Harmony Act V: Pride

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Scene VII: Nineteenth

Chiba, Japan. 2014, April

Muzai settled herself upon a hard, wooden chair. It creaked loudly under her weight and for the longest time she wondered if it would snap and break. The minor image of falling off and landing on her butt was enough to turn her cheeks a deep shade of red.

“Boss prepared some sheets for ya.” Kin spoke up. He stood beside her and pulled a folded piece of paper from his jacket. He smoothed it best he could before propping it upon the piano rack. “Eh, sorry ‘bout the creases. Boss gave it to me this mornin’, had it in me pocket the whole time. Ya can still read it, right?”

Muzai smiled. “I can read it perfectly. Don’t worry.”

Kin nodded. He folded his arms, taking two steps back to lessen any nerves. “Whenever yer ready.”

Muzai chewed on her lip as she read over the music sheet. Her hands moved towards the instrument keys on their own and she rested the pads of her fingers against the ivory keys. Not more than a second went by before she began to play. She was a tad slow at first, simply to break into rhythm – it must have been an indie piece, she decided. It was unlike anything she had ever played before and she vaguely wondered if Hokori had written it himself. Soon enough, the instrument possessed her fingers, and the room was filled with a lively tune. The most fitting song for a circus show.

She continued to play until she ran out of notes and finished the paper. Her face turned red all over again when Kin applauded with a round of claps and whistles. She dropped her hands back to her lap, smiling from ear to ear. Magick, mystery and history would never be her strong suit, not even socialising was a good trait – but she could play music.

“Boss chose well. Ya played great!” Kin cheered, stepping forward to retrieve his music sheet. He nudged Muzai’s shoulder playfully before tucking the sheet back into his pocket. “Come on, Boss’ll be back soon. We best get ya acquainted with the building if yer gonna be workin’ ’ere.”

Muzai swallowed her excitement. She was adamant to stay wary. Hokori was the Boss Kin kept talking about; there was no doubt about it. When he got back she wanted to talk with him, needed to ask him what the hell was going on and why he had picked her of all people. It couldn’t be a coincidence, could it? No way. Nothing was coincidental here. She was beginning to realise that.

Kin frowned when Muzai stayed seated. He cleared his throat. “I doubt ya wanna sleep over ’ere on workdays. Ya live in Tokyo though, right?”

“Yes.” Muzai slowly moved, peeling herself away from the piano. “I live with my aunt.”

Kin shoved his hands into his pockets, smirking. “Yer mum ‘n’ dad ain’t ’round?”

“Not really.” Pausing, Muzai dropped her eyes to the ground as Kin began to walk. She dragged her feet along, watching the way Kin dropped himself against his bad leg when he walked. “My father owns a big company in America. He’s always busy and my mum is no different. She’s actually from America and prefers to stay in DC where she can liaise with her beauty and fashion products, you know, that kind of thing. She got a contract last year with Europe, apparently her wares will be worldwide soon.”

“But ya still see ’em?” Kin tipped his head back. “I mean, they make an effort to come and visit?”

“Yeah, I guess. I mean, I do love them, but whenever we’re in the same room, it just feels like I’m talking to strangers. I was basically raised by my brother and my aunt was always there for me-” She bit her lip. “I shouldn’t be saying all of this, sorry.”

“Nah, don’t be sorry. I don’t mind listening to ya.” Kin shot a wide grin and reached out, threading his calloused fingers through Muzai’s vermillion hair, ruffling it up playfully. “You’re an interestin’ lil’ thing.”

Muzai smiled and allowed Kin to direct her around the rest of the building. He showed her the bathhouse, the kitchen, the staff room, and lounge. He directed her to the dormitories, explaining how they recently had the rooms renovated, so there was plenty of space if she wanted a room should she ever wish to stay the night on some shifts. He explained the Boss’ side of the building, where his office was connected to his bedroom and how he almost always stayed there working.

