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Until Then: Another Mistake

The day of the gala had finally arrived. After spending the whole morning finalizing everything for the event, Ayane finally settled down for Rei to gussy her up. Ayane was strongly against wearing makeup but Rei insisted.

"Don't go overboard, okay?" Ayane wanted reassurance from Rei but Rei only smiled at her. She started with Ayane's hair which she planned to curl and do a half-up half-down hairstyle. Afterwards, Rei moved on to Ayane's makeup. She considered Ayane's opinion on makeup and used as little as possible. She opted for an elegant but subtle look that matched her gown. A few hours of prepping and Ayane was finally done.

"Be sure to have fun but don't drink any alcohol. You know your alcohol tolerance is extremely low." Rei warned her while helping her put on her high heels. Ayane nodded and went to stand in front of the mirror. She didn't look like her usual self and it was kind of a refreshing sight. Rei helped her to the car and she drove to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

It was almost 7pm which was the scheduled start of the party. Ayane needed to be in the hotel half an hour before the start to check on everything. They arrived at exactly 6:30pm. Ayane thanked Rei before she went in.

"Good evening ma'am." The doorman greeted her as she went in. She went straight to the gala hall. When she arrived, she checked the decorations and was pleasantly surprised. She talked to the chefs and asked to see the food that will be served. Everything seemed to be in order; she breathes a sigh of relief. The guests had started to pour in by the time she was finished doing her rounds. She greeted her coworkers when they entered the hall.

"Wow! Ayane, is that you?"

"Oh my gosh, you look stunning."

She heard a lot of compliments from her coworkers which made her blush. She wasn't used to getting complimented for her beauty. A few moments later and the president arrived. She went to his side and greeted him respectfully.

"Good evening Mr. Taizo." The president looked at her from head to toe and smiled.

"I almost didn't recognize Ayane. By the way, you did a splendid job." Not only did he praise her for her looks but he also praised her work for the gala which was more important to Ayane than her looks. The program had started momentarily. Everyone was having a good time. All of the guests complimented the food and drinks that were served. At the president's table, one of the company's stockholders offered a toast. Everyone was handed a glass of wine. Ayane tried to refuse but was insisted by the president.

It's just one glass, I'll be okay. She thought. After the toast, she took small sips to prevent herself from getting drunk.

"Hey Ayane, can I talk to you for a second?" One of her male coworkers whom she wasn't really close to suddenly asked to talk to her. She was reluctant at first but she thought that there would be no harm in talking to a coworker during a party.

"I would just like to say that you really outdid yourself with this event." Ayane felt weird about how friendly he's acting. It was even weirder when he took her wine glass from her and asked if she wanted it refilled. Ayane shook her head but he insisted. A waiter came by and filled the glass. He handed it back to Ayane as if nothing happened. He excused himself all of a sudden which made Ayane suspicious.

"Oh Ryuji, you made it. Come sit right here." Ayane heard Mr. Taizo's voice calling out to someone. She went back to her seat and saw that she was seated next to Ryuji, Mr. Taizo's grandson. Their eyes met for just a second but he quickly looked away. Unconsciously, Ayane took a sip from her glass. As everyone was busy mingling with each other, Mr. Taizo tapped Ayane's shoulder.

"Ayane, you'll be the first one to know this. I'll be retiring soon and my grandson will take over the company." A look of shock came across Ayane's face when she heard the news. She looked over at Ryuji but was met with a cold glare. She looked back at Mr. Taizo and smiled. Suddenly, she felt dizzy. Her vision had started to blur and her head started to hurt.

"Uhm… Excuse me sir but I think I need to use the ladies room." She stood up and tried to walk but her legs felt like jelly. She somehow managed to reach the doorway of the gala hall. She went out to the hallway and leaned on the wall. She felt hot as if her body was on fire. As she was about to collapse, she felt a pair of muscular arms holding her up. She turned to look but her vision was blurred.

