Scene XIX: Together
Chiba, Japan. 2014, May
A blood-curdling scream emanated from Shinrai’s mouth. She had already fallen to her knees, panting for air. Her hands cupped her stomach protectively and the pads of her fingers pressed against the fabrics of her dress.
Merodi flinched every time Shinrai made a sound of pain. He ran his fingers through his hair, inhaling with alarm as he watched her writher and wail. As much as he wished he could help her in her time of need, Merodi was stumped as to what he should actually do.
Rida was the only person in the room who acted. She muttered under her breath whilst unzipping her jacket and rolled it up, gently coaxing Shinrai to lay on her back before tucking the make-shift pillow beneath the woman’s head.
“Just relax, okay?” Rida reassured, gently brushing back the loose strands of hair across Shinrai’s sweaty face.
“You’ve done this before?” Merodi blurted, kneeling beside Shinrai.
“I have a big family.” Rida said as she reached out, pulling Merodi’s hand over to Shinrai’s arm. “Your job as daddy is to keep mummy calm right now. Staying calm is a necessity, got it?”
Merodi nodded, taking the spot Rida had been sitting in and tangled his fingers through Shinrai’s hands. He forced a smile through his nerves, gently soothing her and telling her all would be well soon enough.
In the corner of the room sat Bi and Oda. The former had begun glaring at Shinrai, no doubt envious of stolen thunder. Tonight was supposed to be Muzai’s night, in other words, Bi’s night. Now it seemed Muzai would be sharing her birthday in future and Bi rolled her eyes before turning to Oda, gently rubbing his shoulder as he continued holding his bloodied nose.
“Right, things are looking good. Mum’s comfy and dad’s nearby.” Rida mumbled to herself, crawling along the ground to situate herself between Shinrai’s legs.
With all due respect, she discarded Shinrai of her underwear for the baby and made a mental note of the room’s conditions, as well as Shinrai’s dignity.
Raising her hand, she snapped her fingers at Dameji. “You! Look around those boxes and find some water, she needs to stay hydrated!”
Dameji scoffed, half-smiling to the people around him. His cocky expression dimmed somewhat when everyone else was anything but cocky. Their eyes were serious, and they watched Dameji with expectations – leaving him to turn and quickly search for something before he was labelled the bad guy who couldn’t even help a woman in labour.
Rida turned her eyes to Reikishi, Hanaharu’s delicate old history teacher, and smiled. “Could you please look for some towels or blankets so she’s comfortable, yeah?”
“Thank you… for this…” Shinrai gasped between breaths, tugging Rida’s sleeve.
“No problem,” Rida smiled before finally turning her attention on her cousins. “Migi, Hidari-”
Upon being called, the twins looked up from their handhold game consoles which they had been playing the whole time since stepping into the theatre and blinked with their bright eyes awaiting their task. Rida cringed at the thought of asking for help and she shook her head, turning away.
“You know what? You two can help by staying quiet and playing your video games, ’kay?”
Shizuka quietly joined Rida’s side and brushed her hair back from her eyes. He made quick work of bringing her everything she needed and had created a makeshift curtain to conceal Shinrai as she continued to scream the storage cupboard down. Rida sighed shakily, hands resting on Shinrai’s calves as she coached her through and only when Shinrai calmed during her contractions did Rida sit back and wipe her brow.
“Fuck.” She whispered under her breath, unable to stop the one thought from running through the back of her mind over and over. “Where the hell is Tsumi?”
Concordia (borders), Void of Chaos. 2014, May
Tsumi laced her arm around Yujin’s, practically dragging him as they ran from the stumbling Chini behind them. Her multi-coloured eyes darted, desperate to find a place to hide and lose sight of him. If Yujin decided not to fight, she would obey – only if they could make it out in one piece.
They came to a small trench, dipping low enough to hide with the aid of looming boulders. Tsumi helped Yujin hop down before she followed. They ducked together, moving steadily through the trench until they came to a dead end.
“I’ll check,” Tsumi mumbled, slowly raising herself onto level ground. She was brought back out into the beaming sun and had to squint in order to survey her surroundings. She could no longer hear Chini, nor could she see him in the distance. She was disappointed, no; empty? She sighed, turning back to Yujin. “All clear.”
Yujin nodded, raising an arm. He grunted when Tsumi clasped her hand over his and hoisted him up. They shared a small glance, that same feeling of empty disappointment. They were both blaming themselves for this; for letting Chini walk away that day. It was a glance they were grateful to break when they moved, walking out into the sun to find they were standing on a cliff.
“A dead end.” Yujin sighed aloud. He limped a few steps on his own, bowing his head to peer downward. He could see the outlines of Sorcerers in the distance below, fighting among themselves and Hokori’s Coven. “Jumping is no option. We’ll have to make our way down some other way.”
Tsumi lifted her chin in the air like a keen dog, shutting off from Yujin’s options at reaching the ground below. She turned on her heel, cocking her head to the side warily. A pebble dropped from above and she moved, raising her head to find Chini looming above them on a high boulder.
