Scene IX: Ice Mistress
Tokyo, Japan. 2014, April
The unexpected visit from Bi and Oda left Muzai and Shinrai disturbed, confused – and above all, uncomfortable. The last time all four of them had been in the same room ended when Muzai screamed in her parents’ face and Shinrai drowned the shame in alcohol.
Muzai had come across them again when they had arranged a transfer from Hanaharu to Yuugen; which had been stopped by none other than Okui. It left months of no phone calls or letters so Muzai figured her parents were just too busy to give her an update or a simple hello. She was used to it. It was no different to when she was a kid – Bi and Oda would only ever show up when it suited them.
After Hakai had been arrested, Muzai had lost her real family. The reason for his arrest remained a mystery – for Muzai. She refused to acknowledge why he was taken away. She didn’t want to look at him differently and had been adamant to cover her ears and shout whenever Bi brought it up. She only wanted to remember Hakai for the good person he had been, the brother who practically raised her!
Seeing her parents again irked Muzai in ways she could not explain. Without them in her life, she felt in control; able to breathe freely without consequence. Now they sat in Shinrai’s apartment, wearing so-called casual clothes which were obviously more expensive than most of the furniture in the room. The way Bi had commented on Shinrai’s pregnancy could have started an all-out war, especially when she laughed and told Shinrai she should have done it years ago since she wasn’t getting any younger.
As Muzai was pulled into the room and told to sit down, she could only wonder how on earth her parents were able to keep their jobs with the lack of social expertise they shared. Neither could keep eye contact with their own daughter for more than a collection of seconds. She was thankful for Shinrai cutting the conversation short when she announced Muzai had to get to bed.
Oda and Bi were pleased enough and stood to take their leave. It had been rearranged that they would have Shinrai’s bed, Shinrai would have Muzai’s bed and Muzai was confined to the sofa. Shinrai could only smile apologetically as Bi and Oda disappeared down the hall. Muzai simply shook her head and began to rearrange the cushions on the sofa.
It was a restless night and Muzai could not tell if it was the springs in the sofa or her parents’ presence that kept disturbing her. She stood up around six O’clock, unable to withstand her discomfort any longer and she slipped into the kitchen for something to drink. She drowned her thoughts on the chilly orange juice she sipped from; desperately trying to ignore the fact her parents had arrived now and would still be here during Hokori’s show.
The nineteenth of May was Muzai Aibori’s birthday. Shinrai had done well to celebrate the day with loads of presents and letters when they lived apart. She always made more of an effort than Bi or Oda ever could – so why now? What were they trying to achieve by flying halfway across the world to celebrate her birthday? Maybe they were getting a divorce or something. No way they could be here on her behalf.
Discarding the thoughts, Muzai hurried to the bathroom and cleaned her teeth. She snuck into her bedroom to grab a fresh pair of clothes and tiptoed back to the bathroom to wash and change. After brushing her hair back into a loose bun, she moved to the door and knelt beside her bag and shoes. She would always leave a note for Shinrai when she headed out – today was no different. The quicker she escaped now, the less hassle she would get from her parents. Once the note was left on the kitchen table, Muzai pulled on her shoes and slipped out onto the balcony.
Kin had advised her not to go alone to visit Yuugen’s associate. It left her with very little choice, although Tsumi would have been first point of call back in the day. Now it seemed she was distant, out of reach. It had been months since they had even spoken. Hahen would only panic if it ended up being someone from his past and Hikari was adamant she would never return to Kanagawa.
Yujin was the only possible choice and Muzai could not stop herself from smiling when she saw him standing outside of his apartment, leaning against his cane with a long coat on to keep him safe from the early cold.
“I thought you weren’t going to come.” Muzai hopped off the stairs and strolled over. His lack of hot coffee had her hopeful and the glint in his red eyes made her sure he was coming.
“I had hoped to watch the sun rise.” Yujin shrugged, fingers tapping against the smooth surface of his cane. He mumbled like always, a clear indicator he was calm. “But I figured Tsumi would be upset if something were to happen to you.”
