January 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
Bang, bang. Gun shots were heard, and the sound of a body floating to the ground with a thud echoed sluggishly through the cold dark house. A loud commotion was heard outside and then silence.
Kino jerked from underneath her covers, in a hot-cold sweat. Her throat burned from the hard cold air, while her head spun in a circle. Her whole body stiffened and started to ache as she rolled onto her side and tried to go back to sleep only to realize that it was 8, and she skipped out morning practice and was going to be late for attendance at school. Kino unwillingly trudged her way to the classroom from her dorm room, meeting up with Mayu who was getting breakfast.
“Morning Kino. Did you sleep in today?”
“ye—ah,” Kino croaked and coughed. Her eyes blinked trying to focus, but that didn’t help when she tripped over stairs.
“Are you ok?”
“I’m fine, just really tired,” she replied, unaware of the illness that was slowly invading her.
“Well, get some sleep before the competition this weekend alright? Don’t wanna catch a cold the day before do you?”
Kino giggled before phlegm got caught in her throat.
“Maybe you should take a day off from school after your lesson.”
“You know I can’t do that. I’m going to start falling behind and you know how stupid I am.”
“Huh?!” Mayu voiced her outrage at Kino’s comment, “and who placed higher than me on the midterms?! Besides! I’ll ask Nadako to lend you her notes!”
“You’re not even going to offer me your notes, ha. Besides, I’m not ridiculous like you.”
“Oh now you’re just calling me stupid.
The two of them laughed.
“You know that I worry about you sometimes?”
“I appreciate it Mayu, but I think I’ll manage through somehow.”
It was just then did something catch Kino’s eye. It was a short boy, who Kino assumed was someone in their grade, and a much larger upperclassman. It was a strange interaction, but it was obvious what the bigger kid wanted when he grabbed the boy’s meal card. The boy reluctantly tried to hold on but feared what would happened if he ripped it in half.
“So you’ve noticed huh?” Mayu whispered to Kino’s warm ears.
“So annoying,” she grumbled before turning on her heels.
“Oie!” She shouted, “Yes you! What do you think you’re doing stealing someone’s lunch?”
“Huh? Oh no, he was just giving it to me. I paid h—“
“Tch, liar. You’re all the same,” she didn’t even give the dunce time to finish his sentence. The smaller boy shook his head in denial but couldn’t speak up. Kino tilted her head at her upperclassman, obviously rolling her eyes at him. If there was one thing she hated, it was liars.
“Girlie, don’t you roll your ey—“
The second he reached out to grab Kino, she casually deflected it to the side.
“Don’t touch me, bastard.”
Her deep black eyes hardened, her voice pierced through his ears with outrage. The extra frustration only led to her to feel even weaker than when she first woke up. In her current state, she couldn’t possibly expect the boy to counter with his other free arm, pushing her into the wall. Mayu acted quickly, realizing where this could end up, especially with Kino’s violent track record.
“My, my. Pushing a girl into the wall?” a voice of authority arrived promptly. Eric steps into the situation eyeing each individual.
“I don’t think that’s very fair conduct. Don’t you agree?” he asked the boy. The boy nodded in agreement. Eric dug into his pocket and handed the boy a meal card, “you are excused.” The unknown boy hesitated, looking at the girl that tried to help him push herself back up. He was relieved he wasn’t in any trouble by the Prince of Grandia or else he would have blamed the girl despite her intentions. He grabbed the card and rushed off to his classroom.
“Mayu, I’ll take care of it. You get breakfast.”
She looked at Kino in worry but sighed in relief when she saw Kino get up on her own. With a little curtsy, Mayu turned towards the cafeteria.
When it was just the three of them the upperclassmen barked, “Eric, I can explain!”
“Oh, please don’t bore me with that,” Eric chuckled, “I’m going to let this incident slide, but I expect you to not mistreat the student body, that includes new students. Do I have your understanding?”
He walked quickly away from the situation, returning to the realm of animosity just like the other boy.
“I see you were up to your naughty activities this morning. Tsk tsk tsk, bad girl.”
Eric waved his finger at Kino. Once within arm’s reach, he poked her forehead. Kino stood there in a daze, not realizing what was happening until she felt something touch her hot forehead.
“Huh?” she coughed and recollected herself, “first of all, he was stealing someone’s lunch; second, he was lying.”
“I know. You hate those kinds of people.”
“They’re just so selfish, it makes me sick. Always manipulating…”
“I’m just warning you, Kino,” he said calmly, trying to dissipate her frustration.
Eric had a forgiving look on his face as he patted her head in an endearing way. It made her blush a bit, although she was already a bit rosy.
“I-I can’t promise you anything, but I’ll try not to be troublesome.”
“You’re a good kid. You don’t need to promise me anything. Just don’t work yourself too hard.”
