.
Keigo didn't even have the time to grief properly at the funeral before the vultures descended upon him. Uncles who wanted to be on the board of directors. Directors on the board who wanted to be the next CEO. Competitors who wanted to buy out his controlling shareholding.
At least his father didn't give away any of the family's shares in the company. One saving grace.
It entailed a long year of internal company warfare and external corporate battles. He had to work to convince his other shareholders, his board and his employees that he, Wada Keigo, was not his father. Yes, he was equally flamboyant with an ego to match. However, Keigo did very much like to keep his fortunes intact.
When he had finally achieved some stability, he apparently lost his mind.
Which explained the countless bottles of champagne and various other alcohol lining the table at the club. His so-called friends were certainly more than happy to welcome him to join their partying.
"Good to have you back!"
"Yeah, it's been boring without you!"
He returned the gestures with equally superfluous words. He had a reputation to maintain after all.
However, what Keigo was really interested in right now was another person altogether.
He had been eyeing the waiter for the better part of the night.
Younger, though they couldn't be that far apart in age. Pale with dark hair and eyes. He stood out starkly against the sleaziness of the club.
It was the way the waiter had refused all advances made by every man and woman. The slight discomfort and fluster. His habit of biting his lip every now and then, as if determined to get through the night.
When he came to Keigo's table to collect the used glasses, the latter took a good look.
Words that Keigo wouldn't normally use on anyone.
He finished his glass quickly and set it in front of him, obliging the waiter to bend down and pick it up.
Keigo leaned forward and murmured near his ear. "New here?"
The body tensed. A surprisingly soft voice replied, "Yes, sir."
Then the waiter simply took the glasses and walked away.
Keigo sat back and laughed. He was used to being recognized, flirted with, fawned over and frankly, people just throwing themselves at him if he indicated any interest.
Clearly the waiter didn't even know who he was.
"Why are you sitting here alone, man?" one of his friends slumped onto the couch next to him, a gorgeous lady in tow from the dance floor.
"Not for long," Keigo promised and signaled to the club's manager.
He changed into another shirt after washing up. A refusal of the advances of one of the club's patrons had ended up with a champagne splashed all over his face and top in anger. It was followed by a demand of apology from the club and a long, harsh lecture from one of his seniors.
"Hey, newbie. Don't think you are above all of this. If you work here, you need to be smart about the customers. We can't afford to lose the big ones, especially in this shitty economy."
Another co-worker overheard and sniggered, "Maybe he thinks he's special."
"Don't play innocent, honey."
"You don't look like a virgin anyway, pal."
He ignored all the comments. Inwardly, he was angry but even that was overtaken by other more practical concerns.
The message on his phone from his landlord was a stark reminder.
He had barely made rent that month even after taking on another temporary job. He also needed to pay for medical bills, subsidized as they were, soon.
Then there was his parents' debt.
He was so tired. It has only been two years. Could he go on like this? Was there even an end in sight?
In any case, there was no time to think now. He had a shift to finish.
He was going back to the main room when the club's manager, Bunta, approached him.
"Aihara. A moment."
Bunta was much older, charming with the customers but hard with the staff.
He waited politely, wondering inside if he would be reprimanded for that evening's incident, have his salary cut or worse, fired.
"I saw the ruckus earlier," Bunta began sternly. "Poor form, kid. You don't upset customers, ever. You understand?"
Kaoru could only nod.
"You got the looks. Why don't you just make some extra cash? No need to be so prissy about it," Bunta shook his head disapprovingly.
Before Kaoru could even reply, Bunta continued, strangely pleased and amused at the same time.
"I could fire you now but here's a chance to redeem yourself. Wada Keigo wants to see you after your shift."
"W-Who?" Kaoru exclaimed in surprise.
Bunta shook his head in exasperation and barked, "One of our best clients, you insolent brat! See him upstairs when you are done."
Kaoru knew that he didn't have a choice. He wasn't that naïve and could guess what this Wada Keigo wanted.
He reminded himself to pick up something sharp.
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