Muzai did her best to smile through the comment regarding Tsumi. She tucked back a strand of hair and rocked on her heels. “So… does that mean you will be coming with me?”
“Obviously. I have nothing better to do, anyway.” Yujin sighed, shuffling towards the staircase. “Tell me the address, I’ll drive.”
Tokyo, Japan. 2014, May
It was difficult for Muzai to feel safe in the car with Yujin at first. Her eyes kept travelling to his hip, wondering if he should really de driving so soon after his recovery. Once or twice Yujin had caught her eyes on him and he sighed, arguing that he was a medical professional and knew when it was unsafe to drive should he begin to feel unwell.
They drove from Tokyo and out to Kanagawa, not far from Yuugen’s estate. Muzai felt her heart jump into her throat when she spotted Yuugen’s silhouette upon Iwarouji Lane. She practically sank into her chair with relief when they kept on driving and reached Kanagawa’s outskirts. Yujin grunted something under his breath when he slowed the car and pulled up against the curb.
“This is the place?” Muzai spoke up, frowning as Yujin killed the engine and began to climb out of the car.
“Most people have the same reaction to this dump.” Grunting, Yujin pulled his coat closer and moved up to their destination. “Hasn’t changed much.”
Muzai slowly moved, following Yujin up to the junkyard laid out in front of them. It was a pile of rubbish, metal, and abandoned belongings; all secured behind a tall fence made of wire. The gate was bent with only a steel metal sheet roof keeping people from walking inside. Yujin tapped the roof piece with the head of his cane and wrinkled his nose.
“Smells worse, mind you.” Yujin sighed, shuffling to the corner and slipped through the gap of metal and wire. “Come on.”
Muzai chewed her lip. She squeezed herself through the gap with a small whine; obviously not as thin as Yujin. Her shoulders tightened until she reached the other side and she groaned, pinching her nose to keep the smells at bay. She stopped when her foot knocked against an old television set.
“There isn’t anything here besides junk.”
Yujin grunted and continued walking. His cane tapped along the ground, harder than usual. He was mapping the area out and shuffled through trash, toeing at things in his way – whether it be glass or plastic. When his cane finally hit something solid, the sound brought Muzai’s attention out of her disappointment and she hurried over.
“What is it?”
“Secret door, obviously.” Yujin replied bluntly. The end of his cane dug beneath a small plank of wood, shifting it to the side. “What else did you expect?”
“I don’t know what to expect.” Muzai mumbled, watching as the man unveiled a stairway into the abyss. Last time she walked into the dark, she found the faces of rotting clones in Concordia. “I don’t know if I’m ready for whoever’s down there.”
Yujin said nothing. He merely raised a brow before moving and took the first step down into the awaiting darkness. His cane made continuous noises as it tapped against the steps. It was enough to settle Muzai’s nerves to the point she could follow. The walk was longer than she could have expected, the soles of her shoes pressed against the worn steps one at a time. They felt unsteady and she was fearful of slipping against Yujin with every motion. Should she fall, he would be the only obstacle to stop her from crashing to the ground.
“Well, that didn’t take long.” Yujin grunted under his breath, taking the final step onto the level muddy ground below. When he noted the way Muzai fought for breath, he rolled his eyes. “If anyone should be complaining, it should be me. I’m older. Don’t breathe in that much at once, you’ll get hiccups.”
The walls around them were cold and hard, granting them with small fairy lights hanging on rusty hooks to serve as their only light source. It did little to cast appropriate outlines of the hall; their shadows stretched and dimmed their path as they moved and Muzai reached for the wall, dragging her fingers across the cold surface to steady her as she moved.
“Do you know where we’re going?”
“Mm,” Yujin grunted. “There’s a guard up ahead. His name is Yumi Yajirushi. He keeps The Mistress safe.”
