Notes- Some of the scenes are flashbacks. They are in no particular order, and I usually give approximate ages of the characters involved during the flashbacks. Hopefully no one gets confused.
Disclaimer- Same as always. GB crew: not mine. OCs: mine.
Chapter Seven: Sibling Rivalry: the Story of Masaharu and Chieri
By A Girl Named Goo
"So, Chieri, you're finally in high school," Masaharu said, smiling at the girl who was walking next to him. She was tall and lean and not yet developed ("late bloomer", as her mother had put it), her wavy silver hair cut short like a boy's. Only one lock had been allowed to grow long, bound by a gold ornament she usually wore. She was also currently wearing a boys' school uniform. It hung off her lanky frame, making it obvious that it was a hand-me-down. Even though her mother had enough money to afford her new uniforms, she had felt a certain sense of pride from wearing Masaharu's outgrown ones.
Chieri, although she was excited, was walking slow so that she could remain next to Masaharu. He refused to use a wheelchair or a walker or even crutches, choosing instead to walk on his own with his cane. He'd already told her she could go on ahead, but she wanted to stay with him. He was two years older than herself, after all, and knew what she could expect in high school.
"What's it like?" she asked him, once again pausing so that he could catch up to her.
He seemed to think hard about this question. "Harder than junior high. But also more fun. You're really smart so you'll get through your classes just fine." He looked her over with his single dark blue eye, smiling with the half of his mouth that worked. "Now socially, you might have a little problem."
"Why?" Chieri asked, sounding indignant.
Masaharu gestured toward her with his left hand, before quickly reaching over to straighten his right arm again and keep from falling over. "You're wearing a boy's uniform. You're so flat, and with your short hair people will probably think you're a boy. How are you going to get a boyfriend if everyone thinks you're a boy?"
"I don't want a boyfriend," Chieri told him firmly, hitching her school bag up behind her shoulder.
Masaharu glanced at her again, his half-smile growing. "Oh? Chieri, I didn't know that about you. What's your mother going to say?"
Chieri blushed. "What? That-that's not what I meant!" she cried, batting his left arm lightly. "I just don't need a boyfriend."
"Sure..." Masaharu told her, winking at her. She hit his arm again, a little harder this time. He quickly reached over to straighten his right arm to keep from falling again. "All right, all right. I believe you. Just try to be a little easier on me in the future."
They were quiet for a few more minutes. Finally, Chieri looked up at Masaharu again. "Haru?"
"You're not really going to tell Mother, are you?"
Masaharu put his left hand on Chieri's shoulder. "Nah, I won't. Now come on. If we waste any more time talking we'll never make it on time."
"Your...brother?" Himiko asked, looking at Clayman. Her green eyes had darkened in anger as she glared daggers at Naoya. If looks could kill, then he certainly wouldn't have been standing then. When Naoya started to fall Himiko almost believed Clayman did have the power to kill with her gaze, but he simply reached over with his left hand and straightened his right arm again until it was locked straight once more. The motion seemed automatic.
"He's not my brother," Clayman said, her voice soft as ever, as if she were reassuring Himiko, but it possessed an icy cold edge that ruined the soothing effect.
Naoya reached over and gripped his right arm this time, his half-smile only growing. "Come on, Chieri. I can remember a time where you used to proudly tell everyone I was your brother. Now you're doing everything you can to deny it."
Clayman looked down at the floor, her fists clenching and immediately unclenching as if she had caught herself doing something horrible. "That was then. I was younger and more foolish. If you ever were my older brother, you aren't any longer."
"Wait, I'm confused," Emishi interrupted. Everyone turned to face him, but before they could comment he continued speaking. "Is this guy your brother or isn't he?"
Clayman bit her lip and sighed. "Biologically, no. But we did grow up together. My mother took him in when he was only about six, originally as an apprentice. But he became like a son to her."
Kadsuki looked over at Naoya. "Apprentice? Then that means he's..."
"A medium, yes," Naoya finished, finally releasing his right arm, content that it was going to stay in place. His cane, green-enameled wood with a silver top and tip, began to shake beneath his weight. "It's not so bad, really, once you get used to the fact that you'll never be alone. That you'll see things that no one else possibly can. That sometimes your body isn't your own." His voice got louder and more bitter with each sentence.
