Harmony Act V: Pride

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Scene XI: Calm Before the Storm

Tokyo, Japan. 2014, May

Silence was all Muzai and Yujin shared as they made their journey back to Hinansho. Before they had left the junkyard, Yujin had offered to check on Tsume and concluded her fatigue and illness was precisely Yoku’s abuse over the years. There was nothing he could do for her, not without The Parasite's cure.

Yujin had gently shook Muzai’s shoulder when they were back, parked in the carpark at the foot of Hinansho’s apartment block. She thanked him quietly for the ride and company before climbing out. She followed him up the staircase, dragging her heels with the grogginess of a poor night’s sleep and the endless unveiled secrets of Yuugen’s Council.

Yujin mumbled a small goodbye when he came to his apartment’s floor and stepped left, getting off the metal stairway. Muzai returned the small gesture and continued up to the next floor. She glanced back to see Yujin lean down and pick something up from in front of his door before he disappeared inside. Muzai chewed on her lip, staring at the spot Yujin had been in. For a mere moment, she was tempted to go back down and resume their conversation on the ins and outs of Yoku’s plan and Hokori’s show – she forced herself to move, climbing the rest of the stairs before her curiosity could consume her.

She was greeted with the smell of cooking food the moment she opened the door and winced at the rush of warm air that flowed across her face. She kicked off her shoes and dropped her bag before stepping inside and pushing the door shut.

“Ah, Muzai.” Bi stood at the end of the hall. Even though she had no plans for business, she was still pinned up and dressed in her professional best. Her face was a cake of make-up, and though it should look silly, she managed to put just the right amount of eyeliner and lipstick on to the point Muzai was envious. “Your father and I were talking about how much weight you’ve put on since moving in with Shinrai. She must feed you very well.”

Muzai shifted where she stood, cheeks growing hotter. She knew she was bigger than most girls her age, but she had never been obsessive about her weight; even when she was around slimmer people like Hikari or Tsumi. But of course, her mother was thin as a rake. She barely ate and Muzai knew she took regular exercise – she could vaguely remember asking her father if he still would have married Bi if she was a little bigger in size. The answer had been nothing but a small grunt and seven-year-old Muzai walked away with a frown she could never get rid of.

“I love Aunt’s cooking.” Muzai finally replied, brushing past her mother.

Shinrai sat on the sofa in the living room, trying to read the newspaper – or at least pretend to – while Oda sat at the side in the same armchair Muzai usually sat on after a long day. He was dressed for the occasion, much like Bi. His swept back hair, dress-shirt and slacks radiated a dominance which made it difficult for Muzai not to cringe. Just to see her parents in casual dress would be nice. Alas, she knew this was as close to normal as they would ever go, which meant she couldn't really complain since they were trying to make the effort.

“Muzai,” Oda spoke, catching the sight of his daughter moving through the room. His emerald eyes softened behind his spectacles, a rare sight indeed. “Come and sit. Shinrai and I are discussing what to name the baby when it arrives.”

Muzai was all too happy to sit beside Shinrai and smiled when she received an arm around her shoulders, squeezing her close. Shinrai would always know better than her parents ever could, and she sighed, tossing her newspaper onto the coffee table to finally engage with the topic hanging in the air. Muzai noticed the smirk on her aunt’s lips and she smiled; knowing Shinrai was happy to be acknowledged by her brother for something other than her alcoholism.

“Do you know whether it’s a boy or girl yet?” Oda spoke up. He was unusually delicate with his choice of tone; enough so that Shinrai raised a brow.

“Nope. Kikoeru and I want it to be a surprise. Gotta say, though. It’s nice to see you getting excited all of a sudden, bro.”

“Yes, well…” Oda clicked his tongue. “I’m glad you’re finally settling down.”

“You never change.” Shinrai snorted.

“You do.”

“Well, I figured one of us had to be the mature one.”

“And you assume that’s you?”

“Who else would it be?” Shinrai challenged.

Oda opened his mouth to retort when Bi walked into the room. She smiled, all perfect teeth and keen eyes as she moved to stand between the sofa and the armchair, gaining the spotlight as per usual.

“I found this on the doorstep earlier.” Bi began, holding up a colourful slip of paper. Its golden edges were rimmed in glitter and sparkles; flamboyant and alluring with big letters printed across its surface. “I waited until you came back from… wherever you were, dear. Where did you go at such an early hour?”

“I went to visit someone.” Muzai whispered, pressing her palms together. She refused to make eye contact, feeling like a small girl under Bi’s eyes. It was not often she was questioned in the comfort of her own home. Shinrai did well to let her have privacy and Muzai appreciated it so long as she always came home before curfew.

“Really? Who’s that? A boyfriend?” Bi chuckled. The light sound was laced with mock and doubt.

“No!” Muzai snipped, crossing her arms. Sure, she may not have had a boyfriend or girlfriend – but to hear her own mother mocking the subject made her blood boil.

“Muzai’s been visiting the man who lives on the floor below us.” Shinrai shrugged. “He’s a good friend and has been going through a rough patch lately.”

When Bi accepted the reply and turned back to the slip of paper in her hands, Shinrai winked in Muzai’s direction and smiled. Muzai could only sigh with relief for the save. She figured Shinrai earnt the right to know the truth of her new job role in Chiba – but she would disclose that information when they were not being interrogated by her parents.

“What were you going to tell us, Bi?” Oda grunted, crossing his arms much like Muzai had.

“I’m getting to that part.” Bi replied idly. She held the slip of paper at arms-length with a grin, as if she had made it herself. “On the nineteenth of May, there will be a Circus show in Chiba. Apparently it’s going to be the biggest show of the year in all of Japan! I suggest we should all go to celebrate Muzai’s birthday.”

