“We can’t go alone.” Hizumi commented after contemplating their plan.
“We need more, If Gackt is hiding anything we may need a sizeable amount of people, as the saying goes, there’s safety in numbers.” He glanced over at Közi and Yura who sat looking at each other. “Is something wrong?”
“No disrespect Hizumi, but I can’t help but think of your friend Kami, I mean, he seemed to like Gackt and to be fair, we don’t know much about this man.” Közi said carefully. Hizumi only nodded.
“Kami is naïve, an amazing person with a wonderful spirit, but naïve nevertheless. It is him I wish to protect, the lord has shown an interest in him and I cant help but wonder what for, do you see,?”
“I do.” Közi replied. Hizumi seemed genuinely worried for his friend and after all, he and Yura were still both very very new to the town, if anything he was surprised that the townspeople were treating he and his friend so kindly.
“Let us go and see Kami, we can ask about his meeting with Gackt.” Yura piped up. “That way, we may get more information, perhaps there's a perfectly innocent reason.”
“You don't know Gackt like I do," Hizumi replied, crossing his fingers and resting his head on his entwined hands. "Something has always been... off about him and I've never been able to put my finger on the reason why." He signed and leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. "There's a lot of strange things that go on in this town things that have never been explained, but I do trust my own instincts and I know there is a secret that man keeps hidden so, lets visit the castle, let's see exactly what it is he's hiding, and if he's innocent like your friend says well... I'll personally apologise to Gackt."
* * * *
The queue from Kami’s shop stretched around the building, people were leaving the shop with bags of meat looking pleased. The shop seemed to have a new lease of life. The woodwork had been newly painted a nice mahogany brown, the door that had previously been held on with one hinge was fixed and now permanently open. The windows looked bright instead of dusty and even the shop’s sign was brighter. A confused Közi, Yura and Hizumi cautiously entered the shop and saw Kami stood behind the counter, a beaming smile upon his face. When he saw Hizumi enter he excitedly waved and excused himself, leaving his post and walking towards them.
"Guys! Isn’t it wonderful? Business has never been better, the Lord did all this! I’m forever grateful to him.”
“He gave you the money to do this?” Közi asked in disbelief.
“No.” Kami laughed, “He merely used his connections, he knows a farmer who produces only the best meat, it’s the best tasting meat I’ve ever eaten! Lord Gackt said that would surely be enough for my business to pick up and look!” He gestured towards the line of customers. “All this decoration is simply because I can now afford it!”
“So this is what the Lord wished to discuss with you?” Hizumi asked, a sceptical look etched onto his face.
“Yes.” Kami nodded happily. “Anyway I have to go, work to do.” He smiled and turned on his heel back towards the counter.
“Well he seems happy enough.” Yura commented.
“Yeah I guess.” Hizumi replied as they left the shop. He looked perplexed.
“Something wrong?” Közi asked, turning to look at their new friend.
“It’s nothing I just…wonder why the lord would…and how…no…never mind.” Hizumi shook his head and turned to face them fully. “I know some people who can help us, let’s go.”
They walked away from Kami’s shop the queue of people chatting happily behind them. The three of them crossed the village and headed towards a side of the village that Közi and Yura were not yet familiar with. The houses on this side of the village were smaller, but neater, less tattered and more looked after in general. The row if houses was set back within a group of trees that marked the edge of a small forest.
Hizumi led them towards the third house from the end, there were five houses in all. Hizumi knocked on the door lightly three times and then stopped abruptly. A few seconds passed before a voice was heard from inside the house. “Evat whig qiu?”
“what?” Közi muttered.
“Hizumi, viet eh gow.” Hizumi replied, waving a hand at Közi to silence him. The door opened a small distance, and part of a face was visible behind the millimetre gap. The eye that was visible to them seemed to study Hizumi before opening wider and revealing an older man with long black curly hair and a thin moustache. His clothes were a light brown in colour and looked quite ragged and well-worn. “Yu~ki!” Hizumi grinned, pulling the man into a friendly hug. “Where have you been all this time?”