"Mother never complained about it," Clayman told him softly. "But you'll never be even half the person she was."
"How the hell would you know what kind of person she was?" Naoya snapped, his eye shining with anger. "You didn't want thing one to do with her! Everything you told me, you said not to tell her! You never spoke to her, never acknowledged her!"
"And I never hurt or betrayed her," Clayman argued.
The cane shook violently again, and again Naoya grasped his right elbow. "You didn't understand what we were, what we could do, what the price of it was. Especially to me! Do you think I like being like this? I am...I am constantly being invaded by dead people, and for what? So that half of my body can be completely useless and some outsider can condemn me for what I did? She deserved it! She betrayed me first!"
Clayman shook her head furiously, pulling her hands into fists again. "She didn't betray you. You were just spoiled. You wanted her all to yourself. You wanted to be her child and for me to be the outsider, because that's how you saw things."
"You're damn right it's how I saw it!" Naoya confirmed. "And if you asked anyone else, they would have agreed! We were both mediums, and you were off in your own little world, looking at your pretty picture books and playing with that damn clay! You said you wanted to be an artist. What would your mother say now if she knew you were a criminal?" His half-smile grew sadistic. "I know! How about we get her here and ask her?"
"No!" Clayman suddenly cried out, raising one of her fists. She looked at her current position, horrified by her actions, and lowered her hand again. She wasn't a violent person, and no matter how angry she got, she wouldn't hurt a man who had no way of defending himself.
Naoya was laughing, but it was hollow, heartless. Not a drop of amusement in it. "Just as I thought. Soft. You're not a criminal at all. You have the mind, sure, but not the heart." He looked at the others, as if noticing them for the first time. "And who are these people? I thought you didn't like people. Especially men." He continued to laugh. "You know, I never did tell your mother about that. Maybe I should, if you never told her yourself..."
Ban stepped forward now, smoking a cigarette. "You're having fun, aren't you? Standing there, insulting her, because you know she won't do anything. It must make you feel like a big man to know you can get away with that. The only reason she won't do anything is because she knows you're pathetic. We all know you're pathetic, and we're not talking about your body."
Clayman put her hand on Ban's shoulder. "Midou-san, no. This doesn't involve you."
Naoya laughed again. "No no, I want to hear what he has to say." He glared at Ban through his single, narrowed eye. "Nothing? That's what I thought. Go ahead. Ask." He looked at the rest. "Any of you, just ask. I know you're all dying to know." As if to clarify what he was talking about, he released his right arm. His cane began to shake again. "I know you're all just dying to know how this happened."
Although they would never actually ask or admit it, he was right. Not so much because they wanted to know how he became disabled, but more because they were curious about what he had said earlier, about it being connected to him being a medium.
Naoya waited a few moments for any of them to ask, and when no one did he sighed and began to pace as much as his disability would allow him to, occasionally reaching over and gripping his elbow to keep his right arm straight. "I was abandoned or orphaned or I don't know what. All I know is I was raised on the street until I was six. And then it happened. I was hit by a car that never even saw me cross the road." The smile reappeared on his face. "And I died. You can argue it and deny it and throw scientific facts at me, but the fact of the matter is I was dead. No breath, no heartbeat, no brain activity. The doctor had already marked my time of death. And in that time I had already begun to cross over. White light and heavenly voice, the works. Only instead of the heavenly voice, I could hear a lot of voices. Some of them were welcoming me in, others were saying I couldn't come in yet. I was so confused...and then it was over. I just suddenly came back to life." He paused, both in his story and in his pacing, straightening his arm out again. "When I woke up I was terrified. My right eye was gone, and the left side of my head was severely damaged and had left my right side almost completely paralyzed. And I got this feeling that I wasn't alone. I was seeing and hearing and feeling things that I couldn't even begin to understand. I panicked and I screamed. The doctors thought that the brain damage was causing hallucinations, and they were going to drug me. But then someone suggested that I was a medium and that it was the dead that I was seeing and feeling." Naoya suddenly leaned heavily against the paneled wall, his eye pointed downward. "That person managed to get an appointment with the local medium, a woman who was world famous. It took some coaxing, but she came to see me." He laughed then, a hollow, bitter sound. "It was nothing against me. Mediums don't like hospitals. Too much death happens there. Fresh death. Nothing worse than hearing a recently departed soul begging you to tell everyone they are still there." Clayman bristled uncomfortably at this revelation.
