I’ve been staring at a blinking cursor all day hoping it will magically begin stringing words together. So far, no luck – but inspiration had better hit me before Saturday, because that’s when I stop being ahead in JuNo and start falling behind. That being said, I often get requests for more snippets (to which I say more? MORE?? ARE YOU SERIOUS. I POST MORE THAN I SHOULD) so I’m
procrastinating giving in because, while I have multiple blog post ideas written down, I don’t currently have the wherewithal to expound on said ideas. Le sigh.
“Fifty hours,” Oscar muttered, checking on the creature’s vital signs. “Fifty bloody hours, and not a wink of sleep. That’s catastrophe in the making. It’s also very much NOT ALLOWED IN LEGITIMATE WORKPLACES,” he shouted at the door.
Kiba had long ago learned the key to inner stillness. Patience, his father had often told him, was a virtue one could not afford to lack, and stillness was achieved only after patience. As the book said, one must be quick to listen, but slow to wrath.
The key to stillness was to view every aggravation as a moral challenge. If an aggravation succeeded in angering him, a petty enemy had won a victory. Petty enemies should never be allowed to win. It was a humiliation far above an average battle – in an average battle, the enemy was an equal, a worthy opponent.
So when Saizou foolishly claimed he would not leave without the Prince-Regent’s Hand – a lethal assassin infamous from one end of Japan to the other – as well as an antidote for his injured friend, Kiba took a deep breath and thought stillness. You are a stone washed smooth by the rushing water around you.
As Rumi said, if you were irritated by every rub, how would you be polished? And no rub had irritated Kiba as coarsely as Saizou.
A puzzled note entered his voice. “Why did you knock?”
“My hands are full.”
“Coffee cups.” Otter bent down and set Haka’s Styrofoam cup on the floor and opened the door. She picked the cup back up and walked in, her head swinging left, then right. He was sitting on the floor with his back to the wide, glass door of the shower.
Otter swallowed the rush of fear – does he know already? How bad is his withdrawal? Did I do the right thing? Is he furious at me? – and quelled it with sympathy. “I hate to break it to you, captain, but that’s not how you take a shower.”
He opened his eyes with apparently monumental effort. “I’m not up to your sass right now.”
That was a first. Otter walked over to him and settled down on her knees. “Can I do anything to help?”
“No sarcastic remark.” He let out a deep sigh. “Amazing.”
“I don’t have anything to do but listen,” he said gently, rotating his shoulders as far as he could to relieve the tension in his neck. “How is he?”
“Haka,” she said, fully facing the cell and folding her arms over her chest, “is a mess. I mean it. Literal, figurative, metaphorical – you name it, he’s messy there.”
It was a polite understatement.
Every time the urge to end his life reared its head again, chewing through his reason and his faith, reminders came in small forms. Forms like Otter, who had not given him a reason to live, but reminded him that they existed. They reminded him that kind people existed, that good things happened in a world populated by sinners and failures. That every now and then, a green shoot pushed up through the hard, frozen ground.
“Whoa whoa whoa,” said the orange-haired man, holding up both hands. “I personally think we ought to do something about…” He pointed toward Kirikizu. “You know. The whole ‘I can probably kill you all with my voice’ thing.”
Kiba reached down, his face barely registering a wince, and drew a knife from his boot. “I’ll handle it.”
Saizou stepped toward Kirikizu, who stared at the other man’s back, stunned.
“I won’t allow that,” said Saizou.
Kirikizu tilted his head. Why was he so valuable to Saizou? Were they turning him in for ransom – for their freedom, perhaps? It was risky, but there was a good chance the Prince-Regent would actually acquiesce.
“That’s not what I meant, guys,” said the orange-haired man, sounding both incredulous and bemused. “I meant we should gag him.”
Twenty minutes passed before the clouds were thick enough to shield Hiro from the sun’s rays. He jumped to his feet and ran back to the main office. He slipped through the front door, inwardly continuing a string of curses levelled at his own lack of foresight.
“Boss?” Kido walked around the corner, his eyebrows arching when he took in the sight of Hiro, panting and leaning against the front door. “You, uh, okay there?”
“What?” Yuu walked around the corner behind Kido. He glanced at Hiro before saying, “Forgot his sunglasses,” and walking back into the lounge.
“That’s choreographed, you know,” said Hiro, eyeing the two wrestlers on-screen as they danced on opposite ends of the ring.
Yuu shot him a dirty look. “It’s performance art.”
. “I said I’m sorry. Not as sorry as you are, but…I am sorry. You don’t need to believe me. I wish – it seemed like the lesser of two evils. I know I had no right to ask you to do what you did.”
“The lesser of two evils,” Saizou repeated softly. He uncurled his fingers and pressed his palm flat against the wall. “The longer I’m here, the more I think that’s the problem.”
Tsuki lifted an eyebrow. “What?”
“Every action, everything I’ve tried to do, has been the lesser of two evils.” Saizou lowered his hand, but pressed his forehead against the wall instead. It was cool – he hadn’t realized how warm he was until now. “It doesn’t feel right.”
“Wartime.” Tsuki shrugged. “It asks hard things of us. Sometimes being the hero of one story means being the villain of another.”
“I…” Saizou’s mind raced, turning her statement over, attempting to quickly read it from all sides before he responded. “I don’t agree with you.”
“What do you mean?”
He pushed away from the wall and faced her. He was beyond tired – he felt threadbare with exhaustion, and all he wanted was to create a world that could protect itself for an hour while he slept. “A hero is a hero, no matter what story they’re in. I’m not saying I am one – no, I know I’m not.” He rubbed the back of his neck, gathering his thoughts, trying to fit them into words. “But good and evil aren’t interchangeable. One doesn’t become the other because the circumstances change.”
Oscar straightened and grabbed a surgical mask from the plastic container on the nearest table. He positioned it over his mouth and nose, then folded his arms, rehearsing what he would tell the Prince-Regent.
“Yes,” he said, glancing at the door, “it’s a bit awkward, but you see, the thing you had me create decided it was a murderous hellbeast. No, that won’t work.” He scratched the back ofh is head. “I’m terribly sorry,” he tried again, “I don’t know what got into it. No, I wasn’t awake, I was asleep. Yes, the creature was asleep, too, but it would seem it has an extraordinary metabolism and it woke up anyway. Oh, you’re going to kill me? Fine, go right ahead.”
Oscar sank back down onto the cot. “I’m dead,” he finished. “No matter how this turns out, I’m bloody dead.”
“Bloody dead,” said a soft, rasping voice.