Ryuji saw how disoriented Ayane had become. He followed her out and saw that she was about to collapse in the hallway. He caught her just in time. He knew he couldn't go back inside so he decided to book a room in the hotel. He brought her up to the room and laid her on the bed. As he was setting her down, he noticed how beautiful she was. He traced the outline of her face slowly, taking in her striking features. He snapped out of his trance and promptly took his hand away. Before he could stand up to leave, Ayane grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

"Don't… leave…" She was panting heavily, her cheeks were flushed and so was the rest of her body. Ryuji thought she must've drunk too much but he remembered the guy who he saw talking to Ayane a while ago. There was something suspicious about that man and the waiter who filled her glass. He decided to have them investigated afterwards.

"You should rest." He pulled his arm away but Ayane quickly grabbed his arm again.

"So… hot…" Ryuji sat back down on the bed. He put his hand on Ayane's forehead but she wasn't having a fever. Suddenly, Ayane grabbed his collar and pulled him in for a kiss. Ryuji was taken by surprise. He pulled away, panting. Ayane went back down, she felt her body getting hotter and hotter.

They must've put philter in her wine. Ryuji thought. Her sudden kiss had surprised him but he didn't hate it. He found it strange since he has never felt any attraction to women before. His grandparents have told him to marry countless times but they eventually gave up since he showed no interest in the opposite sex. But for the first time, he felt something for this young woman. It's not just their encounter tonight but he also felt something the first time they met.

"Ryu…ji…" Her voice, quiet and alluring made Ryuji stop in his tracks; he was drawn by this woman in front of him.

Why did she call out my name? Could it be…? He thought. He positioned himself on top of her. His face close to hers, he felt her hot breath. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down. Their lips met once again. Ryuji could no longer hold back his desires. He deepened the kiss while slowly taking off her clothes. Ayane did the same to him.

"Ryuji…" Ayane moaned his name over and over again. His delicate touches on her body made her shiver from pleasure. He trailed his kisses down to her sensitive spots which made her tremble. Their night of pleasure was far from over. As the party below had come to an end, their night together was just beginning.

As daylight broke, Ayane opened her eyes and noticed her surroundings. She couldn't remember what happened last night. The last thing she could recall was seeing Ryuji at the gala hall. Her head started to throb when she tried to sit up. She noticed that she was alone in a hotel room; her clothes scattered on the floor. She quickly noticed that she was naked under the blanket. She started to panic and tried to remember what had happened but she couldn't remember anything.

Without a second thought, she grabbed her clothes and put them on before leaving the room. She didn't bother calling Rei to pick her up. Instead, she hailed a taxi outside of the hotel and went home by herself. When she arrived, Rei welcomed her back with a smile on her face. Rei's smile disappeared when she noticed something different about Ayane.

"Aya? Did something happen?" Ayane shook her head and went inside without another word. She went to her room and took off her clothes. She locked herself in the bathroom, vigorously scrubbing her skin whilst the hot water from the shower trickled down her body. She felt dirty; she felt disgusted with herself. She wanted to say something to Rei but she was afraid of what she would think of her.

"Aya?" Rei knocked on the bathroom door, concern clear in her voice. Ayane felt guilty by keeping it a secret from Rei but she couldn't bring herself to tell her the truth. She turned the shower off and put on a towel before opening the door. The look on Rei's face made Ayane feel even guiltier.

"I'm sorry if I made you worry Rei. I was just really tired today." She lied as best as she could. Rei was skeptical of her, almost seeing through her lie. But she quickly dismissed her suspicion and chose to believe in her best friend.

"That's okay. I understand." Ayane felt bad about lying to Rei but until she can muster enough courage to be able to tell her the truth, she's going to have to deal with the guilt. The day was short and it was about to end. After dinner, she washed up and went to bed but found herself wide awake. She knew she needed to be early tomorrow but her mind kept coming back to the night she couldn't remember. She tossed and turned but she couldn't seem to get a wink of sleep.

Ayane was at work early the next day. She hadn't slept at all and was absent-minded. As she was sitting on her desk, she suddenly felt sleepy and managed to take a quick nap. She was startled when someone tapped on her desk. She jumped from the shock. She saw Mr. Taizo standing in front of her.

"Oh Mr. Taizo, I'm sorry for sleeping on the job." She repeatedly bowed her head while muttering her apologies. Mr. Taizo was clearly worried about her.

"It's fine Ayane. By the way, you disappeared from the party the other day. Are you okay?" His concern was written all over his face.

"I'm fine sir. I just had an emergency that night so I had to leave early." Mr. Taizo sighed.

