Faint light seeped through the cracks of the blinds, allowing just enough rays for her amber eyes to scan the fine print. Her frantic fingers flicked through the various documents in the filing cabinet, searching desperately for the words that would solve her query, but they escaped her grasp when she passed the letter that was supposed to contain the label of her desire. Perhaps, someone had misplaced it and forgot to properly return it back in alphabetical order, or maybe it was her own blunder as she could have easily overlooked it while sifting too quickly. She muttered a curse under her breath, annoyed that such a simple task was taking longer than expected.
Her hands dived in for a second round, but she was immediately stopped dead in her tracks, her spine flinching into a stiff rod at the distinct sound of rolling wheels on the slate-tile floor.
"Looking for this, Ms Rachel Boyd?" a low voice grumbled inquisitively from across the room, a gnarled hand waving the document that she was likely searching for. The woman however stayed calmly in place, tucking away her evil glare before turning around to face the unexpected visitor.
"My goodness! You gave me quite the fright, Doctor Stein," she answered in her usual sweet voice. "Maybe you do have the document I'm looking for. Which label are you holding?"
"Kishin Asura," he stated blankly, without purposely sounding suspicious but somehow managing to produce the same effect.
"Oh my. Of course not," she laughed nervously, "That's certainly not what I'm looking for!"
"Oh?" He scratched his temple, deliberately taking his time pondering on his next words like oiling the screws in his brain, and thus leaving the woman hanging in anticipation. "My mistake," he lamely finished.
"Well… I can't seem to find what I'm looking for." Her mouth curved into an innocent pout, suppressing the irritation from this enigmatic man that always left her on edge. "It's not that important anyways, so I'll just be on my way."
She barely moved a few feet before his voice cut her tracks once more.
"Ah! I just remembered something, Rachel." The wheels of the office chair that he was sitting on screeched against the floor as he rolled his way closer to her. "How is your daughter doing?"
"Pardon me?" she politely inquired. She really could never understand where this man pulled out his questions.
"Your daughter. The one you gave birth to thirty years ago, you know, the one that made you go on maternity leave, but then you just gave in your dismissal shortly afterwards… probably too busy with the child, like what happens to most mothers." He scratched his temple once more, while she clenched her nervous fist behind her back. "Might I add, you look great for your age."
She really had to hold back her dagger stare, instead keeping a plastic smile firmly in place.
"My daughter is doing fine. And thank you for the compliment."
"My pleasure. Oh, and you should really update your file. The address you left doesn't seem to exist anymore... that building burned down around a decade ago. It would be most appropriate to change that, as it's a breach of contract to write false information."
"I wasn't aware that it hadn't been changed. I'll indeed get onto it right away." She maintained the smile and budged a few steps closer to the door, before Stein once again made her flinch with his low cryptic voice.
"And one more thing, Rachel."
"Yes?" she answered cautiously.
"Who are you?"
It became extremely difficult to keep that smile, even for someone as manipulative as her, but she nevertheless managed to steel her resolve and played along with his game. Her slim legs were no longer eager to leave the room, and instead strode towards his seated figure until she stood directly in front of him, gazing seductively in his lazy olive-green eyes.
"A mere assistant working for Shibusen under the marketing department," she said with confidence, placing a poised hand on his shoulder. "Divorced and single for a long time. Looking, may I add," she finished off with a flirtatious wink.
"Why are you after the Kishin?" he demanded, ignoring her other hand that placed itself on his lap.
"Oh my. Please stop mentioning the Demon God. It'll give me nightmares," she mused playfully.
"Why do you have the same handwriting as the infamous journalist, Medusa Gorgon?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Medusa. I ask again, why are you after the Kishin?"
Her gaze hardened within a heartbeat.
"Geez, if you already knew, then you should have said so sooner." Her voice was still sweet, but the tone stung like snake venom. "For someone as creative as you, I think you can already guess my intentions without my input."
"I have my suspicions, but I'd like to hear what the witch has to say."
"Witch? Is that what Shibusen is calling me now? That's so mean," she whined.
"Well, you dig up facts, brew them into eloquent sentences, and concoct all these stories that aim to bring our reputation down. Of course we'd call you a witch."
"I apologize for my destructive powers. It's not really my fault that my words make the entertainment business more interesting."
"So is that why you want the Kishin? He's certainly an interesting case."
"Partially. But I'm actually just like you, Stein." She leaned in closer, her voice lowering to a whisper. "Research, development, progress. Lets see what kind of new world the future will bring. You're loosing your touch by staying within the confines of Shinigami-sama. You should join me instead."
She curled her fingers around his nape, sneaking up so close to his ear that her lips brushed his lobe; he couldn't stop himself from shivering, either in fright or delight, it nearly felt synonymous.
"Think about it Stein. Art no longer bound by the arms of morality, straying into infinite vectors of possibility. You'd be able to dissect its meaning all you want, however you want. Breaking down those bodies of concepts, or maybe splicing the channels of interdisciplinary practices, whatever you desire will be at your disposal." She bit his earlobe tenderly before breathing out a last hiss. "Give into the madness."
