DH AN: Many apologies for my absence; school kept me quite busy. I have a nice semester GPA to show for it though.
On other matters, I am back with a new chapter of Jeweler. This is a bit of an interlude. I thought the coffee shop would be a good place to pause the story so to speak. Please enjoy Chapter Ten: A Pause For Stars, Vanilla Perfume, And Orange Slices.
Chapter Ten: A Pause For Stars, Vanilla Perfume, And Orange Slices
Noting that his daughter was fighting off sleep, Marik stood silently. He allowed a sigh as he saw her head gently rest on the pillow. "I shall relate what remains of this tomorrow, for you grow weary." He whispered softly. "Rest, my Dear One…rest." He stroked her cheek gently as she sank into sleep's embrace.
Marik stepped out into the hallway with the smallest sigh. He had understandably avoided scheduling conflicts, paperwork and the like included. Of course he intended to make up for it during the night; any sleep he obtained on this September night for the past seven years was ruthlessly haunted by those last harrowingly heart-wrenching moments with…with his Filiron Rylae. It was one of the two nights that were so burned into his memory… so emotionally-charged… that the memories would seep into his dreams; they were dreams so vivid he would wake in a cold sweat.
Shaking those thoughts away, he paced into his hallway. He could surely take tonight and tomorrow morning to be away from the myriad of objectives looming over him to clear his head while avoiding any serious repercussions. He stepped into his bedroom, resting his hands on the dresser, acknowledging neither his own reflection in, nor the portrait of his beloved that hung above and to the right of, the mirror. He had to avoid that gaze tonight, not because of what he had done, but because of what he had not. It would never be a simple matter of lacking the opportunity to apologize for things unsaid; there was nothing that could ease the pain that losing his Filiron Rylae had left him with. Pulling the dresser drawer open, he quickly picked a dark purple long-sleeved shirt to pull over the gray tank top he was currently wearing, and left the room with an inevitably instinctive fond look at the portrait.
Venturing into the lower corridors, he padded through them. Commanding the single Wall-Switch that was necessary, Marik entered what he would always consider the room of the proposition's fulfillment. The room was missing its eastern wall for the sole purpose of watching the sun process through its daily ascent. However, it was not the sun he wanted sight of now, but the stars that dominated the night sky. Leaning against the far left portion of the wall, he remembered an event within a night from his childhood, and though there were other reasons he would never be able to forget that night; the event invading his mind now was the only one capable of putting him at any amount of ease . His arms felt weak at merely acknowledging the placid image of his siblings sitting with him silently under a patch of moonlit sand invaded his mind; he knew it was something that his siblings had risked unknown amounts of worry in order to do for him. He remained inwardly grateful for the sacrifice on their part and would be aware of it for the rest of his days.
His fascination with the stars had been present longer than that with Wall-Switches; he had found the applications of the latter at the age of twenty one; his fascination with stars was his since the tender age of three. Even now there was a portion of him that still wanted to catch the stars. Marik quickly and minutely tensed as he heard footsteps behind him, only then realizing he had failed to conceal his method of entry.
"You realize that she still watches." He was almost startled by the soft voice of Raji Rejorahl as she placed a warm mug of coffee into his hands. Although he did not need an explanation as to the reason for the beverage, he found the smallest sense of appreciation when Raji offered him one. "This night has never been easy for you, has it…not since…?" Marik noted that she either had enough sense not to finish her sentence or was unsure of how to complete it; either reason suited his tastes. He took a swallow of the warm liquid, after which he set the mug on the ground to his right, nodding his head somberly to confirm what he was certain Raji already knew.
"Will it ever be?" Marik inquired rhetorically, voice quiet as he sat gazing at the vast landscape that presented itself as a panoramic picture that he could almost touch. Part of him longed to leave this place if only to embrace the night air and escape from the forlorn, memories that were invading his mind tonight; he wasn't going to sleep anyway. His countenance grew pensive as he realized that he could not leave on this night for such a trivial reason; after all, he had a promise to keep and while it was true that he had left his daughter here in the past; those occurrences were always carefully planned; they were never spontaneous, and she was always taken care of…he couldn't-he wouldn't- leave his daughter without making the adequate arrangements.
