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The Re:Birth of Tragedy

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Kaoru thought herself to be a starving artist, plagued with the task of influencing the tides of cultural evolution. It was not a mere choice, but a necessity—as if the strings of Fate had pulled her into such a burden, clawing at her heart with such an unbearable need that it could not be ignored.

Much like the Great Bard that had preceded her, most of Kaoru’s works were tragedies. The tendrils of good and evil tugged and tortured her characters, ultimately unable to escape the suffering of existential concussions. Life is fleeting—the repeating motif that Kaoru made sure to include in everything she wrote.

And as much as she wished it not to be, so was love.

Chisato, as an actress, was loved by many, but was easily eclipsed by the love Kaoru had for her. However, compared to Chisato’s success, Kaoru’s standing as a playwright was inadequate to say the least. It made Kaoru feel inferior, especially at times Chisato seemed to harden up at her faults. She wanted to become better, to prove to Chisato, the world, and namely herself, that she deserved to stand beside Chisato as equals—both as professionals and as lovers.

All it would take is one play. The perfect play, one not yet written. It would convey her deepest emotions, the sense of duality that she felt tearing within herself. Kaoru would pour the entirety of her soul into this unbegotten masterpiece, so tragic that it would be as if the Bard himself had possessed her and guided her hand. But one’s soul cannot be measured in a manner of meters and fathoms, for its depth is endless; and the deeper Kaoru delved into her own introspection, the more the emptiness haunted her.

The rays of limelight shone brightly upon Chisato; however, she was not always inclined to stay under its gaze. She was coined as a prodigy at a young age and since then was roped into the relentless world of theatre. Years of hard work and dedication forced her to keep a smile on her face despite its hardships. The smile, as pleasant as it made her look, was one plastered on after years of practice and perfection. There was hardly any emotion behind its sweet curves. As an actress, she mastered the art of molding herself to fit whatever was asked of her. True, she loved the performing arts, but when constantly faced against the tedium of dealing with directors, interviewers, scouting agents, and the public audience, it was no surprise that she would eventually grow weary. If she really wanted to, Chisato could set down her mask and turn her back to theatre; but every time she contemplated retirement, a small flicker of passion for the arts always remained. A flame kept eternal by the one person that gave her hope: Kaoru.

Chisato would usually come across as cold, as the years in the industry forced her harden her outer shell; but beyond the walls she had built against the public eye, Chisato truly cared dearly for the playwright. She was a tender partner with a softer nature than what her audience perceived her as. Chisato was certain Kaoru knew this about her, as it was the more honest side of herself that only revealed itself when they were alone together. Even in her coldness or in Kaoru’s shortcomings with her professional life, Chisato’s love for Kaoru ran eternal.

It was because of this fondness that made Chisato concerned when Kaoru started isolating herself in her private study. Kaoru had a terrible habit of overworking herself, but this was becoming quite excessive even for her standards. Chisato made multiple attempts to coax Kaoru away from her work to give her a chance to relax, but Kaoru remained insistent on working. Even her more risqué efforts were dismissed—a tactic that had previously never failed to gain the attention of her lover.

“This tragedy will change the way people see the world,” Kaoru always said with determination—no, an obsession rather—to complete this play as if it were her destiny to do so. Her claim was not entirely wrong though, for it was because of this play that Chisato saw her world change before her. The little paradise that she and Kaoru had built and found solace in began to crumble, leaving her with only a stranger mumbling to herself in the mirror and scrawling incoherent words into a tattered notebook—the empty shell of a person she once loved.

The ultimate tragedy indeed.

“The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, are of imagination all compact.” -Shakespeare

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13th of June

How fleeting it is to find myself mocked by the virgin canvas. The blank pages spread out before me, reflecting back to me the void of inspiration that hath once spurred my hand to dance across the folio. For weeks, I have found myself incapable of drafting the perfect plotline. Not any story will do; no, mediocrity will not be accepted this time around. To write a tragedy of such high caliber—as expected of a true masterpiece—its plot must be revolutionary. Yet, how many times have I rounded back to square one?

It is because of this that I find myself in the midst of adversity. With nothing to show for, I will never be unable to pull my stature to higher ground. What would my dear Chisato think of me adding on to my previous failures? I could not bear to stand under her gaze of disappointment lest I fail her once more. Her words—sweet as silk—attempt to comfort me, yet I can not help but find judgement lurking within those wicked eyes. Will I ever be able to prove my worth? To stand firmly behind the fact that I deserve to stand beside her. I cannot fail again. This play will be my ultimate masterpiece. It will be the atonement of my past failures and perhaps then she will accept me wholly once more.

