by Solace Hayate
[Warning: This chapter contains mild sexual contents.]
The sky was a subtle shade of crimson and violet as Naoji* Turkasz arrived at the door. Above him, clusters of wisteria blossoms draped from the patio overhang and sweetly perfumed the early summer air.
Ninety miles outside of Midgar, this sleepy little town of Cedaria was a forgotten land of silence and secrets. The house stood at the top of the town’s back hill, hidden among the silvery birch trunks and an emerald sea of maple leaves.
Naoji had left his car parked at the foot of the hill, as the only path that led up to the house was a narrow dirt trial capable of accommodating only pedestrians. His face glowed with warmth from climbing up the path at a running pace, and a thin layer of perspiration spread over his smooth, tanned skin. His dark blue suit jacket was already open in the front, and reaching up, he loosened the tie and undid the top buttons of his shirt.
The door was closed shut, and a serene stillness surrounded the place. Naoji placed his finger on the doorbell, only to withdraw it after a moment of deliberation, as if unwilling to disturb the peace within. He sank down onto the doorsteps, lazily stretched out the length of his body, and leaned back to watch the dancing colors of the darkening sky. Bit by bit, he savored the intoxicating twilight air and imagined himself further and further away from Midgar. Maybe here, he could forget about his job, his duty, and ShinRa, however temporarily.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
The dying sun shed forth its final glory and gave way to a cooler evening breeze. Kaye walked up the path that led to her house, holding Vincent’s tiny hand in hers as the child skipped along her side. In the other hand, she carried various packages of rice, fish, and vegetables.
In her spare time, Kaye made intricate Kabuki dolls, which she brought to the owner of the Cedaria Inn. The occasional travelers who sought a night’s rest at the inn would always be delighted by the creative and detailed craftsmanship of the dolls displayed on the counter, and often, they purchased them at high prices. In exchange for the profits that the dolls brought in, the innkeeper generously provided Kaye with all the food and supplies she needed.
They were on their way back from the Cedaria Inn, where Vincent had received a gift from the innkeeper. It was a small picture book, The Legend of Syrophenikan**, depicting the story of the mythical angel Syrophenikan, a heavenly warrior who gave his life protecting his loved ones. Bounded in ivory leather, soft to the touch, the book was ornamented with glittering captions in gold and exquisite brush paintings of muted pastel. It must have been left behind by one of the guests, explained the innkeeper, she had found it a few months ago, and no one had tried to claim it since, but if Vincent liked the book, he could keep it. Taking the treasure into his hands, the child solemnly expressed his thanks, only his dark eyes sparkled with excitement and glee.
Vincent was curiously somber for a child of three; nevertheless, he was a beautiful child. Whenever he went out with his mother, strangers would gather around and compliment Kaye on what a fine looking boy her son was. Vincent only kept a quiet dignity as people patted his head, pinched his cheeks, and generally fussed over him. He was always silent and reserved in public. When alone with Kaye and Mr. Paradis, however, he would be more lively and talkative.
Now the child happily prattled on and on about the pretty pictures in the book as they made their way toward the house. Listening with a smile, Kaye observed that though uncommunicative in nature, Vincent was really more articulate than even kids older than him. She could only proudly conclude that this was due to a higher level of intelligence and mental ability. While she contently mused over these thoughts, the child suddenly grew quiet and his eyes were transfixed by something ahead. Following his gaze, she discovered what had caught the child’s interest. Spellbound, she stood frozen as blood drained from her face, and one by one, the packages she held in her hand slipped from her fingers and fell onto the ground.
Kaye beheld the slender figure that sat on her doorsteps. The man seemed to her a beautiful apparition. His face was slightly turned, revealing the elegant and noble profile that had so long ago been etched into her soul. For a brief searching moment, his eyes lingered on the child, and then gradually, he lifted his cerulean gaze upon the mother. Kaye trembled as those sapphire eyes penetrated her to the core, and the name escaped from her lips, “Naoji!”
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Vincent was silent all through dinner. His dark, observing eyes insistently studied the man who had been introduced to him as his father.
