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Act 2 Scene 13 part 1
Posted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 4:19 pm
8k Update... in two parts... enjoy!
Another nsfw part here...
“Don’t forget to live for love”
Waking up next to Hisao in my childhood bed is an odd experience. For brief moment I panic and wonder where I am, then everything clicks into place.
I stretch and arch my back like a cat then pause as something pokes my bum. I turn over and regard the sleeping Hisao. He’s on his side, facing me, and he was spooning into my back. I glance down.
Guess that explains that then.
I flick my good eye over to the clock. The display reads that it is a little past eight in the morning, which is way too early to be up, especially on a three-day weekend. I snuggle back into position with Hisao and drift off again.
The sensation of warmth on my neck wakes me. Hisao is gently placing kisses on the nape of my neck, and it feels so nice.
I make sleepy “mmmmm” noise, give Hisao easier access to my neck, and he plants more kisses before greeting me with, “good morning.”
I roll over, face Hisao and yawn, feeling a cat-like smirk settle on me. “Good morning to you too. Nice way to be woken up! Better than any old alarm clock.” I give Hisao a wink and a small smile graces him before he leans in and gives me a quick kiss.
“We should think about getting up soon,” I grumble as I stretch. It is very comfortable here, and I’m loath to move from here but as needs must.
“I’m trying to muster the enthusiasm to go for a run.” Hisao says, hands behind his head, “Emi was very insistent I don’t let my routine slip.”
“Did you bring your kit?”
“I did.” Hisao confirms.
“Then let’s get up, we’ll go for a slow jog in the grounds. You can’t go on your own, or you’ll get lost.” Hisao laughs at my comment, but I shake my head. “Being serious, Hisao, there’s a lot of ground out there, and I don’t want you getting lost.”
“Uh… okay. Need to take my medication first.”
“Bottle of water in my bag.” I mumble as I wipe sleep from my eyes and swing my legs out of bed. Hisao finds the water and uses it to take all his medication. I watch mainly out of curiosity. Some of the pills he takes are huge and look like they’d be difficult to swallow, but Hisao – obviously used to it – ignores it and downs what he needs in rapid order.
“Water please.” I ask when Hisao is done with it. He throws it over, and I manage to fumble and catch it, using it to take my own medication. We get dressed, and I slip on a pair of trainers and lead the way out of the room.
The corridors are oddly deserted as we traverse the house, and I lead Hisao out to the veranda, outside the dining room. A muted whistle comes from Hisao as he takes in the view.
A manicured sweeping, rolling green lawn with a footpath and a fountain extend for a way from the veranda, and a little way past the water feature is a long wall with a small gate in it, which leads to the more wild, untamed grounds, similar to the woodland near the academy.
It has it’s own crisscrossing tracks and pathways, and it is there that I intend to take Hisao. We walk off the veranda, down onto the lawn and follow the footpath to the gate.
Hisao pushes it open, and we leave the ordered grounds to descend into the dappled morning shade of the woodlands. I’m not a runner, so we keep the pace light, alternating between a slow jog and walking. I lead Hisao through the twisting turning paths, my childhood recollection of this place being an almost accurate map of the paths.
We stop to catch our breath at a crossroads. Hisao looks off to the left. There is a larger path, winding its way past the cherry blossoms. The path is more maintained than the other routes in the greenery, and I can see Hisao’s curiosity has been raised. “Not that way.” I say, “that will lead us to a dead end.”
A literal dead end that is. It’s where the family plot is. I’m not going there. Not now.
Hisao nods, and we continue our leisurely jog. Soon enough we end up back at the wall and jog back along to the gate and back onto the manicured lawns. As we come into view of the house I see some of the house staff setting up the tables on the veranda.
I stop by one of them and ask, “Breakfast?”
The maid nods. “Yes, mistress Tsukino said she wished to partake of breakfast outside along with you and the guests, Ms Ayane.”
“When will breakfast be ready?” I ask.
“Mistress wishes to have breakfast in the next half hour,” the maid says with a small bow before going back to her duties.
“C’mon,” I mutter to Hisao as we head back into the house. “Mother wants to be at breakfast in the next half an hour, so we need to shower and get dressed.”
We ascend the stairs, travel past the corridors of portraits until we reach my room. A staff member had been in the room since we left and had placed some soft fluffy towels on my bed.
I take one, throw the other at Hisao and point out the bathroom door attached to my room. He nods and heads into the bathroom. I give him a few minutes head start and then with a wicked grin, get ready to use the bathroom myself.
I slide my bathroom door open silently and tip toe into the room. The room is getting rather steamy as the bath runs. The bathroom isn’t overly large, more functional than anything else, but it is still far larger than the bathrooms at school.
Hisao is sitting under the shower, hands in his hair, rivulets of water dribbling down his spine and shoulder blades, and all I want to do is gobble him all up.
He looks so delicious and defenceless under the shower.
I put my towels down and shed my running kit and then faintly pick up the sounds of Hisao singing.
I stop momentarily. His voice actually isn’t bad. It’s a smooth baritone, and he’s fairly in key as well. I can’t tell what song he’s singing, it’s too faint for that, but I do catch some mangled English in amongst it.
Shower singing. Never thought Hisao would be one to sing in the shower.
Still he’s distracted, so now is the perfect time to strike!
I move quickly and silently across the bathroom and mid stride realise a shock probably isn’t the best thing for Hisao and his heart. I stop and then move forward a little and then sweetly say, “Hisao!”
He swivels on the bath stool he’s sitting on and gawks at me as his song dies mid sentence. “Surprise?” I say a little lamely as he continues to stare.
Yes, Hisao, I’m naked… Deal with it!
“Go back to your shower,” I say softly, “I’ll scrub your back.” Yes it’s a corny and clichéd line, but I really do want to wash his back. He turns back around wide eyed, and I get a sponge and begin to scrub his back down.
Part of me wants to giggle at the scene. It’s almost like a set up from a dirty manga or anime.
What would the next step be?
I wrap my arms around Hisao from behind and plant a kiss on his back as I spread the soap with my breasts. Tingles run up and down my spine at the movement.
I then debate to myself if I should… return the favour from last night.
It would only be polite after all.
Grinning to myself I stretch my hands forward and wrap one hand around Hisao’s already erect member. A strangled groan comes from him as I gently pump my hand up and down him.
“Ayane?” He questions, breathe beginning to sound ragged.
I speed up my hand and whisper in his ear, “Returning the favour from last night, relax.” Hisao relaxes under my ministrations and enjoys the sensations I’m giving him.
My hand glides up and down his organ, coaxing soft moans out of him. I keep going for a few minutes enjoying and cataloguing Hisao’s reactions. A moan when I twist like that, a small whimper when I gently tighten my grip, a gasp when I nibble on his ear.
I plant more kisses on his back as he submits to me, body beginning to tense up. His breath begins to come in short pants, and then his whole body tenses as his penis pulses in my hand, ejaculate coating my fingers and hitting the bathroom floor as Hisao moans my name at his release.
It’s warm and sticky on my hands and smells a little funky. I bring it near to my mouth and try a little and recoil at the intense salty flavour. “Not trying that again,” I mutter quietly and wash my hands off.
“Wow,” Hisao utters.
“Glad you liked it,” I say primly before giving a short snort of laughter. “C’mon, shower me now and then we’ll hop in the bath.” Hisao complies and massages shampoo into my hair. I relax under his touch to enjoy the sensations and then wash the shampoo out.
“Only time for a short dip, I think, we’ve got a breakfast deadline,” I joke, although I’m pretty sure that Hisao can hear the tremble in my voice. We sink into the bath together, sitting at opposite ends.
I gently rub my foot against Hisao’s as he asks, “so, what’s the plan for today?”
“Breakfast with mother,” I say sourly, “then… hell if I know. Akihiro and Akiho are arriving tonight, so we need to be present for that.” I muse silently for a moment in the water. “We could take a trip into the nearby town, see a film, anything to get us out of the house for a long period of time.”
Hisao nods from down the other end of the bath, and after a few more minutes of soaking we dry ourselves off and head back into my room to get changed.
After we’re dressed, looking at least semi-smart we head down to the dining room.
I stop outside the doors and am about to open them when I hear mother’s voice coming from inside the dining room.
“This is unacceptable Gin, do you hear me? I have not worked this hard for everything to fall down the drain!” She sounds furious, and there’s only one Gin she could be talking to that I know of.
There is silence before mother speaks again this time sounding more like an angry cat, “no Gin, you listen to me. I have worked at this far too hard and for far too long and made too many sacrifices for it to slip out of my grasp this late in the game.”
I linger by the door not opening it. I don’t want to walk into an argument even though it’s an argument over the phone.
Mother’s voice hisses again. “Remember, Gin, that you’re neck deep in this just as I am, so don’t pull that crap on me.” There is another beat of silence, for what I presume is Gin’s rebuke, “so glad you understand, Gin,” she purrs, “you do your side, and I’ll do mine. See you tomorrow.”
It sounds like the conversation is over now, so I open the dining room doors. Mother turns at the sounds of the door opening, and she snaps shut her cell phone as she turns, slipping her phone into her jeans pocket. She’s dressed in some dark jeans hugging her figure and a loose flowing crimson blouse top.
“Good morning, my little nightingale,” she greets me as she walks towards us; I frown at the nickname; its something she only ever does in person. When we’re communicating over the phone or email it’s always ‘daughter dearest.’
“And who is your delightful companion?” She asks me, her eyes alight with interest.
“Nakai Hisao.” Hisao introduces himself to my mother with a bow and her grin widens into vulpine like proportions.
“Tsukino Tomiko, a pleasure Mr. Nakai. Ayane’s brother and his guest have yet to stir, would you care to join us for breakfast?”
I frown as we’re led to the table. Mother is in hostess mode. I’m wondering when the claws are going to appear.
The table is out on the veranda and is nearly groaning under the weight of the breakfast spread. As much as I like good food, there are only a small number of us eating, this is a waste – overkill more like – of food.
Is mother showboating? Flaunting the wealth? I’m not quite sure what her angle is here.
Call me paranoid if you will, but mother always has an angle to play. We sit at the table, Hisao on my left and mother opposite us. “What would you like to drink Mr. Nakai?”
“A black coffee, please,” is Hisao’s polite response. A maid appears and pours Hisao a cup, which he takes and gives an appreciative nod at the maid.
“Black coffee, my, my how serious of you.” I almost bristle at my mother’s flirty tone. “Such a serious young man Mr Nakai, I’ve always believed that you can tell the measure of a man by how he takes his coffee,” her tone is light as if she’s discussing the weather, sipping at her own cup. “Just like Ayane’s father, he always took his coffee black and you even look like a little like my late husband.”
My cup rattles on its saucer before I lift it to my mouth. I see Hisao pause and place his cup back down. “I look like him?”
“A little,” my mother muses, one hand under her chin, one eye resting on me. “Certainly in your build, but mostly in your eyes.” She nods at her statement, and I have uncoiled the spring in my gut. “Yes, you have the same look as him.”
“Are we going to eat?” I ask politely, pleased that my voice holds none of the threat screaming in my head.
“Where is your manners nightingale? We eat when your errant brother and his guest arrives,” she cajoles me as if I were a small and stupid child.
“If you don’t mind me asking, Ms Tsukino, what is it that you do? I’ve never asked but have always wondered.” Smooth move Hisao, pander to her ego and change the topic.
“I help manage the Tsukino empire. Its not just restaurants we dabble in you know.”
“Ah yes, Ayane was telling me about her uncles.”
“Yes, Ayane’s Uncle Yuuki is a master stockbroker, he also helps manage the empire as it were alongside Gin and Kabuto.” Mother takes a sip of her drink and then says, “I run the day to day side of the business to summarise what I do.” It looks as if she is about to expand further when there is noise behind us.
I turn in my seat to find Arashi and Shizune standing in the doorway to the veranda. “Good morning,” mother greets the pair, which Arashi translates to Shizune.
Mothers lips purse into a thin line, “sit, sit,” she says, “breakfast can now begin.”
Arashi and Shizune sit at the table and Arashi gives me a glance. “Two green teas for my brother and Shizune.” I ask the maid.
The maid pours the requested drinks, and Shizune give me a nod of thanks. “And who is your delightful dance partner Arashi dear?”
“Hakamichi Shizune.” I answer flatly. Mother never learned sign language, and this game always happens when we come home. She asks a question to Arashi, and I translate. It’s a petty little game, as she knows sign is one of the few ways for Arashi to communicate.
“Hakamichi?” Mother questions, musing. “As in the Hakamichi Jigoro?” Arashi translates for Shizune, and she gives a stiff nod, then signs at Arashi.
“Her father,” I supply, and I see an interested look flicker across my mother’s eyes.
“Interesting, but a topic for later, I think. Now it is time for breakfast.” Mother concludes the small talk, and we all settle ourselves down to eat.
I pick idly at the spread set before me and stick to what I know best, grilled fish, miso soup, rice and pickled vegetables. I don’t have the stomach for much else as it’s all tied up in a nervous knot.
“Not hungry my little nightingale?”
I grunt in reply, shovel a pickle into my mouth, and mother stiffens at my obvious rudeness. A pall of silence covers the breakfast table as mother has practically ignored Arashi and Shizune since they arrived at the table.
A thought niggles my brain. “Mother,” I say formally, placing my chopsticks down, “where are grandmother and grandfather?”
“They are taking breakfast in their room,” mother replies. “It is part of the reason why I called you home last evening instead of today.” Mother puts her own utensils down and sips at her teacup.
“The news I have is not good, my little nightingale, and I deemed it best you were told in person.” Mother pauses and appears to think about how best to phrase whatever is coming next. “Arashi, Ayane, there is no easy way to say this. Your grandmother is dying, some doctors give her the rest of the year, some a few months, and other’s only give her weeks.” She doesn’t sugar coat it.
I place my cup down for fear of it shattering from a fall and swallow suddenly parched lips. “So you are saying mother that you called us back early to –“
“Say goodbye, yes,” the news doesn’t sink in at first on this sunny veranda.
Arashi looks like I feel – stunned. His mouth is open, and he stares wide-eyed at mother. “How long have you known?” I ask mother softly.
“Several weeks but her condition has been stable, so I deemed it best that you be told in person.” She is unflappable, even though my anger is a potent, almost living thing seething around me.
“Ayane.” Hisao only says my name but it conveys so many things. It is a gentle rebuke; a voice full of love and a verbal hug all at once.
I deflate and stop eating, squeezing Hisao’s hand. I no longer have an appetite.
It appears Arashi has stopped eating as well, and from the other end of the table he signs at me. [Can I see grandmother first?]
[Won’t you need a translator?]
[I’ll use my white board, my English is just as good as yours]
I nod in agreement at that remark, and Arashi dips his head in thanks.
Arashi hates to show any kind of weakness, especially in front of me. It’s his brotherly instincts kicking in, and Arashi has always had a soft spot for grandmother, as he adores her, so I feel it is only fair that he sees her first, away from me so he can shed his tears without me seeing them.
The incident when we got our invites was an incredibly rare occurrence. I can count the number of times Arashi has cried in front of me on two hands.
“May I be excused?” I ask the table and mother dips her head in acknowledgement. I hear Hisao ask the same from behind me, and he joins me as I stalk into the dining room.
He catches up with me as I ascend the stairs. “I’m… There are no words, are there?” He asks rhetorically.
“Not really,” I reply – still fuming at my mothers audacity – I continue with, “how dare she just make that decision? You heard what she said Hisao, possibly weeks, and she knew this several weeks ago. Were we just going to get a call saying, ‘Sorry grandmother’s just died, been ill for a while now, but I didn’t want to tell you?’”
Hisao winces at my verbal tirade, and I sigh. “Sorry. Just… a bit of a bombshell. Home brings out the worst in me.”
His hand finds mine in a silent gesture of support. “I don’t want to be here for quite some time Hisao, Arashi wants to see grandmother first so lets give him and Shizune some privacy. Let’s bail.”
We head to my room, grab what we need to, call a taxi and head to the town below.
Ah, the old town. The stomping ground of my younger days, before Yamaku. It hasn’t changed much, the old church is still there with the creepy priest, the arcade, the theatre, and everything else is pretty much the same as it was when I left.
I feel less oppressed here, clearer and cleaner than the atmosphere at home.
As Hisao and I wander through the town, we decide to stop for a drink in a small café. Not coffee, it’s getting a little on the warm side, so we order something cooler and sit under some shade.
We’re sitting down, idly doing as little as possible, while sipping on our drinks when a loud and boisterous voice yells from across the street, “Oi! Tsukino!”
I look across the road and a skinny, track suited, black haired boy with the most vivid shade of blue eyes waves at me. I feel a grin pop up on my face. “Okumura? That you?”
He grins, and I laugh. It is him, “Katsu!” I shout out, “Come over here!” He crosses the road and sweeps me into a hug.
“Damn it’s been too long, Ayane.” He stops as he notices Hisao, “and who’s this?” He asks with a grin.
“Nakai Hisao – “
“My boyfriend,” I interject giving Hisao a wide grin, and I see the worry slip away from him.
“I dunno,” Katsu says with a drawl, “looks more like someone my brother would like.”
“Leave him alone Katsu,” I scold the boy gently, “besides what’re you doing?”
“Going to be late for kendo practice at this rate,” is the response, as he jerks a thumb at the cylindrical package on his back. “But I got time to talk to an old friend. How are things back up at the top of the hill?”
That’s a friendly jab at the house.
“Same as always.” I mutter, and Hisao winces next to me.
Katsu whistles, “That sucks man, guess your mum’s still being herself huh?”
Katsu has known me most of my life. We went to the same school for a long time until I went to Yamaku. Katsu’s considered a bit of a delinquent by the town as he’s the kind of guy that punches first and asks questions later, especially if he sees you picking on someone.
Katsu and I have drifted apart since Yamaku and my dad’s death, but he was always a good friend.
“She is,” I confirm, “but Arashi is here, too. He’ll probably be in town later with his girlfriend, and he’ll be looking for you, I reckon.”
“Always nice to catch up with the old storm boy,” Katsu chuckles. “Although I gotta admit that my sign is probably a little rusty.”
“You’ll be fine,” I reassure him. Hisao is watching the by play with a small smile on his face.
Katsu is… bouncy in his own rough and ready way, the polar opposite to his twin, Taro, who is calm and unflappable. Although rash and liable to use his fists instead of his brain, Katsu’s got a heart of gold.
“Meh,” Katsu says, “guess we’ll find out later today.” He turns his cerulean eyes to Hisao. “You treat her right ya hear me? She’s like my sister, man, and although she might act tough, she ain’t always tough. Hit her in the right place, and she’ll shatter.”
Thank you for the ringing endorsement.
“I know,” Hisao says taking the threat in his stride, “I’ve already been threatened by knives via her older brother.”
“You met Akihiro and survived?” Katsu whistles, thoroughly impressed. “Damn. Guess you must’ve impressed him, the guy’s madder than a pissed off rhino with wasabi wedged up it’s butt.” The metaphor draws an amused giggle from me and a snort from Hisao.
“I probably wouldn’t use that phrase to his face,” Hisao says delicately, trying not to laugh.
“Yeah,” Katsu muses, “he’d probably string you up by your balls if you said it. Still you’re the one playing with fire by dating his sister!” He looks down at his watch and frowns, “I gotta bail, kendo practice is about to start, and I gotta be ready for the regional’s. Sayonara!” He shoots off down the road, waving as he runs.
“Who was that?” Hisao asks eventually.
“That was Okumura Katsu. Childhood friend, although a better friend of Arashi than me.”
Hisao picks his words with caution; “He seems like an odd sort.”
“A little,” I confess, “but he’s got a good heart. I first met him when he punched some bullies that were taunting Arashi. We became friends pretty quickly after that little incident.”
“I can imagine,” Hisao says, finishing his drink.
“He’s a little like a whirlwind, you just have to brace and endure the storm or get swept up alongside it.” I finish my drink as well, and we leave the café behind us, heading deeper into town.
“Fancy seeing a film?” Hisao asks as we pass the theatre.
I look at the titles available and say, “sure, it’ll kill a few hours… And if the film sucks we can just make out on the back seats.”
Hisao turns a lovely shade of red at that statement.
End part 1
Act 2 Scene 13 part 2
Posted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 4:29 pm
If its speech in Italics, assume it is in English.
Don't forget to live for love: part 2
As it turns out the film wasn’t that bad. One of those unremarkable thrillers that while it isn’t terrible, is easily forgettable.
Still it does kill some time, and as I turn my phone back on, I read the text message my brother has left.
“Seen grandmother. Not well, I think it would be better if you see her now rather than later.”
You don’t need to tell me that Arashi, I just wanted to give you some space first for your stupid macho pride.
Stifling a sigh I punch in the number for a taxi and order one for home.
When we get back, Arashi and Shizune are either lurking somewhere in the house or gone into town themselves. I don’t know which, but either way they aren’t in his room.
I had wanted to get a heads up on grandmother, but I guess that’s not going to happen now.
Hisao is at my side as I lead him to the guest wing of the house, where according to one of the staff, my grandparents have taken up residence.
“What are they like?” Hisao asks as we wander the corridors.
“They don’t speak very fluent Japanese, they’re better conversing in English. Grandmother is very sweet, Grandfather can be a little intimidating but he’s a gentle sort.”
We’ve arrived. It wouldn’t be polite to barge in, so I raise my hand and knock three times.
“Come in,” A deep male voice in English rumbles through the door. Hisao glances warily at the door, and I push it open.
There in the room are my grandparents.
My grandfather is an imposing man, tall and wide in the shoulders and in his prime would’ve been even more intimidating. His hair is greying and fading but it still retains some of its colour. His square chin, framed by stubble is set in a frown.
My grandmother is a delicate thing compared to grandfather. She looks even frailer lying there in the bed, eyes closed in sleep, lines creasing her face making her look far, far older than she is.
Her skin is almost translucent, paper-thin, and I see the blood slither through her veins. Her hair once a silvery blonde is now a brittle white, looking limp and coarse instead of its once lustrous sheen.
This is not the grandmother I remember. Even being as delicate as she was, she always had such energy and a zest for life to her.
This figure here in this bed, has more resemblance to a corpse than my grandmother.
“Granddaughter,” Grandfather rumbles in English. “Good to see you, although it would be better if your grandmother was better.”
“I’m so sorry, Grandfather, I only just learned of this…”
“I did try to contact you my dear but your mother assured me she had in hand. Apparently not.” He reassures me with a wave of his hand, and then sweeps me up into a hug, lifting me off the floor.
“It is good to see you,” he says as he places me back on the floor and then focuses on Hisao. “And you’ve brought company I see! Who are you young man?”
“Nakai Hisao!” Hisao stammers.
Grandfather laughs, and it vibrates throughout the room. “Relax young man, Hisao. I’m not going to hurt you.” He extends a beefy hand to Hisao, and they shake hands, Hisao wincing a little during the shake. “Good man,” he says with a nod.
I approach the bed where my grandmother lies and kneel by the bedside. “What’s wrong?”
“Nobody knows,” grandfather replies sadly. “She just seems to be wasting away, and her lucid moments are getting fewer and fewer, Ayane. There are days where she doesn’t even recognise me. But today has been a good day so far. She is talking and she recognised your brother. She even teased him a little about his lady friend.”
“Do the doctors not know what is wrong?” Hisao asks, his English slightly stilted and with an accent. There is a shake of a head and a sound akin to a bear sneezing as grandfather issues a deep, deep sigh.
“Not particularly, one suggests one thing, another suggests something entirely different,” grandfather growls, “Can’t even agree on an estimate. It hurts to see her like this, Ayane.”
I tentatively grasp my grandmother’s hand, and she feels clammy and cold to the touch. Part of me wants to pray, while another part remarks how useless that would be. “Sorry I wasn’t here sooner, Grandmother.” I bow my head and place my forehead against her fingers.
Grandmother loved the balls mother holds. She would always get at least one dance from her husband, even with her advancing age. In fact she often looked sprightlier than some of the other guests.
“She wanted to talk to you,” grandfather says in the still air. “During some of her lucid moments she said she had a request for you.”
“Oh, do you know what it is?” I ask.
“Not the slightest, but she should wake up soon. I suggest you hang around, keep an old man company.”
“Of course, Grandfather.” I say with a smile and small bow.
He rolls his eyes at my formality and then turns to Hisao. “Tell me, boy,” he asks, standing up, “do you play chess?”
Hisao shakes his head, and my grandfather’s mouth splits open into a broad grin. “No time like the present then!”
The chessboard is set up, and Hisao sits opposite Grandfather, the pieces looking comically small in my grandfather’s hands. Hisao is looking as though he’s about to face the grim reaper himself, while I ferret a book out from the bookcase in the corner of the room and settle down to read.
I get the feeling we could be here for quite some time.
Three hours later and I am proven correct. The staff brings us lunch, and we go back to reading and playing chess.
Hisao loses spectacularly every time, but he keeps going since the enjoyment grandfather is getting from playing is obvious to see.
I’m quite happy to sit in the corner snuggled up in a comfy chair and read the literary materials I plundered from the bookcase earlier.
It is coming up close to three and a half hours when I hear movement from Grandmother’s bed, and I see her beginning to stir.
The chess game stops, and I move over to the bed, taking Grandmother’s hand into mine. “Good afternoon, Grandmother.”
Her eyes flicker open, and the cloudy brown eyes focus somewhat blearily on me. “Is that you, Ayane?” she asks, her voice sounding like a rustle of dry autumn leaves.
“It’s me, Grandmother,” I confirm, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.
Her hand tries to squeeze back, but she lacks the strength to do so properly. “I feel so tired, my dear, but it is awfully good to see you.”
“It is good to see you, too,” I say softly, feeling a lump creep up my throat.
Her hand slithers free from mine and caresses my cheek. “I’ve not got long left, my dear Ayane,” she croaks, her hand cupping my cheek. I feel tears spring from my good eye and roll down over my grandmother’s hand as a strangled sob comes from Grandfather.
“But it is good to see you… before the end,” she wheezes. “I heard that you’d brought a nice young man home, is this true?”
A wobbly smile creeps onto my face as I answer through the lump in my throat, “the best Granny, I found the best. His name’s Hisao, and he’s one of the best things to ever happen to me.”
“Is he here now?”
Hisao steps away from the chessboard and says clearly, “I’m Nakai Hisao.”
“Oh such a nice sounding young man, come closer my dear, eyes aren’t as good as they used to be.” I motion to Hisao to come closer, in case he hadn’t understood the English and he comes over, kneeling next to me, and Grandmother’s hand moves from my cheek to his.
“You’ve found quite a treasure then have you, my dear?” the question is directed at me, and I nod, unable to answer due to the sudden lump in my throat. “Good. Keep a good hold of him then.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Hisao answers in stilted English, and a smile cracks across her wrinkled face.
“Good answer, my dear,” she says with a breathy chuckle. “Keith.” She addresses my grandfather who starts in surprise. “Go back into our old room and look through the drawers will you? There should be a letter for Ayane.” Grandfather nods and leaves the room briskly.
“Can’t you tell me now?” I ask weakly.
“I can’t remember what I said on the letter my dear, brain’s not as good as it once was, and these days I am so very tired.” She coughs, and it sounds like her lungs want to escape her body. “I do want you to promise me some things though, my dear.”
“Anything,” I reply quickly.
“Read the letter later, in privacy. Just you and your young man.” She coughs again and gathers her thoughts. “Lastly, my dear Ayane, a piece of advice, if you’ll have it.”
“You know I will.”
A smile emerges on her wizened face as she pats Hisao on the cheek, “This advice is for both of you, and it’s the same thing I told your father many years ago, just before he married your mother.”
She takes a breath, and the moment seems to hang in the air, eager for her advice. “Both of you don’t ever forget to live for love.”
It seems an odd piece of advice to give, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it, but I take it and store it in my head as a memory. What will be one of my last memories of grandmother before she’s… before she’s cold, in a coffin and in the family plot out amongst the cherry trees behind the house.
Grandfather comes back into the room and is holding a letter. He passes it to me, and I take it almost reverentially as if it was made of glass. “Remember, read it in private my dear.” She coughs again, and then her voice sounding even fainter says, “I would quite like something to eat. Keith?” He nods and brings a covered tray from the corner of the room. He takes it to the bed and gently begins to feed grandmother.
I can feel the lump in my throat again. “I think it’s time we found something to eat as well,” Hisao says, taking my hand.
“Sounds like a good idea my dear, a pleasure to meet you. Take care of each other now.”
I flee the room with Hisao. I’m trying desperately not to cry, vomit or both.
That room… It was so hopeless. She was – is – dying, and all she can do is sit there and smile.
Part of me wants to rage at the unfairness of it all.
Another part wants to drag my grandfather out of there and to try and make him smile.
I’m aware of my feet moving. Hisao is supporting me, but I feel wrung out, like a towel. This house, grandmother and my memories - they’ve taken chunks out of me, and the wounds left are raw and bleeding. I don’t want to think anymore.
“Hisao,” I register myself whispering faintly, “what do you think she meant?”
“To live for love?” Hisao asks. I nod and he makes a noise that I think means he’s mulling the subject over. “I think, for your father she meant that he should marry for love, not responsibility, for us… I think she means, no matter what happens, no matter the bumps or diversions we may take, don’t ever forget that love is worth fighting for.” There is a moment of embarrassed silence, then Hisao mutters, “at least, that’s my interpretation of it.”
“Never took you for a romance novelist,” I jest lightly, although my tone is flat.
I want to sleep, and I voice that to Hisao. “We’re nearly at your room, Ayane. You can rest then.”
I don’t reach my room. The emotional and mental fatigue are all taking their toll on me.
Hisao shakes me awake.
“Arashi just found me, Akiho’s arriving.” I blearily rub my eyes and take in the time. I’ve been asleep for several hours.
“Akiho’s here?” I repeat, still rubbing sleep from my eyes, as I slip my slippers on. I’m feeling vaguely more human, so we head off to go and greet my sister.
We make our way out of the front door to find that her car has already pulled up and that Shirou is dealing with the luggage. Mother hasn’t even deigned to make an appearance and probably won’t. The relationship between my half siblings and mother is even more frosty and openly hostile than mine.
“Akiho!” I call out, and she greets me with a soft smile, bounding up the steps to give me a hug.
“I heard the news,” she says somberly, “Arashi texted me while I was still at home.”
“I know,” I mutter angrily, “I saw her earlier, Akiho, and she is in a bad way.”
Akiho gives a deep sigh; “it won’t be easy, for any of us.”
I regard Shirou as he comes up the steps with the bags, staring in awe at the front of the house. “I didn’t know you had a car,” I say to Akiho.
“I don’t, it’s Shirou’s car.”
Should’ve figured. Akiho adores her bike, so it’s unlikely for her to have a car as well.
Shirou has just finished bringing the bags up when we see headlights in the distance. “Guess that’s Akihiro,” Hisao says next to me as Akiho greets Shizune and Arashi.
“Earlier than expected,” I remark as the car comes up the hill and into view of all of us.
I hear Shirou drop the bags and splutter something incomprehensible. “What was that?” Akiho asks him.
Shirou points wordlessly at the car. It’s a sleek, red sporty thing, with one of those soft canvas retractable roofs up. The car stops just behind Shirou’s car and a woman steps out.
She’s sporting black twin tail hair, wearing red and black colour scheme and is looking mightily puzzled at Shirou’s car.
Her head swivels to face the steps, and her jaw drops as she takes in Shirou.
“What’re you doing here?” The last statement is said in unison, and I just laugh in disbelief as the brother and sister regard each other in steadily mounting horror.
“So let me get this straight,” Hisao says, rubbing his eyes as we eat at the table, “Shirou and Rin are brother and sister, and both of them are dating another brother and sister, without telling each other and without knowing about it.” Hisao sighs and leans back in his chair, “it’s like a cheap daytime soap opera.”
I laugh, and I can see Shizune smirking as well, the whole situation amusing her as Arashi translates what’s going on.
Akihiro and Akiho sit in embarrassed silence for the most part. Still it really is their own fault that they never mentioned it to each other and to their respective partners!
At least we all get a laugh out of it.
“All we need is popcorn,” I say dryly, and I see Arashi roll his eyes.
Rin, the older sibling, chewed her brother out - in earshot of everyone - about how he hadn’t told her he was dating ‘some blonde bimbo’. That got everyone fired up, but she backed down once she learned Akiho was a teacher.
Turns out Rin’s a lawyer. Smart and good-looking, my brother’s landed a big fish.
Shirou still can’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that his boss is dating his older sister. It seemed he’s almost gone catatonic.
Honestly the whole situation is just highly amusing and incredibly ironic.
I tune out Akiho and Akihiro squabbling and enjoy the good food and the good company. I feel better than I did earlier, and with the rest of my siblings here, the pressure feels somewhat lighter than it did earlier in the day.
Mother doesn’t make an appearance for this meal, a snub directed at Akiho and Akihiro, but I don’t think they really give a damn to be honest. What they’re concerned with at the moment is our grandparents and the ill state of grandmothers’ health.
Still the meal is lively and friendly, and pretty soon plates are emptied and bellies are full, and we all retire to our respective rooms. Tomorrow is the big day after all.
When Hisao and I arrive back in our room – my room – I remember the envelope that my grandmother gave me.
As Hisao readies himself for bed, I open the letter and read its contents:
My sweet granddaughter, Ayane;
If you are reading this, then it means that I am not going to be with you for much longer I’m afraid.
I wrote this letter just after your father died. It is a sad thing for a parent to have to bury their child; a child who died well before his time but what I remember most about that day is not the actual funeral, or the grief that clouded my sense.
No what I remember most clearly about that day is you my dear and the beautiful send off you gave your father.
There was not a dry eye in the house after you had finished.
What I am asking Ayane – if you can forgive an old woman her selfish request – is that you do like you did for your father. As I’m placed in the family plot, I would like your voice to send me off to the angels.
You know which song I would like to be sent off to, Ayane.
The letter falls from trembling fingers, and I feel my breath coming in small pants. Hisao is by my side in an instant wrapping his arms around me.
I feel cold and numb.
How could she?
How can she even ask this of me?
I want to scream, I want to cry, wail and rage at the unfairness of it all.
I can’t send another relative to the family plot to the sound of my voice. I can’t. I’m not sure my fragile psyche could handle it.
I’m not even sure if I can sing anymore.
I feel myself sobbing in Hisao’s arms, I can’t even begin to articulate what’s wrong with me, but he reads the letter and understands why I’m in such a state.
He doesn’t say a word, no empty platitudes or promises.
We know that my grandmother has a limited time. She is going to die, sooner rather than later, and she wants me to do what I did for Dad.
I killed him with my voice and I send him into the ground with it too.
It is a selfish request but even so, a small part of me is considering it, even with the entire trauma it will unearth.
Can I do this?
That night, I cry myself to sleep in Hisao’s arms, my dreams alive with death, music and my father.
End scene 13.
Re: Learning the blues. Act 2 Scene 13 up!
Posted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 5:01 pm
Oh, you sure know how to drive a knife into a poor sap's heart and twist it. I enjoyed that chapter immensely. The scene with Shirou and Rin was...uh....interesting. It makes some sense that Akihiro would do that, knowing the type of person he is.
Ah, I have little of importance to say as usual, other than to state my joy at yet another chapter. But you writer types apparently like feedback, so I'm sure to give it, little as it helps practically.
Re: Learning the blues. Act 2 Scene 13 up!
Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2014 1:03 am
Welp, I've officially tuned in, much to my advanced calc (think proving calculus) homework's dismay. I remember seeing this series pop up a while ago and didn't open it. Now am I glad that I have and I'm caught up. Good stuff here, man. Keep it up
Re: Act 2 Scene 13 part 1
Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2014 8:56 am
“Not trying that again,”
That's what you think Ayane.
Anyways, fantastic as always. The whole brother-sister thing was fun. Besides, that very emotional chapter. It'll be interesting how Ayane handles her grandma's request. I'm personally hoping she does it. Each chapter, my excitement over the brewing confrontation grows. I can't wait for the next chapter!
Re: Learning the blues. Act 2 Scene 13 up!
Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2014 2:51 pm
azumeow wrote:Oh, you sure know how to drive a knife into a poor sap's heart and twist it. I enjoyed that chapter immensely. The scene with Shirou and Rin was...uh....interesting. It makes some sense that Akihiro would do that, knowing the type of person he is.
Ah, I have little of importance to say as usual, other than to state my joy at yet another chapter. But you writer types apparently like feedback, so I'm sure to give it, little as it helps practically.
Hehe, stab and twist... it ain't over just yet though
Reviews are like fine food to me
So to quote the little shop of horrors...
Minion: glad I can distract you from your homework and it's always nice to have a new reader!
Anton: You may have to wait a while, I'm at an expo all weekend! As for the singing thing... you'll find out.
Scene 14: Dancer in the dark.
Posted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 3:42 pm
Whelp... I'm back!
Also, I now have artwork: http://ks.renai.us/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=9943
This is a BIG chapter, 14k words, so It's in several chunks... but apart from that... enjoy!
“Dancer in the dark”
When morning comes, sunlight peeking in through the crack in my curtains, I stir feebly in Hisao’s arms and blearily wipe my eyes.
My right eye - my bad eye - feels tender and sore. It happens from time to time. The chemicals burned my tear ducts in my right eye during the accident, and it is very rare and difficult for my right eye to cry. When it does, however, the aftermath hurts like hell, a fierce burning and itching sensation, almost like I’ve rubbed chillies into my eye.
I reluctantly disengage from Hisao’s arms and slide off the edge of the bed, slipping on my slippers and making my way over to the suitcase that held my stuff in.
I fumble through one of the side pockets on the case and draw out my rarely used bottle of eye drops. Grumbling under my breath I drag myself into the bathroom and stagger to a halt in front of the mirror.
I regard my reflection for a long moment.
There is hair everywhere, my normal eye is bloodshot, and my damaged eye is even redder and more tender looking than normal.
Bags have formed under my eyes as well, and my reflection scowls back at me. Using two fingers, I gently stretch open my right eye lids and carefully squeeze four drops into my eye. The burning sensation eases as soon as the drops hit the surface of my eye, and I give a small sigh as the fierce itching and burning ceases.
I recap the bottle of eye drops and place it next to the sink. I clean my teeth whilst at the sink, and when I rinse my mouth out the water is tinted sanguine with blood.
The handle of my toothbrush is gripped tightly in my hand. I brush too harshly, irritating my gums and making them bleed.
The water swirling and circling down the drain represents perfectly how I feel at the moment: Circling the drain, waiting for gravity to take hold and plunge me into the abyss.
My hands curl around the edge of the sink, and I breathe through my nose, trying to calm down. All this stress is not good for me.
I do not want another fit so soon after the previous one.
I shake my head, and I can see my hair fly around my face in the mirror.
Grandmothers request has left me severely shaken.
No, not just her request, it’s the fact that she’s dying that has also shaken me to the core.
She had always seemed so alive and so full of life. Seeing her there on her bed like that, so wisp-like, so frail has shaken me.
Reading her request has wrenched off the scab that was beginning to form on the indelible wound on my psyche.
Guilt is one of the feelings that ferments in the wound. Guilt that I could have - should have - done something, guilt about ever wanting to enjoy music again.
Anger is another familiar friend. It fills me with simmering tension and tautness in my muscles and clouds my vision with red.
Anger is a common emotion for me. Anger at my mother for how she treats us.
Anger at my father… for leaving me alone.
Anger at my grandmother for accepting that she’s going to leave us and how calm she is about that fact.
How is that acceptable in any way? You should always fight to live! Fight, and live to see another day, not to lie down and die!
Grief is another ingredient in the bubbling melange of toxic emotional stew.
A toxic mix that is slowly poisoning me - and if I’m not careful those around me.
I walk back into my bedroom. Hisao is still in the depths of sleep, snoring lightly on my bed, although at this point it’s more our bed.
This boy with the messy brown hair, whose life I barged into, has been – to be frank – my rock throughout the past few weeks. I sit next to him on the bed and run my hand through Hisao’s soft, silky hair. He stirs slightly in his sleep, face twisting in a grim expression.
I don’t think he’s having a pleasant dream.
I run my hand through his hair again and he quiets down, mumbling under his breath as he dreams.
A small, sad smile forms across my face as I regard the image before me.
I want to take a picture of this moment and sear it into my memory forever. Hisao, tangled in my – our – bed sheets, face relaxed in slumber as morning light begins to filter into the room.
He looks so peaceful.
Hisao has done so much for me in such a short time.
One of my hands inches forwards and cups a cheek. I have seriously fallen for this man. There are no ifs, buts or maybes about it.
Do I love him?
I’m not sure I can answer that question. The only love I’ve ever known is parental, familial love, sibling love. I have no idea what romantic love is.
Well, I do have some idea, but it’s the idea of romantic love from the media around me, from the manga I read, the anime I watch and the books I read.
Which, thinking about it, may not be the best reference points.
I know that when I’m with him, I breathe easier, I feel lighter, freer from the worries and strife in my head. He’s good for me.
But a part of me wonders and worries. How long before he gets tired of babying me? How long before the support he gives me crumbles under the weight of my worries and fears?
How long before my own toxicity poisons him as well?
I retreat from Hisao’s slumbering form and sling on a dressing gown. I leave the room, closing the door gently and head into the maze of the house.
I take a right, then a left at the library and head up the set of stairs nearby. As I walk, I force all the emotion that’s been bubbling and broiling away down and bottle it all up deep inside.
As I ascend the stairs I feel myself calm somewhat and open the doors at the top of the stairs to the balcony.
It’s one of my favourite places in the house. Mother has something of a fear of heights, so when I’m here, I’m not often disturbed.
The balcony faces out towards the back of the house, giving an excellent view of the grounds and the forest nearby. There is always a small set of tables and chairs here as well as a small outdoor heater.
Normally, this place is deserted. I’m one of the few and only people to frequent it. Not this morning however.
My older brother, Akihiro, sits on one of the chairs, facing the mostly risen sun with a cigarette in his mouth. Since I’ve last seen him, he’s had his hair cut shorter, almost close to his scalp, more blonde fuzz than hair now. He also appears tired, stubble on his face, bags under his eyes, smoke wreathing his head in a halo-like effect, the cherry red tip of his cigarette visible in the morning light.
He has a glass tumbler on the table, half filled with an amber coloured liquid, next to his packet of cigarettes and his lighter. There is an partly filled crystal ashtray in front of him, the remains of several cigarettes already in the tray.
His clothes are crumpled and look well worn. They look like - if I remember rightly - the clothes he was wearing when he arrived last night. Did he sleep in them? Or did he have a craving, threw some worn clothes on and come up here for some nicotine?
He spots me and raises a hand in greeting. “Good morning Ayane.” His voice is rough and gravelly, sounding a little under the weather.
I take another seat near Akihiro and return the greeting, before we lapse into silence. I hear Akihiro light another cigarette and blow smoke into the air, the clouds drifting by my face shortly afterwards.
“Is everything okay, Brother?” I ask eventually.
He grunts in reply, but a moment later simply says, “no.”
There is more silence. “I fucking hate this place.” His words slice like a razor through the still air. “That woman, strutting around the place, not a single portrait of mother – my mother – anywhere. This place is a cage, Ayane, and I’m already beginning to regret coming back.”
“We always regret coming back.”
Sometimes I forget that I’m not the only one that Dad’s death hit. It left a void in all of us and being back home… Well, it dredges up the good and the bad memories.
Akihiro always reaches for his crutches when the going gets tough. In his case, that’s booze and cigarettes, and here we are, sitting in the morning light, Akihiro already halfway through a pack of twenty and drinking something pretty potent by the smell of it.
“Can I ask why you’re up here?” he asks me a few minutes later.
I turn and regard Akihiro for a moment. The smoke from his cigarette almost curls around him like a lover would as he inhales again. “Have you seen grandmother yet?” I ask instead.
He shakes his head, “I saw her very briefly last night after dinner, but she was asleep, I’ll visit for longer before the ball this evening.” He regards me shrewdly for a moment, taking a sip from his tumbler. “So, whatever’s got you all hot under the collar has to do with grandmother.”
“Am I that obvious to read?” I ask dryly.
Akihiro cocks his head to one side and then stubs the butt of his cigarette out in the tray, before opening the packet, taking one out, lighting it and then placing an unlit one near my right hand on the table. “I’m your brother you idiot,” he says through the smoke. “Of course I can read you.” He sucks in another smoke-filled breath and then eyes me through the cloud. “Well?” he asks, after exhaling.
I fiddle with the cigarette before deflecting his question with another, “What’re you drinking?”
He snorts but holds the glass up, as if in toast. “This, little Sister, is forty year old, single malt whiskey from Glen Ord in Scotland. It’s strong stuff.” He tilts the glass in my direction, and I can smell the alcohol. “Want some?” He asks, offering me the glass.
My curiosity roused, I take the offered glass and take a small sip. It burns! Even though I’ve only taken a small sip the fire still burns a trail down my throat and then coils in my belly like a small piece of coal. Akihiro nods approvingly, a small laugh bubbling from him as I choke and sputter, putting the glass down on the table.
He takes it and takes a large slug of the drink, having half of what’s in the glass in one shot. How can he do that? “It always burns the first time,” he says with a wink. He gestures to the cigarette I still hold limply in my hand.
I place it in my mouth, and he flicks his lighter on, the flame blazing into life. “Inhale,” is all he says as the lighter approaches the end of the cigarette in my mouth.
I do as he says, and the most disgusting feeling ever promptly rewards me. My mouth feels fuzzy, my throat seizes up, and I splutter out a hacking cough. Akihiro likes this? My mind boggles. He laughs loudly, before taking another breath of his currently lit cigarette.
I laugh as well, tucking the lit cigarette into a small notch on the ashtray. Akihiro’s antics were about relaxing me, and I do feel more relaxed. “Yeah, it is about Grandmother,” I admit. I take a deep breath and look up at the sky. “She asked me to sing her favourite song at her funeral when she dies.”
Akihiro sucks in a breath, and I hear him finish the glass of whiskey off and then swear violently under his breath. “That sucks,” he says with his customary bluntness, “you going to do it?”
I shake my head. “I don’t know yet,” I admit. “Akihiro… I’m still…”
“I know.” The soft and gentle response is one I didn’t expect from my older brother. “You’re still dealing with the effects of what happened to Dad, I know that. But Ayane, I’ve seen you begin to recover in the past months.” He pauses, finishes his current cigarette, stubs it out and then picks the one that I had, even though it has been steadily burning down. “And it is all thanks to Hisao.”
That statement surprises me even more. Akihiro is ‘big brother’ to his core, always fiercely protective of me, and to talk of Hisao like this – to approve of him – is so out of character for him.
“What I’m trying to say, is that little fucker has helped you out, and you don’t let the little shit go alright?” Akihiro pauses. “You do as you want to do, Ayane. Sing, or don’t. You’ve gotta be the one to make that choice, no-one else.”
I nod, and he grins, extinguishing his last cigarette, putting the pack back in his pockets, before sitting back and relaxing in the crisp morning air.
We say nothing after that exchange, only stirring when a maid disturbs us, and we ask for some coffee to be brought to us.
When the coffee comes, we sip at the steaming cups in the warming air, enjoying the coffee and the simple company we give each other.
When the doors open, it is Akiho standing in the doorway. She wrinkles her nose at the ashtray in front of Akihiro, and her frown deepens when she spots the empty tumbler near him as well.
“It’s not even nine in the morning yet,” she scolds gently, sliding into a chair besides Akihiro, “but I thought you’d be up here.”
“Oh?” I ask curiously.
She nods, a small grin on her face, “the amount of times I’d find Akihiro up here when he was younger,” she says with a long-suffering sigh.
Akihiro shifts uncomfortably in the small chair. “Yeah, yeah, this was my hidey hole when I was younger.”
“You nearly froze to death up here, on one of Dad and Tomiko’s wedding anniversaries, and you hid up here when Dad got remarried,” Akiho reminds him with a sly grin.
“Hey,” Akihiro retaliates, “you were up here with me too!”
Akiho laughs aloud. “Yes, I did hide out here with you as well. How long before we were found?”
“About half an hour,” Akihiro grumbles, fingers twitching towards his pockets. “Dad found us pretty quickly and gave us a serious talking to.”
“I got it worse,” Akiho commiserates. “I was told to be a better example for my little brother.” Akihiro snorts at that comment.
“And I’ve always gone and done my own thing anyway,” Akihiro snarks at Akiho, who rolls her eyes and steals his cup of coffee, drinking the rest of it in an overly large gulp.
“Did you need us for something?” I ask, after watching the byplay.
Akiho, smiles at me, her green eyes catching the morning sunlight. “I was wondering if I could drag brother dearest from his morning thinking and enlist him to help with breakfast. Shirou has already started, much to the annoyance of the resident chef.”
Akihiro levers himself from the seat and grunts, “fine, no way I’m letting shitty Shirou one up me.”
“Careful with your language brother, I am seeing said person.” Her eyes narrow at Akihiro and he rolls his eyes.
“And do you know how awkward that is to look an underling in the eye and realise he’s banged my older sister?”
Akiho turns a rather fetching shade of scarlet and splutters something incoherently. I catch two words, “Shirou” and “Sex” and tune Akiho out before I end up scarring my brain. Akiho herself is looking like she’s about to blow steam out of her ears, she’s that flustered.
I decide to cut in before the situation gets any more awkward and mind scarring. “Can we please not have any mention of my older siblings having sex?”
“Why have you not done the nasty with Hisao yet?” Akihiro fires back as he leaves the balcony.
I feel my jaw drop at his brash and crass statement. “What? No!” I immediately respond, and I see him grin and Akiho sigh in relief.
Oh you insufferable man! I stomp my foot in child like frustration and shove past Akihiro, leaving the balcony and heading down, back to my room.
I can’t help the smile that creeps across my face though. They might be annoying at times but they never stop trying to make me smile.
When I open the door to my bedroom, I see that Hisao is up and about, as he’s no longer tangled in the bed covers.
The sound of running water stops from the on suite bathroom and a few moments’ later Hisao steps back into the room, wrapped in a towel. His skin is still damp in places, with some water droplets running down his chest.
I’m certainly appreciating the view. “Good morning,” I say with a coy smile, sauntering over to Hisao. I wrap my arms around him and place a kiss on his scar, not caring about the fact that I’m getting my dressing gown damp.
I feel him place a kiss on top on my head, “Ayane, why do you smell of smoke?”
“Been hanging around with Akihiro this morning,” I say with a shrug. I do not mention that I actually had a small puff of one. Hisao makes a noise of comprehension and we cuddle for a few moments more before I reluctantly disengage. “I need to shower,” I explain as I rummage through the wardrobe for a set of clothes and get a towel out. “Akihiro and Shirou are making breakfast so you might want to go down to the dining room soon.” Hisao nods and begins to dry his hair, while I step into the bathroom.
The bathroom is still slightly misty, the mirror full of condensation. I brush my teeth again, rinsing the taste of smoke out of my mouth. I shed my clothes and relax under the shower, enjoying the sensation of water running down me.
In short order, I’m back in my room, dried off and dressed in my casual wear, just a set of jeans and a loose, flowing green t-shirt.
Hisao isn’t in the room, so I assume he’s headed down for breakfast. My stomach growls at me as I think that, so I hurry down to the dining room as well.
End part one of: Dancer in the dark
Scene 14: Dancer in the dark Part 2
Posted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 3:45 pm
Part 2 of: Dancer in the dark
The dining room and the veranda are, to put it simply, in sheer and utter chaos. I only left Akihiro about half an hour ago, yet here he is arguing, with the staff chef, about what sounds like the seasoning?
I’m not getting involved.
Hisao is sitting on the veranda, sipping on a hot drink of some kind, most likely coffee, watching the chaos around him. Contractors are putting up decorations, lights and so forth, for the ball later.
Shirou is bringing out more food, the tables near the veranda groaning under the weight of dishes, that the staff, outside contractors and my family are helping themselves too. The redhead is seemingly in his element, smiling widely without a care in the whole world, quickly stealing a kiss from a blushing Akiho on his way back into the kitchen.
Arashi and Shizune sit near Hisao. Arashi is rapidly signing to Shizune. She smiles at whatever it is he signs, then shoves food in his mouth and stops him as he chokes water down with the food. He splutters silently afterwards and glares at Shizune who smiles and signs something back and Arashi rolls his eyes. He finishes his mouthful and pulls Shizune forward for a gentle kiss.
It’s a sweet scene.
I move from my spot near the doors and weave my way around the madness, before joining Hisao on his seat by plonking myself in his lap. He sputters in surprise but just shakes his head at my antics and gives me a brief hug. I pour myself a cup of coffee and am sipping slowly on it when Akihiro’s dance partner, Rin, shows up for breakfast.
I thought I wasn’t a morning person, but Rin looks a little like a zombie. She makes her way to the table, and I pour a cup of coffee for her which she takes gratefully. She’s in a red tank top and a comfortable looking pair of jeans, so I assume she’s changed and showered, but looking at her half asleep expression she’s even less of a morning person than me.
I remove myself from Hisao’s lap and help myself to the arrayed breakfast. There are some delicate looking golden brown pastries, which I suspect are Akihiro’s contribution to breakfast, along with traditional Eastern and Western fare.
A large tub of miso soup sits in the middle of the spread, steaming gently, along with golden yellow omelettes; rice, grilled fish and other dishes all lay across the table.
My stomach rumbles, and I hurriedly get a bowl of soup, some fish and rice. I place them by Hisao and go back to the breakfast table for some of the delicious looking pastries. I put four on a small plate and then sit back on Hisao’s lap, placing my plate of pastries to one side.
I tuck into breakfast, enjoying the flavour of the miso soup especially. It’s delicious! I’m so busy tucking into my breakfast I don’t notice my pastries are missing until I hear someone crunching into flaky pastry!
I turn and find Rin, still zombie-like, munching on the plate of pastries that I brought up! My mouth drops open as she polishes the rest of the plate off and gives a hefty sigh of contentment. “Akihiro makes good pastry.”
“Wish I knew what they taste like! You just ate mine!” I retort, and she raises a sleepy eyebrow.
“I thought you’d brought them up for me,” she says honestly, shrugging and stifling a yawn, “coffee and Akihiro’s pastries make for a good morning.”
“You sound like you know that from experience,” I remark, still smarting from the thievery.
“Of course, it’s how I met him.”
That gets my attention - Arashi and Akiho’s, too, and we lean in for a story. Rin sees our attention and sighs. “I was running late for work and ran into Akihiro. I dropped my breakfast and asked to be compensated for it.”
“You mean demanded!” Akihiro yells, coming from the kitchen. He gives a challenging smirk to Rin and she smirks right back at him, a sultry, heated expression that nearly makes me gag.
“As I was saying, I asked to be compensated. I suggested that he buy me new ones, and he in turn said –“
“I can shit better ones, than those shop bought ones, I think was the exact phrase I used?” Akihiro says, joining us at the table, sitting by Rin.
Rin’s hand snakes over his arm, and she entwines her fingers with Akihiro’s. “So he went and proved it, cooked some fresh for me, I called work, told them I’d be late and ate pastries and drank very nice coffee in his office.”
Shirou had joined us at the end of the sentence and frowned in confusion. “It was one of your days off,” Akihiro elaborates, “and I brought her in the back entrance, so she never knew what restaurant it was. Oversight on my part.”
“So things carried on from there?” I ask, translating Shizune’s question.
Rin cocks her head to one side, “do you want to answer that?” she asks Akihiro.
He rolls his eyes and settles an arm around her waist. “I got her business card, and then every morning sent her a fresh pastry, and a cup of coffee for several days, until one day, I sent along a flower as well, along with a card asking for a date.” That’s oddly romantic, especially for gruff Akihiro, I see Arashi translating for Shizune and she nods in satisfaction at the answer.
Shirou snaps his fingers in realization, “So that’s why you stopped asking for breakfast in the mornings!” Rin gives her brother a look that equates to ‘well duh’.
“You two live together?” I ask, “then how did you two not know about the whole dating thing?”
“We work very different hours,” Rin says dryly, “plus Shirou here is rather private about his love life and he’s never once brought a girl home. I was starting to think he was gay,” she states off-handedly as Shirou sighs in long suffering exasperation and rolls his eyes.
“Sister…” he trails off, then his brown eyes alight with mischief. “Or do I tell the whole breakfast table about Sakura chan?”
Rin’s eyes narrow furiously and her cheeks pink. “Fine,” is the irritable response, “I’ll lay off.” Her tone makes us all wisely not ask, who or what ‘Sakura-chan’ is - although I see Shizune lower Arashi’s hands to stop him from being an idiot.
It’s interesting seeing the sibling dynamic from an outsider’s perspective; I wonder how my families’ interactions look from the outside. Maybe I’ll ask Hisao at some point.
I move off Hisao’s lap to sit in a chair, and he stands, turning around to move off the veranda, possibly to get some more breakfast, when he freezes.
“Good morning Mrs Tsukino.” Hisao says very, very formally.
All conversation freezes at the table. Arashi takes Shizune’s hand and quickly vanishes from the veranda, disappearing via the lawns and going around the grounds to the house. Sneaky bastard.
Mother’s elegant strides bring her to the breakfast table, and she half fills a plate with a small selection of the food available, along with a small cup of the miso soup. She takes her place at the head of the table, the silence still palpable.
A small sip of the soup is taken and one perfect eyebrow rises slightly. “This is better than normal, my compliments to the chef.”
“That would be me Ms Tsukino,” Shirou offers with a small dip of his head.
Her gaze pins on Shirou. “And you are?” she asks finally.
“I’m Akiho’s partner for this evening, Iseri Shirou,” Shirou says. Mother evaluates him for a few moments then turns to Akiho.
“Not to your usual tastes step daughter. Just a fling?” she asks, casually eating her breakfast at the same time.
I wince as I see Akiho rise from the table. She says nothing, her face calm and implacable, as smooth as a statues and simply offers her hand to Shirou. He takes it, confused, and Akiho simply leaves the table not saying a single word, taking Shirou with her.
Mother frowns. I’m guessing that didn’t go quite as she expected.
Akiho stops at the steps into the dining and turns around to mother. “I’m not sure you’ve ever understood what love is. All I ever wanted from you was your love; instead I have dismissal and disinterest. Money, status and power are the only things that interest you, and marrying father was the easiest way to get them. I tolerate you because father loved you with all of his heart.” Akiho looks as if she wants to say something further, but her cool façade is beginning to crack so she turns away from mother and leaves the veranda.
There is an icy calm at the table after Akiho leaves. Akihiro chuckles under his breath and lights another cigarette, much to the disapproval of mother.
“Not at the table.”
“We’re outside,” Akihiro retorts, leaning back in his chair. Rin then surprises me by stealing the box from Akihiro’s pocket and lighting one for herself.
Mother seems rattled, which is unusual. She’s normally glacial calm, but Akiho seems to have shaken that poise. She takes a sip of soup and eats a little before turning to Rin. “And would I be correct in assuming you are Akihiro’s dance partner for this evening?”
Rin’s grin is all teeth. It reminds me of a shark’s grin for some reason. “Iseri Rin, a pleasure to meet you Ms Tsukino.”
Mother’s eyes widen a fraction as Hisao comes back to the table. “As in Iseri, from the Iseri law firm?” She seems to put two and two together, figuring out who Rin is.
Rin’s grin gets bigger and toothier, if that’s even possible, “Of course, my father is Iseri Kiritsugu, I work for them in the firm, mainly dealing with inheritance, wills and accounting.”
“Interesting, quite the high flyer you’ve ensnared,” mother remarks to Akihiro.
He simply shrugs, exhaling a cloud of smoke in mothers’ direction. “I’m not concerned about her job. I like her for who she is and not what she brings with her.”
“Good answer dear,” Rin’s tone oozes saccharine sweetness, and she pats Akihiro on the cheek. “You’re being well trained already!”
Akihiro snorts. “Trained, ha! You full well know what I’m like Rin.”
“A stubborn man that I love very much, even when he’s a massive idiot.”
That was a rather straight up declaration.
I squeeze Hisao’s hand and smile gently at him. I think he gets the message that I want to escape the table as quickly as possible, but it is best to make as little trouble as possible. The fewer waves we make earlier on, the better.
Mother finishes her breakfast and regards the four of us left at the table. “I shall be unavailable most of the day as I am supervising the decoration and set-up of the ballroom.” She takes a drink and continues, “Your masks will be given to you a little while before the ball begins, along with the schedule for this years ball. It’s slightly different to last years.”
“It’s different?” I ask.
“Trying something new this year little nightingale, I don’t suppose I could persuade you to get on stage for a few minutes?” Her tone is light and airy, but the glare I give her in return would burn things into ash. “No? A pity to waste your voice,” she laments.
She knows exactly what she’s doing, and I can feel my hands trembling under the table. Hisao stands and bows to my mother. “We await the schedule for later, thank you, but for now we are leaving the table. Have a good morning.” Hisao takes my unresisting hand and leads me away from the breakfast table.
“So,” Hisao asks, as we head back towards the bedroom, “What are today’s plans?”
Akiho answers Hisao’s question from the hallway stairs as we approach. “She’s having a girly day with myself and the others, you get to spend the day with the rest of the men.” Hisao’s face shows how much he enjoys the sound of that plan.
“I’m not sure I’d survive the day with Akihiro,” Hisao mutters, and I laugh gently.
“It’ll be fine, he pretty much said he approved of you earlier this morning up on the balcony.” Hisao looks sceptical at that statement.
Arashi steps out from behind Akiho with his whiteboard already having the phrase: “Come with me if you want to live!”
Hisao rolls his eyes at the melodramatic phrase but follows Arashi off into the depths of the house for some ‘male bonding’.
Akiho comes forward and gives me a hug. “Sorry about my explosion,” she murmurs in my ear.
I snort. “It was pretty much a non-explosion compared to some of my blow-ups sis.” She inclines her head in acknowledgement and then draws back from the hug.
“Come on, Ayane, I organised one of the upstairs lounges to be our room for the day, until the ball.” I follow along behind Akiho, and we head up to the second floor. I’m led to one of the small lounges we have.
There are several soft seats in the room, a large television, several bookcases, a door to a balcony and a large table spread with lots of unhealthy looking snacks and cans of drink. There is also what suspiciously looks like a make up bag.
Shizune sits in one of the comfy chairs, a book in one hand and a can of something in her other. She gives me a quick nod in greeting as I enter the room and flop gracelessly on one of the chairs, legs sticking up in the air.
“So what’s the plan?” I ask aloud, looking at the ceiling.
“We’ve got a few hours… well, just over six hours until the ball.” Akiho answers.
I hear the door open and Rin’s voice continues, “...and we’ll take that time to get ready for our boys, after all we do want to knock them off their feet.” Rin is hard for me to categorize. She’s got a presence, and it’s almost like she demands your attention when she comes into a room.
It’s magnetic in a way. I think I understand why Akihiro is attracted to her, he’s got quite the… strong personality himself, and it would take someone with the same stubbornness to deal with him.
Guess he has found a good match.
I right myself in the chair and look over at Rin. “What do you think the guys are doing?”
“Knowing Akihiro, drinking and smoking,” Akiho says dryly.
Rin snorts, one hand on her hip, “He’d better not go too overboard or he’s not getting any tonight.”
“Whoa!” I hold both my hands up, “Too much detail, Iseri, way too much detail!”
“You can call me Rin, Ayane,” Rin says dryly, “and not wanting mental images about your brother?”
“NO!” I blurt out. “It’s something I do not want to think about!” I shiver. “Would you want to know about your brothers sex life?”
Rin looks at Akiho; Akiho stares levelly back, her green eyes giving nothing away. There’s a moment where I can see Rin processing if she really wants to ask the question.
The moment passes.
Rin shakes her head. “No, I think you’re right, Ayane, I’ll drop it.”
Shizune drops her book and signs, [what are you talking about?]
[What the guys are doing,] I sign back.
Shizune sniffs, [Arashi knows he needs to behave himself.]
I shrug, [With Akihiro around, who knows.]
Shizune frowns at me, and I realise that Rin is watching me with fascination. “Can I help you?” I ask.
“Sorry, just interested”
“In sign?” I ask again, the rapid change in conversation confusing me. Rin nods, and I feel Akiho slide into the chair next to me. “You want to learn?”
I get a nod from Rin and sign to Shizune [She wants to learn about sign]
Shizune’s smile is bright and brilliant, [well we do have some time to fill. It would be a challenge to get some of the basics down.]
Well if there’s one thing Shizune loves, it’s a challenge, and I can see the familiar gleam in her eyes. “Well,” I say to Rin, “Shizune says she’s happy to help and Akiho knows plenty of sign as well.”
Akiho makes a small noise of agreement. “My sign is nowhere near as fluent as yours.”
“Best get some practice in, you’ll be needing it for Monday!” I rib my sister lightly as we begin a lesson on basic Japanese Sign Language for Rin.
At least it’ll be good practice for Akiho as well.
Several hours pass at a rapid pace teaching Rin sign. She’s enthusiastic and wants to genuinely learn. When I ask her why she wants to learn her response is a simple “I’m curious.”
Shizune has enjoyed teaching Rin, I can tell by the satisfied smile on her face and when the clock strikes two p.m., Rin has memorized most of the alphabet, can say ‘hello, thank you, goodbye’ and name a few basic items. Not enough to hold a conversation fully, but with a few more hours I think she’d be able to get in down.
When I question Rin, it turns out that no, she’s not a genius, but simply has - and I quote - ‘a near photographic memory.’ School was breeze for her, so long as she read the correct formula and rules.
It does make me slightly jealous that I don’t have that kind of memory, but that kind of near photographic recollection is very, very rare.
Of course, there is some girly talk indulged in, while we teach Rin.
Rin is very open about herself and Akihiro. She talks about the dates they’ve been on, how she feels about him. I’m stashing the information away for ammunition at a future date but Akiho appears genuinely interested.
Akiho opens up about Shirou as well. He’s a gentle soul apparently, but with some skills at martial arts. Akiho took him on in the dojo and only narrowly won. He’s even been to her flat and cooked for her.