“She’s the one you’ve come to meet.” Yujin rolled his eyes and would have spoken further if not for the figure stepping out of the dark in front of them. Yujin could only nod, stopping as Muzai ducked behind him. “Yumi.”
“Toi Yujin.” Yumi was a tall man with black hair tied into a ponytail. His eyes were odd, one red and one green. When he moved to bow his head, Muzai winced at the way his bandaged arms moved. He was stick thin. He looked ill. “And this is?”
“This is Muzai Aibori.” Yujin sighed, motioning for Muzai to move out from behind him. “She was asked to come and see The Mistress on behalf of The God of Chaos.”
“Mistress received a fax the other day from Mister Goman.” Yumi nodded slowly. “We have been anticipating Miss Aibori’s presence. Follow me, please.”
Yujin wasted no time to comply, even if he had noticed the way Muzai hesitated. The journey was a short one, leading to a bolted door which Yumi opened for them. He urged them inside and Muzai paused to examine their new surroundings. It looked no different than a lounge. There was a red, scuffed carpet lining the floor with a large sofa to the left and an identical one across from it with numerous cardboard boxes stacked with assorted items spilling out over the edge and onto the cushions. Between the furniture was a rough coffee table with ring marks from the abuse of hot drinks being placed upon it without a coaster.
From across Muzai was a small television set sitting upon a high chest. Someone else sat in front of it, splayed out on a dark bean bagged cushion. Their back was to them, showing off their curly brown hair and broad shoulders which tensed every time they controlled the speeding car on the screen. A gamer. They never turned to acknowledge their presence and continued playing their game even when Yumi cleared his throat.
“Mistress is resting. I will retrieve her.” Yumi spoke in a gentle voice, nodding to Muzai and Yujin before walking across the room. He paused at the gamer and knelt to whisper in their ear before disappearing through the door beside the television cabinet.
The gamer groaned audibly and turned off the television before standing. He was taller than Yumi and far broader. His skin was tanned, and his eyes were a bright shade of aqua which complimented his exotic features. When he turned to Muzai and Yujin, he said nothing and crossed his strong arms whilst he leant against the wall. He looked half asleep and turned his head to stare at the white rabbit that hopped out from behind the box-clad sofa. Muzai had not even acknowledged the amount of rabbit toys and chewed cardboard until now.
“The Mistress is preparing herself. Please sit down and make yourselves comfortable.” Yumi reappeared in a matter of seconds and motioned towards the gamer leaning against the wall. “This is Kiba, a fellow Sorcerer of The Mistress’ Coven.”
Muzai shifted awkwardly under the gaze of Kiba’s sharp eyes, especially when she moved towards the sofa with the boxes and quietly perched herself upon the arm. Yujin took the remainder of the sofa that was not covered in boxes and grunted, holding his cane between his knees.
Not a minute passed before a small girl appeared. She was deathly pale, and her attire was all gothic Lolita with a puffed skirt, long black sleeves and flowing white hair reaching her knees. Her eyes were the most eccentric part of her; completely gazed in white. Blind.
Yumi led the girl over to the spare sofa and allowed her to sit before he turned to Muzai and Yujin. “Miss Aibori, allow me to introduce you to The Mistress, Aisu, daughter of The Enchantress.”
It seemed Aisu could read the room and she smiled, feeling Muzai’s eyes stare. She parted her glossy, pale lips and raised a white hand. “The DNA in mother has given me eternal life, just like her. I believe you have been informed of the elixir of life?”
“Yes.” Muzai whispered, startled from Aisu’s assertiveness. She felt like her mind was being read and had no choice but to move her eyes away and stare holes into the coffee table between them. “I was told everything about The Trial.”
“Good, it saves me the trouble of having to rush over everything.” Aisu smile, tilting her head. “Yumi, fetch some tea for me and our guests. Take Kiba with you.”
“Of course, Mistress.” Yumi breathed a smile before turning to Kiba and nudging him towards the kitchen; much to Kiba’s disapproval.