He casually turned around and waved, continuing down the hallway.
For some reason, his back reminded Kino of her father. She couldn’t quite tell. Kino reached up to her forehead and felt how warm it was. She wondered if she had a fever or if it was just because Eric was around. She couldn’t quite tell.
It was a normal winter day at Grandia. The grounds covered in a white blanket, the festive decorations brightening up the usually regal and boring hallways. Cheer was everywhere for the approaching of that special holiday. For Kino, that meant another competition was approaching. But as each day passed, she felt more tense; more anxious. Beethoven rushed past her and she felt no relief from the sauna. Yet she couldn’t stop. She had to keep working hard; it was the only way she would be able to reach. She kept pushing herself despite not being able to see the keys anymore. She was determined to win the winter competition, to continue forward and not let anything drag her down. She felt her fingers trip over each other and fall underneath her.
Yuki waited for Kino to come out of practice room after catching word from Eric that she may not be feeling well. He rested his head against the door listening to the beautiful melody that passed through it. But then the melody stopped abruptly and a chain of dissonance followed before a thump and crash! Yuki turned around and looked through the glass window to see Kino collapsed on the floor. He quickly opened the door and rushed up to her.
Yuki placed his hand on her arm and quickly pulled back when he felt his skin burn. He noticed her cheeks were rosy and her breath was racing. He then placed his hand against her forehead to confirm his suspicions.
A knock on Kino’s door was heard and a man who looked like he was in his early 30’s peeked through the door. His hair was brown; his eyes green.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be home any sooner, I left work as early as I could today.”
“It’s ok I’m fine. You don’t have to worry about me.”
“There you go saying the impossible.”
The two of them chuckled, but then Kino started to cough again.
“Ahh! Some water.”
Kino’s dad passed her a glass of water but when she went to grab the glass it fell to the floor and he was gone.
Kino coughed some more. She decided to get out of bed to try and find him. As she opened the door she saw a women towering over her.
“How many times have I told you not to open your door when there’s guest?!”
“But where’s Dad…”
Kino pushed the woman from her and started to run what seemed to be down the stairs of her house but ended up being the stairs into a bottomless abyss.
“Dad!? Where are you?!”
Kino stumbled many times, and coughed till the point where her throat would constantly burn.
Kino slowly opened her eyes and saw a blur call out her name. It too had a pair of green eyes, and brown hair.
“Dad?” she mumbled disillusioned by her fever. However, she slowly came to her senses.
“Sorry, got the wrong person”
“That’s me alright. How are you feeling?”
“Uhhh…” Kino felt her nose stuffed to the point where she couldn’t even breathe through it. She coughed while trying to sit up, eyes puffy and teary as her head spun.
“That’s not obvious at all.”
“Wasn’t I in the music…Did you carry me?”
“Nah, Yuki did. I just happened to be around. Told him I have study period.”
Kino felt her head roll off her shoulders again. She suddenly felt a pair of strong hands hold her up as her vision blurred from the brightness of the fluorescent light. Kino leaned her head against whatever was in front of her, eyes closed.
“Didn’t I tell you not to push yourself too hard earlier today?”
“Doesn’t matter. I have to keep practicing.”
“You are really are burning up.”
The nurse walks in and quickly pushes Eric to the side and checks Kino’s temperature.
“You don’t seem to be getting any better. I suggest you go back home for the weekend.”
“No…I can’t go back.”
“I’ve already contacted your guardian to pick you up. She should be here soon.”
Kino voice got caught in a cough as she hacked her lungs out.
“Now you get some rest until your mother is here, and Eric, please go back to class.”
Kino gently latched onto his sleeve, silently pleading he stayed.
“Yes ma’am,” he said keeping his eyes on Kino as he watched anxiety starts to creep up onto her face. The nurse checked her pager and then quickly motioned Eric to get out of the room before she too exited the room.
Kino’s heart raced, her whole body soaked in sweat. She waited for the front door to shut before she fell off her bed like a sloppy rag doll, and proceeded to exit the room through the window.
“No way in hell I’m going back home.”
Yuki briskly walked down the hall, as people began emptying the classrooms. As he closed in on the Wellness Center, he heard a voice of distress and quickened his pace.
“She was supposed to be here!”
“Is this some kind of joke? You called me all the way from my meeting saying my child needs to be driven home. Was that not what you said? Then how come I do not see her resting like you said she was supposed to be?”
“I’m terribly sorry. She must have slipped out while I was away from the office.”
“Some service this school offers. Well, I came here all the way for nothing then. Next time, make sure you get the wrong number when you bother someone again,” the woman said coldly as her heels clicked against the floor. Yuki caught a glimpse as she walked by and recognized her as Kino’s mother. She was a tall woman with smooth shiny brown hair, done up in sophisticated and long ponytail, and sported designer brands from head to toe.