Smooth man. Forget food being the way to a mans heart, show me a man that can cook and you’ve got the route to a woman’s heart.
I’ve seen Hisao cook a little but that was with some assistance. Part of me wonders how far he could go on his own.
A question that will need to be answered another time as a knock at the lounge door startles all of us, except Shizune. One of the staff hesitantly pokes her head in. Her expression brightens, seeing us. “I have your masks and the schedule here!” she says with a dip of her said.
In her hands is a thick A4 brown envelope. It seems boringly plain for mother but there it is. I eye the envelopes with some distaste as Akiho rises from where she was sitting and takes the envelope from the maid. In the maid’s other hand is a bundle of masks tied together by a colourful ribbon and on each mask is a handwritten tag, what I’m assuming is a nametag. Akiho takes the bundle as well from the maid and thanks her, giving a small bow and in a quiet voice issuing what I believe are further instructions to the maid.
Akiho then shuts the door and turns around to face us. She places the masks on the table and then opens the envelope. “Ayane do you mind translating?” she asks me a moment later.
“No problem,” I assure my sister, hands ready to translate.
Akiho begins reading and I translate what she says to Shizune. “We are expected in the main hall at six p.m. this evening.”
I shoot a glance at the clock, it’s nearing four, and so we don’t have long to go. “In the hall,” Akiho continues, “we are to find our partners for the evening identifying them by mask before entering the ballroom. Once the initial dances have been concluded, after approximately one hour, dinner will be served, then the evening will be finished with more dancing and a final display.”
“A final display of what?” Rin asks, seemingly baffled. I shrug in response and Akiho shakes her head as well.
Shizune gets up from her seat and inspects the bundle of masks. She unties the knot and slips the string off the masks so they’re untied. She lifts each mask in turn, inspecting each one closely, and reading the nametags. She then hands each one out.
Akiho’s mask resembles a European knights grill, fanning across her face, triangular, with the ‘slats’ of the knight’s grill framing her expressive green eyes.
The mask is an azure blue, dusted with what I think are fake gems and metallic grey glitter, to give a ‘metallic’ theme to the mask.
Rin’s mask is a tiger. It makes me want to giggle, as I feel that it fits her perfectly. It’s a burnished gold studded with fake gems in the black tiger stripes, covering her eyes and nose, whiskers bouncing on the sides of the mask.
Shizune’s is a rather forbidding eagle. Feathers flick back from the sides of the mask, in a deep, midnight blue. The studded gems glimmer in the light as the beak of the eagle mask hooks over Shizune’s nose. With the mask’s enigmatic expression, Shizune cuts an almost menacing and sinister figure.
Which leaves mine. It’s a pitch ebony black, rhinestone and diamante details glittering like jagged glass in the black of the mask. I hold it in my hands, it’s incredibly light, and barely weighs anything yet feels incredibly heavy at the same time.
Its shape is similar in theme to Shizune’s and I already know what bird this is. It’s a stylised nightingale mask, beak covering my nose, and mothers even already blacked out one of the eyeholes in the mask… how thoughtful of her.
We regard our own masks in silence for a moment, before Rin breaks the silence. “Wonder what the boys have got?”
I have a sudden sinking feeling at Rin’s words.
End part 2 of: Dancer in the dark
Scene 14: Dancer in the dark Part 3
Posted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 3:49 pm
Dancer in the dark, Part 3
A few minutes later the same member of staff that brought us the masks and mother’s instructions arrives back and comes into the lounge, carrying our gowns for the evening with her. They’re still bagged and on hangers and they are gently draped over the back of the sofa.
She dips her head at us and then leaves the room. Rin claps her hands together at the maid’s departure and then says, “Time to make us gorgeous ladies!”
I can’t suppress the groan at the phrase and Rin turns, sensing blood as a shark would. “Oh ho?” she asks with grin, “not a fan?”
“I’m a bit of a tomboy,” I admit with a shrug. “This evening is not my idea of a good time.”
“Well, guess I know who I’m working my magic on then!” Rin is almost gleeful at the idea, and I see Akiho signing to Shizune. This… this is going to suck.
I get pulled in front of the upright mirror and sat down in a chair by Rin’s forceful hands. She pins my hair back and removes my eye patch then freezes.
“Not a pretty sight is it?” I remark caustically, rolling my eyes.
Rin pales, “I’m so sorry, I… didn’t realise.”
“Did you think I was wearing it for style?” I ask dryly, “Did Akihiro not tell you?”
“H-he only told me that you had epilepsy. He… He never mentioned anything about your eye. I thought you had… a different reason for wearing one.”
Akihiro you can be a grade A bastard sometimes. “Don’t worry about it,” I grunt, closing my bad eye, “yours is far, far from the worst reaction I’ve had.”
Rin takes a deep breath and is suddenly serene again. “I apologise for my reaction, it was uncalled for.”
I wave the apology off. “Seriously, Rin, I’ve had far worse. So don’t apologise. Blame my idiot brother if you must.” She shakes her head and gives me a hug from behind. I stiffen gently under her touch, unused to contact like this from a relatively unknown person.
“It was rude of me.”
I sigh. “Okay, apology accepted, now please stop making me feel uncomfortable.” That gets a grin out of Rin, and she produces a bag. Well, I say a bag, but it’s more like a small suitcase rather than anything else and begins to pull out jars, brushes, tweezers and various other assorted items.
I gulp nervously. They more resemble torture items to me.
“Oh don’t be so silly,” Rin says with a click of her tongue, “It’s not that bad.” I shoot her a dry look, and she chuckles once before I’m assaulted by make up.
Fun, fun, fun!
Rin helps - read “forces makeup on” - me and pretties me up. While she’s doing her own makeup after I escape from the torture chair I slither into my red dress that was purchased several weeks earlier.
I regard myself in the mirror, standing behind Rin. She smirks at me as she does her eyeliner with a delicate touch.
It takes all of my self-restraint not to stare at the girl in the mirror.
Her face is soft, delicate and with a faint hint of blush with eyes lined and shadowed and wearing lipstick.
It’s not me.
I’m well aware of what some of my classmates think of me – I mean, I’m not the most subtle, or friendly of people and social interaction doesn’t mean a lot to me – some of them, especially other girls from the other classes, say I’ve got a ‘hard face’, some of the less friendly ones say I look ‘bitchy.’
I really don’t care about it, but this girl in the mirror… She’s not me. I feel as if there is a stranger in the mirror.
I sigh and turn away from the mirror. Now is not the time for introspection.
I’ve even got some small heels on my shoes; my feet are going to kill me after all the dancing and moving around. For the moment I’ll stay in my slippers thank you. I slide the eye patch from Fujiko on, it won’t be seen under the mask, but I feel better with it on. Although thinking of Fujiko…
I reach for my phone and flip through my contacts before calling Fujiko. It’s Saturday, so she should be at the resort by now.
She picks up on the third ring. “Ayane!”
She sounds ridiculously cheerful. “You sound chirpy,” I remark.
“Oh, Ayane, this place is wonderful! I owe your big sister a hug when I see her next!”
I chortle at that comment. “Considering she’s going to be one of our teachers, that may be a little awkward Fuji.”
“Oh… Hadn’t thought of that,” is the reply, and I think I hear Misha’s distinctive laugh in the background.
“How are things going?”
I hear Fujiko fidget down the other end of the phone before she answers. “Good, really good. The dinner was fantastic, and being here has really helped… things.”
“Say no more.” Then an evil thought crosses my mind. “Bet Misha looks good in a swimsuit.” My smirk is positively feral when I hear Fujiko squeak. “Take that as a ‘yes’ then.”
“That’s mean, Ayane!” Fujiko moans.
“Hey, just passing comment, Fujiko.”
“Still! I don’t ask about your love life!”
I grin. “Fair enough. Sorry Fuji.”
“Apology accepted,” she accepts the apology primly, then giggles down the phone. “You holding up?”
“It’s hard. Grandmother’s ill, she… she hasn’t got long left,” I admit.
Fujiko sucks in a breath. “Ayane! How is she?”
“She has better days than others, according to grandfather. I saw her on one of her more lucid days.” I sigh deeply, “When I first saw grandmother, I didn’t recognize her Fuji. She was so frail and weak looking.”
“Ayane…” Fujiko’s voice is soft and gentle and I can imagine her pout on the other end of the line. “At least you’ve been able to see her… before the end,” she says gently.
“Why didn’t you know earlier?” Fujiko asks curiously a moment later.
“Mother.” I snarl the answer down the phone, and I hear the plastic casing of my phone creak under my tightening grip. I release a breath and relax my grip.
Fujiko makes a noise of comprehension. “Say no more. I’ve met your mother, so I understand completely.”
Rin has finished with her make up and taps her watch at me. “Sorry, Fujiko, time’s running short.”
“No problem! See you on Monday?” she chirps, and I think I hear splashing in the background.
“If you’re up on Sunday, maybe Sunday.” I see Shizune looking at me and I think she knows who I’m talking to. “Tell Misha that Shizune and I say hi and enjoy yourselves alright?”
Fujiko laughs, and I hear Misha laugh as well. “That won’t be a problem. Misha says hi as well! Don’t let things get back, Ayane, remember, you’ve got Hisao with you!”
“That I do. Bye!” I hang up the phone and give Shizune the thumbs up. She smiles widely.
Rin is in the middle of getting changed, and I have to fight a pang of jealously. She’s got a very nice figure. Toned and tight curves - no wonder Akihiro likes her. Smart, able to put up with his stupidity and a great body on top of that.
Her dress is red like mine, and in the same style but with more shoulder bared and a curious cross motif just under and between her breasts.
Akiho’s in her blue dress, looking elegant and noble while Shizune is in her very daring black dress.
I hope the guests know how to swim as I’m pretty sure Arashi will be drooling all evening.
We all make one final check to be sure we’re all ready, slip on our shoes, and when the clock reads nearly six we make our way down into the main entrance hall - masks on and ready to dance.
The entrance hall is seething with people, but as we begin to descend the stairs into the heaving mass, suddenly people go still. It’s not planned but we stop midway down the stairs, all four of us.
Whispering begins, and I see several male figures wind their way through the crowd.
My heart skips a beat at the sight of Hisao, both from how handsome he looks and because of the mask mother has picked out for him. It’s the mask the phantom wears from ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’ I would know it anywhere, and I can feel my heart hammer against my rib cage.
Calm Ayane. Stay calm.
Hisao comes up the steps, and I focus not on the mask, but Hisao. He looks dashing in the suit, with his crimson, cutthroat like bowtie. He takes my hand and presses a kiss to the top of it.
“You look stunning,” he whispers huskily.
My heart drums faster in my chest again, but not from fear or anxiety this time.
Shirou is dressed in a white suit, a splash of green, coming from his own tie, although it clashes with the red of his hair. His mask… Well, the only way to describe it is one of the old comic book hero eye masks. The one that’s supposed to cover their identity but never would. It suits him for some odd reason.
Akihiro is also dressed in white, with his grin, rakish hat and cigarette (unlit) hanging from his mouth; he looks like a gangster from an old black and white film. His mask is a dark, vulpine looking mask, possibly a wolf or a fox, but as he runs a hungry looking gaze up and down Rin, he certainly seems more wolf-like than fox-like.
Arashi is dressed in the suit Akiho helped him pick out weeks earlier. His mask is reptilian looking from a distance but up close I identify it as a snake, in a muted green, dully glittering scales running all over the mask. Like I predicted earlier, even though he’s already seen Shizune in her dress, I still hear him suck in a breathe when he sees her. He hears me trying not to laugh and throws me a glare. I just smile gently as we finish descending the stairs and the crowd parts before us, like magic.
A voice from the stairs behind us draws the attention of everyone present in the hall.
Mother stands resplendent and cold at the top of the staircase. It’s an eerie reflection of how she first greeted us when we arrived at the house on Thursday.
She’s wearing black again, her dress conforming to her curves, displaying them for all to see. Her mask is a periwinkle blue pair of butterfly wings, sparkling with what I suspect are actual sapphires, or at least very good fakes. Her pose is grand and elegant, showmanship cranked to the max.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I bid you welcome to the tenth annual Tsukino Charity masquerade ball. I do hope you’ve managed to find your partners for the ball.” There is a light note of derision in her voice, which could be construed as an attempt to be funny, but I know mother. She’s mocking the crowd.
There is a rumble of laughter from the attendees, and I feel myself scoff. “Tonight for those who are first attendees” – here her eyes linger on Hisao, Shizune, Rin and Shirou – “Tonight is a night about being thankful for what we do have, and being generous to those who don’t. All money raised from the ticket sales and any revenue generated this evening will be going to various charitable functions, including the special-needs school that my son and daughter attend.”
Mother’s raising money for Yamaku?
This is the first I’ve heard of it. I know that normally the money from the ball goes to charity, but this is the first that I’ve heard of it going to Yamaku.
There is applause from the audience, and I feel anger boiling inside me.
Hypocrites the lot of them, they normally wouldn’t have even given a damn about us at Yamaku, but as soon as they’re told that their money is going to help us they pat themselves on the back.
Hypocritical, self righteous, smug and arrogant idiots. Hisao takes my hand in his and rubs the back of my knuckles.
I give him a small smile.
Mother still stands at the top of the stairs, and with a gesture and unspoken command, the doors to the ballroom open.
My first impression is of stars. The ceiling has been covered in a black cloth, with folds and shapes in it with faint lights twinkling in the cloth to represent stars. The windows are blocked out with the same material, and again little shining lights are embedded in the fabric. There is minimal lighting in the room with a small area for the band to play, and they’re there - set up and ready to go.
It’s a classical orchestra, woodwind, strings and brass with a little percussion.
It’s an oddly intimate room, with tables and chairs around the edge of the room for when people want to take the weight off their feet and relax.
A small set of tables near the door has refreshments: water, juices and a selection of alcohol, but if the guests want something different, it looks like mother has hired a bar for the evening. It is set up against the far end wall of the ballroom.
It’s stunning - beautiful in way that appeals to the darker parts of my brain.
The ballroom has become a field of stars, and it feels like with one small step, we too could join them.
The band begins to start up, music starting to build and swirl around us. A waltz number, the classical way to start the evening.
“Now we dance among the field of stars,” mother’s voice from behind the stunned crowd shakes me from my reverie, she passes through the crowd, as they part like the red sea before Moses, her black dress blending with the dark of the ballroom, her mask giving her an ethereal, fae-like aura. A man steps from the crowd, tall, thin bodied, clad in a white suit, elegant in all his movements, his silvered hair slicked back and shining in the lights.
His face is almost completely covered by a fox mask only his mouth free from the mask, lips twisted in a vulpine grin, his blue eyes glittering under the white mask, whiskers twitching from movement as he steps forward onto the dance floor and takes mothers hand. “May I have the honour of this first dance?” His voice is smooth, like snakeskin over grass, and it sends shivers up and down my spine.
Mother laughs gently and dips a little bow to him, and they open the ball with the first dance. They whirl and spin across the ballroom floor, laughing and grinning like teenagers, elegance and poise oozing from every practised and enunciated movement.
The crowd has moved forward and is in the ballroom, but enraptured by the pair of dancers gracefully moving across the dance floor.
The music stops and so do Uncle Gin and mother. They part, flushed and breathing more deeply, and bow to each other. There is a moment’s silence and then the crowd bursts into applause. I clap along as well, begrudgingly. “And now, the floor is open to all, enjoy!” Mother bows to the crowd and leaves the dance floor, mingling with the guests.
Some are sitting down, having little to no intention to dance, while others begin to mingle, shaking hands, passing business cards and cutting deals.
Others have moved out onto the dance floor. Shirou and Akiho are already out on the floor, cutting a fine waltz that the band has started. Hisao extends his hand to me and asks, “If I may have the pleasure?”
I can’t stop the grin that comes over my face. “You sound stupid Hisao, but yes you may.” I take his hand, and we step out onto the dance floor, out bodies falling into sync with each other as practised moves come into play.
“Tell me if you need a break,” I remind Hisao. “I know I said we need to keep up appearances but your health comes first.”
Hisao nods amicably as we do the quickstep with Akiho and Shirou. “I’m in a far better condition than I was a couple of months ago, Ayane.”
“Don’t push yourself though.”
“I won’t, I promise,” Hisao assures me. “If I feel even a small twinge of pain, I’ll let you know.”
“Good.” And with that I bury my face in his chest as the band switches gears into a lower, slower gear and the music becomes more intimate. “This is familiar,” I murmur into Hisao’s chest.
“It is isn’t it?”
I turn my head up and give Hisao a quick kiss on his free cheek. For now, there is only Hisao, I and a field of stars and it is beautiful. We sway and hold each other close, and I want to freeze this moment in time.
Have you ever had a perfect moment?
Ever had that one, pure and sweet moment you want to keep forever, frozen in time?
This was mine.
It doesn’t matter I’m here at home, surrounded by the ghosts of my past and my mother’s machinations - this moment, the here and now is perfect.
If I could bottle this moment and preserve it amber I would.
The song lasts for several beautiful, infinite minutes, but eventually, the band shifts songs, changing up to a foxtrot, and my perfect moment is gone, blown into the music.
Hisao’s arms tighten around me briefly, as he too mourns the loss of our perfect moment, before our hands switch position and we glide into a foxtrot, dancing near Akihiro and Rin. Akihiro has Rin close and the two have eyes only for each other. It’s sweet but also slightly odd as I’ve never, ever seen my brother with that gentle expression on his face, and seeing it is slightly disconcerting.
When the waltz finishes, Hisao leans down and whispers in my ear. He needs a break, so we leave the dance floor, weaving our way through the guests and get some water from the refreshment table. I glance up at the clock hanging above the bar and note that we’ll most likely soon be called for dinner.
We sit down at a small table, Akiho and Shirou joining us a few moments later, their own drinks in hand. Shirou is flushed in the face, and I can see a smile stretching his mouth. Akiho looks similarly happy but smiles more with her eyes and behind her mask I can seem her eyes shining with joy.
It makes me happy to see that my siblings are finding their own little pieces of happiness in the world.
I squeeze Hisao’s hand. “Feeling alright?” I ask, giving him a once over. He’s breathing a little harder than he should be, but he’s not pale or sweating, which is a good thing.
Hisao nods, “I’m good, just wanted to take a small break.”
Shirou frowns from across the table but Akiho elbows him and gives a shake of her head, and he drops what was obviously going to be a question.
“Good evening my darling nieces.” The voice sounds slightly slimy, a voice that gives you a slight goosebumps all over. I know that voice.
Uncle Kabuto stands by the table, a large crystal tumbler of what I suspect is scotch or whiskey clenched in his large beefy hands his dark suit having darker patches where he’s sweated. The smell of cigars drift off him like noxious fumes, and his dark beady eyes shimmer malevolently under the insect mask adorning his face, while a petite blonde - far younger than him in age and in a skimpy black dress - hangs off his arm.
Uncle Kabuto is a corpulent man. Bloated, his dark suit bulges from the pressure it’s under. He always tries to fit into clothes that he’s not built for, arrogance on his part. He’s overweight and constantly panting for breath, his ratty brown hair decaying with age.
He’s a man of many vices, gambling, smoking, drinking, good food and sex. He’s never seen without a pretty little thing hanging off his arm - exactly like now - and I always wonder how they avoid being crushed by his bulk when he eventually takes them in his bed.
There’s no love involved there, only money. There’s no way normally these girls would be seen anywhere near a man such as Kabuto, yet from what I’ve heard he’s seen with a different one every month.
“Good evening Uncle Kabuto,” I say neutrally, keeping my voice flat. “How are you finding the evening?”
He laughs a deep belly laugh, fat jiggling in a waving motion that makes me sick to watch. “Sister dearest always knows how to throw an excellent party. I see you’ve brought a young chap this time! Not like last time, tongues were wagging when you brought your other little friend.”
He’s referring to the time when I brought Fujiko. It was just before father died, I didn’t attend last years ball but the year before that I brought Fujiko. Mother was not impressed but Dad didn’t mind.
Uncle’s eyes fixate on Hisao. He leans in close, and I see Hisao reel back from uncle’s fetid breath upon his face. “Well I never,” he murmurs under his breath, salvia spraying. “I do think that’s old Connor’s personal mask.”
I feel my heart seize in my chest. Hisao… is wearing dad’s mask? I had assumed it was a copy, and I thought that he’d been buried with it! Apparently not.
I feel sick to my stomach. I’m aware of Uncles piggy eyes focussed on me, some twisted parody of a smile across his piggish features. Hisao touches the mask, glances at me and then at Uncle and goes to take the mask off. “Ah, ah my boy,” Kabuto says gently, “Masks stay on at all times. Rule of the masquerade.”
I clench my teeth together, and I’m pretty sure I feel my jaw creaking. “Thank you for enlightening me, Uncle. Is there anything you need?”
“Yes, Uncle, is there anything you need?” Akiho asks, sweetly, her eyes hard like emeralds.
He chortles and takes a sip of his tumbler, while the vapid blonde besides him giggles into her hand. “Can I not come over and say hello to my favourite nieces?” The flat look from Akiho makes him shift uncomfortably. “Well, there is another reason, there will be some legalities that Ayane and Arashi will need to attend to soon.”
“About?” Hisao asks, trying to not to look and me, and one hand curls uncomfortably across the mask.
“None of your business boy as you are not part of the family.” Uncle is quite blunt. “You’ll know more in a few weeks when the final details come through.”
With those parting words, Uncle Kabuto departs into the crowds, heading to the bar no doubt. Hisao snarls and yanks the mask off, throwing it on the table. “Why?” He asks aloud, gesturing to the mask.
Akiho is bewildered.
“She’s playing some sick little game that only she knows the rules too.” Surprisingly it’s Shirou who says that.
Akiho turns to her partner in surprise. “Shirou!” she exclaims. “What on earth do you mean by that?”
“I’m good at reading people, Akiho.” Shirou frowns as he says it. “The feeling I got from your mother is that this whole thing is a game for her.”
A game? What kind of game can entail this kind of sick mockery? He was her husband!
“She enjoys her showmanship, being the centre of attention, having her own way.” There are nods from all three of us at the table. “So,” Shirou begins to elaborate further, “what does she stand to gain from this game and taunting?”
I shrug in the dim light, baffled. “It’s how she’s always been as long as I remember really. Although when Dad was around it was a lot more subtle.”
“Well, my point is that there has to be an end goal for it.”
“I don’t think there is. I think she just enjoys it.”
That kills the conversation dead in its tracks. Hisao curls his lips at the mask sitting innocently on the tables. “I don’t want to wear it anymore.”
“Not your fault,” I assure him. “You didn’t know.”
“Your mother gave it to me in the entrance hallway at the last minute. I should’ve known something was odd about it.” Hisao’s tone is bitter, and one of his hands is clenched into a fist.
“Hisao, look at me,” I command. He meets my gaze. “It is not your fault. What we do now is we play this stupid game and then as soon as it’s polite we leave, alright?”
He nods, and I see mother heading in our direction, her mask easy to spot among the crowd. Hisao puts the mask back on with a grimace, but mother passes us by, heading towards the band.
The current song slows and finishes, and there is total silence in the star filled ballroom. “Dinner is served. If you would like to make your way into the dining room, your names are placed at your seats.”
Dancer in the dark part 3, end
Scene 14: Dancer in the dark Part 4
Posted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 3:53 pm
Dancer in the dark: Part 4
The crowd flows out of the ballroom into the dining room across the hall. A long, long table is set up in the middle of the room, with several round tables across the rest of the room. I see people inspecting the chairs and finding their names.
Hisao and I are on the long table, next to each other, in the middle. We take our places and sit. Judging by the cutlery it will be a western style meal. Not entirely unsurprising as some of the guests are European - mother’s business connections.
People begin to sit down near us, and I realise with a start that we’ve been separated from the others. We’re on our own. Then Uncle Yuuki sits down on my left, and then Uncle Gin and his wife, Sakura, sit down opposite me along with their two daughters.
His two daughters are lithe succubae. Older than me, inheriting Uncle Gin’s tall and willowy build, but with his wife’s ample curves and their fathers distinguished silver blonde hair. In the low lighting, their eyes almost smoulder crimson.
Yuno and Yoko Kurosawa, my cousins.
They didn’t get Uncle Gin’s intelligence, instead getting their mother’s. Gin married her for her looks, not her brains. They aren’t paying any attention to me either, instead simpering together with a glass of champagne.
“How are you, Ayane?” Uncle Yuuki has always been my favourite uncle. His voice is always quiet and wispy, gentle. He’s a gentle person by nature, but under the gentle layers lies an unforgiving bite.
He’s an unassuming man, standard build, with dark hair and eyes like his older sister, my mother. He has Gin’s willowy build, but Yuuki is thinner, almost emaciated.
“I’ve been better, Uncle,” I reply honestly, “I only just found out about grandmother yesterday.”
Uncle sighs. “Why am I not surprised?” He asks rhetorically.
I simply smile weakly at him as the starter comes out, some kind of terrine dish, if I’ve identified it properly. Uncle Yuuki leans in close and whispers in my ear. “Stay strong.”
I shoot him a puzzled look but he’s already leaned away from me, Uncle Gin watching the interaction with an amused predatory grin on his face. Stay strong? Advice that I’m already using, Uncle.
As we tuck into the terrine, smoked salmon I note, I realise that Uncle Gin has engaged Hisao in conversation. I quickly tune in to the conversation. It’s about the sciences. Uncle Gin is a clever man, and is readily debating with Hisao about physics while his daughters and wife discuss some mindless drivel about fashion. I tune them out and focus on Gin and Hisao. Their conversation finishes, and Gin’s bright eyes focus on me.
“Good evening, Ayane my dear,” Uncle Gin says smoothly, voice slithering into my ears. “How have you been?”
“Oh you know, Uncle, the usual,” is the flippant answer I give him.
His eyes narrow at me, and he plays with the rim of his wineglass, while the starters are taken away. “Not a very direct answer my niece.”
I shrug. “It’s an honest one.”
He makes a hmmmm noise, and his wine glass rings with a clear tone as he slides his finger over the rim. “I’m surprised.” His eyes flick towards Hisao. “You’ve certainly found a nice young gentleman in Mr Nakai here,” he muses, and I frown at the train of conversation.
“I wish my daughters would find someone suitable. All they seem to be bringing home are thugs and idiots.” His daughters give him a disgusted look and promptly ignore him, deciding to flirt with the waiter instead, as Uncle Gin rolls his eyes and makes a sound of exasperation.
“See what I mean?” he says in a long-suffering tone as we’re served the main course.