Kaye had gotten up to go to the kitchen and left the two sitting facing each other across the table. Only silence filled in the space between them as Vincent continued his wordless inspection. Naoji met the child’s eyes with his own. Two unfathomable pools of iridescent black contrasted against the clear azure.
Vincent had inherited his mother’s fair complexion and dark eyes, but the rest of his features, refined with aristocratic elegance, undeniably resembled those of Naoji’s. An incomprehensible feeling of warmth grew within the man’s heart. He smiled at the child.
Breaking off the eye contact, Vincent suddenly got out of his seat and walked over to Naoji. In his small hands was the picture book from the innkeeper, which he carefully placed in front of the man. For a moment, Naoji was lost as to what to do as the child looked up at him with anticipating eyes. Then, almost intuitively, he picked the child up and sat him down on his lap; opening the book to the first page, Naoji started reading.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Vincent slept peacefully in his room.
Kaye had put the child to bed while Naoji took a bath. Emerging from her own bath, she found him in the bedroom, leaning against an open window. A small lamp burned faintly on the nightstand, casting uncertain shadows onto the surrounding walls.
“How long has it been, Kaye? Four years?” Naoji’s voice drifted softly in the midst of this dim sanctuary, and with his eyes, he beckoned her to come.
Kaye gave a slight nod, and then as if pulled by some irresistible force, she walked towards where he stood. His arms circled around her waist, pulling her in. Through the thin robes, she was keenly aware of her own body pressing against his, and the scent of his skin enveloped her senses. She felt dizzy from this blissful proximity…it had been four long years.
“Four years…” Naoji repeated. “And your father…?”
“He passed away last winter.” A calm grief passed over her face.
“You should have contacted me then. You should have contacted me long before, when you first learned about the child. You should have told me about Vincent. You should have sent words that you were alive. You should have known that I would do anything to protect you.” His face strained with anger and affection.
Kaye answered all the “should haves” with a smile; it was a smile of pride, of loneliness, of quiet suffering. His hand reached for that smile, brushing her lips with his fingertips.
“Why did you leave me?” His voice broke down as he buried his face amidst the satiny tresses that draped over her shoulder. His breath was warm against her neck, and she felt her control slipping away.
“I had to,” she murmured, trying to explain: “When the doctor told me that I was pregnant, I knew only two things. I knew that more than anything, I wanted to keep the child, your child, our child. I also knew that I had to leave immediately and disappear without a trace. I couldn’t have kept the baby a secret for long. If I stayed around, he would have found out about us, then he would have had you killed. I had to hide.” A tear fell and tumbled down her cheek.
Naoji kissed the drop away, and while its salty taste still lingered upon the tip of his tongue, he covered her trembling lips with his mouth.
“How did you find me?” Kaye asked weakly, breaking away from the kiss, but before he could answer, she rejected her own question: “No, that’s not important. I am sure there are plenty of ways to find a person when you are ShinRa’s right-hand man. But why did you come here, after all these time?”
“I need you,” he whispered into her ear. His lips moved down to her chin, then to her neck, and they lingered there until she let out a low moan…
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Naoji Turkasz. That was the name engraved on the glass panel of his office door. However, very few people actually used that name. Here in Midgar, at the ShinRa Corporation Headquarter, he simply went by his nickname: Turk. Even the handful of special agents that worked under him came to be known as the Turks.
It was past five o’clock when Naoji was finally finished with the report. He had promised Kaye that he would be there before evening; now he must hurry and hope that the traffic would be merciful. Just as he reached for the doorknob, the intercom flashed on. It was ShinRa: he wanted to see the report immediately.
“Yes sir. I will have Van Ness bring it up.” Naoji was eager to get out of the building.
“No. I want you to deliver it. Now.” The voice was determined and left no room for any further discussion on the matter.
A frown shadowed over Naoji’s face. Not only was he running late, he dreaded the thought of meeting with ShinRa. Ever since he came back from Cedaria, he had been avoiding such a possibility, offering excuses of being otherwise occupied and sending Van Ness in his place whenever he was summoned. But the inevitable would come, no matter how much one resisted.