“Wait, are you just leaving?”
Kino’s mother stood there and stared at the Yuki thinking to herself another annoying brat.
“Right, you’re that kid’s friend.”
The woman dug inside her purse for a snake skin wallet which held a hundred dollar bill.
“I’m sorry ma’am, but what is this for?”
“Payment for babysitting of course! I’m a busy woman; I don’t have time to take care of her. The more time I waste on her, the more money I lose. So be a good friend and make sure she takes her medicine.” She tucked the bill into his shirt pocket and continued to walk past him without a second thought.
Yuki couldn’t understand. After so many years, he’s never really understood Kino. At the same time, he never really understood why he kept thinking about her. He always wondered why Kino was the way she was. All he knew was that Kino disliked her mom, and lives mysteriously by herself in a piano studio. But he put all that aside, his mind filled with worry for her. Is she ok? He knew there was one place she would always go, even when the sky is falling.
Kino stumbled on her feet numerous times as she placed her hands against the cold brick walls and coughed. She looked ahead and into the windows. Her vision blurred as it reflected her reflection back at her. She laughed.
“I’m almost there…” she told herself as her feet felt a tingling burning sensation each time she took a step into the slush and snow. Her cheeks were numb and red, almost white from the dry wind. As she kept walking, she slowly felt her legs turn into lead; she felt so heavy that they eventually pulled her into the cold, yet warm snow.
Yuki kneeled down to her, and sat her up.
“Eric?” she coughed out, slowly opening her eyes to see she was mistaken once again. Although it’s Eric she admired, it seemed Yuki was the one always saving her. Yuki didn’t even care at this point. He just wanted to know if she was still functioning. He felt a huge pit in his stomach as he looked at her miserable state.
“What do you think you’re doing? Walking out in the cold without a jacket! Seriously, you’re going to get worst!”
Kino pushed herself back down to the ground,
“I can’t! I have to keep playing. I have to prove her wrong. I can’t give up. Yuki, you understand right?”
“Stop being silly Kino. Your mom came all the way here to take you home.”
He spoke, threateningly while scooping her it his arms.
“She’s not my mother! She’s a liar! I didn’t do anything wrong!” Kino screamed, breathing heavily before burying her face into his chest, and her fingers trembled as they curled around the lapel of his blazer. Yuki noticed how distressed she became with just the mentioning of her mother. When he saw the fresh tears freeze on her cheeks he knew this wasn’t some ordinary quarrel with parent and child. He didn’t understand, but he knew that sending her home wouldn’t help her get better any faster.
She was sent back into the past again. Her memories slightly obscured and floated about in her mind.
Kino watched herself being carried by the same man who came to see her in her previous dream. They stepped into what looked like an apartment studio with just Yamaha baby grand piano and empty shelves.
“Why isn’t Mommy here?”
“Listen Kino…forget about mom. You’ll never see her again. Promise me you won’t talk about her anymore.”
“But Daddy, mom said she we were all going to come here.”
Her father roared, gripping her tiny shoulders even tighter.
“It’s ok. I’m still here.”
At the time, Kino didn’t understand what it meant for someone to die. She remembered how lonely she felt when she would play the piano in the empty room with no one to listen to her.
The woman screamed at the little girl when she began to play a simple melody. She would quickly turn to her father demanding he stop me, “Go tell that girl to stop playing.”
“Why can’t YOU be quiet for a moment huh? My daughter is trying to play a song and I would like to listen.”
“You mean that garbage? Oh please, I feel sorry for the girl now. She’s going to grow up to be just as pathetic as you.”
Kino slammed her hands on the keys, banging the piano in frustration before throwing one of her father’s books at the woman.
“Kino–!” Her father tried to command her to stop but Kino was already launching a barrage of attacks, crying and screaming and yelling.
“Old lady! Stop calling my daddy a loser because he’s a million times better than you at the piano! My dad’s the best in the world!”
“Why you little runt! You do not treat your mother like that.”
“You’re not my mom! She’s a lot prettier, and has got long black hair! You’re just a big fat liar! Liar. Liar. Pants on fire!”
Kino saw the book fly at her father, and the next thing she knew he was gone. Confused as to why her memories suddenly just stopped mid way. She remembered how frustrated her father was after, in fact he was furious. Yet all Kino wanted to do was to see him smile again. She hated the woman and the kind of person she was. A bully: they always cause others to suffer to satisfy their petty ego.
“I’m going to be coming home tomorrow.”
“Daddy, I learned a new song just for you!”
“Oh? I’ll hear it when I get back then.”
“—If you weren’t born, he wouldn’t have had to rush home and he wouldn’t have died! If you weren’t born…if the two of you weren’t born he would have still loved me! Why…this is all your fault! I left my husband for him and now he’s gone because you had to tell him to come home today! It’s your fault! Your fault! All of it!”
