In classical art, the subject is always depicted in the moment before the climax of the scene. A discus thrower, coiled around himself in the second before the throw. Man, a hair’s breadth away from touching God.
Imagine, then, a modern classic:
The boardroom of Castle Evermore’s East Tower was so quiet the drop of a pin could be equated to a cymbal crash. Starlight was struggling to replace electric lighting through the panes of tinted glass, and so the room kept being thrown into irregular light.
“I never wanted this chair, you know.” His hands stained the polished oak table, creating dark handprints in the dust. His back was straight, staring dead ahead, no expression to be had. Perfect neutrality, so similar yet so fundamentally different from Andrew’s. “People always thought that was my big plan, to sit here in my father’s chair. I didn’t. Not ever. I just wanted to be allowed into the room.”
Opposite Riko, a chair didn’t creak. The dust didn’t stir. A breath didn’t fill the silence. In this moment, reality deferred its presence to a voice: “Is this not better?”
“How, on earth, could this possibly be better?”
“The Moriyama name. All that power, yours to take. Not that you didn’t take it before.”
Riko tilted his head and narrowed his eyes, either for emphasis or to attempt to see better. Unclear. Unimportant. “I. Never. Wanted. It.”
“But god knows you took to it like a fish to water.”
Riko grew incensed. His temper was a tempest, always would be. It would coalesce into a storm barreling down a singular path, hell to whatever and whoever was caught beneath. Riko never cared. Maybe he should have. “I should kill you.”
Now that, that earns him a laugh, but not an amused one. It’s the chuckle you get out of the person forced into the butt of the joke. “Riko, you should’ve killed me eight years nine months and four days ago.”
He doesn’t respond. It’s not his turn to speak just yet.
“But you decided to kill him instead.”
Another beam of light, just a flash, but it’s enough to cleave the man’s face. Ironically enough, the blue of his one visible eye blazes more sharply than his hair, red like dying embers. The curls of his youth — and his father — are gone, instead it’s all slicked back severely, highlighting his widow’s peak. Even his face belonged to the Classics: calm, reserved, but speaking of strength and solidity. A role model and aspiration for those who gazed upon it.
Nathaniel. Eight years, nine months and five days ago, that name was a taunt, a secret Riko lorded over his head. But Nathaniel never cooperated. He insisted on resistance, dug his heels in when he should’ve run. It was funny at first, watching his feeble attempts to push stone walls, but it was hard to keep laughing when Nathaniel was tearing down his world brick by brick.
So Riko had tried to tear down his foundations.
He’d eschewed any pretense at dignity. They’d found Minyard’s body in pieces, half rotted on a riverbank in Georgia. It was funny at the time. A final knockout blow to the Foxes.
It was one of the very few things Riko ever grew to regret.
“Do you want an apology?” Riko asked. Finally, something surprised Nathaniel, even mildly.
He arched an eyebrow. “Why in the hell would I want an apology?”
Riko shrugged. “I suppose you wouldn’t just be here to gloat.”
“Gloat. Gloat over what, exactly?”
Riko was growing tired of this circular thinking. He had half a notion that Nathaniel didn’t even plan what he would say when he came here. Perhaps he didn’t even intend to talk at all, for once. “You’re joking right? You’re telling me you aren’t head to make some grand speech about your revenge, to smear the blood on your hands in my face—“
“Big words, considering the circumstances.”
“You really want to compare our sins, Wesninski?”
“Actually, I was talking about you ruining the table.”
Riko lifted a hand off of the dark wood. In the dim light, the red smears barely shone, like oils not yet dry. “Yes, well. You’re not one for doing things cleanly, are you?”
“Clean,” Nathaniel said. “Interesting word choice. My mother didn’t die clean. Andrew didn’t die clean. The Moriyama’s don’t do clean. You do fast, you do messy. I felt like returning the favor.” Emotion crept into his voice. Like he actually cared about what happened here tonight.
“You want to know who wanted clean, Riko? The Matsumotos. They wanted to see you fall apart from the comfort of their own home, the international courts fighting over who gets what.”
Riko’s brows furrowed. “Then why are you here?”
“Because fuck clean!” Nathaniel rose up from the table, leaving streaks of bright red where his hands touches the table. Riko’s clothes were ruined, but at least he was wearing black and red, hiding the damage. Nathaniel, on the other head, only had dress slacks and a white button-down shirt, highlighting the trail of blood which rode up his sleeves and torso. Finally, classical idealism evolved, as it always did, into the climax of hellenism. “You destroyed everything I had, so I’m returning the favor. Honestly, I was nicer about it than you were. I let you be there when they died.”
“You took my family,” Riko said, thinking of the bodies still cooling downstairs.
“You took my reputation,” Riko said, thinking of interviews gone wrong,of article after tell-all after mysterious security leak, of letter bombs and failed merchandise and unsold tickets.
“You took Exy,” Riko said, looking to the windows. Outside, Castle Evermore stood derelict. Glass shattered, seats stolen, court ruined. Nobody but Riko had visited this place before tonight in years, not even Tetsuji.
Here, then, is our climax: a man robbed of everything, confronted by his mirror. A cycle at its conclusion, the wheel snapping at the spokes. This is where it ends.
“I should push you out this window. Nobody would recognize the body. Not that anyone would come here to see it.”
“Try,” Nathaniel said. A new sound joined the conversation. An old friend of them both, devoid of allegiance but never undependable. The sound of a cocking gun.
“I’d take you down with me.”