Kazunari watched quietly as his 2 youngest sons argued.
"Definitely not! I won't have you fainting before you're even halfway through!" Senya slammed his fists on the table, eyes flashing in anger.
"I won't faint!" Masato shot back. "Why can't I participate in the annual cross country run organized by my school! I've never participated in a marathon before. I was in the hospital when the school organized it last year. However, this year, I'm well enough to run!"
"You've just been released from the hospital yesterday after you collapsed due to another attack of asthma. Even the doctor advised against taking part in the marathon." Senya glared at Masato, willing him to argue that fact. Tensions ran high in the Nakatsukasa household.
"You're being over-protective. You don't understand how I feel." Masato looked frustrated. "It doesn't matter what you say. I've made up my mind. I'm taking part in the marathon." Vexed, Senya stormed into his room and slammed the door shut.
"Do you really want to take part in the marathon?" Kazunari asked Masato even though he already knew what the answer would be. Masato gave an affirmative nod. A grim look of set determination was etched onto Masato's youthful features, bringing to Kazunari's mind, the visage of his late wife, Maria. Sorrow cut him to the bone like a thousand swords. The youngest of his four sons, Masato, was the only one who needed special care and attention as he was prone to acute attacks of asthma. Although Kazunari was worried over Masato's condition, he tried not to let that concern hinder Masato from achieving the goals he set for himself. He did not want Masato to feel left out in any way or to think that he was inferior in comparison with his elder brothers lest Masato should lose confidence in himself. Besides, Maria would have wanted her sons to live life to the fullest and freely pursue their goals.
"There is still a month to the marathon. I'll prepare for it by practising everyday. I'll be ready for it when the time comes." Masato pleaded with Maria's beseeching eyes, anxiously waiting for his father's reply to his request.
"Do your best," Kazunari acquiesced, "But promise me that you will not
push yourself too hard." Masato flung himself into
Kazunari's arms, hugging him fiercely. Masato's frail frame trembled with joy and excitement as he whispered a soft "Thank you." against Kazunari's chest. "Good luck." Kazunari whispered back as he stooped slightly to plant a light kiss on Masato's right cheek. Disengaging himself from his youngest son's embrace he moved towards Senya's room.
As Kazunari entered the room, he noticed Senya slumped over his desk, fast asleep. He walked quietly over, took a blanket from the bed and gently placed it around Senya's shoulders.
"Why did you let him take part in the marathon?" Senya's tired voice halted Kazunari's attempted departure from the room. "You were the only one who could stop Masato. You could have said 'no'. I don't want to lose him. I can't live without him. If anything happens to Masato, I don't think I'll survive either."
Senya's worries echoed Kazunari's. Masato was very much the heart and soul of their family. Maria passed away shortly after Masato was born. Having to take care of Masato helped to pull the family closer together. Masato never knew what it was like to have a mother by his side. However, Masato never felt as if he lacked maternal love. His father and brothers filled in the void left by Maria. Senya doted on him the most. Being the closest to Masato's age, Senya played with him and took care of him whenever the others were too busy to do so. Naturally, it was Senya who felt most apprehensive about letting Masato do anything that might prove detrimental to his health.
Kazunari reached out to Senya and held his shoulders gently. "If we keep denying Masato the chance to face up to challenges, he will soon lose confidence in himself. I do not want him to feel that he is a burden to us, that he cannot accomplish anything because of his poor health. Masato has set a goal for himself. He wants to overcome this hurdle. Have faith in Masato. He believes he can do it."
Senya was silent for a long moment while Kazunari held him. Finally he looked up and gave Kazunari an impish smile. "I think I'd better turn in now. I have to get up early tomorrow morning and run with him. Just to keep him company."