All that was left to do was convince this man to take the reigns.
“I am somewhat disappointed,” Alphonse spoke, his face the image of inner peace and reflection, “I had expected to meet this darling wife of yours – Kiona, was it?”
“Kiona,” I confirmed. “I am afraid that she could not make the flight. There have been some problems at home, small matters that I’ve had to attend to.”
“Yes, I am aware,” he told me.
“Nothing of any concern.”
“Enough concern to forestall our meeting.”
“No, I was here on time,” I chided.
“I meant with you and your young bride.”
“Right,” I realized, shaking my head. “I’m sorry, Alphonse – jet lag. You know how it is.”
“Tell me, Mister Andrews, why are you here?”
“Please, call me Cole,” I smiled, although his face remained as nonchalant as ever. “I simply wished to confirm that things were still on schedule.” My answer was spoken confidently – peaceful or not, this was not a man to whom you showed weakness.
“You could have picked up the phone. Saved yourself a long and tiring flight.”
“I like to have important conversations in person. It is my reputation, after all, and one that I stand to always uphold.”
“This conversation does not appear important to me.”
“You are aware of the arrangement, Mister Andrews,” he began gravely. “Everything is in order to continue the process, the singular snag being that I require you to have taken a wife. An unspoken piece of this, perhaps, is that I meet said wife. Personally, I must see for my own eyes that you legitimately love this woman.”
“I can assure you that I love Kiona.”
“And yet, where is she?”
“Home,” I answered tersely.
“Home in your context, Mister Andrews, is a little too far for my particular tastes…perhaps we can continue this conversation another time, when you have begun to take me a little more seriously.”
“Alphonse, you know that I’m limited on that.”
“Limited on time? Yes, Mister Andrews, I am well aware…and deeply, regretfully sorry. But you understand that I am bound by what I believe to be right. Tradition dictates. I am, what you might consider old school.”
I resisted the urge to wince at the painful use of that term.
“This was my one chance, Alphonse. I’ve been instructed that this is my last international flight.”
His face was apathetic now.
“Then you have failed your one chance.”
I sighed, glancing out the windowpanes. Tokyo was so beautiful from this height. The skyline sprawled out in the distance, with its staggering skyscrapers and architectural marvels.
“Will you consider coming to the States?” I asked, allowing a sliver of desperation to enter my voice. “To my knowledge, you’ve never visited New York…I can entertain you there, and you can meet the two of us in our home.”
Megami leaned backwards in his chair, considering this. “You would go to this extent to win my favor?”
“This means the world to me,” I answered him truthfully. “And as much as I hate to be insistent of this, it has to be confirmed soon.”
“Mister Andrews, these negotiations between us can continue independently of you, as I am sure you are aware.”
I smiled slyly at the old man. “No, they can’t. You’d never work directly with any of them, and we both know it.”
He returned my grin. “No, I wouldn’t.”
We sat in silence and studied the skyline together as he collected his thoughts. Never a praying man, I focused every last positive thought into this moment, silently pleading that he would bend with me on this one.
“…Very well then. When should I appear in the States?”
I exhaled my relief. “Can you be there in two weeks?”
“Long enough. A day, unless you wished to stay longer.”
Alphonse held up a finger and pressed a button on an intercom on the desk, speaking fluent Japanese to the receptionist. Of course, my business operations had forced me to gain a somewhat solid grasp of Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, so it was clear to me what they were saying: