Tea Leaves and Red Silk


Match Twenty-Five: Hell:

He drifts in and out in his hospital bed. Kiku could see hell. Not just one, but many others. The Japanese man felt like Dante looking into different Hells. He shivered as he walked down the darkened path. How do I get home? The wails of misery made him want to vomit. Kiku couldn't enter his own Hell.

The sound of giggling made him freeze. Kiku turned and found a woman sitting on a hill of books.

"You look lost," she said. The Japanese man stared at her long, pale legs.

"Who are you?" he asked. The woman flipped back her long dark red hair.

"I have no name," she said. Her gray eyes focused on him. "And what about you?"

"I am Japan," he said. Something in his heart and head told him to keep his distance. He couldn't see mystical creatures like Arthur, but that didn't stop him from sensing sinister about this nameless woman. She held out a graceful hand.

"Oh, don't be like that," she said. "There would be no point in killing you." Kiku took a step back as he gulped. The woman lowered her hand.

"Never mind," she said. "Judging by the look on your face. I believe that you have some questions to ask." The woman moved her skinny arms behind her head. "Go ahead ask. I doubt I will answer all them or not." Kiku tried to dig for something in his brain for something to push out of his mouth.

"Am I in Hell?" he asked.

"No," she said. "You're in the space between many Hells. Why you aren't in your own, because you aren't really traumatized."

Kiku narrowed his eyes. "Then why am I-?"

"Feeling the suffering in your heart?" She leaned forward with a smile on round face. "The people of Ikebukuro's pain flows through you." The woman pressed her hands on Kiku's cheeks. "You know how this is possible. You are Japan, after all. When people in your country suffer, it flows through you."

He drew his mouth closed. She spoke the truth. Even in his old age, he couldn't escape the suffering of his people. But…

"What's going on in Ikebukuro?" Kiku asked. The woman rested her hand to her rounded breasts.

"I am being set free," she said. "He is finally fulfilling his promise to me."

"What are you talking about? Who is trying to free you? How are you here talking to me? Where are you?"

The nameless woman in her long red strapless dress pressed a skinny finger to the Japanese man's lips. "One question at a time, my dear paramour." Her eyes stabbed him in the soul with a hard look. He felt so small in front of her. The woman pulled back her finger.

"Which one would you like to ask me first?" she asked. Kiku's eyes shifted left and right.

"Where are you?" he asked. "Your body, I mean." The nameless woman slid off the hill of books.

"The Land of the Dead," she said without missing a beat. Kiku felt like he was going to faint. The woman raised an eyebrow at the queasy color on his face.

"Don't you worry," she said. "I am not a shinigami or a demon."

"Then… what are you?"

Her blood red lips curved into a cat-like smile. "I am me."

Kiku felt his mouth turning dry. "How are you here in front of me?"

"I have accumulated enough power to project myself within different Hells. Thanks to all of the misery and souls that I have consumed from Ikebukuro, I can move pieces of my energy to wherever I please."

"How did you get locked away or why?"

"Such a story will make your head spin."

"So who is trying to free you?"

She flipped back her hair again. "Let's just say he's an odd child who is fulfilling a promise he made with me years ago."

"Do I know him?"

The woman reached from and caressed his cheek. "You will, my dear pet." Kiku shook his head as his eyes grew wide.

"But I don't understand you," he said.

"What don't you understand?" she asked.

"Why me? Why do you come to me? Why am I having all of this pain? Why would you leave me alone?"

Her lips came within inches of his. "Because, something glorious is about to happen and you are the centerpiece along with Ikebukuro." With one kiss on his lips, Kiku awoke in his hospital bed, panting. A nurse that was walking into his room to check on him began screaming for the doctor. Everything sounded like it was underwater around him. He moved his fingers to her lips as he remembered the nameless woman's words.

"Something glorious is about to happen and you are the centerpiece along with Ikebukuro."

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