Mother is reaching to Dad’s roots with the next dish as I recognise this dish as one of Grandfathers favourites. Beef wellington. Beef filet wrapped in crisp puff pastry, the filet wrapped traditionally in a mushroom and chicken liver mixture. I remember Akihiro swearing about it as it was on his final examination several years ago, if I recall my fuzzy memories correctly.
When I cut it open though, it’s more fusion food than traditionally British. The mushroom mixture is made from Shiitake mushrooms and flavoured with ginger and sake. Its delicious and casting a glance around I spot Akihiro chewing on the dish thoughtfully, no doubt intending to ‘borrow’ the idea for his place.
Gin doesn’t engage us, or anyone in conversation while we eat. Around us gentle chatter hums in the background, Uncle Yuuki engaging in conversation with a business associate. Uncle Gin puts his knife and fork down and regards my already cleared plate.
“Delicious wouldn’t you agree?”
I nod, dabbing my mouth clean and taking a sip of water. “Especially as your mother dedicated it’s creation to your father.”
I put my glass down, calmly and smoothly, Hisao taking my right hand. “Do you have a point to all this, Uncle?” I ask calmly.
“Oh ho,” Gin’s grin gets wider, as he swirls his glass and takes a sip. “Well, I am surprised. Maturation and growth is a good thing little bird.”
I’m surprised I’m staying relatively calm.
“Have you thought about your future yet?” Gin asks suddenly, the topic changing suddenly.
“Not particularly,” I admit, fingers dancing across Hisao’s hand.
“You should start thinking about it,” Gin advises, “you never know what may happen after all.”
I watch Uncle closely, but he simply gives me an enigmatic grin and drinks his wine as the waiters take the plates away. There is a small pause between the courses, and I’m aware of Gin’s calculating gaze observing his brother, Kabuto, sat nearby.
The girl from earlier is still draped over him, and I think she’s been drinking judging by the boneless state she’s in. I see Gin’s lips curl up in a snarl. “Disgusting.”
I file that away. Discord among the brothers. Interesting.
Dessert is served, a delicate fruit sorbet in delicate glasses to cleanse the palette. It’s cool and sweet, slightly acidic on my tongue. It’s mouth and head cleansing.
Uncle Gin doesn’t engage Hisao or me in conversation again, choosing instead to speak to his wife during dessert.
Uncle Yuuki, as soon as Gin’s attention is engaged elsewhere, leans back over to me. “You know he’s the most dangerous person in the room right?”
“Connections,” Uncle murmurs without looking at me. “He knows some bad people, Ayane, the same people your mother knows.”
“That doesn’t mean anything, Uncle,” I hiss back.
“It means plenty.” His eyes scuttle over the table. “Ayane, please be careful, that’s all I’m asking.” Yuuki’s eyes widen as Mother stands at the head of the table, and he shuts up.
Even as mother begins speaking, saying about how the dance floor is now open again, my mind whirls with confusion.
This weekend has been insane. Gin prowling around me, probing and testing. My mother-throwing dad in my face at every chance, Kabuto talking about legalities and Uncle Yuuki being terrified.
I’m too drained to deal with this. As people leave the table, Hisao rises and takes my hand. I think some slow dances would be just the ticket right about now.
We move back into the ballroom, the rest of our assorted bunch joining us. We sit at a table, digesting the dinner and sipping at our respective drinks.
[Enjoying the evening so far?] I sign to Arashi and Shizune.
[It has been an experience.] She signs back. [Interesting and Arashi has been keeping me entertained.]
Arashi rolls his eyes and nods his agreement.
“Food was alright,” Akihiro comments as Rin smirks and kisses him on the cheek.
“That main course was interesting,” Shirou remarks offhandedly. Akihiro meets his gaze and identical sinister grins spread across their faces. I know exactly what the pair of them have going on in their heads.
“Tonight’s been enlightening,” Akiho says, brow furrowed.
“How so?” Hisao asks, sipping at his water.
Akiho drums her fingers on the table. “Something has changed in the dynamics between our uncles.”
“You noticed it too?” I ask.
Akiho nods and shares a concerned look with Akihiro and Arashi. “Yuuki is scared of something.”
I heave a hefty sigh. “He’s always been the most timid of the Kurosawa’s we know this already Akiho. It’s nothing new.” There is silence for a few more moments. “Can we just try and enjoy the rest of the evening? It’s been… surprisingly quiet so far.”
“Of course.” It’s a unanimous agreement between us, and I lever myself from my seat and take Hisao’s hand.
“If I may have the honour of this dance?” The cheeky smirk Hisao gives me is all the answer I need, and we spin out onto the dance floor.
The majority of the songs played are slow dances, and we sway closely on the dance floor.
It’s almost as perfect as earlier.
The time is nameless, unfathomable, and I lose myself to it.
That is until I hear a scuffle and Akihiro’s raised voice from nearby. Hisao meets my gaze and we move off the dance floor. Akihiro’s voice is coming from a small door leading off into the garden and a small veranda.
We head outside and the scene set before us is this: Akihiro, jaw clenched, smouldering cigarette at his feet. Arashi, stone faced and murder in his eyes. Shizune, a dangerous glint in her eyes as she stands beside my twin. Rin is watching with a calculating gaze, while my mother looms besides a short man in a business suit, with a girl, our age besides him.
They’re both pretty nondescript to be fair. Average looking unassuming pair. The man is in a well fitting suit tan suit, jewellery decorating his fingers, an expensive watch sitting on his wrist. Omega I think.
The girl, his daughter I’m assuming – is dressed in a navy blue dress, the same cut as mine. Her brown hair is tied in a bun and she wears no mask, it’s on a small table next to her. Her brown eyes sweep over us and judge us as ignorant.
There is something different about this pair and with a start, I realise they carry themselves in the same manner as mother. Confident, poised, used to getting their way at all times.
Who are these people?
In the time I’ve spent analysing, Akihiro has been speaking; “Why? Why are you doing this now?Especially when he’s already brought someone with him! Are you trying to humiliate him mother?”
A sinking feeling settles in my guts.
Oh no mother. Not now. Please don’t do this now.
“I’m not sure what your intentions are stepson, but please restrain yourself.” Mother’s remark is offhand and callous, and I see teeth under her mask.
“Akihiro,” Rin says softly, “restrain yourself.” He shoots her a glance, sees something in her gaze and backs off a little.
Arashi is simply stone-faced staring at my mother. “Well, Arashi aren’t you going to be polite and introduce yourself?” She asks sweetly.
Arashi simply stares flatly then turns around, dismissing Mother entirely. In fact he makes to leave the area completely. Shizune has grin, one akin to the cat that has the canary, and she moves alongside Arashi, placing her arm in his, and they disappear into the darkness.
The complete dismissal has totally thrown mother off balance, but the man and his daughter seem to be totally unfazed. He sighs, “I wasn’t with this from the start Tomiko. It’s old fashioned. Let children be children and meet on their own terms.”
“Besides, he’s a mute. It’s weird,” the girl comments, picking at her nails, supremely bored.
“Excuse me?” I hiss and the girl looks up. “That’s my twin you’re talking about! Watch your mouth!”
Something in my furious expression stops her from passing further comment. Her father watches with an unreadable expression from besides her. “Heh,” he comments, “Your daughter appears to be quite the dragon.”
Mother’s lips press into a severe line. “Well, she has always been something of a free spirit.”
I snort. “You mean someone you couldn’t control.” I can feel a pressure under my stomach. All the little sniping, the comments, Hisao’s mask and everything else that’s gone on is fermenting and bubbling into a potent rage, ready to be unleashed.
“It’s a pity you didn’t have a son Kurosaki.” This is directed towards the man with the jewellery, who chuckles at the comment, as his daughter disappears into the ballroom.
“Indeed a pity. An arrangement of some kind would’ve been nice. Closer connection between the families.”
“I’d never agree to anything, or anyone you approve of mother,” I fire off, blood afire.
“It would only be a love meeting.” Mother drawls, a smug confident smirk on her face.
“I wouldn’t even bother to show my face to it.” The truth of my words is there in my steady gaze. I choose my own way, my own path, why would she even dream of suggesting someone to me? Anyone mother approves of I would most certainly not get on with.
“We’ll negotiate another time,” Kurosaki says softly, looking uncomfortable from the family argument brewing in front of him, moving off the small veranda and into the ballroom. “A pleasure as always, Tomiko.”
“A pleasure as well,” the hostess purrs, and as Kurosaki and his daughter vanishes elsewhere, the amiable hostess vanishes and the ice queen takes her place.
“Why all of this? Why! You’re our mother! You should love us, instead you love only yourself, you stupid bitch!” I demand from her unmoving figure.
The air stills. Mother’s eyes become hard flints. “I have had enough of your childish antics daughter. You and your brother may have just cost me a vast amount of money and connections.”
Bitter laughter echoes in the night air. “Money. That’s all it comes down to. Money. Dad was never like this; none of this would’ve happened if he were still here.”
“Well we all know who to blame for that.”
The world goes still.
“E-e-excuse me?” I splutter, hoping I’d misheard.
“You’re blind in one eye, daughter, not deaf, and I didn’t stutter. You caused your fathers death.”
I rock back and stagger into Hisao’s chest. “Ms. Tsukino –“
“Quiet boy,” she cuts Hisao off. “Family are speaking.”
“Mother!” Akihiro speaks up.
“I’ve never been your mother boy!” She spits, her eyes wild and angry.
Akihiro stays calm, lights a cigarette. “Knew that already, bitch,” is the calm reply. “Don’t say another word, Tomiko,” he states calmly. “Leave.”
“This is my home!”
“Our home,” he corrects her. “I lived here long before you were here.”
Mother turns to leave and I feel the anger in my chest reach critical levels. I’ve had enough. I feel myself surge forward, hands curled into fists, intent on causing genuine psychical trauma to my mother.
I feel two sets of hands, grab at me, restraining my movement. One set on my right, another on my left.
Instinctively I whirl towards my blind side, the right, breaking the hold on me and lash out with my fists at what I think is face and chest level. There is a crack of a mask breaking and a grunt as flesh impacts flesh.
“Akihiro!” I hear Rin cry out through the red mist that has descended on me.
I turn and am suddenly seized in a hold. I struggle and try to lash out but as I wriggle, a smell cuts through the red haze.
Vanilla and coffee.
I wrench myself back and stare, wide eyed and panting. Akihiro’s nose is bleeding, mask broken at his feet, arms wrapped around his chest, Rin supporting him.
Hisao is staring back at me just as wide eyed.
What have I done?
I make small, horrified sound as I realise what I could’ve done. If that had been Hisao on my right…
I stifle a sob and bolt into the darkness, running blindly with my tears and sorrow at my side.
End Scene 14
Re: Learning the blues. Act 2 Scene 14 up!
Posted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 7:13 pm
Well... I think that I'm speaking for just about everyone who's delving back into this when I say... Damn. That update length.
The fact that this update alone is a novelette verging on a novella all by itself is impressive enough; but, even better, you're keeping the quality right up there regardless of the length. I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't a treat to have an update to Learning the Blues, especially after not having one the past few weeks because of the sheer size of this one.
But delving into the content, I think that I can see just why you wanted to release this whole monster all in one fell swoop. It's big, it's somewhat intimidating, even by the 'usual' 8.000 word update standards that you bring out, but it all fits together in a way that probably wouldn't work quite as well in bits and pieces. Having a banquet all at once rather than just tastings, I suppose. But every piece of it seems to fall together in such a way as to show its usefulness. Looking at the scene with Akihiro and Ayane going out onto the balcony, just talking, it makes it all the more shocking when Ayane lashes out. Yet, it could've been worse if she'd gone straight for Hisao, definitely. But having that little interaction between the pair earlier too, with him admitting that 'he's still her big brother' type deal... oof.
Everything fits well into place for the scene you've painted up until this point. You've added in a few more little bits of intrigue, conflict, sprinkled a few more seeds for later reaping in regards to plot.
I'm really, really glad that there were still some nice little bits in there, as well as the huge conflict points and the ending of it. The bit with Fujiko and Ayane on the phone with one another was refreshingly... dissimilar from the almost claustrophobic atmosphere of the rest of the chapter, Ayane being almost caged there. All in all, really just another solid addition to Learning the Blues.
Can't wait for more!
Re: Learning the blues. Act 2 Scene 14 up!
Posted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 8:45 pm
Really enjoyed this. Love how swiftly their mother was put down, though I'm sure she'll be back with a vengeance. People like her don't give up easy. And DAMN what a finish. You really know how to leave a cliffhanger, don't you?
Re: Learning the blues. Act 2 Scene 14 up!
Posted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 11:55 pm
Thanks for putting a little cheer into my life, Tealeaf! Been SUPER sick lately, and this was just what the doctor ordered. Great chapter, and that end tho.
Re: Learning the blues. Act 2 Scene 14 up!
Posted: Mon Nov 10, 2014 10:30 pm
Tealeaf! She punched Akihiro! Also the extended family is so bitchy! Nice chapter, on form.
My worries for the future is that this feels like the climax/ending to a fic, what with the whole ball. These have been some big scenes which have left me wondering where will you go after this?
Maybe that's a good thing though. It's not too predictable a story. I like not knowing. Just make sure Akihiro continues to be a knockout character.
Re: Learning the blues. Act 2 Scene 14 up!
Posted: Tue Nov 11, 2014 6:35 am
It's not too predictable a story.
Really? I thought it was pretty obvious where the story is going. There have been several hints in the last few chapters that I thought were even a bit too obvious...