Chapter 2 – Chess

The Past

Several long and silent minutes passed as Ren drove towards Yashiro's flat leaving Kyoko behind. He was suddenly gripped with a strong sense of foreboding that threatened to reverse the action of peristalsis, defy gravity and bring his food out onto his lap. The streets were quiet as was the atmosphere in the car. But somehow, the silence felt thick and had a presence of its own that threatened to engulf all that it fell upon.

Yashiro felt uncomfortable sitting next to Ren. The no-talking-in-the-car rule was as effective as always, which wasn't surprising. But the sudden change in the actor's mood worried Yashiro deeply. He could feel Ren's apprehension but couldn't figure out what exactly it was that made him so pensive. Ren constantly glanced at the streets outside as though he was expecting to meet someone. To Yashiro, it seemed as though Ren had gone mad.

Yashiro's flat came into view far too quickly. After dropping him off, Ren drove to his own apartment; parked his car; entered his flat and locked it securely. There was an insecure atmosphere and he wondered why he felt that way. Thinking that a hot shower would rid his body off such petty feelings, he decided to do just that.


The Present

She smiled. And slowly began to lift her weighed eyelids. Life, she decided, was going to be nicer to her. Whether it wanted to or not.

Kyoko woke up cold and hungry. Her stomach rumbled quietly as the thundering outside became deafening and more volatile with each passing minute. She glanced to her right and could only make out grey and black shapes. Those shapes took the form of a wooden table and a three legged stool as her vision got used to the dark.

Something to the left of her fell, making a loud thud that rose above the thundering outside. A light switched on overhead that blinded Kyoko, even though it was weak. Painfully, she turned her head to see what made the noise and could make out the silhouette of a man in a long coat, and a hat that partially covered his face. From what she saw, she guessed that the man had gotten up from sitting causing the chair that lay on its back, to fall over. The door behind him was ajar. Kyoko could hear the sound of footsteps as it travelled through the open doorway and the voice of a woman call out 'Shinji!'... The man responded with hesitation as he made his way out of the room, shutting the door. The light that set the dark room aglow was switched off by the man before he left, plunging Kyoko in a chasm of darkness again.

The situation she was in was something Kyoko never expected to be in. She had never prepared herself for kidnappings. And now, she found herself kidnapped and bound to a chair that made her legs numb, her wrists bleed and her neck cry out in pain.

Tied to the chair, Kyoko felt tired. How long had it been since her kidnapping? She had promised to help out at Darumaya, but now couldn't. Were the couple angry at her? How would she answer them when they asked about her whereabouts? She had to call them. She had to let them know that she was fine. She would tell them that she was staying over at Moko-san's and would be back in the morning. She needed to get out of here. And soon.

Staying awake was getting harder as time passed. The pain and the constant presence of migraine made her drowsy. The world of sleep beckoned her with promises of painless slumber and soft bedding. It took away all her energy to fight the urge to sleep. It was a fight she lost, for in no time, Kyoko's head slumped back into the chair and her eyes hazily closed.


Ren tossed and turned in his bed as beads of perspiration rested on his forehead comfortably. He dreamt of a place far away; of darkness and ominous shadows that failed to take any distinct shape; of forests and flowers he knew not the name of... And of Kyoko. Of Kyoko who held stones the shape of omelettes; of Kyoko who held a blue stone to the sun, and later, to her heart; of Kyoko who slowly faded and dissolved into a blank white canvas like wet paint on a smooth stone after a shower of raindrops.

Unable to bear it any longer, he snapped open his eyes and switched on the bed-side lamp. He felt his breathing get heavier and tried to calm his nerves. He got out of bed and poured himself a drink. As he walked back to his bedroom, the cell phone on top of the bed-side table caught his attention. He surely can't call her now? It wouldn't be wise. Besides, if she were asleep, it was unlikely that she'd hear the phone vibrate anyway. If her phone wasn't silent, then he'd be inconveniencing the Darumaya couple.

He sighed.

Dropping all thoughts of calling Kyoko, Ren returned under the covers of his king-sized bed and prayed for swift slumber. He didn't want to think of the contents of his dream. He wanted to think of Kyoko far away from such dark places and from any form of pain. He pictured her smiling face and her glistening amber eyes. A warm smile split the actor's handsome face as his eyes closed and sleep overtook him.