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June 18th

Dearest Kanon,

I am glad you have been keeping well. Words cannot explain my elation for your recent engagement. Though, I am rather surprised that Misaki would ask for your hand so soon. Could it be that the recent success of her latest symphony spurred her to propose? Regardless of the catalyst, I wish you both the best for your shared future.

I must say with sorrow, providence has not been kind to me as of late. I am once more becoming worried for Kaoru. Do you recall the deep depression she fell into this past spring? I thought she had finally overcome her disappointment over the “failed” production of one of her last tragedy, but that does not seem to be the case. The show went splendidly with no devastating issues, I myself was present for the premiere, but we both know that Kaoru tends to be her own worst critic.

I can only blame myself and my own career for her devastatingly high standards. But you know more than anyone that I do not care for how far our span of influence reaches. Time and time again I try to make that known to Kaoru, but I know she cannot help but create comparisons between us. Mediocrity is seen as a failure in her eyes; I only wish that she would see that the measure of her worth does not stem from the reception of her works.

Once again, Kaoru has taken to drowning herself into her work. For nearly a week now, she has barely left her study. I have peered in several times and the scene I tend to find myself in makes me increasingly concerned for her sanity. She stares blankly into the mirror, mumbling to herself and scribbling madly into her notebook. I have caught glimpses of her drafts of the script. Even just at a glance, the calligraphy itself is comparable to chicken scratch. It is alarming to say the least, knowing that she usually takes great pride in the quality of her penmanship.

Forgive me, Kanon, I do not want to concern you too much with my plight. I will try to convince Maya to visit our estate to talk some sense into Kaoru. The two of them have worked together on many productions in the past and she is able to keep herself happily afloat even with only a modest income. Kaoru’s plays may not be major successes, but she has a loyal patronage that pays the bills. Maya would be the best candidate to relate to Kaoru’s career stress; I will be sure to write you to share the outcome of this meeting.

I hope to hear from you again soon. I would love to hear the progression of your wedding preparations. Please give my regards to Misaki as well; and once again, congratulations on your engagement.

Best Wishes,

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20th of June

The phantom appeared before me tonight once again. Its wispy voice beckons me from within the shadows created by the study’s dim candlelight. I am still unsure what to make of it, but I can only assume that it be a manifestation of the Great Bard himself, lending his guidance in my creation of a masterpiece.

This phantom, however, speaks in tongues. I must keep my ears attentive as it is difficult to discern the fleeting whispers, lest its messages would otherwise go unheard. I find myself having to scribble the knowledge bestowed onto me before it is lost to the howling of the wind. I am not proud of the penmanship despite it only be notes and drafts, but it is the only way I can ensure that I can reference these ideas at a later date.

I can sense Chisato is becoming agitated again with my unyielding travail on this tragedy. Mayhaps she is right in that I am working myself too hard. It is a possibility; I do not recall the last I ate, now that the thought has occurred to me. Only a lack of sleep could explain the dullness of the mind—surely heartbeats do not echo. But I cannot tear myself away from progress. She means well, I am certain, but she will never understand the inexplicable struggle that continues to shake me at the core. This is only temporary—a necessary suffering to unveil the secret to greatness. I promise that this work will resolve everything. The essence of my being shall bleed out from the screenplay. This time of tribulation is ephemeral, my love. Let it be known that I do this for the sake of us.

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June 24th

Dear Chisato,

It pains me to hear of your plight. If Misaki and I were not preoccupied with our own preparations for the ceremony, we would have immediately come by carriage to support you. If it comes to be life-threatening, may I ask you to seek professional help for Kaoru. On occasion, when Misaki is overcome with stress, we have Dr. Tsurumaki probe her brain. Kokoro is very sweet, I can only wonder how she can keep such an optimistic demeanor in her line of work. I admire her resolve of battling the monsters that dwell inside the minds of madwomen, withstanding the impulses that would have her become mad herself. Perhaps there is a psychiatrist of similar repute in your area. If you cannot find one, I would be happy to tip Kokoro towards traveling to the estate.

Ah! Do not think that I am forcing this option on you, it is merely a suggestion. I am only concerned both for you and Kaoru, so please do not think you are alone in this predicament. Please tell me how Maya’s visit goes. She is quite the pragmatic one, so I am certain she can reason with Kaoru. They have quite the unconventional friendship, those two… I do not say that as a bad thing! It is just that individuals of their personality types do not usually cross paths. Fuee… I did not mean to offend them! Please forget I said anything.

Perhaps some good news would help ease your worries. Misaki and I are to wed at the end of summer. Because of the symphony, Misaki will be going on tour until then. As much as I would like to accompany her, I must remain here to continue with the marriage preparations. Expect an invitation to be sent to you two, we could not bear the thought of two of our closest friends missing the ceremony. I hope that the next I hear from you, the situation would have improved. Please stay safe.

