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Windows of the Soul

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A woman stands outside the mansion, stiff in the pouring rain. The droplets of water soak into her thin white shirt, the spreading transparency allowing skin to peer through. Her clothes are worn, dirtied, and her left wrist aches, sharp pain biting it in the cool air. The muddied path she stands on contrasts with the cleanliness of the mansion steps. Carefully, the woman takes a step forward, shaking legs like that of a newborn deer. Her shoes, dented leather boots, sunk into the soft ground, the tightness of her skirt protesting the movement as it dug into skin. The polished wooden door of the mansion seems far away, and her legs offer no support as she forces herself up the marble steps.

 

Gently, she knocks on the door, the echo able to be heard through the thick walls. To her surprise, the door slams open, forcing her to stumble back, blindly grasping at any object to keep her balance. The dimly lit interior of the manor backlights the man standing in front of her. His face is smoothed over into an impressive poker face. Twin coat tails trail behind him as he adjusts his jacket, the tiny top hat on his head somehow staying on despite the movements. He bows politely, and motions for the woman to go in, eyes shining ominously in the night. “Welcome, my lady. Please, call me Masamune.” His monotone voice never wavers as he holds her gaze, one arm extended to hold the heavy oak door open. Feeling nervous, the woman steps inside, eyes never leaving the man’s doll-like face. Something is wrong, but she couldn’t put her finger on it as she stares at him.

 

She shivers slightly in the warmth of the mansion, huddling in on herself to prevent any water to drop onto the polished floor. The man closes the door, turning to face her. Now out of the darkness of the night, she is able to better see her host. Masamune is much taller than she anticipates, holding himself with confidence. Ebony hair draped over a rounded face, startling jade eyes boring into her soul. They almost seem to be made of real jade. His clothes seem almost as if she were the host of the manor, butler apparel with a lolita like style. A tiny top hat lay on the messy hair, a black tail coat over a gray vest and simple dress shirt. A simple chain connects two of the buttons of the tail coat, and dark trousers still bore crease lines from when they were ironed. Dress shoes track mud into the front hall. “Do I frighten you?” Cloudy jade eyes focus on her. “I sincerely apologize. I am a tad eager, if anything.” She resists the urge to snort, despite the fear settling in her stomach as she watches his mouth move. It’s jerky, though and it almost seems painful to watch his body force itself to move like that. “I have been expecting you.”

“You have?” The woman finally finds her voice, meek and fearful though it is. Her voice is rough from disuse, as if she hadn’t spoken for days. Maybe she hasn’t, as she can’t seem to remember the past few days. It will come back to her. It has to.

 

“Yes. Lord Kujou has succumbed to the mark recently, it seems. The lord was searching for a way to remove the mark from one’s soul.” Masamune tilts his head, fingers poised as if to push something closer to his face, only to retract quickly. Muscle memory, perhaps? “Were you not called here because of the mark on your arm as well, my lady?”

 

“Mark?” She echoes, unfocusing on the male. Quickly pushing the sleeve of her dress shirt up, she examines her left arm, the same arm that had been aching in the rain. A scar in the shape of a bite mark innocently looks up at her from where it once scorched her skin. The dull ache in her head she hadn’t noticed before steadily drummed louder as she stares. Wincing as it becomes too much, she quickly turns away, the grandiose halls of the mansion seeming too confining. Masamune steps behind her, blocking her path to the doorway.

“I apologize, but I cannot let you leave yet.” She stiffens, cold vines of dread crawling up her back at Masamune’s words. “I have something to tell you in place of the late master.” His words drip like honey, despite the jarring monotone. She feels compelled to listen to him, though the vines stab into her back with every passing second she stays in the vicinity of him. “I would like to ask one thing of you, however.”

 

She steels herself. “What is it?” False confidence allows her to speak, and she straightens herself out from the huddle she once was in. The warmth of the mansion has done wonders in raising her body temperature. She raises her head and meets Masamune’s vivid jade eyes, the green almost glowing. “Go ahead. Ask away.”

 

“Do you know your own name?” She nearly laughs in relief. A simple question, then, and one that made sense as well.

 

“Of course I know my own name.” She replies, a small smile gracing her features as her hands unconsciously go up to play with her hair. The tangled black locks brush against the tips of her shoulders as she stands up. “My name is…” Her smile drops. Her name, she knew it. Fear wraps around her throat as she tries to focus on the word. It escapes her, slipping into the recesses of her mind. How could she forget her name? Masamune’s thoughtful nod brings her attention to him.

 

“It is as I thought, then.” His voice seems gentle, despite the cold impassive expression on his face. He must know more, of what’s going on, what’s happening to her, of the bloody scar on her arm that refuses to leave. “Before I offer an explanation, please decide on a temporary name.”

 

“Temporary?” She supposes it makes sense. “Er, I guess Yakumo? Kazuo Yakumo.” Picking a name for herself, what a time to be alive.

