Scene I: Beginning of the End
Kanagawa, Yuugen. Japan. 2005, May
Yuugen originally stood as a mansion, nestled in the same field as the academy. The campus was huge, big enough to hold fifty cars which parked outside the looming building as people climbed out to attend the ball they had been invited to. It was no secret that Magick was strong here; at least that was all the young woman could think as she climbed out of her car and climbed the steps to the mansion.
High heels hugged her feet as she moved through the corridors. Bright lights and décor of gold filled her surroundings. It was something like a fairytale to attend such a grand ball in a mysterious place. She had gone on behalf of her brother, who owned a successful business in Kanagawa. He liaised closely with Yuugen, specifically with a man called Dotai Senso. She knew better than to ask questions, since Magick was slowly turning into myth and it was a dangerous force to be caught up in; yet the idea of missing such a marvelous party as this was not an option!
She gave her name to the man at the door, Damu Shunkan, and was led into the ballroom where people danced, talked, or stuck themselves into the shadows of the room as wallflowers. Typical party, she supposed. Everyone held an aura she could not ignore, her head stung when she waltzed further inside, passing people with bright eyes and colourful hair. She had not been graced with Magick like them. She was normal; a Dabbler. Her brown hair and hazel eyes were a dull comparison to the rainbow colours swarming her and she was quick to debate whether she should leave.
The man known as Dotai stood at the far end of the room with seven people lined up behind him. His voice boomed over the microphone in his hand, announcing the start of tonight’s events and thanking everyone who attended for their generous donations. Damu was sure to mention it to her brother when she got home.
The remainder of the evening was spent on the balconies overlooking the courtyard below. Damu felt better outside, away from the tension and noise. The cold wind picked up her skirt and she sighed aloud. If she had been a particular kind of woman, she may have made a fuss at the wind for its damage against her long braid.
“You don’t like parties?”
Damu was caught off guard by the question and turned to see a man standing just at arms-reach. He was of average height with streaks of indigo hair tied into a ponytail. One of the seven. His eyes were a mixture of red and purple; like a whirlpool combined. He was like some kind of fantasy man straight from a romance novel! A prince.
“Sometimes.” Damu admitted, returning her attention to the ground below.
The prince approached casually. Damu could feel his eyes on her back and shuddered. He was close enough for her to shy away as he took the spot at her side, offering her a glass of red wine. She accepted it with a dainty hand and raised the glass to her lips. It tasted sweeter than anything she had ever had before.
“I apologise if this kind of thing is not to your liking, Milady.” The man spoke. “Only, Dotai likes that we stay sociable instead of being locked away.”
“Is Dotai your father?” Damu raised a brow, turning the glass slowly in her hands. It was easier to focus on the drink if it meant she did not have to look up at him. “You must be related to the others.”
“Others?” For a moment, the prince was speechless. Then he laughed and Damu felt her heart flutter. “Hardly. Well, I am related to one of them by blood. But the others are simply my acquaintances. We have lived together for many years now.”
Damu raised the glass to her lips once again, gulping down the sweet alcohol. She was sure her cheeks were a bright pink when she finally looked up at the man’s face. He really was handsome. “So, who is Dotai to you?”
“Well, Dotai took us in when we were ill. He helped us all get better, gave us a second chance.” His hand dared to move, tucking back a loose strand of Damu’s hair behind her ear. “Don’t you believe in second chances?”
“All seven of you were ill?”
“Yes,” the prince smiled. “All seven of us.”
Morning came around too soon. When Damu woke, she could not help but smile. The sheets and pillows around her were tousled in last night’s activities and she bit her lip at the reminder of her mystery prince hovering above her in the dark. He had been so kind and gentle, practically worshipping her from head to toe for hours until they gave in to fatigue. Now, she was alone in this strange mansion with nothing but a silken sheet to hide her naked breasts as she sat up.
“You’re awake.” A small voice echoed at the foot of the bed. “About time.”
Damu was greeted with the sight of a child. “Um, hello?”
“The Chairman likes to have his bed clean by the time he gets back from his morning meetings.” The girl turned her nose up at Damu, hands clasped behind her back. Short, purple pigtails batted against her cheeks as she motioned towards the ensuite bathroom. “I have already washed and ironed your clothes. They’re laid out for you in the bathroom. Your car is waiting for you outside, our valet will take you anywhere you wish. Will that be all?”