Much love,

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24 June


I did not wish to make this letter simply to berate you, but from the worry Kanon has expressed in regards to her letters from Chisato, I must say I am disappointed… and distressed for you. I understand the need to perfect our creative works—believe me, I too experience this with my compositions—but this path you are leading is cause for great concern. I fear that you will drive yourself to burnout or worse. When was the last time you embraced Chisato? Can’t you see the anxiety you give her with your unyielding work ethic? You need to learn to moderate yourself, Kaoru. What would you do if she was taken suddenly from you? Or that you could not see her for prolonged lengths of time? It is always on tours that I am reminded of the sorrow that fills me when Kanon is not by my side. All I am saying is not to take Chisato for granted.

Know that she cares for you very much, despite your doubts. Truthfully, I was quite intimidated by Chisato at first, but was relieved to learn that she was not as cold as the press would make her out to be. Stern, maybe; but not cold. A lot of that is because of you, Kaoru. In the few times I have interacted with her, I can plainly see how her demeanor changes when addressing you. She did not fall for you because of your stature as a playwright, and she will not leave you because of it either. If you simply gave her more of your time rather than holing up in your study, perhaps you would see that more clearly. Forgive me for being callous, but if that is what it takes to get through to your thick head, then so be it. Hopefully, Maya will also be able to speak reason into you as well. I wish you only the best and for a speedy recovery.

Best Regards,

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What an eventful day it has been—though somber as it was—visiting the Shirasagi Estate this morning. I often forget how well off Chisato is; and while I could be envious, I can hardly imagine the struggles she must face every day because of it. Riding to the estate always feels like an escape to sanctuary with how far it is from the rest of the town, but I digress.

I understand now the roots of Chisato's recent distress, and seeing Kaoru for myself has also caused me to worry for the both of them. I hesitate to say that their relationship has become strained. It is clear to see they still hold love for one another, but even they are not immune to the struggles of hardship. They seemed so exhausted—Chisato out of worry and Kaoru from overwork.

Brunch was spent with Chisato in the gardens. She has always been hospitable to her guests—a fact that would definitely be refuted by others if I shared it to the public. That is why it pained me to see her so tense in worry. I wished Eve had been able to come for additional moral support, however she has gone on a modeling tour back in Finland for the summer. She is much better at handling emotional situations than me, but the objective of my visit was not focused on Chisato.

I was led into Kaoru's study in the afternoon, though it seemed to be inhabited by a madwoman with the amount of clutter strewn about the room. Even for my tastes, the air was dense and stuffy, so constricting that it felt that the room could at any moment collapse into itself. How could Kaoru possibly be productive in such an unkempt environment? It just seems so unlike her to leave a place so messy as so. However, after some convincing, I managed to pull Kaoru out to the foyer so that we could speak in a more comfortable space. Upon seeing her physique, the fresher air would have also done her some good. She was paler and thinner than I remembered; it was worrisome just seeing how refusing to spend time outside of her study had started to affect her physically.

I suppose she thought I had come by to converse on her upcoming tragedy. While she spoke enthusiastically of her creation, I must confess that the plot was loosely strung together. The grotesque concepts were much darker than any of her previous works. The premise revolved around a tragic love story of a woman from the distant future sent back in time to seduce and murder an insane artist whose paintings would later become a dystopian reality that she was forced to live in.

It was necessary to ask why Kaoru had become so strung up on writing this play. She confessed her deepest fears to me, which I will omit from my own journal out of respect. Irrational and exaggerated as they were, I do feel a tinge of empathy. I myself often compare my stature to that of Eve’s success, but it is something I have learned to make peace with. Speaking from my own experiences, I advised Kaoru to step away from her work for a while. She disputed my counsel at first, however managed to convince her in saying that a fresh set of eyes would help her progress further in her work.

“Spend some time with Chisato, then come back to your work once you’ve rejuvenated your spirits,” I remember advising her. “You say you do this for her, and yet you shut her out. All it’s done is cause her to worry for your well being. Rightfully so, too.”

My conversation with Kaoru felt as if I was attempting to pull Kaoru back out of the enigma that was her own mind. It is dangerous to be left inside your own head too long. Upon the mention of Chisato’s concerning state of worry, I was surprised to see the amount of shock Kaoru displayed as she came to the realization of how her work was affecting Chisato negatively. I do hope I was able to help Kaoru think clearly again, she had been completely blind to everything around her besides the half-written scripts scattered about on her desk. I am unsure how the play itself will turn out, but I have no doubts Kaoru will pull through for her own sake. My only hope is that during this break, Chisato can convince Kaoru to stop overworking. I suppose we will see in time.