"Staying here won't do you much good…not tonight." Raji stated quietly, breaking his thoughts. "If there is something that prevents you from leaving-" Raji was quickly cut off.
"What would you know of this matter, Ms. Rejorahl?" Marik questioned almost coldly.
"I know nothing about this matter, but I know you cared for Filiron Rylae deeply and you still do." The name was spoken with the greatest care and Raji had to pause before continuing. "Before you ask how I know this, I offer that it is your daughter's mere existence; that you want nothing more than for her to thrive above all things serves as an indication of the veracity of my previous statement."
"Why would imply something that I have provided myself enough proof of?" Marik asked rhetorically, voice still soft as he waited for Raji to speak further.
"Losing your beloved has taken something larger away from you that you do not wish to acknowledge; it has taken away your peace and left you with an inability to find simple peace for yourself alone." She offered him a gray windbreaker that he had never seen before. "Even if you choose to stay and attempt to find peace here, an east wind comes swiftly as the night progresses; this will keep you warm."
Marik took the jacket, an unseen smile on his face when he discovered there was an inner pocket on the left side. Either Raji knew him well, or she had simply wagered a guess that he would appreciate a pocket on the inside of his coat. Once again either scenario suited his tastes. "This is a rather good quality jacket. Why give it to me?" He turned his gaze curiously on her.
"I…I heard you misplaced your prior coat, and-" The woman's words instinctively came out somewhat hurried.
"That is all the explanation that I require, Ms. Rejorahl." Marik stated somewhat tersely as he slipped into the loose-fitting windbreaker. "I realize that this is far less foreknowledge than I have ever given you, but if you would keep an eye on my daughter until my return…" His sudden request surprised him, as he took great pride in the fact that he always had everything planned well into advance.
"I- of course I can do that for you, sir." Raji was surprised as well, adding quietly. "You don't need to have everything planned out. I believe you once mentioned to me that everything is to chance and even the best made strategies must be flexible."
Marik merely nodded as he stood and stepped out of the room. "If you will follow me, I shall escort you to the upper corridors."
Once he had seen that Raji was as acquainted with the upper corridors as he would allow, Marik paced back down to the lower corridors. Negotiating his way through a few hallways, making the necessary turns and directional adjustments along with the use of one Wall-Switch, he found himself within the vehicle storage area. The concealed garage held two vehicles: A large black cargo van and a black sedan. Tucked away into the far corner were two motorcycles; only one had a sidecar. From the cycle without the sidecar hung a gray helmet with goggles attached to it.
The garage was at the base of the plateau that concealed the complex. As concealment was a priority, along with the fact that he did not wish to keep track of door openers, Marik had a laser-controlled, motion activated, system installed to control the opening and closing of the entrance; the control from the the outside was a pressure plate a small bit wider than the vehicles that would need to be pressed by both the front and back tires. To further ensure that it worked to his satisfaction, Marik had ensured that the beam on the inside was low enough that it would only intercept the tires of all the vehicles housed in the storage area.
Pulling the helmet off the handlebars and putting it on, Marik walked the red motorcycle from the corner out into the open area of the garage, and lowered the kickstand so that he could board it with ease. He did so, and started the engine. He drove the vehicle through the opening without any trouble. He heard both wheels drive over the pressure plate, closing the entrance. He rode off into the night, faintly remembering his first few occasions on the cycle. The smell of dirt brought back the memory of the grimy taste from his first attempts at riding the vehicle, along one attempt that almost sent him into a fencepost, and for the finish, the last attempt for that particular day sent him airborne; the end of that attempt found him with his helmet off, courtesy of gravity. Aside from more than a few scrapes and bruises, he was successful in mastering control of the motorcycle; after which, he merely reaped the rewards of his practice.
Marik relished the sound of wind rushing past his ears and the cool temperatures of the night on his hands. His mind was merely focused on the miles of road ahead.