Kyoko was awoken again. This time, just like before, the overhead light was switched on. The man, Shinji, had a tray which clattered as he pulled over a small table and laid the tray down. He moved his hands to his hips and pulled out a small 9mm semi-automatic.

Shinji pointed the gun to Kyoko's head and said, "if you make any suspicious movements, I'll simply pull the trigger. And I'm not kidding, I promise you. It's as simple as that for me." Kyoko opened her mouth to ask something when Shinji put a finger to her lips and shushed her. His breath stank of smoke and beer, with which he bathed Kyoko in when he said, "eat now. We'll talk later. When Nagi-san joins us". He laughed cruelly for several long seconds, sending shivers of disgust down Kyoko's spine. She lifted the spoon and whatever came with it, and placed it in her mouth.

What she tasted was flavourless and bland. In fact, she couldn't even comprehend what exactly it was that she was shoving into her mouth. The texture was coarse made smooth with the thick, viscous liquid surrounding it. Her hunger was the only thing that kept her thrusting spoonful of the stuff into her gaping mouth. She understood that she needed to fill her stomach with something, be it food or whatever else, so she could have enough energy for escape. She didn't know where she was or what kind of trials she might need to overcome, but she needed to prepare herself for all sorts.

Just as she was about to scoop the last bits into her mouth, the man snatched the bowl away from her. He gave her a glass of water that she drank like one who just sighted an oasis after several days of wandering in a dry desert. The liquid was warm, but not stagnant. It failed to quench her thirst, though. Shinji snatched that away too as though leaving it in her hand any longer would turn it into a weapon she could use to her own advantage. He placed the bowl and the glass on the tray and looked down at her from his full height.

"Nagi-san will come back in a minute. And then we'll see what she does with you", he sneered and left the room, turning off the overhead light he had lit when he came in.

With her gnawing hunger silenced, Kyoko was fully awake. The injury at the nape of her neck had begun the healing process as the pain was now a dull presence. Or perhaps she was just getting used to it to the extent where it didn't bother her anymore. Either way, she felt better and wanted to look around the room she was held in. Bound to the chair, her movements were limited. But it didn't stop her moving her head side ways to see the layout of the room. In the dark, she could only make out shades of black and grey. No object took shape no matter how much she focused her sight, as no light entered the room. It was raining outside, and the beating raindrops on the glass told her that there was a window in the room. The moon hid behind a thick layer of dense cloud, preventing any light from illuminating the insides of the room she was held captive in.

She tried to move her legs that were bound to the chair, but failed. She was hoping to swivel the chair with the aid of her legs, but it was impossible. If Kyoko tried to lean forward so to stand on her feet, she would risk falling over and that would alert whoever was keeping her confined. She saw hopelessness clearly for the first time as the clouds parted and moonlight briefly streamed in through the glassy window before it was blanketed by the dark clouds again.

A heavy sigh left her lips as sobs clotted her trachea making her breathing shaky and irregular. Tears welled up at the edge of her lower eye lid threatening to spill over. She was determined not to let any weakness show, and she wasn't going to falter now. Gritting her teeth, she twisted her wrists making the cuts even deeper. Pain shot through her arms like the persistent thundering as rain poured down in streams. Only when her body went limp due to the unbearable pain, did she stop and just sit there. She was unable to think for her mind was clouded, and her vision blurry with hot tears she couldn't control anymore. Yet again, she felt the nagging sensation that soon lulled her into a dreamless sleep.


Okami-san was preparing dinner when the thought of Kyoko not returning even though it was past 10 in the evening crossed her mind. It was strange, for Kyoko was always on time. Had she any work for which she needed to stay over at the agency, she would've surely called and let her know. Kyoko was due back around 7, and it was 3 hours too late. She fiddled with the idea of Kyoko spending the night with her friend, Moko-san, having girly talks and eating chocolate. But that image soon dissipated as pieces of the jigsaw didn't fit. Why did Kyoko not call? If her phone had run out of battery, surely she could use Moko-san's?