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June 27th

I am delighted that Maya was able to talk some sort of sense into Kaoru. I am unsure of what transpired in their conversation, but it is good to see her spend some time outside the confinement of her study. We ended up walking through the gardens yesterday morning. I hoped that the fresh air and sunlight would help Kaoru. It was difficult at first to get her to talk about something other than the play, but in time we were able to ease back into old habits, finding ourselves lost in never-ending conversations with each other. The rest of the day was just as enjoyable. It was comforting to see her more affectionate again. Perhaps it is just my paranoia, but could not help but think her mind still drifts off to her work every now and again. I have caught her a few times spacing out, still mumbling to herself on occasion, but she insists it is nothing to be worried about. I am not sure what else I can do to get her mind off playwriting so that she can rest. We may lounge in each other’s comfort, but I can still feel that her thoughts have not ceased obsessing over this tragedy. It causes some disconnect, but I suppose this is a step in the right direction.

In her absence, I have come to realize how big the estate is. How much her presence fills up the room we occupy with an aura that extinguishes the uncomfortable feeling of emptiness within oneself when one is left alone for too long. What would it take for me to fill the emptiness that resides in her now?

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28th of June

How fleeting are the moments of ecstasy shared between lovers—a perfect oblivion. It can be so easy to give into such lustful temptations. And yet, in throwing caution to the winds of passion, even if only for a moment, guilt hangs heavy in my heart. Even as I write this in the still silence of the night, watching the gentle rise and fall of your sleeping form beside me, I cannot help but feel so distant from you, my love. The mere inches that separate us feels as if a chasm divides us.

My dearest Chisato, how your love tortures me so. In spite of freely submitting to the indulgence of this pleasurable dance we have just shared, I find that my mind has only been filled with even more doubts. It perplexes me how you continue to bear with my company. I have caused nothing but pain for you as of late—both Misaki and Maya have made that fact very clear to me. Mayhaps it is out of pity that you still remain at my side, for a goddess could not possibly walk amongst mere women. And yet, isn’t a goddess is meant to be worshiped? I would still helplessly fall to my knees before your feet, for I am unable to resist the allure of such a sweet romance. How could infatuation be so suffocating? Have I made a foolish mistake in falling for you? The ghastly whispers ringing in my ears tell me so.

O wispy phantom of my dreams, tell me, what is of this agony I feel so strongly in my chest? Love can be such a cruel temptress, can it not? With how it clutches at my heartstrings so tightly… Oh, what a bittersweet abyss I have found myself in. What am I to do?

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July 3rd

Dearest Kanon,

Though I am sure Misaki has already left for her tour, I would still like to thank her for her letter to Kaoru. Please send her my regards when you are to see her again. Between both Misaki and Maya, I feel as if I was able to see a glimmer of the old Kaoru again, if only for a fleeting moment. However, I fear that our relationship is regressing once more, though I am unsure of its cause this time around. I thought we had made significant progress in the few days after Maya visited the estate, but Kaoru has gone through another shift in character ever since we shared an intimate night together. That is not to say that she was no longer capable of pleasing me sexually, quite the opposite! As wonderful a night it was, she has been acting even stranger following our sacred encounter. When I meet her gaze, I can only see remorse swirling in those vermilion eyes of hers, even a hint of fright if I am able to catch her for long enough. She makes a great effort to avoid me within our own estate. Though she returns to locking herself in her study, I sense that she is unable to focus on her work either.

You can only imagine how concerned I am for her. Could the problem lay within myself? Is there something I that I have failed in being her lover? I am becoming quite unsure of myself as time passes by. Per your advice, I have reached out to a psychologist for myself. I figured that I would see one for myself before I even consider pressuring Kaoru into seeing a shrink. Hina and Aya recommended Dr. Imai to me, who also specializes in marriage counseling. You remember the fallout they nearly had, surely—I am grateful that they were able to sort everything out between them. I hope for the same success for myself and my dear Kaoru.

I do apologize for burdening you with my troubles, dearest Kanon. I can only imagine how much it pains you to read my letters. You are such a dependable friend, I could not bear disclosing such personal misfortunes to anyone else, so please know that I am eternally grateful for your love and support throughout these trying times. I do look forward to seeing the wedding invitation in the mail, and I assure you that both Kaoru and I will be in attendance.

With love,

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6 o Jul

I write this in haste, for I fear may lose myself before the morning sun comes. The emptiness—of my heart, of my soul, of these very walls that entrap me—haunts me. The sound of silence is deafening. I hear both nothing and everything all at once. The whispers of the enticing they are. They are cruel desires, speaking to me from the depths of my very soul. My blood runs cold at the mere mention of such a proposition. I feel sick at the thought, I cannot… should not… and yet… it speaks so truthfully. I am becoming undone. In my restlessness, I find myself staring at the mirror before me, empty eyes accusing a face so evil. I no longer see myself. What stands before me… is the phantom that speaks so sweetly. I am the Phantom Thief.