She’s lying. She’s lying. It’s not my fault.
Yuki watched as tears ran down the side of Kino’s face. He took to wiping them away every so often, knowing how much it ashamed her to cry. She coughed and Yuki pulled his hand away quickly. It was the first time he’s seen Kino with a cold; It was the first time he’s ever seen her so frail, so fragile, so weak. The image he and everyone else had of Kino was a strong girl, often wrestling with the brattiest of Grandia. In fact, she’s been fighting the meanest since the day they met. After encountering who was supposed to be Kino’s guardian, he started to understand why she was so determined to continue to play music. It was the only thing that has been really there for her when she needed it. In fact, it was the only thing she had. He chuckled as he realized how pathetic of a friend he was compared to her dearly beloved piano. He knew he could never be there for Kino all the time; he knew he had no confidence, but, that feeling kept him straight. He wanted to grow stronger for her. He felt his heart yearn towards Kino again. He noticed these feelings intensified with each passing day.
“It’s ok. I’m right here,” Yuki whispered into her ear. When Kino started settling down, he walked over to the baby grand piano in the rather small piano studio. Opening the hood, he played a chord and cringed at how out of tune it was. He then gazed over the large shelves filled with music books. He noticed most of the glass from the picture frames was broken, or missing. One picture caught his eye. It was a picture of Kino, her father, and another woman. He smiled at the sight of Kino’s brilliant and wide smile, something he’s never seen before.
Kino opening her eyes, her vision blurry as ever from the tears. She wiped her eyes and stumbled out of the nostalgic room. The creek from the door signalled Yuki to turn his head.
She slowly approached him and saw the picture frame in his hand.
“What are you looking at…oh this picture. I hardly remember the memory that goes with it.”
“Who’s this woman?”
“What? You can’t see the resemblance?”
Yuki stared at the woman a little more and noticed the smiles matched.
“You both have the same smile. How come you don’t smile like that anymore?”
“You’re asking something I can’t answer. Could you please not tease me while I’ve got a cold?”
“Well, I’m sure Eric would fall in love with you if you smiled like this,” Yuki suggested bitterly as he knew how much Kino admired him. Kino was flustered from the comment, making incomprehensible noises.
“So what happened to your mom then?”
“She died,” Kino said simply as she walked over to Yamaha, gliding her hand down the keys, playing an out of tuned glissando. “It was during an outbreak of some disease in China, where I was living before my dad and I moved to Klinton.”
“Oh that’s terrible.”
“I don’t have many pictures of her. But that other woman says I look just like her.”
“So who’s that lady—“
“My father’s mistress I suppose. An old lover he had in high school. She divorced her husband so she could be with him when we came back, but obviously it didn’t work too well when she found out I was tagging along. Keeps blaming me for taking him away from her, don’t understand why because she was the one hogging him the entire time.”
Kino recalling the memories, all the arguments they had, and wars they had in this room.
“And your father died during a shooting in New York…”
“Yup. Yamaha and I sure went through a lot. I’m just glad he’s still here.”
“You must have been lonely.”
“Cause I had you. My dad died during the year I met you so…”
She said looking at him, as if the answer was obvious. Yuki took time to calculate it in his head and realized what Kino said was true. He was baffled by how he never made the connection before.
“What?! My God, how dense I was as a child.”
“You’re still pretty dense,” she said bluntly.
Yuki ruffled with his hair, awkwardly scanning the room. He felt everything was left still with a pretty decent dust collection. He looked at a picture on the side with just her father and Kino. Both stood happily together. Kino held a piano certificate, while her father took the picture with his free hand from above. It was a Kodak moment you could say. He began to painfully realize the similarities her father and Eric shared.
“Is it your dream to follow in your father’s footsteps? To prove to your ‘guardian’ she was wrong?”
“That would be nice,” she thought, pressing her finger into the keys, “I don’t know if that would have brought a smile on his face if I said that to him.”
“Then what is your dream then?”
Kino looked at Yuki. She felt the question was intrusive.
“I’m just curious.”
She looked back down at the keys and hesitated to say the words. She whispered them but Yuki obviously didn’t hear it.
“To prove I’m Kino Pavane.”
The gravity of her words pulled a string in Yuki. She didn’t have to explain to him, he knew what they meant. He chuckled, not the least bit surprised and gave her a smile.
“I’ll make sure it happens! What else is a friend for?”
Yuki gently grabbed her arm and pulled her into an embrace, reassuring her that she wasn’t alone anymore, that there was someone who didn’t blame her.
“Sexual harassment. That’s what this is, and you’ll catch my cold,” she spoke semi-sarcastically as if trying to sound uncaring, to hide her embarrassment.
“Then you’ll take care of me won’t you?” He teased.
“Dummy. I just told you not to tease me.”