Harmony Act V: Pride

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Scene VI: Reunion

Kanagawa, Japan. 2002, October


Senbo had always made a big deal about Tsumi’s birthday and Hokori had no place to change his mind. Even now, after spending days away from their apartment, Hokori had promised to return with the best cake and presents to celebrate Tsumi’s special day. It was never to make the girl with silver hair happy. Hokori saw no reason to when she could barely crack a smile. But to see Senbo smiling at the effort being made just to celebrate the little girl he loved was a good enough reason for Hokori to try.

He had always been a man for travel. Even after he married Senbo, Hokori would continue his travels around the world when Dotai let him get away. He would always claim it had something to do with Yuugen, that it would benefit them all in the long run if they had connections across the world with Dabblers, Sorcerers and Familiars alike. China was his favourite place of all. No, his favourite place was wherever Senbo was – today that happened to be in their apartment near China Town in Yokohama.

Hokori narrowed his eyes at the glaring lights on the road ahead. He drove with a steady hand, reaching for his phone on the dash. When he hit the traffic lights, he rang the apartment landline and waited for Senbo to pick up. He had already phoned earlier after he picked up his luggage at the airport; now he was about three stops away and they had a habit to phone each other on this street in case they needed anything from the store.

When no reply came, Hokori rolled his eyes and tossed his phone against the driver’s seat. He could imagine it now – Tsumi and Senbo would be singing karaoke or playing on the balcony. Far too engrossed to even hear the phone go off. He could only smile to himself and drove on, turning the last few corners before rolling up to their apartment. He parked beside Senbo’s car and hoisted his suitcase out of the boot, along with the bag of presents and cakebox for Tsumi.

The streetlights above made his journey through the car park easier. It was thirty minutes to midnight so he had to hurry, otherwise Tsumi’s birthday would officially be over and this would have all been for nothing. Jogging up the staircase, he came to their floor and juggled his belongings to fish out his keys and unlock the door.

“Good evening,” he mused, knowing he would never be heard over the sounds of music thumping from inside. He kicked the door shut and toed his shoes off before walking down the dimly lit hall and into the living room. “Happy birthday-”

No-one was in there. The sofa was empty, and the armchair was abandoned. The coffee table still had a mug of hot chocolate steaming away and the television was playing Tsumi’s favourite show about cartoon fish. Hokori figured Senbo was on the balcony having a cigarette. He turned the speaker down as he moved past and ventured through to the kitchen to put his stuff down when he found Tsumi.

She sat at the head of the table, knife and fork in hand as she chewed on her late dinner of rice and chicken. A party hat was strung to her head, tilting to the side as she stared at Hokori. Her colourful eyes were wide with wonder as Hokori placed his suitcase by the door and dropped Tsumi’s presents and cake on the end of the table. He said nothing to her, merely pinched her cheek as he moved towards the balcony door by the sink. Also, empty.

“Senbo?” Hokori called out, closing the door to keep the cold air out. He moved back down the hall and into the bedroom. The bed was made and Senbo had laid out his nightwear. Ah, bath. Dragging his feet, Hokori moved to the hall and tapped his knuckles against the bathroom door. “Coming in.”

The door was locked and Hokori groaned, pressing his forehead against the frame. When no response came, his heart began to flutter. They never locked the door. It had a habit of getting stuck on its own when the lock was used - the door had an awkward tilt so the bolt tended to slip into its lock if left unhinged and neither of them wanted Tsumi to get stuck in the bath unsupervised. He had meant to take off the bolt before he left last time. How ironic.

“Senbo? The door’s locked.” Hokori called, flexing a finger against the handle. “Tsumi’s waiting for her cake.”

When no reply came, Hokori narrowed his eyes and turned back. Tsumi was still sat at the table, munching around the rice and chicken in her mouth. The gap from the kitchen door and hall was enough to see her eyes peering towards him, watching like a hawk. She looked vague. Vaguer than usual and Hokori moved away to scan the apartment one more time. Senbo was nowhere. He was locked inside the bathroom and Hokori was going to get him out.

He was a man of size and strength, only ever using it when absolutely necessary i.e., carrying shopping, cutting wood, or beating the shit out of his bathroom door. On the third shove, the door caved in and Hokori fell, landing on his hands. The sound of dripping water hit his ears first, then the smell of blood filled his nose. When he raised his head, he found Senbo laying in the bathtub, naked and bleeding to death from the lengthy, vertical gashes on the inside of both wrists. He was pale and his lips were blue. Hokori had never been so terrified of anything in his life.

“Senbo!” The scream could have woken all of Kanagawa. Hokori climbed into the bath with no regards to his clothes and hauled Senbo out.

The water was freezing and Senbo was just as cold when Hokori ran to their bedroom, hurriedly laying the man upon their bed. He ripped sheets and tied them around Senbo’s arms to stop the bleeding before covering him with fleece to warm him up. He checked his pule; it was weak. But he was alive.

He could have called a hospital, but instead phoned Yoku. It had not been the first time he called her in an emergency. Nothing like this, but she was his only lifeline when it came to natural disasters and she was quick to drive up and let herself inside.