He was left in a daze, too engrossed by the thoughts of endless dissection that he barely registered the clicking sound of her heels that faded in the distance. Maybe he was indeed loosing his touch or his grip on sanity if he could be so easily shaken by the mere words of a sly woman. But one fact remained: while that slithering tongue spoke its enticing speech, he lost his grip on that document he had been holding, as it slipped right through his fingers and into the palms of a certain snake-like journalist named Medusa Gorgon.
"G-g-gorgeous," she breathed out, wiping away a small tear that formed in the corner of her mesmerized eyes. He sat silently on the piano bench, also a little winded and still dazed from the intensity of the score he had just performed. "Soul, that was too beautiful. It's absolutely perfect."
If it were under any other normal circumstance like the haughty classical entourage he was once accustomed to play for, he would not let his guard down and believe such praise, but at the sight of this girl's overflowing emotion that choked her voice and rendered her eyes into shimmering gems, it became impossible to hide the wide smile that now brightened his face. She returned the action by not only flashing her own set of pearly whites, but by rushing towards him and crushing him in a tight embrace.
"Thank you so much, Soul," she whispered into his chest, nuzzling her face against his suddenly tensed muscles. "Really, you don't know just how grateful I am."
"So I take it that the music is officially complete?" He could already predict her response, but he needed the confirmation before rejoicing.
And at that, he soared into a blissful peace, relaxing in her embrace and soaking in every drop of this perfect moment. When was the last time that he had felt such satisfaction? It had been too long since he last successfully completed a composition, or anything that would make him feel proud, and to receive the acknowledgement from the one person that he so desperately wanted to impress, the feeling was almost too much to handle but he somehow swallowed it all without choking.
It was times like these that his impulse bit viciously, forcing his mind into an invincible state where he gained the courage to tackle any hurdle and walk out victorious. Perhaps for his buddy BlackStar, this upsurge of confidence felt entirely normal, but for Soul, it remained a rare occurrence that he needed to take advantage of whenever it graced his spirit.
Her face was still snugly pressed against his chest, so he grabbed her attention by subtly nudging forward with a slight contraction of his pectoral muscles. When she looked up as a response to the prod, his hand met her cheek, cupping the side of her jaw while he gazed intently into her expressive eyes. He was ready for the kill. It was now or never, he convinced himself as he got ready to approach those lush pink lips…
"You'll be my weapon, right?" she instead interrupted, breaking the flow of the mood.
"Weapon?" he asked casually, confused by such a strange question.
"To kill the audience. The main actor of the play."
His expression contorted into utter disgust, instantly recoiling from her touch and fumbling off the piano bench to take a stand.
"What the fuck is that about?" he snarled, unusually aggressive.
"You're perfect for the part, Soul. I knew it the first time we met, and after watching you play, I can't picture anyone that could top your perfor—
"No," he abruptly cut her off, turning his head to avoid her persuasive gaze. "This ain't what I signed up for. There's no fuckin' way I'm acting."
"Why not?" Her tone wasn't a question, but rather a harsh remark. "The demon is so similar to you, so it's practically not even going to be an act!"
"Look, there are things that I can and cannot do. And getting up on stage is one of them." He might have conceded to her demands in the past, but this time was different. What she was asking trudged on a sensitive spot that he preferred keeping to himself, and there was nothing that could convince him otherwise.
"What are you afraid of?" she tried to challenge.
"I'm not afraid."
"Then what's the problem?"
He didn't need to answer verbally since he simply responded with a cold hard stare that shivered her to the bone, crushing her determination to pry any further. Not only did it destroy her motivation, but it also dissolved the thin barrier containing all of her stress. The realisation that her perfect actor would not take the part was too much to handle, so she opened the floodgates that once held back tears of joy, to instead release her dejection through the streams that trailed down her flushed cheeks. Those red irises softened up at the sight of her sobbing, but he still kept a reasonable distance in case she would attack once more.
"Look Maka, I just don't feel comfortable being in the spotlight, but I can help out with the accompaniment and musical direction." He tried to offer the most comfort he could despite his apprehension, and it honestly pained him to see her cry, but he still was not going to let her have her way.
She wiped off some of the tears, but she couldn't stop the hiccups that overcame her chest.
"I'll search some contacts I know. We'll find a pianist that can act way better than I can." He pulled her into a hug and she surprisingly didn't push away, silently sobbing in his chest as he rubbed circles on her back. "So please stop crying."
"W-w-why can't y-you just d-d-do it?" she whispered imploringly, looking up with sad green eyes that almost broke his resolve.
"Please don't put me in the spotlight," he gently responded, meeting her gaze with an exhausted look, as if she had just opened up his past scars. "It's not me and I hate that feeling."
That last sentence awakened her. She instantly swallowed back her tears because those words made her realise just how unreasonable she was being. Soul was reserved, never seeking attention, always coolly sitting back in the sidelines and working hard in his own way behind the curtains. Sure he had a certain charisma that attracted the public, but he wasn't upfront about it and he didn't care for pretences. Soul wasn't her father, and she would have to accept that fact.
She then remembered that he must have been forced to perform before, in a past that he preferred not to even speak of, presumably because it was something that he wanted to leave behind. How could she be so insensitive and ask such a thing from him, and then prod him guiltily when he lashed out? She felt incredibly stupid for overlooking this fundamental part of his personality.
"I'm so sorry Soul. I won't ask again."