The executive office was only one floor above him. With the report rolled up in his pocket, Naoji headed towards the elevator, but before reaching it, he turned down the hallway and slipped into the restroom.
Inside a well-sheltered stall at the far corner of the room, he took out a small bag from the inner pocket of his suit jacket. On the small shelf provided for holding personal belongings, he laid out its contents: a syringe, couple of glass vials, antiseptic solution, cotton pads, and a thin rubbery cord. Expertly, he prepared the syringe, filled it with the clear liquid of a glass vial, rolled up his sleeves, and tied the cord above the crook of his arm. Holding the injection in between his fingers, he aimed for the vein; it was then, his eyes fell upon the numerous marks that were left behind by the needlepoint.
Kaye had noticed them while they were lying in bed together, under the pale luminance of the first lights of daybreak. She didn’t say anything and only examined the dotted scars in silence. Then she bent down and kissed them, as if attempting to remove the blemishes with the heat of her lips. Remembering, Naoji again felt the pressure of her lips on his skin, the tickle of her hair brushing against the inside of his arm, and the feel of her naked body stretched out next to him. His hand hesitated.
Suddenly, the door to the restroom pushed open and two sets of footsteps entered. From their voices, Naoji recognized that they were a couple of new hires from the recently established Biological Research Unit. The two men exchanged a few lab observations as they went about the business of relieving themselves.
“Hey, I have been wondering about our President ShinRa,” the man with the younger voice suddenly changed the subject. “I see him working all the time. Hell, the guy practically lives here. With all his money and power, you think he would at least get wild once in a while. He is a young man after all. And if he’s the devoted family type, then why hasn’t he found himself a wife yet? I wonder if he even has a lady on the side.”
“You never know,” the older man’s chuckle was swallowed up by the sound of running water.
“Actually, I heard something just the other day.” The younger man paused for a moment, probably checking to make sure that they were alone, before continuing in a low voice: “They say that several years back, ShinRa had set his eyes on some girl, only the girl wasn’t interested. But ShinRa was so determined to have her, he was ready to marry her even if by force.”
“Then how come there is no Mrs. ShinRa yet?”
“Well, that’s the mysterious part of it all. Supposedly, the girl just vanished one day, and even with all the Turks out looking for her, they still haven’t been able to find out what happened…” The door closed behind them, cutting out the rest of the conversation.
The vision shattered, and the memory of morning sunlight faded into bitterness. Naoji stabbed the needle into his flesh.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
He could feel his blood crystallizing inside his vessels, a sluggish, icy current that traveled throughout his body, numbing each inch of his skin with a divinely protective coldness. He was at peace; he was beyond anything that threatened to irritate.
Naoji stood stiffly in front of the mahogany desk that separated himself from the imposing proprietor of the ShinRa Corporation. ShinRa was not a tall man, but his build was solid and compact, just like his facial features, a commanding presence of power and ruthless authority. He now leafed through the report, and at length, with a satisfactory groan, he abandoned it on his desk.
“How is the training coming along?” ShinRa’s eyes beamed like a pair of daggers.
“Very well, sir. The new recruits will be ready by the end of next week.” Naoji’s voice was distant but respectful.
“Any news on the whereabouts of the Paradis family?” The daggers unsheathed themselves.
“No sir.” Naoji’s expression remained blank and unchanged. He was safe within his frozen shell where no harm could reach him.
ShinRa leaned back into his seat, and for several minutes, he scrutinized the man in front of him, after which he concluded: “You may leave now.”
As soon as Naoji’s figure disappeared behind the closing door, ShinRa picked up the handset from his desk phone. After punching in some numbers, the line connected.
“Van Ness speaking,” a voice answered.
ShinRa’s face contorted into a diabolical scowl as he barked out the order: “Follow him.”
*The name “Naoji” is inspired by and taken from Dazai Osamu’s The Setting Sun.
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