Yujin turned, catching the glimpse of Chini jumping from the boulder and heading straight for him. Without trying to move, Yujin braced himself for impact when Chini collided against him; forcing them both to topple over the edge of the cliff.
“Yujin!” Tsumi cried out, rushing to the edge. She dropped to her stomach and peered over with wide eyes. “Yujin!”
Hahen panted loudly, hand gripping Hikari’s as he followed her across the endless terrain. He was desperate to find Heishi; having lost her in the crowd before the Void. He choked; throat tightening and faltered against Hikari’s grasp.
“Hahen?” Hikari skidded to a halt. Her black sandals had been bought just for this show, now they were roughed up and covered in dust when she turned, hair falling over her shoulders and mascara smudged around the corners of her eyes. “Are you okay?”
“I lost her, Hikari!” Hahen sobbed. His own attire was scuffed by now; having ditched his jacket earlier. His black dress shirt was tugged, half of it hanging out the side of his tight black jeans. He did not have the foresight to wear his regular bandages on his arms, which meant all his ugly battle scars were evident when his muscles tensed. “I lost my cousin! She’s somewhere in here and I d-don’t know where she is!”
Hikari’s expression was all sympathy. She tried to pull him into a hug, but he was quick to rest his hands against her shoulders to keep her from coming too close. Hikari would be lying if she said the rejection didn’t hurt. Her lips pursed and she stayed still as Hahen hung his head and cried, spilling tears along the dusty ground between their feet.
“I hate Magick… So much.” Hahen whimpered. He was shaking by now, hardly capable of keeping Hikari at a distance. “It’s so evil, Hikari. It turns people into monsters! Liars! Villains! When has there ever been a good ending for people like us?!”
“Hahen,” Hikari lowered her voice and reluctantly raised her hand, exposing their Name against her fair skin. The Name they shared which only glowed when they were together. The Name they fought to find without even knowing it. “Hahen, we can make a good ending. You and me, we can do that.”
“How?!” Hahen cried, slipping to his knees. He was an ugly crier, all snot and exaggerated breaths. His arms turned in, wrapping around his waist as he bent forward to release a loud cry of frustration. “How can we ever find happiness when the world is always ending?!”
Hikari felt defeated. The instructions to follow Yoku were long forgotten as she stared at her Familiar crying his heart out. It made tears appear in her own eyes and she sniffled, refusing to let them fall. Should she show weakness in Hahen’s desperation, then she would fail as a Sorcerer.
“Get up, Hahen.”
Blinking, Hahen slowly lifted his chin. He stared at Hikari with narrowed eyes, noting the sun beaming overhead. Never had he heard Hikari tell him to do something. She was a believer of Olde Magick, the kind of law which defines a Familiar in charge of the Sorcerer’s every move. To go against that would be like going against her own religion and Hahen’s sobs came to a swift stop when Hikari moved in front of the sun, extending her hand.
“Get up,” Hikari repeated, flexing her fingers. “We can cry after we find your cousin.”
Hahen felt his stomach turning, not so much from anxiety but more so from shame. He could picture Heishi now; somewhere far away and possibly surrounded by those dreaded clones of Namakemono’s. She was in danger and he was grovelling on the ground like a coward! Like always. With a final sniffle, Hahen reached out and allowed Hikari’s hand to pull him up to his feet.
“We’re going to save Heishi.” Hikari confirmed, squeezing Hahen’s arm. She pulled him so close that they were practically sharing breath. Her smile was as sweet as ever when Hahen’s tears stopped. “We’re going to save her and then we’re going to make a happy ending for ourselves, okay?”
Hahen nodded, wiping the back of his arm against his face. He smeared eyeliner across his scarred skin and knew his face was covered in blotches when he tried to look reassuring. He had never felt so sure of anything and was quick to act on this surge of confidence by closing the gap and stood on his heels to kiss Hikari – the one and only love of his life.
A slow round of applause echoed, sharp claps filling the bittersweet moment. Hahen and Hikari turned in sync to find Yoku stepping out from behind a nearby boulder. She looked worn out, fighting against the heat above and panting quietly for air – even The Mighty Enchantress got tired of running in high heels in the middle of a wasteland.
“Forgive me for interrupting such a touching moment, but I must intervene for the sake of my experiment.” Yoku cooed, snapping her fingers to call upon Nara.
The tall freak walked out from behind the boulder, dragging Heishi behind him. The sight alone made Hikari move first, only to be held back by Hahen’s strong hand. It was a warning not to act recklessly for the sake of his cousin’s head. Heishi was already making enough trouble for herself by screaming and kicking Nara in the side as she was hauled along.
“Hahen Memori and Hikari Hoshi,” Yoku hummed, flexing a finger. “Your screams are as loud as they were during your placement under Mad Dog’s Coven, Memori.”
Hahen felt his face turn hot. “Let Heishi go.”
“No stutter? No reluctance?” Yoku smiled, turning her head with pure interest. “I must say, your Sorcerer certainly has a powerful effect on you.”