The basement belonged to Kumo, the receptionist. Apparently she really did like insects, kept loads of spiders and centipedes down there. Muzai gave a mental note to herself to steer clear of it. Kin could only laugh when she pulled a face at the thought of all those creepy legs running about and proceeded to give her a rundown of the rest of the circus crew.

He explained how Hari enjoyed gambling and adored gyoza dumplings. She happened to be the ‘second-in-command’ after Kin, so it was best to stay on her good side. Chishiki was the quiet one; he kept to himself and was labelled the oracle among the group. Nara and Kobi were together – nothing to do with love, Kin said it was just a friend’s with benefits thing and laughed. Apparently Nara was a “sour bastard” – in Kin’s words.

Muzai smiled as they came full circle, standing beside the stage once again. She tucked her hair behind her ear and looked up to Kin’s face. “What about you? Is there anything I should know about you?”

Hari appeared from the back of the stage before Kin could even open his mouth. She hopped down, landing beside Muzai. “Boss wants to see ya, mate. Says he’s got somethin’ important to share.”

“Boss already back?” Kin raised a brow, then turned to Muzai with an apologetic smile. “Sorry, lil’ miss. I’ll catch ya later. Boss’ll wanna talk to ya before ya go.”

“Don’t apologise.” Muzai waved a hand, smiling behind her building nerves.

Hari wrinkled her nose as Kin left. She eyed Muzai up and down, slowly reaching for a pack of playing cards from the back pocket of her jeans. “You know how to play cards, junior?”

“Not really.”

“Don’t be coy.” Hari jogged up the stage-staircase, gesturing for Muzai to follow as she sat on the edge and shuffled her cards. “I’ll teach ya.”

Hokori paced his office with a fixed frown. Hands were clasped behind his back as he moved, going back and forth until the door opened, and Kin walked in.

“Ya wanted to see me, Boss?”

“I need to tell you something of importance.” Hokori spoke slowly. There was no hint of sarcasm or amusement. Even his lips remained thin. “Can you keep a secret, Kin?”

“Ya know I can keep any ol’ secret of yours, Boss.” Kin replied with a forced smile; hurt that Hokori had to even ask.

“Of course, you can, what am I saying?” Hokori moved, leaning against his desk with a sigh. He raised a hand to his forehead, rubbing the tension from his head.

“Somethin’ the matter, Boss?” Kin’s brows knotted. He took a step forward, raising a hand to gently rub the tension from the blond’s shoulder. “Ya ain’t yer cheery self. Is it somethin’ to do with wherever ya went this morn?”

“Mm,” Hokori grunted quietly, patting Kin’s hand against his shoulder. A reassuring gesture before he rounded his desk and settled into his chair. He hummed, leaning back. “I take it the Aibori girl has arrived?”

Kin regained his composure, cracking a worthy smile of crooked teeth. His boyish charm was like a ray of sunshine on a gloomy day. “Aye, Boss. She ain’t bad on the piano neither! She was well good at playing, Boss. Ya should ’ave been there.”

“Wonderful.” Hokori smiled. “I would like her to start as soon as possible. We have a big show coming, after all.”

“Big show?” Kin echoed. “We ain’t ‘ad a big show in ages. I can’t remember ya mentionin’ it.”

“On the nineteenth, next month. It shall be our biggest show yet.” Hokori nodded, averting his eyes from Kin’s quizzing face. He spoke slowly, tapping his finger against his desk. “I want you and Katsubo to go out and get more supplies to lighten the place up. I will give you my credit card; no limits.”

Kin chewed on his lip. From inside his pockets, his hands balled into fists. He had never been the kind to talk back to Hokori, but desperate times caused for desperate measures. “This is all to do with that Yoku, ain’t it? I seen the way she treats ya, Boss. Ya ain’t a puppet-!”