Muzai felt her heart skip a beat. She looked to her right and saw Shinrai smiling. To her left, Oda seemed unfazed as ever, but his calm eyes were a hint to his intrigue and Bi wore her smile as big as ever as if she had planned the whole thing herself!

“What do you say, Muzai? I know how much you’ve wanted to see the circus since you were a little girl. It would be the perfect birthday present.” Bi walked over, holding the slip of paper for all eyes to see.

Muzai looked over the decorative ticket – recognising the image of Chiba’s theatre painted in the background with the title Concordia decorated in italic font. She traced her fingers across the paper, feeling the glitter beneath the pads of her thumb and forefinger. She could envision the layout of the theatre in her mind when she lowered her arms and turned back to her family.

“I… Um, actually, I was already going to go.” She watched everyone in the room share a look of confusion and her shoulders tensed under the rising tension. She sank back against the sofa. “I was, um, offered a job at Concordia Theatre when Hahen and I played in the Symphony Hall. I’ll be the musician for the show. I was going to tell you, aunt, but mother and father turning up was a surprise and I guess I just… forgot.”

“It’s okay, kid. I mean, it’s your birthday and we can do whatever you want. We got tons of time to celebrate together in the meantime, right?” Shinrai smiled, reaching out to ruffle Muzai’s hair. “I mean, we can still go to the show and hear you play regardless.”

Oda stiffened upon his seat, knowing the decision rested upon his shoulders with the glare Shinrai was giving him. He glanced away, catching the sight of Bi looking down at him with high expectations. He could practically read her mind. No way would they have ever imagined their own daughter working in a band of freaks for entertainment as a career choice. It was one thing to watch a show, but another thing to be a part of it. It was beyond both of their ideas of professionalism; but Oda had to make a move. An appropriate one which didn’t end in shouting and tears.

“It’s certainly good to hear that you’ve gotten yourself a job, Muzai. You always wanted to do something in the music career, well done.” Oda stood, motioning towards Bi. “Your mother and I are very proud of you.”

“Yes,” Bi forced the words along with her fake smile. Her eyes looked everywhere but her daughter’s face when she joined Oda’s side. “We are so very proud of you and we… would be delighted to come and see you play in the show.”

Muzai could not stop the smile appearing on her face. Even if her parents had a hard time talking to her and expressing their love, she could not shake the simple fact that they were, and always would be, her parents. And they were proud of her. With all the happiness welling in her chest, she forgot to consider just how dangerous it would be to let her family come to the show. For once, she just wanted to enjoy herself with Oda and Bi in the same room. She was only human, after all.

Chiba, Japan. 2014, May

Katsubo remained silent as Kin drove back to Chiba. Since the incident in the alleyway, neither had forced themselves to speak and had been quiet for a good thirty minutes by now. Once or twice Katsubo had hoped to start a conversation of sorts. The topics varied in his head until his throat went tight, utterly stumped as to what he should say.

“Your ol’ Conductor. That Okui, yeh?” Kin eventually broke the silence, despite his snapped cheek.

“I thought you already knew everything about me.” Katsubo replied, thankful for the break in silence. His grey eyes wandered along the dashboard filled with loose change and candy wrappers before he looked up to Kin’s swollen, freckled face. “Everyone else knows about my Conductor and I.”

Kin smiled – at least, he attempted to. His cheek was a deep red, already morphing into a horrid shade of purple. “I ain’t really bothered learnin’ about them Council people. The Boss is all I know. Eh, well ’im and Senbo…”

Katsubo could not recall a time he crossed paths with Senbo in past. He knew of him; as they all did. The man who killed Dotai. Katsubo had struggled with the idea of such evil being with a man like Hokori. They were polar opposites! No matter how hard Katsubo tried to piece the puzzle together, he could not deny the fact that some thigs were better left behind closed doors.

Slowly, the car came to a stop and Kin pulled the handbrake, killed the engine, and climbed out of the dingy car. Katsubo followed, moving to the boot where he began taking out their assorted boxes and decorations for the circus when Kin reached for his shoulder, fluttering his hand against him.

“Oh my…”

Katsubo blinked at the short gasp under kin’s breath and looked up. “What is it-?” His eyes followed Kin’s, wandering to the front of the theatre.

A man stood outside. His hair was choppy, tangled in a mop of blue as bright as the summer sky. His eyes were just as cobalt, although dull and void of life, and his skin was deathly pale. A brow rose upon his delicately boned face and he looked over to find Kin and Katsubo parked by the curb. He rubbed his hands together, slowly turning to face them. He was dressed in a short cape, covering the white button-down and tight, black trousers he wore beneath.

“Excuse me…?”

Kin stepped up, shielding Katsubo. “Aye?” He grunted, caution radiating as he took a wary step up the curb.

“Ugh, is the theatre open, Kin?” The man mumbled. He began to pick the abused skin around his nails, shaking. “…I need to see Hokori.”

Kin sighed with all the defeat in the world. He walked past the man and unlocked the front door. “I’ll take ya to ’im.” He mumbled, slipping inside without so much as a glance.

Katsubo was quick to follow, bowing his head as he craned the numerous boxes in his arms. “Kin? Who is that?” He whispered harshly, stepping through reception and into the backdoor.

Kin gritted his teeth and glanced back, taking note of the way their new arrival followed, tugging his cape around his shoulders. His aura was notably uneasy and everything about him was difficult to predict, as if he were ready to snap at any given second should they make a wrong move. Kin grabbed Katsubo’s elbow to hurry their pace, creating as much needed distance between them and the man as possible.

“That man…” Kin’s eyes flashed with fury – something that unsettled Katsubo more than anything they had experienced so far today. “That man be ol’ Senbo.”

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