Once the door shut, Aisu turned her head. Her eyes were dead, and void of direction even as she looked upon Muzai’s awkward face. “The God of Chaos wishes for my help regarding my mother, I assume?”
Muzai shifted where she sat, hands gripping the hem of her shirt. “Well, he sent me here to speak with you about Yuugen. I don’t really know where to start, I think he’s in trouble but isn’t able to make a move? His Familiar was really concerned, so… can you help us?”
“No.” Aisu smiled. “I can’t.”
Kiba peered through the small gap in the door, eyeing the three in the lounge. His breathing was low and his hand was pressed against the door’s surface, prepared to jump back if someone were to look his way.
“You shouldn’t eavesdrop, Kiba.” Yumi sighed from the other side of the kitchen.
“I’m not.” Kiba replied, keeping his eyes glued on the scene. “I can’t even hear them. I’ll have to read lips.”
“You can’t read lips.”
“You don’t know that.”
Yumi’s hands paused in their actions, settling down against the pot of tea he was brewing. The point of taking Kiba with him had been to prevent him from listening in on the conversation! Now he stood at the door, blatantly trying to do just that.
“The Mistress doesn’t want to be listened in on. You know that.” Yumi groaned, settling a teapot upon a thin, china tray.
“Yeah, but you understand how hard it is to get a signal down here, right? By the time they’re gone, I won’t be able to back on the net.”
Yumi pursed his lips and moved to join Kiba’s side. He nudged the man, making room to listen in. It was a rare thing to have someone come to them. Very few knew of their whereabouts and The Mistress preferred to keep it that way for her own reasons. Down here, they were isolated from the world above and were safe from the evil ways of Dabblers.
Yumi and Kiba tensed when the room turned silent and Aisu was smiling. Small as she was The Mistress was not to be taken lightly.
“You won’t help?” Muzai blurted. “Why? Are you on your mother’s side?”
“Are you on your mother’s side?” Aisu’s smile remained and she turned her glazed eyes downward, ivory eyelashes tipping towards the floor. She began to swing her legs back and forth. “Family is not the issue and I doubt you understand where my mother lies in all of this, am I right?”
Muzai stiffened. It was true she was somewhere in the dark with Yoku’s association with Hokori and when Kin had told her to meet Aisu, Muzai had assumed the matter would revolve entirely around the upcoming show. But Hokori was already in touch with Aisu and the whole topic had changed to Yoku; it was hardly difficult to figure out what was really happening behind the scenes.
“…. Hokori is working with Yoku.” Muzai murmured.
“Correct.” Aisu nodded. “It would seem my mother has intentions to become the next Chairman. Quite simply, she wants to be in charge of Yuugen which is rather stupid. If things continue this way, there will most certainly be a civil war and Yuugen would cease to exist.”
“War?” Muzai repeated. She had met Yoku on occasion months ago. She was certainly a particular character and Muzai could admit to feeling uneasy around her. But with a title like The Enchantress, how could she not be uneasy? “She would do that just to take over Yuugen?”
Yujin tapped his cane on the floor. “Does The Chairman know about this?”
“My uncle is dead.” Aisu halted the swinging of her legs. “According to Hokori, mother stabbed him and discarded the body. It is quite difficult to kill the likes of us, those who are affected by the elixir of life. A true way to make sure we are truly dead is to cut off our heads, or something extreme as that.”
Muzai felt her heart skip a beat. Yokubo was dead? She knew something was wrong the moment he went dark online. With no messages or texts over the last few months, even Muzai could work it out. But to hear it made her sick. Slowly, she raised her head and forced herself to stare into the dead eyes across from her.
“What about Okui? He was poisoned but his head was never cut off.”
“Whoever killed Okui knew what they were doing. Since The Glutton lost his internal organs in the Void of Chaos, he created a paradox between the fabric of both worlds and could not enter the Void less he wished to be dead within seconds. He constantly ate to keep his system running in both dimensions, sometimes eating a whole day’s worth of food every three hours just to compensate for his disability.” Aisu shrugged her small shoulders. “The poison did not kill him. It simply delayed him for a few hours since he could not eat. His organs shut down and there was no way to reboot them.”