Damu was shocked to say the least. She was sure her jaw hung as the girl watched her with waiting eyes. She had a maturity beyond her years, yet the respect towards her elders was clearly never drummed into her as a kid. “How old are you?”
“Such details can be saved for someone more acquainted; wouldn’t you agree?” Came the reply. Simple. “Please hurry before The Chairman returns.”
Damu slowly stood from the bed, holding her silken sheet to her body to preserve some dignity. She headed for the open door to the bathroom; pausing midway to look back at the young girl busying herself with pulling the sheets off the bed.
“Is The Chairman the man who brought me here?”
The girl rolled all the sheets into a ball, managing the load with ease as she turned back to Damu. “Would it really matter if he were?”
“But surely he’d want to know I’m leaving?” Damu pressed on. “Maybe if I could just say goodbye-?”
“I’m afraid there’s no point, Miss Shunkan. The Chairman does this to every loner standing on the balcony on their own. It would have been no different if you were a man.”
Damu felt her fairy tale shatter and she hurried into the bathroom before her tears could be seen. She never used the bath or the shower as she reappeared, dressed and full of disgust as she left the room; never to be seen again. It left the young girl standing by the bed to sigh aloud before she moved to the cupboard by the bed and gently knocked on its oak door.
The cupboard door swung open and The Chairman stepped out, wearing nothing but a pair of loose trousers hanging at his hips. His long hair was messy and trailed across his chest and back as he moved, stretching his arms above his head. “As always, you truly are reliable, Neko.”
“Thank you for the compliment, sir.” Neko replied dryly, hauling the pile of sheets into her arms. “I’m flattered.”
Yokubo chuckled, swiftly turning back to his cupboard as he undressed himself to nothing and reached for his daywear. He would shower later. Pulling on his boxers and vest, he heard Neko drop the pile of sheets into the woven basket in the ensuite bathroom. She reappeared, holding the basket to her chest after collecting the silken sheet from the bathroom floor. The last reminder of Miss Damu Shunkan.
“You have a full schedule today.”
“I’m listening.” Yokubo mumbled, combing his hair back into a high ponytail before pulling on a pair of trousers and jumper.
Bending down to retrieve the man’s pyjama trousers, Neko spoke. “You should meet with Hokori, the orphanage funding is excelling thanks to him. He and Senbo visit the children regularly to keep up face. Chikai wanted to go through the finances with you this afternoon regarding the academy’s facilities and Dotai wishes to speak with you the moment you’re free.”
“What does Dotai want?” Yokubo frowned, closing his cupboard. “He never makes meetings on such short notice.”
“Apparently your son has arrived in Japan.” Neko replied, turning to face the man now that he was fully dressed. “It seems he’s caused quite a lot of ruckus while Yoku’s men brought him here. He's drawing attention to himself. Plus, he doesn’t seem to speak English or Japanese.”
Yokubo slapped his hands across his face, mouthing a groan of annoyance. He was like a teenager whose parent had done something uncool in front of all his friends. “Why is he here?”
“It seems Dotai wrote to your lady in France.” Neko shrugged. “He offered her a great sum of money to send your son over.”
“Thank you, Neko.” Yokubo dropped his arms and resumed the look of seriousness. A look only a Chairman was worthy of. “That will be all.”
Kanagawa Hospital. Japan. 2014, February
Chiberri had called an ambulance after Yujin refused to wake. Once in hospital, he sat outside the examination room with a bouncing leg and crossed arms for what felt like hours. When the nurses moved out of the room and allowed him inside, Chiberri felt his stomach turn.
Yujin was so pale and small. He laid on his back with a mask on his face; keeping his oxygen levels maintained. His eyes were closed, and he had been changed into a hospital gown. Leads were stuck to his chest, promoting the levels of his pulse and respiration rates on a screen hovering above the bed. Finally, there was an IV stand with fluid being pumped into the cannula in his hand; keeping him hydrated as he lay unmoving.
Chiberri stared. He could not force himself to move from the foot of Yujin’s bed, afraid he would mess something up. A puddle of water was forming at his feet where rain rolled off his clothes and hair. There was no way this was happening, right? Right? When the doctor came into the room, Chiberri whirled to face him.
“He’s going to be okay, isn’t he? Tell me he is!”
The doctor was calm as he explained the situation, informing Chiberri that they were forced to induce Yujin into a coma while they supported his breathing. Whatever was wrong with him was unknown at this time, though they were treating it as pneumonia for now until they were able to run more tests. Additionally, much to Chiberri’s horror, Yujin had fractured his hip when he fell; meaning he would need surgery the moment he was stable.