It was mid-morning when Marik stopped his motorcycle in the shade of a familiar shopping center. It was true that bazaars were more common in this area, but there were advantages of shops within walls aside from the fact that the prices were fixed and there was no haggling needed. The small center had only two things of interest to him: a small storage center that rented safe deposit boxes to paying customers, and a smaller sweets shop that was tucked away on the opposite end of where he had parked.
In the rented safe deposit box, he kept important biographical and civil documents, some that would come in handy if things did not go in his favor. In addition, he had a special arrangement with the owner for an additional box, as there were some articles of value that he could not bear to keep within daily sight: the set of gold bands that had once belonged to his bride consisting of a single-banded choker, two bands that were worn on the wrist, and two for the ankles. He would present the items to his daughter in time.
Also contained therein was the engagement ring that was the local jeweler's pride and joy, despite the twenty-one years that had passed: a gold band crowned with a diamond embraced by a lily fashioned from emerald that resting upon two leaves cast in silver. The mere act of acknowledging its existence was enough to coax a faint yet joyously small smile to his face. He sighed softly, allowing the faint smile to be taken with it.
After hanging his helmet on the handlebars of the motorcycle, Marik stepped into the storage center, removing a piece of slightly crumpled paper from the pocket of his coat, using a pencil on the counter to jot down the number of the safe deposit box with faint strokes. He silently passed it across the counter to the attendant, who ducked into a back room and returned moment later with the marked box in hand. Marik murmured a quiet "Thank You," retreating to a small table in the corner. Removing a key from the inner pocket of his jacket, he unlocked the container and slowly lifted the lid. He was greeted by a faint scent of spiced vanilla that brought that faint smile to his face once more.
Gently lifting the small lace-bordered emerald cloth that bore the soothing scent, Marik inhaled the intoxicating aroma slowly, allowing it to permeate every corner of his mind. His fingers instinctively treated it with the same care as the tapestry, rubbing the fabric gently between his forefinger and thumb. After two minutes of this, he cautiously touched the cool fabric to his cheek, sighing in slight content. All his anxiety had vanished, he felt as if she were still with him. He solemnly placed the cloth back into the box. Exhaling softly, he removed a small black box from the container. He held it in his right hand, easing it open with his thumb. His breath caught in his throat the same way it had when the jeweler had first shown the ring to him. Even in his wildest dreams, Marik hadn't imagined the jeweler to have the skill to craft it from a simple sketch given him four months before. After he closed the small box and placed it back into the container, his next breath caught in his throat as well, but for another reason entirely. It had been…eight years…and his grief had yet to cease, or even begin to abate.
He sighed somberly before removing the one object that was always found as an old friend that was to be visited every now and again: A mahogany box that held special, still sealed, letters that were with one exception, addressed to him; he rustled through the papers until he found the single letter intended for Raji Rejorahl, which he placed in the inner pocket of his jacket. He refrained from removing one of the remaining four letters. There were five, and only five; when he had discovered the box and its contents shortly after his bride had passed, Marik somewhat reluctantly decided on a five year period between each letter. Four now remained unread. Having Raji's letter in hand, he closed the box before temptation got the better of him.
Marik placed the mahogany box beside the green cloth, after which he locked the box and then returned it to the attendant at the front counter. He waited to watch the attendant duck back into the room to return the safe deposit box to its former location. He then stepped back out into the sunlight.
Turning on his heel, Marik walked towards the sweets shop with a small contented sigh. He stepped in, the aroma of an assortment of sweets assailing his nostrils. The combination of aromas was not unlike those of the coffee shop so long ago. Thin brown paper bags first caught his eye. It was strange when considering that the shop housed so many goods of different colors, that a mundane shade of brown would catch his eye. There was really no surprise; he always thought himself to be one who noted everything always seeming to start with the things most people did not notice.