She had brought Chikai with her and together they warmed Senbo up and stitched his wrists before taking him away. Yoku explained she needed to watch him back at Yuugen, keep him on suicide watch for at least 48 hours and told Hokori she would phone the moment he woke up. The bathroom and bedroom were left silent, covered in blood and bathwater. Hokori must have sat on the edge of his bed for hours before moving again.

He would always remember walking back into the kitchen and finding Tsumi sat at the head of the table. All the presents Hokori had brought were unwrapped and the cake had been opened. Tsumi stared at the man with no reaction to his bloodstained clothes and tear-drenched face. She merely stabbed her fork into the face of her cake and continued eating to her heart’s content.


Kanagawa, Japan. 2014, April

Hokori had left it up to Kin to take care of the Aibori girl while he took the morning off to do something of far more importance than welcome Muzai into his Coven.

Here he stood on the curb of Iwarouji Lane, staring up at the looming building overhead. The cool air blew through his hair and swayed his cardigan. It was enough to trigger a shiver down his spine and he tore his eyes from the scene. Part of him wished to turn back while he still could. The idea was temping.

His hand reached out to curl around the metal bar supporting the iron gate. Once he had it open, he would no longer be able to turn back. He thought it was a shame how quiet the grounds were, according to Yoku, Yuugen was deserted now. Most students had graduated last term and those who were still attending class were busy taking their summer holidays with families in different countries or cities away. All pretending to be normal until they were sucked back into their lives of Magick.

The gate swung open with an eerie strain. The hinges were so stiff that the groan of movement was almost enough to make Hokori flinch. He stepped forward, scanning the grounds as he moved up the pathway. The gardens were overgrowing and the path beneath his feet was coated in moss and dirt. An odd pang in his stomach rose as he moved; to see what this place had become after all the hard work he and the Council had put into this place made him sick to the stomach.

Things had begun to die the day Dotai was killed. The day Senbo murdered him. Supposedly. Hokori had to pause at the entrance, to look down at the ground and allow his mind to wander to that very day – when he had returned to Yuugen after Dotai had been killed and found Senbo laying on the path.

The Chairman labelled it a suicide attempt. A moment of grief after discovering their great benefactor Dotai had been killed. After Senbo confessed to murdering the man, the Council chose it was an act of cowardice; to kill himself after killing Dotai. Hokori had never believed either accusation.

He walked through the empty building, pacing the way through quiet foyers and hallways. He reached the stairwell and climbed, gripping the bannister. When he reached the fourth floor, he stopped himself. His knuckles turned white with tension. He had never been the type of person to panic or waver. Compared to most he was a rather laidback soul and only acted when he found it absolutely necessary. But standing here, so close to his destination, he could feel himself shake.

Taking that final step to stand at the end of a dead hallway took a lot of strength. Across from him was a single door, surrounding him were windows and he could overlook the academy grounds from below. The person behind that door was exactly why he was here and there was truly no turning back now.

By the time he was within five feet of the handle, a shiver ran down his spine. He froze, hearing the faint sounds of breathing coming from behind him and he smiled, bowing his head to stare at the shiny floor at his feet, barely making out the reflection of the man skulking behind him.

“I thought you never left your room.” Hokori spoke.

“I thought you left this place.” Came the reply.

Hokori shuddered. That tone was unlike the one he was so used to. He could remember when that dead voice was full of hope and curiousity. Now it hung in the air like an unattended instrument that had became so weak it no longer sounded beautiful.

“Would you believe me if I said I missed you?” Hokori raised his head, staring at the door in front of him. His gaze was distant, his lips twitched. He wanted to sound softer, but his heart would not allow it.

“No.”

“I thought as much.”

“Then why ask? That’s just stupid…”

Hokori groaned, turning on his heel to face the man. “Senbo-”

DON’T LOOK AT ME!

The panic Hokori had previously felt was replaced with a horrible feeling of dread as the high scream cut through his words. He controlled his breathing and closed his eyes; willing himself to remain calm when all he wanted to do was shout back. He remained still, facing the door as commanded.

“Why the fuck are you here, Hokori? What could you possibly want?” Senbo’s voice hitched at the end of each word as if he were crying.

“…Yoku has come to me for assistance. She wants to harm this Aibori girl whom I understand you have been chasing after.” Hokori raised a brow, crossing strong arms over a broad chest. “You have been quiet for years and the moment you begin to stir, people begin scheming and bodies start piling-”

“Kuro and Naku are dead.” Senbo cut in. “Rai and Tio will never walk again, let alone make any real communication and Miryoku has left my care.”

Hokori flinched at the word care. He finally whirled around, sparing no second for Senbo to react. His hand grabbed hold of his collar, dangerously close to his neck. Nothing more than a strangled choke left Senbo’s lips; asides that, he made no attempts to struggle.

“If your Coven were truly under your so-called care, they would not be dead.” Hokori hissed. He leant forward, brushing his forehead against Senbo’s. “You act like a child, pointing blame elsewhere when it is always your fault.”