“Kin.” Hokori narrowed his eyes. When he saw the way the boy’s shoulders slumped, he spoke. “Yoku is a very dangerous woman. She wants to do horrible things which is precisely why I need you with me on this. You and Miss Muzai Aibori.”

“Ya know I’ll always be with ya, Boss.” Kin mumbled, shuffling his feet. “Just say the word and I’ll do whatever.”

“Excellent. I expected nothing less.” He moved with nothing but elegance as always and stood, rearranging his cardigan over his arms. “Now, I believe it is time to tell you about Miss Aibori.”

Muzai puffed her cheeks, dropping her losing hand. Despite Hari’s gracious teaching skills, she continued to lose over and over until she caved and only had one thing to bargain with – a bento box from her fridge she had brought. When Hari’s bony hand reached for the meal, Muzai half-expected her to discard it.

“This food made by you?” Hari asked, raising a brow as she popped the lid open. Her nose wrinkled and she raised the box, sniffing like a dog.

“Not me. My aunt made it. She’s pregnant and craving the weirdest things. She won’t stop making food.” Muzai laughed. Hari only smiled before she took a cautious nibble. “Where did you learn to play cards?”

Hari swallowed around her mouthful before handing the bento box over to Chishiki – who had come to watch the game after Muzai’s second loss. He sat crossed-legged, accepting the box with a small thanks before he tested the meal. The whites of his eyes turned wide at the taste. Muzai thought he was disgusted before he took another bite, followed by another and another.

“Me Dada taught me when I was a pup.” Hari muttered, dusting off the crumbs in her lap before reaching for her cards. “He was a great gambler. Never worked for no-one but himself. We travelled in boats and stuff, sailing from country to country and never stopping for no-one but ourselves!”

The word Pirate was the first thing Muzai could think of and would have continued the conversation if not for the way Chishiki moved, nudging Hari. They turned to see Kin stepping out of the back door and walked through the room, followed by The God of Chaos himself.

He looked just as eccentric as Muzai remembered. Maybe eccentric was the wrong word. It was not that he necessarily stood out; there were simply characteristics about him that stuck to mind. The way his yellow eyes narrowed like a grinning fox’s would, the long-feathered earrings that brushed against his shoulders and the ring around his necklace that battered against his chest when he moved. His nails were long and sharp, Muzai took note to stare when the man moved to grab his fan and waft it towards his face.

“Miss Aibori.” Hokori bowed from the foot of the stage. He hummed, playful and serious all at once. “Welcome to my Coven.”

Muzai felt wrong. To have Hokori bow to her as she sat above him on the stage felt wrong. He was supposed to be the God; she was nothing more than a girl sneaking behind her aunt’s back to play piano in a city miles from home. Plus, Hokori did nothing to hide the fact this place was filled with Magick.

“Kin told me you played beautifully. I would like to be the first to congratulate you on getting the part as our musician.” Hokori smiled, turning up to his crew as they began to appear from the shadows and backstage. He waved a hand, addressing them all. “We shall be holding a big show on the nineteenth of May. I need everyone ready for the big event. Kin shall tell you all what needs to be done.”

“The nineteenth?” Muzai whispered. Her words fell on deaf ears as Hokori moved away. She turned to Kin; eyes wide.

Kin hopped up the stage as Hari and Chishiki moved away. Everyone returned to their chores and practice, leaving Kin to drop himself beside Muzai. His left leg never bent, unlike his right – which he pulled up to his chest as he nudged the girl beside him. The lack of response made him frown.

“Where’s yer smile, lil’ Miss? Yer part of the family now!” Kin cheered. His smile faltered. “Oh. Is the nineteenth not good for ya? Ya got plans or somethin’?”

“No, no.” Muzai stared at her empty lap. Her fingers were playing with the hem of her jumper again. She had to physically control her fidgeting and forced a wary smile. “It’s fine. I’m, ugh, looking forward to the show.”

