...It was strange. To be back after all those years. Not in an awkward way, though. No, actually - it was the exact opposite. Everyone welcomed me back with open arms. People I hadn't spoken to in a long, long time. People I barely even remembered.
But they were my family. And after all that time, the fact that I could still say that without a tinge of nervousness or embarrassment or even shame in my chest... it felt good.
I took a deep breath. The smell of the ocean filled my nostrils.
"...See, I knew this would happen. Even as you're just lying on the beach, you're trying to show off." A hand playfully hit my shoulder.
"Showing off? Sorry to disappoint you, dear sister," I said, turning to look at the woman sitting at my side, "but I just look that good in a suit, y'know?"
"I know that that's not true." She chuckled. My sister Ange did always enjoy teasing me. She was two years older than me and what you'd call a class-act. A generally quiet and seemingly serious exterior hid a childish soul. A true Hollywood princess, I guess. And yeah. That included the part about her secretly knowing martial arts and being better than you in literally everything.
"Jessica, back me up here!" I said to the girl that was with us, looking over the sea's gentle waves.
"Back, up? Sure, I can do that." She responded nonchalantly, before getting up and quickly moving closer to where I was lying.
"W-Wait, what are you-- No, st--!" Before I could do anything, it was too late. In an instant, she'd picked up my entire body, and I found myself over her head, being supported only by her two strong hands. "J-Jessica! W-Wait! Let's negotiate! Is this about your massive tits?! I didn't mean it, okay?! Your tits are tiny! The tiniest I've ever se--!"
Insert sound effect worthy of getting dropped head-first in a heap of sand here.
"Just as you requested, master. Your back is now facing the sun." I couldn't see her, but Jessica always had this way of being absolutely smug about things if she absolutely had to be. And in her eyes, smugness was an absolute must whenever dealing with me. "Shall I prop thy buttocks up as well, oh great overlord?"
"No, I'm good..." I said meekly.
"Oh, dear, master. You seem to be having some trouble communicating. Is it the sand? Could you repeat that?" Jessica said.
"I heard him." Ange now spoke. "I believe he said -- 'prop it up and kick it'!"
I rolled over, very arguably defeated. "I concede defeat, ladies." I then proceeded to spit out the sand in my mouth, as the dignified gentleman I was.
"It's really sometimes easy to forget we're related, Battler." Jessica, seemingly reminded that she was, in fact, my cousin, sighed.
"...Bit of a shame that Aunt Eva and her branch couldn't have made it. I was looking forward to hearing more about George's college work." Ange mused.
"Aw, c'mon, Ange. No need to act like a complete adult around us. I mean, sure, we are all individuals of the highest prestige--"
"Hah!" Jessica laughed.
"--and you might be the oldest one here, but remember. You're 21."
"...Taking an interest in someone's studies in heresy now?" Ange raised her eyebrow.
"It's adult stuff, is what it is!" I said. And I said it more for my sake than anything, given that Ange and Jessica were the only ones I'd get to hang out. After all, we all had one thing in common -- we weren't terribly interested in the adults' discussion.
"The boy who could never grow up..." Jessica sighed. "Well, in any case. I guess it IS good to see you again. These annual conferences are the only chance I get to see you guys."
Ange smiled. "It's good to see you all as well. Family is important, after all." Then, as if she remembered something, she added: "By the way, how is your dad? I mean, being suddenly declared the family Head couldn't have been easy for him."
Jessica nodded. "Well, nobody could've really predicted Grandpa would just give his position up. Dad's been taking the job really seriously. Seems a bit more stressed than usual, but that's no surprise. Holing himself up on this island all day..." she sighed. "...Well. Still. He's happy, I think. And, y'know, if he's happy, mom's happy. And that's all I can really ask for, isn't it...?" She coughed nervously. "...Anyways. What about your parents?"
Ange's smile did not fade at the topic change. "Quite well. They've successfully paid off the last of their debts. The company's seeing an overall good turnover for this year. Before we know it, we'll be back in full swing."
I put my hand on my chin. "Overall, from what I've heard, all of the Ushiromiya family is starting to come back to the top. The business uncle Krauss took over has been kicking as over the past few months. They're calling him the new gamps, aren't they? Aunt Eva and Rosa have both been pretty successful as well."
"Aunt Rosa's firm has managed to score a pretty big fashion show. Or so she's told me, at least." Ange said.
"Good for her. Well, all of us, hihi." I noted, lying back down to my original position, having finally freed my suit off of all the sand. I knew that, despite the success, the family conference will ultimately devolve into bickering, but I rationalized it in my head by saying it was something all reach siblings had to deal with. I closed my eyes, shielding them from the sun above. "...Oh, right. I've been meaning to ask -- who's that Furudo girl?"
"Furudo Erika, you mean...? I have no idea." Jessica shrugged. "Grandpa let her come over for some reason. Who she is and why she's here, she wouldn't say."
"Well, the more the merrier, I guess." I smiled.
"You just say that because you think she's cute." Ange clicked her tongue.
Before I could protest, Jessica added: "Not even the new maids could quench your thirst, could they, Battler? Dear God..."
"What were their names again? Asune and... Sanon. They're new here, aren't they? What happened to the previous help?"
"They left shortly after dad became the head. The only one that stayed behind was Genji." Jessica said.
"So, that's how it is, huh...?" I yawned.
"Uh-oh. He's about to fall asleep." Ange pointed out.
"Battler really is like a burger." Jessica pointed out. "You gotta make sure he keeps being turned on both sides so he doesn't go bad under a sun like this."
"That's r-- Wait, no. No, no, no, no--!"
Insert sound effect worthy of getting dropped head-first in a heap of sand yet again here.