"Come in my office. I need to discuss something with you." He went inside the office with Ayane in tow. Mr. Taizo took his seat and Ayane stood in front of his desk.

"Do you remember what I told you at the party?" He asked. Ayane could recall what he said since it seemed to be the last memory of that night that she could remember.

"About your grandson taking over Habitect?" Mr. Taizo nodded. He pulled out a contract from the desk drawer and handed it to Ayane. This was her contract as his personal assistant. Ayane was confused as to why he handed her the contract.

"When I retire, you will no longer be working in this company. My grandson plans to have a personnel change once he takes over. I'm sorry to be telling you this." Mr. Taizo seemed upset over the news but Ayane didn't take it to heart.

"It's fine Mr. Taizo. I really appreciate you hiring me and making me experience what it's like to work here in Habitect. I'm sure I can find a new job easily." Ayane tried her best to cheer up the old man. He smiled at her determination.

"Ryuji has been looking forward to taking over Habitect. He's in London right now and won't be back for a few months. Until then, you can still be my assistant." Mr. Taizo reassured her.

"If you don't mind me asking sir but why does your grandson want to take over?" Ayane was treading on personal territories but she was curious about that. Ryuji to her doesn't seem that determined for anything but looks can be deceiving.

"Habitect is only the second best architectural firm in Osaka. He plans to make it the number one." He laughed as he said those words as if it was impossible.

"What architectural firm holds the top spot?" Ayane asked. Deep inside, she knew the answer but she wanted to be sure.

"Archetive is the biggest architectural firm not only in Osaka but throughout Japan. My grandson plans to do the impossible and gain a partnership with them." He shook his head while smiling wryly. Upon hearing the name, Ayane grew stiff. She was on the verge of tears when she managed to calm herself down.

"Archetive has been the most difficult firm to get into. Rumors have said that the heir of Kamenaga disappeared and now the company is being managed by the previous president's advisers. Even if that were true, the company still managed to flourish and become the best." Hearing Mr. Taizo's words confused Ayane. Questions flew in her head but she tried to push them to the back of her mind.

"Anyway Ayane, you've done such a great job for me. Would you like to stay here in Habitect? I could put in a few good words to Ryuji for you." He offered but Ayane refused. It's not that she wants to leave Habitect but she felt something strange about Ryuji. He was cold and uninviting; she felt that she would be in trouble if she stayed in Habitect.

After talking to Mr. Taizo, Ayane went out of his office with a heavy heart. She was reminded of the one thing she tried to forget. She tried to ignore the guilt building up inside her and tried to focus on work. She was told that by next year, Ryuji will take over the company. Just the thought of him made her frustrated.

Day after day, week after week, Ayane anticipated for the day when she will be let off from working at Habitect. She was told that Ryuji was coming back from London any time soon and when he does, he will take over the company. Her workload was beginning to lessen every day. There were no news on a replacement for her yet but she prepared everything in advance.

"I'll be going home first Ayane." Mr. Taizo dropped by her desk to say goodbye. Ayane smiled at the old man and waved. It was only 4:30pm and her shift doesn't end until 5:00pm. She did the remainder of her work to wait for time to pass.

It was 5:15pm when she decided to clock out. She called Rei and told her that she'll be home early. Rei told her that she'll prepare dinner. Ayane hung up and went outside to hail a cab but instead of going straight home, she decided to go to the mall to buy something for Rei. She felt she needed to thank Rei for everything she's done to her. Although she can't afford that much, she's sure to find something that can spark Rei's attention. Ayane knows Rei is a complete opposite of her: girly, fashionable and extroverted.

"Thank you." She told the cashier as she handed her a paper bag. Ayane noticed a very beautiful necklace that would surely make Rei happy. She exited the shop and headed for the exit but before she could, she immediately stopped dead in her tracks.

"Ayane…?" A voice so familiar to Ayane seemed to echo throughout the busy mall. A man stood in front of him, his face filled with relief as soon as he set his eyes on her. A man Ayane had hoped to never see again. Flashes of memory from the past year flooded back into Ayane's mind which made her furious. She turned on her heel and started walking away but was immediately stopped when the man held her arm.