Muzai felt a shiver run down her spine. She rubbed her arm slowly, recalling the way Mad Dog had been killed. Tsumi knew that removing the head kills them. That’s why she killed Gekido that way.
“Why is Hokori listening to Yoku?” Yujin spoke up, seemingly eager to change the topic. “He despises the woman.”
“It would seem my mother is threatening him.” Aisu waved a hand. “Quite possibly she has threatened his Coven, or she has a certain someone as a hostage.”
“Senbo.” Muzai whispered, causing Yujin to narrow his eyes.
“Yes. It seems you have been well informed of Yuugen, after all.” Aisu forced a smile before turning her head to the kitchen. “I know you two are watching. Go back to making tea, Yumi. Kiba, close the door.”
Muzai turned to the kitchen door in time to see the aqua of Kiba’s eyes disappear, followed by the muffled sounds of voices and the thump of the door closing. The abrupt sound sent the white rabbit back into its hiding spot behind the sofa and Muzai cleared her throat, attempting to regain her concern when she looked back to Aisu.
“So, your mother is using Hokori for her plan to become the next chairman?”
“Mother would need to get rid of any other heir in the family to succeed. I understand my uncle had a son, Chini?” Aisu turned her head, hands folded against her lap. “What of him?”
“He left the country.” Yujin replied in a blunt tone.
“In that case, mother can claim the right to be Chairman whenever she wishes.” Aisu raised a white brow and began swinging her legs once again. “No, I’m afraid her plans regarding The God of Chaos will be far more vile than simple ruling and commanding an academy full of Sorcerers and Familiars.”
Muzai was hesitant when she spoke. “What are her plans? Why would she want Hokori to throw a big show, if that even has anything to do with her at all?”
“She likely wishes to perfect her master experiment. When I was born, I was a Familiar who inherited my mother’s genes in immortality. My blindness was another result in inheriting this, as was the colour of my hair and so on. Though I was a Familiar, I could use Sorcerer’s powers. Not an awful lot, simply elemental summons, and such. Since I was the first to do this, my mother experimented on me.” Aisu’s dead eyes raised to Muzai. “This junkyard used to be her old lab and when she was finished testing my blood and powers, she blew up the building with me inside. It was rather foolish of her as the explosion could not have killed me, but I suppose she was unaware of this at the time. My mother assumes I am dead; therefore, I stay out of sight to live.”
Muzai turned her gaze away, feeling an ounce of guilt wallow in her chest. If Aisu was unable to leave, there was no wonder why she could not help. Aisu hummed in Muzai’s silence and opened her mouth to continue.
“Yumi and Kiba, along with Kiba’s sister, Tsume, were also some of my mother’s test subjects. Yumi’s red eye is not his own and is actually false, robotic. His arms, as you must have noticed are wrapped in bandages, are metal. My mother was eager to make him a robot, but instead he became a Sorcerer cyborg. My Sorcerer.” She paused, lips twitching. “Kiba is a different story. He was given numerous surgeries. He is a Sorcerer by blood, but was given transplants such as heart, kidneys, liver… all donated from a Familiar. Just like Yumi, Kiba’s arms are also robotic as are his legs and both of his eyes. He is far more advanced as a machine than Yumi is. As for Tsume… the experiments on her were unclear. She is a Familiar, sharing a Name with Kiba, but I believe my mother had drugged her during this time. We were all very young when it happened.”
“Is Tsume here?” Yujin asked, raising his chin.
Aisu nodded, waving a hand towards the door beside the kitchen. “She is bedridden. Every day she gets worse and Kiba cannot bring himself to speak to her. He is guilty for being unable to protect her as a brother and a Sorcerer. It is very sad, but none of us can leave without my mother knowing of our movements. We are useless to you, and if I know my mother, she is going to turn everyone who attends that show into her own army of next generation Sorcerers.”