Act VI: Greed

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Scene IV: New & Old

Tokyo, Japan. 2021, September

“I wanna hear that story again!”

A little boy with bright green eyes stared up at Muzai as she busied herself with making her lunch. There was a minor quirk to her lips, indicating she was doing everything in her power to hold back a laugh which would most definitely encourage the kid’s constant nagging.

Nowwww!” The boy whined, reaching out to grab the hem of Muzai’s jumper. “Please, please, please!

“Shorai,” Muzai finally spoke; lips twitching. Her serious mask was about to crack. She turned from the kitchen counter and propped her hands on her hips. “There’s no more stories to tell right now. It’s time to go and watch auntie Rida perform on the TV and forget about the stories, okay?”

Due to Rida’s heroic actions to help Shinrai deliver the bundle of joy known as Shorai – who was currently whining in Muzai’s ear as they moved to the lounge, Merodi had told Rida she was welcome to visit any time and while it was a hesitant routine at first, Rida eventually began to visit more and more until she moved away to Korea.

Muzai could remember the day Shinrai had emailed about Rida’s big success as an upcoming musician. It had been around the same week as Muzai’s album debut. While she released a composition of twelve indie pieces, Rida had dropped a single, two albums and was going on tour around Europe. The month beforehand, Rida and Tsumi got married. Muzai remembered that email too.

“Aunt Rida taught me how to speak Korean.” Shorai announced loudly, idly picking a loose strand of cotton from the hem of his shirt as he sank back against the sofa.

“I bet she did.” Muzai grunted, flopping beside him after stuffing her bento box into her handbag. Crossing a leg, she reached the remote off of the tattered coffee table and flicked the television on.

As if on cue, Rida appeared on screen with a violin in hand. Her attire was all black as usual and she was made up to be on point; picture perfect. Her lips pulled back into a stunning smile when her name was announced and the audience on stage began to cheer for her.

She bowed her head, propped a violin upon her shoulder and began to play a slow tune. She always had a knack for pouring her heart into her music rather than her words. When she spoke, her tongue was often as sharp as a razor, but when she played her music she seemed gentle and peaceful – right up until her hand began to pick up its pace, moving at an inhumane speed.

By the time the show had ended, Shinrai had returned from her scavenging trip around the city, lugging numerous folded-cardboard boxes beneath her arm. She could only smile at Muzai and Shorai as they huddled together and watched the television. The latter of the two turned his head and yelled for his mama the moment she set her foot in the apartment.

“She plays really well.” Shinrai commented when Rida finished her song and walked off stage after the many, many praises she received from the audience.

“She really does.” Muzai agreed, rather dumbstruck with her archnemesis’ talents.

Shinrai slapped the back of the sofa. “Anyways, what are you up to today, Muzai?”

Leaning back with a sigh, Muzai watched Shorai shuffle off the sofa to help Shinrai with the cardboard boxes. She smiled, draping an arm over the cushions at her side. She was hesitant to reply, almost as if she had plans to do something utterly unspeakable!

“I’m, um, actually going into Kanagawa.” Muzai murmured, keeping her eyes glued to her peach-painted nails tapping the cotton cushions. “I guess you could say I have a job interview.”

“Really? That’s amazing! So, you’re thinking of moving back indefinitely?” Shinrai awed. “What kind of school is it?”

A small pause was made on Muzai’s behalf. “Well, it’s an academy really, you know, a school for the gifted.”

“Right, right.” Shinrai hummed – her attention was totally fixed on Shorai and what he was doing with the boxes more so than Muzai. “I wish you luck. I’m sure it’ll go fine.”

“Yeah,” Muzai faked a chuckled. “I hope you’re right.”

Kanagawa, Japan. 2021, September

“Ya can back out now if ya feel like it.” Kin spoke up, breaking the rising silence between himself and Muzai as they drove in his beaten pick-up truck. “I ain’t gonna judge ya.”

Muzai mentally sighed. Her long eyelashes tickled her cheeks when she tore her gaze from the window to stare at her handbag. She made patterns out of its tattered, black leather and allowed her tummy to roll at the idea of digging into her bento box later once Kin had given her the tour around Yuugen’s building.

The lack of response made Kin frown. He kept his eyes on the road nonetheless and drove up Iwarouji Lane, following the traffic cones up the hill to park by Yuugen’s high, metal gates. He pulled the handbrake and killed the engine before offering one last smile of reassurance and jumped out of the truck.

Stood by Yuugen’s gates was a woman with red hair pulled into a bun atop her head. She wore a dark, casual suit with a skirt that reached the top of her knees and heeled shoes. Professionalism could be sensed from just her serious eyes alone.