He then caught sight of a glass counter displaying chocolate covered pretzels, peanut brittle, individually wrapped butterscotch hard candy and other confections. His gaze swept across the counter, stopping on one in particular: Orange flavored gummy candy in the shape of actual orange slices. He closed his eyes with a loose sigh.
"Is there something I can get for you sir?" A green-apron wearing clerk with graying black hair behind the counter did not wish to ignore his potential customer.
"A bag of the orange slices will suffice, if you would be so kind." As an afterthought, Marik glanced at a display of generous sized toffee squares; they were almost half the area of his palm. "In addition, a few of those," he pointed the specific confection for emphasis, "would be appreciated."
The cashier wordlessly assembled the items, placing the toffee and the orange slices into separate brown paper bags. Marik paid the cashier and murmured a small thank you. He stepped outside the sweetshop. Walking towards his motorcycle, he leaned against the building, popping a piece of the toffee into his mouth; he was indecisive as whether to allow the confection to rest on his tongue or to bite into it and have the taste merely linger on his breath. He decided on a compromise between the two options, and he tasted the faint flavor on his breath after two minutes. Somberly exhaling through his nose, he placed the two brown bags holding the rewards of his expedition into the inner pocket of his jacket. Once more putting on the helmet, he boarded the cycle and started the engine to make the return trip.
In the late afternoon, the two tires of Marik's motorcycle ran across the pressure plate, revealing the entrance hidden by the plateau. Marik stopped the bike, slid off, and walked the bike back to its snug space in the corner. He then hung the helmet back on the handlebars. Once more he negotiated the corridors to end up in the upper corridors, making a quick stop in his office to make use of a pen to mark the bag of orange slices. He stepped into the kitchen, catching sight of Raji and his daughter both asleep at the table. Marik withdrew the bag of orange slices, silently setting them to his daughter's right. Marik then wordlessly tapped Raji on the shoulder, in effect waking her.
He allowed Raji to use him for support, as the woman in question was slightly groggy. Marik led Raji back to the lower corridors, bringing her to his office. Pulling out the chair that was closest to the door, Marik ensured that Raji was seated before taking his own seat behind the desk. He removed both the bag of toffee squares and the letter from the inner pocket of the jacket before he laced his fingers and placed them underneath his chin."I trust that my daughter gave you little to no trouble?"
"Do you even have to ask?" Raji countered. "She asked where you were, but asked no further when told that I had no knowledge regarding the matter."
Nodding once in acknowledgement, Marik handed Raji the letter. "How interesting that the one time I would personally give you a note, it would not be written by me."
"This is-" Marik merely nodded in response to Raji's unfinished realization.
"I suggest you take yourself somewhere quiet, and read that letter there." Marik murmured quietly. He grabbed the bag of toffee and knelt on Raji's left, placing the bag into her hands. "Filiron addressed the letter to you, and the information therein is yours alone. I needn't know anything of it."
"What's this?" Raji indicated the bag.
"I know from a reputable source that you are very fond of toffee." He allowed a small smile to cross his face. "Consider this additional gratitude for your quick assistance." Marik stood and stepped back behind his desk.
"Thank you." Raji stood, sidestepping to the left; she hesitated in her exit. "Is there anything else that you need from me, sir?"
"No, Ms. Rejorahl; that will be all I require from you." Marik stated, opening the door for Raji to exit. Raji merely nodded as she exited the office. He then used wall-switch within the office, taking each step slowly. He reached the zenith of the staircase, pressing another Wall-Switch to enter his room. He sat on the bed, removing each shoe with the opposite heel. He drew his still-socked feet onto the bed, lying on his side. With a soft sigh, Marik drifted off to sleep.
DH: There are two acknowledgements that I must make for two sections in this update, as they are not my ideas, but ideas from other fics that I simply found too interesting to resist adding. The part regarding Marik's fascination with the stars comes from Kohaku no Hime's adorable Fic, To Catch The Stars. The mentions of Marik's first few times on his motorcycle come from a oneshot Practice Makes Perfect, also by Kohaku no Hime. Many thanks to her for allowing me to make use of them. Oh, and you guys should go read them both.