“Travelling.” The man called Yu~ki replied. “I’ve been trying to find the finest ingredients from around the world for Jasmine.”
“Ah, and is Jasmine home?” Hizumi asked.
“He is.” Yu~ki replied, pushing open the door with his left hand and allowing Hizumi to enter. As Közi and Yura began to follow, Yu~ki closed the door abruptly. “And you are friends of Hizumi?” He asked.
“Yes, we're relatively new friends, but we've already gained quite a friendship.” Közi replied shortly, he wasn’t fond of being treated like he was a suspicious potential criminal. The door opened once again and Hizumi’s head came into view.
“I told you Yu~ki, they’re with me,” he said impatiently. Yu~ki seemed to be studying them deeply, distrust smeared all over his features.
“Well ok, but I’ll be keeping an eye on them.” Yu~ki relented, opening the door wide enough for them to enter but not the full way.
Yura and Közi walked in slowly, there was obviously a reason that Yu~ki didn’t trust them; maybe there was something inside this house that needed to be kept safe. The front door hadn’t led to a cosy living room or kitchen like the other houses they had been in until this moment. Instead, a narrow corridor lay behind the door, one that contained a staircase that spiralled downwards. Yu~ki pushed past them and led them down the narrow, dark staircase which seemed to Közi to go on forever.
“Hizumi...what was that language you spoke before at the door?” Yura whispered. His inquisitive mind, needing to know more, languages were something of a fascination to him he proudly spoke 4 languages fluently and was an expert in Latin and Ancient Greek.
“A language we came up with in secret.” Hizumi replied. “This is the headquarters of a group known as the Underground Challengers, U.C. for short. You see, once the lord started getting a little too powerful, this organisation was set up just in case we ever needed to get rid of him. Obviously we cant be known, otherwise the lord would have us hunted down and probably killed.”
“I see.” Közi replied, feelings of admiration for Hizumi sweeping over him. He had to admit, he was impressed.
They followed Yu~ki for a few more minutes until the never-ending staircase came to an abrupt finish. Another door lay at the bottom of the staircase and Yu~ki took out a small silver key and fitted it into a lock on the door, turning it swiftly and pushing the door open widely. The room behind the door was more lavish than any of the houses Közi had seen in this village. Its interior was finely decorated with red and gold and a library of books lined the bookshelves that spread across all four walls. The carpet was also a deep red and the furniture was upholstered to match the room. How they’d been able to afford this Közi had no idea. He looked to his side at Yura and could tell he was wondering the same thing. In a chair that lay at the far end of the room, sat a tall figure, male, or female, Közi couldn’t quite tell which. They appeared to be female at first glance, long brown hair, a beautiful long gown clung to the body, but there was something different about this person.
“Yu~ki? What is it?” Yu~ki smiled. The voice that came from the figure was deep, however it had a tinge of lightness to it, it was an elegant voice and beautifully spoken.
“Hizumi is here to see you Jasmine, he has brought friends too.” The one named Jasmine stood up and walked across the room, in his gown he seemed to float effortlessly. He reached Hizumi and pulled him into a friendly embrace, smiling widely.
“Hizumi, good to see you.” Jasmine commented, “And these are your friends?” He turned his attention to Közi and Yura.
"Yes Jasmine," Hizumi bowed his head slightly in respect. "They are new to the village, but they come to learn. They are scholars and are investigating the strange occurrences that happen here. They are good people I can assure you." Jasmine turned his radiant smile to them.
”I’m Jasmine-You, leader of this little organisation.” He held out his hand for them to shake and both took it one by one.
“I’m Közi, and this is my fellow scholar, Yura, we’re here to investigate the disappearances in Upyri.”
“Ahh I see, well then, you must certainly be friend and not foe.” Jasmine replied smiling. He turned back to Hizumi. “What is it you want from me?”
“Help.” Hizumi replied. “We’re infiltrating the castle, we need backup and resources.”