Naoya stood up again, a delicate balancing act requiring his good arm and leg and his cane. He was obviously very practiced at manipulating the almost useless half of his body. "So she came to see me. And she must have seen something in me then, or maybe she just pitied me, because when I got out of the hospital she took me to live with her. So I guess the accident was a blessing in disguise. I at least got a home out of it."
Naoya looked up at everyone in the room. No one spoke, unsure of what to say. He made his way over to them, taking a quick, heavy step with his good leg before dragging his cane forward, and then dragging his almost dead leg up next to his cane. It took him quite a while to reach them, and when he got there he put a hand on Clayman's shoulder. "You really haven't changed a bit, Chieri."
Chieri had never really liked people. It was just her nature to be solitary, the lone intellectual who preferred to be in her own company, to immerse herself in books rather than conversation. As a result she very seldom went downstairs during the day, when the people showed up to pay her mother to use her abilities on their behalf. But today she'd have to make an exception. Her mother had been ill lately and she knew she would probably want some tea right about now.
She could feel the curious stares of the people gathered in her kitchen and living room as she poured a cup of tea from the kettle on the stove. She didn't have to wonder why they were watching her. Very few people knew that Ikitsuki Reiko (a name the medium had given herself after she had made her services public) had a daughter. They only knew about the boy that sometimes sat in the room with her, and occasionally took on some of her workload. Chieri pointedly ignored them as she poured a second cup, placing it on a tray. Only twelve years old and already so distant...
There were rules in the house. The most important was that Chieri could only go into the "work room" when the door was open. When it was closed she could only come in by invitation. Usually, after the people left, the door never opened. Years ago she'd begged and pleaded to be allowed in during that time. She'd heard her mother talking to Masaharu about her plan to channel famous, long dead artists and let them use her body to paint their final works. Chieri wanted to meet the artists that had inspired her so much in her own artistic aspirations, but her mother had refused or denied that was what she was doing. When she'd asked Masaharu about it he'd only told her to never mind and promptly changed the subject.
Chieri edged her way past the people in the hall who had been whispering. They now went quiet as they watched her pause in front of the closed door with the sign that read "No entrance". The moment she paused there the door opened and an older couple walked out; the woman sobbing hysterically into a handkerchief with the man's arm draped around her shoulders, whispering to her reassuringly. They both looked down at the tea-laden child next to the door quizzically before they resumed their path out of the house. This was not that uncommon a reaction for people who gained contact with departed loved ones with the aid of a medium, so Chieri didn't take it personally. Before the next client could step in she elbowed the door open and made her way inside.
The room was simple, bathed in sunlight from the huge picture windows. There was a fire place, but in the summer heat the fire had been extinguished. A door across the room lead upstairs to the primary work room that her mother used after dark for her own personal reasons. Not even Masaharu went up there unless invited. In this room there were two overstuffed chairs and a long couch. Masaharu was sitting in one of the chairs, rubbing his eye with his good hand, his bad one holding loosely onto the cane by his side. Her mother had leaned over and was rubbing his back lightly. Apparently he had handled the last client. Not being a medium herself, Chieri had always just taken Masaharu's word for it on how physically and emotionally exhausting a job it was.
Chieri placed the tray on the low table between the couch and the chairs, not saying a word. She would have left then, but her mother had looked up from Masaharu to meet her eyes, smiling at her. Chieri couldn't help but feel the thrill of having pleased her mother. There were so few ways they could connect, unlike her mother and Masaharu. But as she looked at the woman's smiling face, at her weary-looking forest green eyes, at her wavy shoulder-length black hair that was streaked with silver, at the lines that appeared around the corners of her mouth and eyes, Chieri couldn't think of an image that could have made her happier.
"You always know just what we need, Chieri," her mother praised, picking up a cup of tea. Masaharu had stopped rubbing his eye and was now watching her. His half-smile appeared, and he reached over and picked up the second cup of tea while her mother continued to speak. "Maybe we should have you tested again. You hardly ever leave your room, yet you seem to have a sixth sense that lets you know exactly what I need."