“Sozokujin Boushoku.” Kin grinned, motioning through the air with an extended arm. “This ‘ere is ol’ Muzai Aibori. She was the one I mentioned on the phone.”

Muzai swallowed the lump of nerves in her throat and swiftly stepped out of the truck to join Kin’s side. Orange and brown leaves swept across the ground and crunched under the pressure of Sozokujin’s heels when she moved forward to greet Muzai with a handshake, a custom she was familiar with from having lived in America for so long.

“I’ve read your file.” Sozokujin mused. “I must say, I’m quite impressed with the progress you’ve made since my father’s first entry. Perhaps when this meeting is over, you could help me fill in the gaps he left out?”

“Ugh, sure…?” Muzai nodded, trying to match the optimistic smile from her newest associate.

Sozokujin seemed satisfied and pivoted on her heel to head back to the gates. She pressed her hand against a small panel attacked to the brick columns holding the metal gates together. “Come along.”

Kin and Muzai followed after the gates swung open and they walked the small hill up to Yuugen’s academy. The path had been repaved and the grass had been cut back. The garden was flourished by assorted flowers that dotted the grass around the few trees scattered around the walls of the building. There was even a fresh smell of paint and polish in the air; hinting to an entirely new furnish altogether.

“When you become a member of Yuugen, you’ll have your own fingerprints scanned so you can get in and out whenever you wish.” Sozokujin commented as they came to the foyer. She reached out, pulling the handle of the glass doors to gesture inside.

Muzai followed Kin and turned, flashing her eyes at Sozokujin. “You say that as if you’re certain I’ll be accepted here.”

Sozokujin cocked her head to the side, mimicking her father’s curious eyes and shark-tooth grin. “Miss Aibori, you’re far too important not to be chosen.”

“Ah, there you are.” Came a voice off to the side, cutting Muzai short of her chance to reply.

Sozokujin was the first to turn and nodded towards the tall, thin man walking towards them. His black hair was pulled back into its signature low ponytail and his mismatched eyes of red and green twinkled against the sunlight spewing across the glistening floor tiles and white walls surrounding them.

“Miss Aibori,” Sozokujin hummed, eyes shifting back to meet her. “I believe you’ve met The Chairman’s Sorcerer, Yumi Yajirushi.”

Muzai could not ignore the dark memory of Yumi being impaled during Chiba’s Mass Murder. He had not been able to open his eyes, let alone walk the last time she had seen him; but here he was with an ever-neutral expression. It had been seven years since then. Plus, it wasn't totally abnormal; as far as Magick was involved.

“Yeah,” Muzai whispered. “Sure, I do.”

Yumi clasped his hands behind his back once he joined the group’s side and bowed his head, hoping to cut the small reunion short. “Mistress would like to meet with you now.”

Muzai could not help but stare at just about everything when they moved down the corridors and up the flight of stairs. There were fliers for student support, posters for school meetings and student rep appraisals. The classrooms were filled with a lot of resources; including things Muzai had never even had the luxury of using during her school years. She guessed they were something Magick related – perhaps for enhancing spells and abilities? She would have to investigate later.

As they moved to the next wing, Muzai felt her heart jump into her chest. They walked past the infirmary and none other than Toi Yujin sat inside, holding a book to his chest as he manned his desk. His red eyes had looked up, meeting her face. The moment was short, maybe only a matter of seconds long, but it was enough to make Muzai feel uneasy.

“You’ll have to forgive us for not holding the interview in the Council’s previous council room.” Sozokujin spoke up. “So far we have regained total control in this block, the previous wing, and most of the central facilities including the foyer. There are still many improvements to be made; the rest is restricted access – specifically the underground of the building and the North wing, as per Chairman’s orders.”

Chairwoman,” Yumi corrected sternly.

Muzai found herself smile despite the strictness to his tone. She turned her head to Kin, lowering her voice for only his ears to hear. “Why is the underground and North Wing off limits?”

“Yoku’s lab is downstairs. We ain’t cleared it out yet ‘n’ we’re sure there’re some nasty buggers down there. Lots of cryogenic chambers ‘n’ the like. Probs got more nasties than we can manage right now.” Kin replied, lowering his head. “The North Wing’s where ol’ Senbo is, ’course.”

Yumi stopped the group, much to Muzai’s appreciation. When her mind wandered to the madness that was Senbo Shitto, her fingers began twitching. To be in the same building as him was enough to make her heart kickstart her brain and tell her to run.

“In here.” Yumi gestured, sliding back the large oak doors to reveal the temporary Council room.