“Ideal, well come one. Ya better get your friend and get back to Tokyo. I ain’t gonna be ‘eld responsible for keeping’ ya any long than necessary.” Kin announced before struggling to stand. He dusted himself off, jogging down the stage before he turned, pulling a face. He looked awkward, like a kid who was afraid of telling their parents they’d broken something. “I got a favour to ask ya, though.”

Muzai turned wary. Right, this was the part where Kin turned around and gave his loyalty speech. Something like if you ever betray Hokori, I’ll hunt you down. Blah, blah, blah. She inwardly sighed, dragging her feet across the stage to stand in front of Kin.

“What is it?”

Kin turned his eyes to the left, then the right. They were alone and he lowered his voice. “I need ya to go and meet someone between now and the show, ’kay?”

That was not what she had been expecting. “Meet someone? Who?”

“An associate. Someone the Boss knows.”

Muzai tensed. Though she had never heard anything bad about Hokori, she had heard who he was close with. Only one man – Tsumi’s Conductor, The Parasite. Senbo Shitto. Muzai’s greatest enemy. She could still remember the cold of his icy eyes that day Tsumi had been on trial. She had dreams about it, nightmares. No way would she ever meet with him now.

“She wants to talk to ya about somethin’ important. Somethin’ ’bout Yuugen, I think.” Kin added with a shrug. When Muzai’s jaw dropped, he nearly laughed. “Don’t looks so surprised! ’Course I know who ya are! Boss told me all ‘bout ya when he got back just now. Says ol’ Senbo wants to track ya down ’cos of Kokutan and you’ve been handed from Coven to Coven since.”

Muzai turned speechless. To put it bluntly, Kin had summed the majority of the past year with a simple shrug. “Yup… that’s me.”

Kin snickered, finally moving out of the stage room and through the back. Voices and laughter echoed as they neared the lounge – presumably ending their conversation until Muzai darted forward, asserting herself in front of Kin. Her eyes were serious, and Kin’s smile turned into a grim purse of thin lips.

“I just need to know if whatever Hokori has planned ends well.” Muzai spoke, hands balling to fists. “I’ve done this too many times. I’ve gone from being kidnapped, to threatened and I even went to Concordia, the real Concordia that Hokori created. I met The Mad Dog and watched him die. I met The Glutton – the smartest man I know, and he died, too. I was threatened by a dwarf king and watched people die every time! I just wanna graduate from school and live a normal life and not have to worry about making friends with people who just wind up dead!”

Kin’s expression was nothing but sympathy when he reached out to ruffle Muzai’s hair. “Sad as it is, yer never gonna get a normal life. Once you’ve seen Magick, things just ain’t the same. All of us ’ere in the circus are Sorcerers and Familiars. The Boss takes care of us and teaches us ’ow to use our power.” He spoke gently, easing Muzai to the best of his abilities. “Plus, I dunno ’ow this show’s gonna end. We all gotta play our part, even if some lives gotta be sacrificed. We’ll never know ’till it ’appens.”

“You’re not afraid of the outcome?” Muzai exhaled shallowly. By now there were tears in her eyes and she was close to stamping her foot with frustration. But Kin was so calm and gentle, she could not even force herself to be mad at him. “What if it’s your life that’s sacrificed?”

Kin snorted, crossing his arms. “I ain’t saying it’s the right thing to do, but someone’s gotta do it. Ya know it don’t ‘ave to be yer fight, lil’ Miss. Ya can leave those doors ‘n’ never come back. Go see if ya can find that normal life ya want. No-one’s gonna judge ya for it.”

“I will judge me for it.” Muzai mumbled. She wiped the back of her sleeve against her eyes. “I’ll never forgive myself if I walked away.”

Kin laughed, ruffling her hair once again. He turned that sorrowful expression into a small pout and pinched Muzai’s cheek before strolling forward. “In that case, I’ll promise to look out for ya. Be yer big bro, aight?”

Sighing, Muzai turned to follow him. “Only if I can look out for you, too.”


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