Chieri played with the ornament in her hair absently and blushed, shaking her head. "I just thought you would like some tea," she said softly. With anyone else she could confidently hold an adult conversation, but when she spoke to her mother she immediately regressed, becoming the child she really was.
The woman reached out to smooth down her daughter's hair and toy with the ornament that Chieri herself had just finished playing with. Chieri couldn't read her mother's tired expression. Although she was usually very good at reading the emotions of others, her mother's always eluded her. Sometimes she wondered if her mother was ashamed of her for not being born a medium or for being such a tomboy when she herself was such a proper woman. Or if her mother ever regretted not spending much time with her and keeping the secrets of her ability from her. Maybe she just worried about her, about her solitary daughter who would rather spend time with her own imagination than with real people. But just when Chieri was about to put her finger on what this illusive emotion that her mother was hiding from her was she felt the hand move away from her hair.
"You run along now," her mother instructed, obviously trying very hard not to sound like she was pushing her away. "Thank you very much for the tea. It truly was just what I needed right now."
Masaharu nodded at Chieri, his smile still in place, as she left the room quietly, once again feeling like the outsider in her own home.
Clayman shook off Naoya's hand, and it took him a moment to regain his balance. "That was just uncalled for, Chieri," he snapped, grasping his right elbow to keep his cane from shaking violently. He surveyed the group again, his single eye narrowed angrily. His gaze finally rested on Breda, a look of utmost annoyance crossing her dark features. "You should be careful of what company you keep. All of you," he instructed. Breda made a sound something like a growl. It was enough to make Ginji and Himiko take a step or two away from her.
"Is there a point to all of this?" Breda asked acidly. "You cannot hurt us. You are simply being annoying now."
Ban noticed then that Naoya's thumb was running against the top of his cane suspiciously as the man responded coolly "I am here to resolve some unfinished business. None of you has to stay here. You're all free to go. Wilhelm's guards will find you whether you stand here and defend her or not."
Clayman sighed. "We can just avoid this if you give me what I came here for. I don't want to have to hurt you. Physically or any other way."
Naoya laughed at that. "Chieri, you couldn't hurt a flea. Is it that Dali painting your after? I had my eye on that ever since it showed up in your mother's collection. I am not ready to part with it."
Clayman shook her head. "You don't understand. You never understood entirely. Being a medium was just a job to you. It was different for Mother. She didn't want fame or money. She wanted to help others, living or dead. That's why the paintings are important. You think they were just decorations or a means to make money easily, but they meant a lot to her. You hurt her more than you could ever know."
"She hurt me first!" he snapped back at her. Ban noticed his thumb move across the top of his cane again. That was definitely not normal, especially if that hand took so much effort to manipulate...
Clayman looked Naoya in the eye. "That's not true. You misunderstood her intention. You were spoiled and you betrayed her."
"What exactly did he do?" Kadsuki asked. The exchange was going around in circles, and he'd like to reach a diplomatic solution before, as Naoya warned, Wilhelm's guards arrived. But to do that he'd need all of the details.
"He discredited my mother, and then stole all of her paintings and sold them," Clayman told Kadsuki evenly, not bothering to fill in the details.
Naoya clenched his teeth to spoke, which, added to the fact that only half his mouth opened when he spoke, made his speech sound awkward. "That doesn't even compare to what she did to me first. She raised me, she made me think she cared about me, and then, when it finally mattered, she denied she had anything to do with me!"
"That's not true," Clayman argued. "That's not true."
Ban saw Naoya's thumb run over the top of his cane, this time producing an audible click. "Get down!" he shouted, diving to the floor. He grabbed the two people closest to him, which turned out to be Himiko and Clayman, as he did so but the others also followed suit, Jubei grabbing Kadsuki and throwing him down first so that he was on top of him as he fell. Naoya took his cane in his left hand and threw it at the group just as it exploded, sending debris raining down on top of them...
The summer sun couldn't melt the cold feeling in the pit of Masaharu's stomach. The woman who had raised him, trained him, shaped both the man and the medium he was, had refused him. The bitter memory left a vile taste in his mouth, and he spat on the carpet of the sunshine-filled room that he and Reiko had spent hours in. He'd thought they'd become so close in that time...