“Do it. Choke me to death.” Senbo whimpered. He grabbed Hokori’s wrists and moved his hands against his neck, away from his collar. He pulled him closer, smiling faintly. “Finish the job you couldn’t all those years ago.”

Hokori pulled his hands free and watched Senbo whine before sliding to the floor. He narrowed his eyes, watching the man spread his legs and slap his hands against the floor at his hips with a yap of frustration.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Hokori choked.

“This.” Senbo tossed his head back, laughing hard enough to make his throat bob. He flexed a thin finger and dragged it along the thick scar running across his neck, eyeballing Hokori the whole time. “Yoku told me all about it and how were trying to get rid of me!”

Hokori sighed softly, hesitantly moving to kneel in front of Senbo. With gentle intention, he reached out to trace his fingertips over the man’s cheek, stubbled hair had grown in rough patches from self-neglect. He hoped to calm him down; even if he knew Senbo was beyond repair as simple as that.

“You fool. To believe whatever that woman says… Are you honestly so blind?”

A dry scoff left Senbo’s lips and he slumped where he sat, eyes drifting to the floor. He idly began running his finger over the bright tiles in pointless patterns, unwilling to relax under Hokori’s gentle touch. But he remained silent.

“It no longer needs to be this way.” Hokori murmured, reaching up to run his fingers through greasy blue hair. “You know you have a choice.”

“You don’t understand,” Senbo mumbled stubbornly turning away from the touch. “I don’t have a choice. Just like you don’t have a choice with Yoku.”

“You speak as if you know everything.”

“I know more than you do.” Senbo countered. He turned against the window, pressing himself against it with both knees to his chest. His finger began to trace the outlines of the graveyard in the distance, humming quietly in the back of his throat.

Hokori could only sigh. He watched Senbo as if he were a child refusing to leave for school in the morning. There was no winning unless he wished to physically pick him and haul him away. He would do no such thing, instead he sat back, running both hands across his face.

“If you keep quiet, I will not be able to help you.”

Senbo visibly flinched. “No. You can’t help me. I can’t – you… Ah, no. No!” He crawled up to a stand. “I don’t want you to get involved, Hokori. I would very much like you to l-leave now. I can’t… No. God! Fuck off!

Hokori watched Senbo’s babbling breakdown with careful eyes. With an elegant push from the ground, he stood and took a step forward. “At least tell me why you want to get rid of this Muzai Aibori.” He said, reaching for a pale, shaky hand.

“No!” Senbo batted the hand away and bit his lip. Tears were visible in his bright eyes, yet his pacing continued. “No! Okay?! Fuck! It’s my problem, not yours-! I’ll fix it! But Yoku… Yoku doesn’t – she…”

Hokori hated this. Everything about this. The most he could do was stand still less he scared Senbo into darkness. He allowed a silence to draw until he opened his mouth again, practically whispering. “What about Yoku? What is she scheming?”

“She…” Senbo took a deep, shaky breath and pressed his hands to his face before he could start crying. “She wants to-”

The sounds of screeching filled the air around them, cutting Senbo off. Hokori stumbled, pressing his back to the nearest window as the screech carried through the building. Never in his life had he heard such ferocity and his stomach twisted when Senbo lowered his hands, smiling.

“Yoku’s lab. Noises like that always come from there during summer holidays. I don’t know what she keeps down there.” Senbo sighed once the shrieks turned silent and he turned back to Hokori, turning deadpan. “Haha, you look scared.”

Hokori grunted, moving away from the window. “You were telling me about Yoku?”

“No… I shouldn’t, really.” Senbo raised his hand, chewing on the back of his wrist. A thick scab had formed on the back of his hand from his biting abuse. Hokori was close to reaching out to stop the bad habit. Senbo giggled, twirling with both arms stretched out. “I could end up like one of them down there if I told you.”

“Senbo, please. I need to know what Yoku plans on doing!” Hokori finally snapped. He reached out, grabbing the Senbo’s bicep. He was desperate. “You understand it was her who cut your neck all those years ago, not me, yes?”

Senbo jumped at the touch to his arm and vanished, leaving behind the ghostly essence of shadows that evaporated shortly after. Hokori cursed and withdrew his hand. He could hear the shuffles coming from inside Senbo’s room at the end of the hall. For a moment, he debated whether his luck could be stretched further – he had never expected Senbo to even come out to face him! Let alone talk for as long as he had.

“Senbo.” Hokori called calmly. He began walking over and held out his hand, fingertips brushing against the polished door’s surface. “Just tell me how to stop her before she takes everything from me again.”

When no reply came and the shuffling sound had stopped, Hokori moved away. He made it halfway to the stairs when a small sound came from behind him. He was quick to whirl on his heel, missing Senbo. He only knew the man had been there since a small wisp of shadows were evaporating into the air when he looked back.

Slowly, Hokori moved and knelt to find a small slip of paper folded against the floor. He read its contents with a stiff jaw, an address. His answer. “Good boy, Senbo.”

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