"Ayane, I'm so glad I finally found you." Kenji pulled her into a tight hug but she broke free. Her eyes were cold and emotionless. It was clear that she no longer felt the same towards the man she spent most of her life with.

"Go back to Tokyo. Don't look for me again." Her voice was icy and sharp. She turned on her heel again and walked away.

"Please, let me explain." Kenji's voice was shaking, almost broken. She could see his intentions clearly but it didn't matter to her. What he did not only cost him their engagement but also the life of their unborn child. Even the thought of that pains Ayane.

"Don't bother. Don't you have a pregnant girlfriend to go back to?" Kenji's eyes widened. A few months ago, Ayane received a letter from Miyu saying she was pregnant as if to taunt her. The letter itself wasn't addressed from Miyu but she knew it was from her. Ayane had seen through her kind and well-mannered façade.

"Please Ayane; you're the only woman I love." Hearing Kenji say those words made Ayane's blood boil. She had no intention of creating a scene in a shopping mall. With her back facing Kenji, she gripped on her bag tightly. Her anger and frustration was getting the better of her. She clenched her fist so hard that her nails had dug themselves in her palm. Just when she was about to breakdown, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up and saw Ryuji standing next to her.

"Let's go." Ryuji's arm wrapped around Ayane's shoulder; he pulled her closer to him and walked away. Kenji was surprised to see another man holding Ayane. He rushed to grab the man's arm.

"Who are you?" Kenji asked furiously. Ryuji turned to look at him; he glared daggers at Kenji.

"None of your business." Ryuji pulled back his arm from Kenji's grasped. Without another word, he pulled Ayane out of the mall and into his car. Ayane was silent the whole time. She was hurting but more than that she was confused. She looked up at the man who saved her from having a complete breakdown. Their eyes met but it felt different. His eyes were no longer cold as they were just a few moments ago.

"Are you okay?" He asked. Ayane couldn't muster the strength to speak so she just nodded her head.

"I'm taking you home. Where do you live?" Still in shock, Ayane didn't answer. Feeling concerned, Ryuji held her hands and noticed blood trickling down. He immediately reached out for the med kit he keeps in his glove compartment. Ayane eased up and opened her hands. Ryuji wiped off the blood and put medicine on it before wrapping it with a bandage. Ayane looked at him while he bandaged her wounds.

"Why?" Ayane asked. Ryuji was surprised when she spoke.

"Why did you help me?" Ayane asked again. She looked at her bandaged arm while Ryuji looked at her.

"It seemed that you needed help." Ryuji answered. He started the car and drove to the address Ayane showed him. They were silent throughout the whole car ride. When they arrived, Ayane exited the car but before she could enter the gate, she turned back and bowed at Ryuji.

"Thank you." And with that she entered the gate without looking back. Ryuji drove back to his mansion.

"Welcome back. You took longer than expected." Rei greeted her at the door. She immediately noticed Ayane's bad mood and bandaged hand.

"Are you okay? What happened to you?" Rei went up to Ayane and checked her hand. Ayane looked down, embarrassed to say something. She took the opportunity to hand the paper bag to Rei.

"What's this?" Rei accepted the paper bag and looked inside.

"It's a 'thank you' present. It's not much but I hope you like it." Rei took out the box inside the paper bag and opened it. She was surprised to see the necklace that Ayane bought. Her eyes sparkled while admiring the jewelry.

"I love it." She gave Ayane a hug. Afterwards, they went to the dining room together for dinner. Rei served the food and they both started eating. After dinner, Rei cleaned up while Ayane was in the living room.

"Ayane, I love you like a sister. I need you to tell me when something happens to you." Rei sat beside Ayane on the couch. Ayane clasped her hands together and fiddled with her fingers. Recalling what had happened made her angry all over again. She realized that she couldn't fight this battle alone.

"When I was at the mall earlier, I saw Kenji." Rei gasped upon hearing what Ayane said. She didn't ask any questions yet. She waited until Ayane was finish telling the story.

"He begged me to come back to him. It was a good thing that Mr. Taizo's grandson came and helped me. I would've broken down and caused a scene if not for him. He was the one who took me home." Rei held her hands to prevent her from doing her toxic habit of clenching her fists too tightly. The look of concern in Rei's eyes was clear and Ayane could see it.