Before Chiberri could blow up with fury, another person walked into the room. Her stiletto heels clicked, and her silver hair was ruffled. Even the great Tsumi Kokutan could look flushed and drenched in an emergency. Chiberri would have usually made a remark at the unkempt sight, but his heart sank when Tsumi moved towards Yujin’s bed and grabbed his hand.
“Come on, Yujin.” She whispered. “You can get up now.”
Chiberri swallowed his sorrows, unable to ghost Tsumi since he was the one who called her. She had only recently braved the faces of Yuugen’s Council last month and had been tagged since. It did not seem to bother her much; she had just been on the downlow since her pardon. Yet Chiberri could not keep her away from this. Yujin had no next of kin, he only had them.
“I’ll give you some time alone.” The doctor stepped outside, pulling the door shut. “We will let you know if something shows up on his results.”
Tsumi took a seat beside Yujin’s bedside and Chiberri stood opposite her, arms crossed over his chest. They shared no words as they watched and listened to the bleeping heart monitor keeping track of Yujin’s life.
Hakone, Japan. 2014, February
“It’s still raining outside.” Miryoku Fumetsu sighed, pushing his mother’s wheelchair through the creaky hallway of his childhood home. The cabin had never felt like home; not really. Even without the man sitting on the armchair in the lounge with a shotgun, Miryoku could not say he felt welcomed.
Ame Fumetsu was not a well woman. She was frail and delicate; that much was obvious from the sight of her, yet her mind was trapped in a body she had no control over. She could not raise her legs to walk or lift her arms to hug her children. It was a condition she had been fighting for years now; yet Miryoku could not remember a day when he had been held even before Ame got sick.
“I can take you outside for some fresh air when the weather calms down, okay?” The smile Miryoku wore on his face was tired. Tired and sad. He pushed her into the lounge where a fire roared; thanks to his Magick. He put the breaks on before stepping away. “I’ll be back in a second.”
Dragging his slipper-clad feet across the bumpy floorboards, Miryoku ducked into the kitchen and returned with a cup of sweet, hot tea. He pulled a nearby stool in front of his mother’s wheelchair and coaxed her to drink. She took the smallest of sips; eyes wandering across his face.
“Miryoku…” Ame wheezed.
The sound of his own name coming from his mother’s lips nearly made Miryoku drop the cup. His hope was swiftly killed as Ame began to babble on. She had no idea he was even here. Just like always.
“Itami was… such a good boy.” She stared into Miryoku’s eyes, though she liked right through him. “He should have never died. Why did he have to die? It should have been the other one.”
Miryoku exhaled, setting the cup down on the side table before leaning forward to press the smallest of kisses to his mother’s crown. “I know, mum. I know.”
Stepping outside, Miryoku braved the thundering rain and followed the small pathway towards his brother’s grave. He figured Dameji had decided to bury his father there, too. Some kind of sick irony. There lay Itami alongside his father, Kashi. Both buried six feet under. Miryoku felt sick to know his brother would forever be laying beside their father. The bastard that put him there. But what could he do? Dig his dad up and chuck him in a lake somewhere?
“I hate you.”
The words rolled off Miryoku’s tongue without meaning to, but he did not regret it. It was how he had always felt since he was a small child, huddled under his bed to escape those mean fists. As he moved away from the graves, his senses stung and he braced himself, whirling to face the woman standing behind him. Out of everyone in the world, why her?
“Enchantress?” Miryoku gave her a once over with confused eyes. “What are you doing here?”
“Tsk, tsk.” Yoku clicked her tongue and glanced back at the cabin, watching Ame’s silhouette from the window. She sighed aloud, rearranging her umbrella over her head. “Since your father has passed, I understood your mother has no-one to take care of her.”
Miryoku ground his teeth together, unable to interrupt the woman as she spoke. He looked at her shoes and wrinkled his nose; she did not even have mud on her heels.
“I want you to help me with something. In return, I can ensure your mother will be taken to a care home where her needs can be met appropriately. After all, you have no money and we both know there’s no way you can take care of her on your own. Who would look after you?”
Miryoku forced the tension in his throat to die. All it took was one glance to the cabin and the sight of his mother’s empty eyes to make his choice. “Fine. I’ll do whatever you want.”