For a fleeting moment, Okami-san entertained the idea of Kyoko and another man, but the image was completely wrong. So wrong she couldn't even begin to imagine it.

She glanced over at her husband who was more interested in chopping the cucumber on his cutting board than anything else... And she sighed. She hoped and prayed for Kyoko's safety. When she woke up the next morning, she would certainly be greeted with Kyoko's charming smile as always. Thinking that, and finding solace in such a thought, okami-san returned to what she was doing, glancing at the clock one last time. 10:03 PM.


She awoke again; this time in response to a slap on her face. She was far too groggy to scream or respond in anyway whatsoever. The room was once again alight. The light overhead cast long shadows that fell on the uneven floor, fragmenting.

Kyoko looked up into the face of a woman whose features seemed somewhat familiar, more developed now since she could remember seeing something similar for a fleeting moment in history. Who was this woman? And why was she holding Kyoko captive?

"Why..." Silent whispers that fell on deaf ears.

"What?"

"Why... Why did you bring me here?"

"Why? Why?! Don't you recognise me, Kyoko? Don't you?" Nagi then grabbed onto a clump of Kyoko's hair, pulling it so Kyoko was face to face with only a small rift between them that prevented their faces from touching. Kyoko's face crumpled in faded recognition. The eyes, the nose, the lips... they were all similar, and yet hard to find in the pages of her history; and even harder to put a name to.

Kyoko's heart palpitated as she travelled several years back and a face surfaced. A face similar to the one in front of her... but with more diffused features. The face looked at her, smiling, and said, "Kyoko-chan, look! Look! Sho-chan just fell!" The smile of the child turned into a delightful laugh, and her eyes gleamed with childish love as she stared at the small boy, of similar age, skid on the school playground.

At that age, Kyoko might have been oblivious to the meanings behind those expressions, but 10 years later, she was all too familiar with them. They sickened her now as she remembered her own silly actions.

Kyoko looked into Nagi's face again. This time, with more understanding and recognition than the last.

"Shoutaro"

"Him. Exactly him. He is why you're here Kyoko. Had you not stolen him from me and eloped together, none of this would've happened"

"You're a fool Nagi. You're a fool for liking him"

"A fool?! My love for Sho-chan makes me a fool? You disgust me!" She raised her hand again to slap Kyoko, but the cold stare froze her and she found herself unable to move.

With her hair hiding part of her face, Kyoko looked up at Nagi. Her anger and frustrations on the brink of overflowing.

"What do you know? He'll step on you and walk away as soon as he sees it fit. He won't think twice about a woman like you. And you sit here and dream of the day you can be together? You disgust me."

"D-Don't talk to me like you know how it feels! To be left alone and forgotten by the very person you're willing to sacrifice your life for...!" Nagi said, looking perplexed.

"Oh spare me your sentiments! I know exactly how that-" A phone, somewhere, began to ring. The ringing was familiar, yet not hearing it for a long while made the melody somewhat distant.

"Just shut up, will you? I don't want to hear anything from you anymore"

Nagi turned 180 degrees, reached down to her pockets and took out the cell phone that was ringing. Even in the dark, Kyoko could clearly make out the small jewel she always hung around her phone. It was her phone that was ringing, and it was her phone that Nagi intended to pick up. But, she wondered, who would call her so late at night?


It's 3:23am as I type this. This chapter took me far too long to write than I'd hoped. But, alas, it's finally up. I feel as though my use of language is turning poorly, and I don't know how to redeem myself.

I made minor changes to the previous chapters. Especially the dates. I decided not to make them so specific afterall. (Thanks to you momoirousagi-chan for highlighting that to me)

I want to keep my author's note as short as possible since making it long makes the chapter look ugly. So, in short, I thank all those that reviewed the previous chapter. I will reply to you via PM soon. Perhaps when the dawn breaks today, and my brain cells begin functioning again. Or you'll be bombarded with incoherent sentences that'll puzzle you.

Queries:

- I am still interested in getting myself a beta-reader. Anyone?

- I want to know feedback on how I presented Kyoko... I find it hard to imagine what she'd do in such a situation. She's a tricky character, now that I'm trying to present her in my own fiction.

Note:

- From the next chapter, whatever happens is all in 'The Present' unless mentioned otherwise.