Muzai watched Kin and Sozokujin move into the large room. They took a step up a wooden platform where a crescent table was placed; facing the doorway she awkwardly hovered in. They took their respectful chairs and awaited Muzai’s move; growing silent until the small girl sitting in the centre of the table looked up with her dead, white eyes.

“Please, come in, Miss Aibori.” Aisu spoke.

Muzai stepped over the threshold with an audible gulp. She was clutching her handbag strap, unsure why she was taken back to the day she met Rai and Tio. It had been the same kind of anxieties welling in her chest as she gripped her bag in hopes it would save her from embarrassment. She could only push away her fear when she looked at Kin taking his spot beside Katsubo – who had arrived earlier that morning to discuss some details with Aisu before this interview.

“Yumi and Kiba will be attending this meeting.” Aisu spoke up, waving her hand blindly through the air.

Muzai’s eyes followed Yumi after he shut the door behind her. She watched him move to the left of the room to stand beside Kiba who was leaning against the numerous chairs stacked in the corner; giving her the impression this room had been a classroom – or maybe a music room? Considering the platform where the Council sat. She could imagine it now; all those chairs would have been facing the platformed stage during plays and concerts.

“Miss Aibori,” Sozokujin began. She leant forward and intertwined her thin fingers against the surface of the table. A hum drew out from the back of her throat and she cocked her head. “Given your most recent event of leaving Japan, turning your back on Magick-Society and abandoning your duty as a Familiar following Chiba’s Mass Murder seven years ago, what makes you so eager to come back here – let alone join the very Council you despise?”

“Is that really necessary?” Kin slapped his hand against the table. “She wants to be part of it now, ain’t that good ’nuff for ya? Ya know she’d be capable of just ‘bout anythin’ we got goin’ ’ere.”

“Might I remind you that we did the exact same thing for yourself and Katsubo when you applied for your positions here?”

“Yeah, but Muzai is more qualified than Katsubo ‘n’ I put together.” Kin snorted, scratching his cheek. “Yer ol’ man would agree. The Glutton was the one who gave ’er a job all them years ago in the first place.”

“My father interviewed every occupant in Yuugen during his position as vice-chairman.” Sozokujin’s jaw tensed for a brief second, though her smile remained. “He approved them all and still somehow got himself killed by one of them. You might understand that I don’t want the same fate as he.”

Kin looked ready to unload a course of argumentative statements but he remained silent; much to Muzai’s surprise. His bright eyes flickered over to her with a hint of apology and he leant back in his chair, crossing his arms over his flat chest.

“Please, continue.” Aisu sighed, raising her hand to rub the side of her temple.

“Yes, ma’am.” Sozokujin nodded, returning her eyes to Muzai. “Shall I repeat the question-?”

An abrupt spark of light flashed against the ceiling, cutting off the Council’s interview and sent Muzai back against the wall in surprise. Yumi moved from his spot in the corner and was at Aisu’s side within seconds, shielding her as the sparks of light grew larger and larger above the flickering LED lights. A sharp clap rang in everyone’s ears as the lights changed colour, morphing to a bright violet.

Muzai shrieked, holding her arms over her face and Kiba moved to grab her. He pulled her into the corner beside the stacked chairs and they ducked together, avoiding the sparks of light and flurry of Magick.

Kin stood up, quickly grabbing the handles of Katsubo’s wheelchair to pull him away from the table before his spot was struck, leaving the floor charred and cracked in its wake.

All too suddenly, the sparks and lightning stopped, leaving only a tear of pure light in the ceiling. Rays of Magick beamed from the small gap, followed by the muffled sound of voices until everything went quiet and a figure fell through the air, landing in the centre of the Council room; the tear above them closing instantly.

“Kiba,” Yumi spoke up, outstretching his arm in front of Aisu to protect her from the stranger. “Remove that ridiculous helmet from their head.”

“Right.” Kiba grumbled from his hiding spot beneath the stacked chairs.

He crawled across the room and pinned the strange, helmet-clad figure to the ground with his foot to their back; forcing them to stay on their stomach. He bent forward and dug his fingers under the helmet to pull it off and toss it aside. His hand reached out thereafter, grabbing a fistful of bleach-bold hair to lift the intruder’s head for the Council to see.

“Who are you?” Sozokujin spoke first, doing her best to remain unrattled by the shock of lighting. “Where did you come from?”

“Answer the question, kid!” Kiba warned.

“My name is Kaze Hinshi…!” The intruder hissed, lifting his copper eyes from beneath his fringe to stare at Yuugen’s Council members one by one. “I’m part of Captain Taiyo’s Squad Group from Shoki… I’m from Concordia!”

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