"How dare he show up here? Doesn't he know what that witch did to you?" Rei was furious. Ayane put her hand on her shoulder to calm her down.

"I won't let them take advantage of me anymore." Ayane reassured Rei. Rei sighed and nodded. After their talk, they went to bed.

The next morning, Ayane felt sick to her stomach. She got up and ran to the bathroom to vomit. Rei heard her and came to her aid. She held back Ayane's hair and rubbed her back. She handed Ayane a towel and she wiped the traces of vomit from her chin.

"Are you okay? What's wrong?" Rei asked. Ayane shook her head. She doesn't know what happened; all she knows is that she became sick all of a sudden and wanted to vomit. Out of concern, Rei offered to take Ayane to the hospital. Although reluctant, Ayane agreed to go. She wasn't expecting anything from her checkup.

"Congratulations Ms. You are 2 months pregnant." Both Rei and Ayane were shocked to hear the news. They thanked the doctor and left the hospital. In the car, both were silent. Ayane was scared of what Rei would think of her.

"Rei…" Ayane started off but Rei cut her off.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Tears started to well in Ayane's eyes.

"I'm sorry. I should've told you but I was scared. I was scared that you'd look at me differently." After a year, Ayane showed her vulnerable side to Rei. Rei looked at her with disbelief.

"What are you talking about? Who is the father?" Rei raised her voice unconsciously. Ayane lowered her head.

"I don't know." She muttered under her breath. Rei put her hand on her head and scoffed.

"When did this happen?" She asked. Ayane was crying and couldn't answer. Rei grit her teeth and started the car. She drove back to their house in just a few minutes.  She exited the car and went inside the house. Ayane was still in tears while following her inside. Rei went to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water. She quickly gulped it down while Ayane looked at her from across the kitchen. Rei sighed and sat down on the table.

"I'm concerned about you. Are you keeping anything else from me?" Rei sounded disappointed. Ayane sat down next to her and rested her head on Rei's shoulder.

"I'm sorry if I didn't tell you." Rei sighed and looked at Ayane. She held her hands and their eyes met.

"I promised to help you and stay by your side but I can't do it if you keep anything from me. You have to trust me. No matter what you do, I'll always be on your side." With her words, Ayane nodded while wiping her tears away.

"It was during Habitect's gala. I suddenly woke up in one of the hotel's rooms. I had no clothes on and I couldn't remember anything." This time, it was Rei who was crying. Everything that happened to Ayane throughout the year was beyond what any normal person can handle. It was surprising to see that even she's still fighting. Rei felt sorry for Ayane. She couldn't understand why this was happening to her but despite all of this, she's willing to stand by her side and protect her if need be.

"What do you plan on doing now?" Rei asked. Ayane looked down, feeling defeated. They were silent for a while, none knew what to say.

"I'm keeping the baby." Ayane spoke. Rei breathed a sigh of relief.

"What about your job?" Rei asked. Ayane suddenly felt alarmed. Ryuji was back from London which means her contract will come to an end. She'll be jobless and Rei would have to support her until she could find another. With no other choice, she decided to face her biggest problem.

"Rei, I think it's time I take back what's mine."

The next day, Ryuji went to Habitect for the hand-over ceremony. He hoped to see Ayane at the ceremony. He made extra efforts of looking good today. When he arrived at Habitect, all eyes were on him as he made his way to the elevator. At the top floor, his heart began to race when he thought about seeing Ayane again but was dismayed when she wasn't in her desk. He knocked on his grandfather's door before entering.

"Ah Ryuji, you're here. Let's not waste time. I'm eager to retire." His grandfather joked. They both exited the office but Ryuji stopped in front of Ayane's desk.

"Where's your assistant?" He asked. His grandfather smiled suspiciously.

"Why do you ask? Do you like her?" Ryuji sighed and shook his head.

"It's unlike a president to go to a ceremony without his assistant, don't you think?" Ryuji tried to divert his grandfather's attention. He hasn't told anybody about the night he and Ayane spent together. He has yet to apologize to Ayane about what he did. No matter how you look at it, she was under the influence and he basically took advantage of it. Ryuji had thought it over and over again how he was to explain it to her without her getting angry.