 

“Lady Yakumo it is, then.” She squirms a bit at the title. Masamune doesn’t notice, or maybe he does. The poker face of his is as uncomfortable as it is impressive at times. “Now, I shall explain the mark. Please, have a seat.” Masamune gestures to the plush velvet couch in front of him. Gingerly, Yakumo takes a seat, the softness of the couch soothing under her body, like a plush toy to a crying child. Masamune sits next to her, body stiff and uninviting. “The mark is a seal of death.” She stares at him, uncomprehending. He presses on, however, ignoring her. “Those who are marked will soon die.” Yakumo’s silence speaks for herself. “You do not believe me, Lady Yakumo?”

 

“No.” It’s a simple answer. Yakumo may not have her memories, but she isn’t stupid. This could be a realistic looking tattoo at best, or she could have carved it into herself. There’s no way a simple mark like this could cause death.

“I am certain it sounds absurd to one who has lived an unassuming life. However, the death of the master proves irrefutably true.” Master? Her confusion is plainly painted on her face. Masamune stands, gesturing for her to follow. “I will show you if you are not squeamish, my lady, the death of a person living here.” He walks up the carpet lined stairs. The wood of the floor creaks under his weight, as if they may break and splinter, but Masamune reaches the top safely. He looks down at her from his place at the top of the stairs. “Are you coming, Lady Yakumo?” She nods, silently following. Reaching the top of the stairs, her eyes are momentarily drawn to a grandfather clock, who skips a tick when she passes.

 

Masamune silently opens the last door, bypassing the rest. He stands outside, gesturing her into the dark room, much like a gaping chasm. Cautiously, Yakumo enters, body stiff. The scene before her is grotesque, despite the simplicity of the room. A woman, long blonde hair framing her face lay collapsed in a puddle of blood. The simple clothes she wear is much like Yakumo’s own attire. Blood stains the white dress shirt, dripping down the sleeves covering porcelain arms. Her face is serene, mouth relaxed. Her eyes, the lack of them, are the jarring detail of an otherwise perfect scene. The gaping black chasms where the organs should be are overgrown with beautiful blossoms, the red of the dahlias and the dark purple of the aconite intertwining beautifully as they sprouted out of the woman’s head. In spite of all of this, it doesn’t feel like a dead body. The smell of the ruby red lifeblood humanity needed to function drifted in the air, but there is no smell of death. Yakumo has no time to question this, as Masamune places a hand on her shoulder, guiding her out of the room. “I regret having to go to such lengths, but the horror of the mark does not end with a simple death.”

 

The pair begin to walk back down the stairs, though Yakumo shoots a glance towards the last room. Upon seeing the dead woman’s face, Yakumo felt fear, but there was also an undercurrent of joy, she notes. She doesn’t pride herself in taking happiness in others’ misery, but that woman… Masamune suddenly stops, at the foot of the stairs, turning back to face her. Her eyes subconsciously go to under his eyes, despite their only being pale skin. It unnerved her, though she had no reason to think otherwise about his appearance. “Victims slowly lose their memories until they die.” It takes her a few seconds to realize that he is continuing his monologue from where he last left off, closing the door to the woman’s room. “They face the terror of losing their identity while the hands of death grow close.”

 

She’s at a loss for words. “That means I’m-!”

 

Masamune nods, solemn. “The fact that you have forgotten your life proves that death comes for you. Lady Yakumo, you…” She shakes her head, hands reaching up to tug at the loose locks of hair. The pain does nothing to ground her, instead making her knees go weak and her head spin. Masamune never falters. “...will die this very dawn.” Blood pounds in Yakumo’s ears, hands shaking, as nausea swam waves into her vision. Breathes for her came out in ragged pants, and her blackness rounded the edge of her vision, fuzzing her peripheral vision. Masamune concerned questioning is faint, far away. She feels her head tilt back, and she’s out, like curtains closing on a play.

 

-

 

Fainting wasn’t something she expects to do, yet here she is. Cool marble presses against here face, the brightness of the floor straining her eyes. “Lady Yakumo, are you alright?” Masamune’s questioning comes from above her. His face is twisted into a concerned frown, a hand outstretched to help her up. His eyes are like glaciers, icy and jagged, as if he is only asking to be polite. “I understand this may be a lot to take in, but you must keep it together.”

 

“I know. It’s just,” Yakumo struggles to find the words, her mind still foggy from her earlier faint. “I don’t even know how I received this mark.” The damn thing throbs at the mention.

 

“I know how you received the mark, however, I must ask you a question first.” He notices her curious expression, and adds on to his statement. “If you are feeling up to it, Lady Yakumo.” She nods, silent and listening. “I’m glad. There are two paths that I am able to guide you on. The first is to wait for death. The second is to fight the mark. I may assist you in the latter if you so wish, my lady.”

 

“You mean I’d be able to survive?” Hope, the tiny, fickle thing, blossoms in her chest, not unlike the flowers she had seen, blooming from the face of its latest victim. If she could survive past this day, maybe she would remember. There had to be someone waiting for her.

 

“If that is what you wish, yes. Salvation is but a thin thread, dangling from the heavens, toying with you. Will you grab hold of it, my lady?”