It was Hikari’s turn to step forward. “You’ve already lost, Enchantress. Just let her go.”
“I always wanted to see the two of you summon together and fight as one within the Void.” Yoku cooed, dismissing Hikari’s words with a wave of her delicate hand. “As sad as it is, I will not be the one to bear witness to your abilities as a Match, but rather, he will.”
Nara laughed, tossing Heishi to the ground. He snapped his fingers, summoning a bubble to encase the girl and raise her into the air above them as he stepped forward, cracking his knuckles loudly.
“This’ll be fun.”
Kumo could only think of ringing bells and grinding metal as she tumbled into the Void. It had happened so quickly – one moment she had followed the last two visitors into the stage room and had begun her descension past the empty chairs towards the ballroom and before she knew it, she was swallowed into the Void and now she lay on her face, covered in dust.
Her fingers traced along the rough edge beneath her, stretching out to find nothing but air. She had landed on a ledge small enough to only hold her weight and she moved, shuffling to stand up and press her back against the cliff's wall behind her. She could see the lip of the cliff above her, way out of arms reach.
“How bothersome.” Kumo whispered, peering over the ledge to find she was no closer to the ground either. Her only option was to climb, and she chose downward.
Sitting back on the ledge, Kumo began shuffling towards the wall and reached for the jutted rocks to begin her descent. She could only be thankful for her years of rock-climbing with her brothers when she was a little girl – rock climbing, surfing, parachuting and the like. Kumo had always been more invested in her bug collection than extreme sport; but a cliff like this? No problem.
As she neared the bottom, the sounds of snarling and harsh gags filled her ears. Kumo turned stiff and glanced over her shoulder to look down at the ground. People from the audience were waiting for her with their arms outstretched and eyes wide with a cannibalistic eagerness. Kumo gulped loudly, pressing herself against the stone and rock in anticipation as she rolled her options in her head like dice.
Moving back up was no better – instead of the hungry audience below, Kumo saw one of Namakemono’s clones hovering over the cliff edge by now. She jolted and nearly lost her footing when a firm grip latched onto her ankle. Her attention came back down, and she saw the black-veined audience had begun to climb.
Kumo hissed, gripping the cliff with a ferocity that turned her knuckles white. Raising her free leg – solely hanging by the support of her hands – she slammed the heel of her shoe against the snarling face heading for her calf.
The impact was hard enough for the so-called Sorcerer to loosen their grip and fall back to the ground. Kumo breathed heavily and dug her feet back into the cliff’s wall before she could fall down. Her heart was pounding, and she cowered against the rock to catch her breath, working out her next move as always.
“Hey!” In the distance came the familiar silhouette of Hari. Her tattooed arms extended as she jumped up on a boulder, conjuring a spell of lighting. The strike was enough to knock down the remaining foe attempting to climb up the cliff; giving Kumo time to continue her descent.
The clone hovering above did no favours as it dropped over the edge in attempts to reach her, knocking her off the cliff altogether. Kumo gasped loudly as she plummeted to the ground and braced herself for a sharp, swift fall – her landing was soft; much to her surprise.
When Kumo opened her eyes, she found herself in Hari’s arms and was unceremoniously dumped to the ground; the kindest treatment she had received from Hari all week.
“What the fuck are you even doing here, huh? You’re supposed to be manning the desk you stupid twat!” Hari spat, kicking the clone that had fallen off the cliff.
Kumo simply readjusted her glasses before she stood, watching Hari kick the corpse around. She was used to the abuse; never having given much of a reaction since the day they met and had yet to show offence even since she and Hari first started dating. It was a mutual understanding – as were most relationships in Hokori’s Coven.
“I was manning the desk, until The Mistress visited the theatre along with her Coven. After that, Mad Dog’s old Sorcerer and Yuugen’s ex-nurse appeared so, naturally I followed and, well… The rest is history.” Kumo explained, dusting herself down. “Tell me, what is happening?”
“I ain’t even sure, chick.” Hari rolled her shoulders before moving, examining Kumo with a quick glance of her eyes. “The Enchantress injected Muchina. He… I don’t know, he just flipped and started attacking the audience. They turned like this, suddenly able to use Sorcerer powers. Dabblers and Familiars seem to be their prey. It’s like they’re automatically tuned to attacking them?”
“If that is true and the target is Dabblers and Familiars, then why are you not with Chishiki?”
Hari smirked, slinking an arm around Kumo’s shoulders. “He’s a big boy. He’ll handle himself. Besides, he’s got the Boss and Kobi and all of them protecting him.” She chuckled.
“And you left the group to come all the way out here because…?” Kumo taunted, casually reaching up to grab Hari’s hand against her shoulder.
“Don’t be cute.” Hari scoffed. “I saw you out here, didn’t I? I couldn’t leave you to dangle like some worm on a hook. Not when you still owe me money!”
“Ah, you are so funny.”
“Shut up! We got a super serious fight going on!”