"Even if you don't tell me, I already know. I can see it in your eyes." His grandfather said. Ryuji knew he couldn't hide anything from his grandfather. They went on their way to the conference room for the ceremony. All throughout the ceremony, Ryuji would take quick peeks at the door to see if Ayane would come but she never did. The day was over and Ayane was nowhere to be seen. After the ceremony, Ryuji and his grandfather went out for dinner. His curiosity getting the best of him, he finally asked his grandfather.

"Why didn't Ayane show up today?" His grandfather looked up from his plate and smiled.

"You like that girl, don't you?" His grandfather teased. Ryuji didn't answer. Mr. Taizo laughed at his grandson's dilemma.

"I may have forgotten to mention. Her contract ends when I retire. Yesterday was her last day on the job since you'll be taking office today." Ryuji was shocked from the news that he dropped the fork he was using. His grandfather noticed this and puts a hand on his shoulder.

"You can hire her again as your assistant. I'm sure she'll be glad to keep working in Habitect." With his grandfather's suggestion, Ryuji felt somewhat relieved. He decided to meet with Ayane personally to tell her about the position. The next day, he drove to Ayane's house but when he got there, the house seemed eerily quiet. He kept ringing the doorbell but no one answered. An old woman from the neighboring house came out and saw Ryuji patiently waiting outside Ayane's house.

"Are you looking for the two women who used to live there?" Ryuji turned his head to the direction of the old woman. He nodded in response.

"They left yesterday in a hurry and haven't been back ever since. The young lady who rented this house has ended her lease with me. I guess they won't be staying here anymore." The old lady answered. Ryuji looked back at the house, thinking about Ayane's whereabouts.

"Did they mention where they were going?" Ryuji asked. The old woman shook her head in response. Ryuji walked over to the old woman and handed her a calling card.

"If they ever come back, please contact me." Ryuji bowed at the old lady and turned on his heel. He entered his car and drove back to his mansion. He had an unsettling feeling brewing inside of him. He had neither clue where he could find nor contact her. He tried asking his grandfather for Ayane's number but surprisingly he didn't have it. He tried searching for it on her resume and found it but when he tried to call it, the number was no longer in service. He couldn't just waste time on finding her. He had a company to run after all but despite this, he didn't stop searching.

Kenji was beyond ecstatic the moment he saw Ayane's face. He had been searching for her for a whole year and he finally found her. He wanted to tell her so many things but he didn't know where to begin. The moment he called out her name, Ayane's face stiffened; her eyes suddenly became emotionless.

Why? Why do you have to look at me with those eyes? Kenji thought to himself. The woman he loved stood right in front of him but it felt like he couldn't reach her no matter how hard he tried. What happened between him and Miyu was a mistake he acknowledged. He knew he did wrong but still his love for Ayane was strong. Kenji suddenly remembered that guy who came and took Ayane away.

Who was he in her life? I'm the only one in Ayane's heart. He quickly took out his phone and called his assistant.

"Hello?" His assistant answered on the first ring.

"Progress?" Kenji spoke in a businessman-like tone.

"The file is ready sir; I'll have it delivered to your location immediately." Kenji hung up and took a sip of the whiskey in his hands. When he got the news that Ayane was spotted here in Osaka, he caught the earliest flight and flew in. He was staying in a hotel near the mall where he saw Ayane. There was a knock on the door and Kenji let him in. It was his assistant; he was carrying a folder with him. Kenji sat down on the sofa and his assistant handed him the folder.

"Ms. Mikoto's information are all in there. Apparently, she was taken in by a girl named Kato Rei in a rented house in Senboku district. She's employed in Habitect Co. as the president's assistant." As Kenji skimmed through the documents, his assistant explained. When he heard about Ayane's job, he became curious.

"She works as an assistant?" He asked. The assistant nodded.

"Yes sir. She works at Habitect Co. which is an architectural firm." Upon hearing this, Kenji became annoyed.

"Why is she only an assistant? She's the best architect we had in Tokyo, why did she only get an assistant position?" It seemed strange to Kenji that Ayane would accept a job like that. While skimming, he saw a picture of Ryuji. He remembered the face of the man who took Ayane away.

"Who is this man?" He asked.

"That's Tennouji Ryuji. The president of Habitect Co." Kenji's eyes widened.

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