He remembered sitting in the waiting room, waiting to hear if the woman he had come to care for would make it. She didn't even like cars, but the one time someone had talked her into getting one to handle a job for a recluse and she had been in an accident. He was no stranger to how cruel fate could be, but he didn't think it would be so unkind to him this time. That she would be so unkind to him. The doctor had flagged them over. Or he thought he was flagging both of them over. He'd asked Masaharu for his relation, and he wanted to say son but he just couldn't.
"I'll have to ask," the doctor had said firmly, leading sixteen year old Chieri toward the door. Even then Masaharu hadn't minded. The doctor was just following protocol. He would be allowed in any moment...
"She said that she doesn't have a son," the doctor had said, walking out of the hall. "She said you should leave."
It was like being stabbed in the heart. It had taken everything he had to walk on the bus instead of in front of it. The only that had stopped him was the fact that he probably wouldn't die. With his luck he'd lose his only working side. And then he'd be a prisoner on this Earth. So he'd gone home and into the work room. He stared at the door to Reiko's private work room. He'd only been in it once in his life, when he was a very small boy and she'd been able to carry him up the stairs. She'd stressed the importance of having a room like this, and that he couldn't go in unless invited.
Feeling hurt and defiant, he unlocked the door with the key he knew was hidden beneath the first brick in the fire place. It took him almost twenty minutes to drag himself up the stairs, and when he made it he gazed around the stifling little attic room. There were no curtains, and windows on all of the walls let sunlight stream in. On the walls hung the product of her many hours alone up here. Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Picasso, and his personal favorite: the work of the surrealist Dali. They were all there and more.
Masaharu closed his eyes. He could feel them lingering in the corners, admiring the works. Not the artists. No. They'd been specially channeled. Having completed their works they had moved on. But he could feel the presence and hear the whispering of the spirits who weren't so fortunate that they could leave this world. He opened his eyes to see the pale outlines of many people, looking at the paintings. They didn't seem to notice each other or the medium standing in the center of the room, but all were seemingly speaking their opinions of the works before them out loud.
"Shut up," he said softly. They all turned to look at him, sensing that he was at least partially on the same plane as them. Some of them tried to speak, but he shouted again, louder this time, "shut up!"
The silence was deafening. He'd never been used to total silence. Not since he'd awakened in the hospital so many years ago. It was rather unnerving to him, but he was able to concentrate on the paintings now. He wanted to destroy these posthumous monuments, these testaments to the souls and very beings of the men behind them. He wanted to burn them, to rip them to shreds, to pick up the tubes of oil points on the floor and cover them with blackness.
But he couldn't. Just standing in this room, with these paintings and these deceased art patrons, he knew he was witnessing something much greater than himself. He could no more destroy these paintings than he could destroy himself. They didn't relieve his pain, but instead they put it in perspective. He shouldn't take out his anger on those who could reap joy from the final works of the greatest artists who ever lived. He needed to take his anger out on the one who had caused it.
As he left the work room the voices came again, soft, barely coherent whispers that he could hear all through his long, painful descent down the stairs. He left the main workroom and stood in the hall, picking up the receiver of the old fashioned telephone. Leaning on his cane and balancing the phone between his neck and his ear, he dialed the only number he could think of.
"Hello, police? I would like to report an unstable and potentially dangerous person."
It seemed like an eternity before the smoke began to dissipate and the bits of plaster stopped falling from the ceiling. They all coughed as they struggled to sit up and wipe the dust from their eyes and make sure everyone was all right. The shattered bits of green enamel had lodged themselves in the wall and in the ceiling, and the air still smelled strongly of gunpowder. Finally climbing to their feet, they all looked at Naoya, who was leaning heavily against the wall without anything to hold him up.
"Why won't you die?" he asked, looking directly at Clayman and breathing heavily, angrily. "At least die like I did, so you can understand me. Understand us. I never got what she saw in you that made her choose you over me."
Clayman, who had regained a great deal of her poise already, brushed pieces of plaster off of her suit, shaking it out of her hair afterwards. "She didn't choose me over you," she said quietly. The others were recovering from their experience now and standing behind her as she spoke. Clayman's eyes were pointed at her shoes. "She didn't want you at the hospital because she knew how hard it was for mediums to be inside them. She was hoping you would understand and go home. She never meant to hurt you."
Naoya shook his head, starting to slide down the wall. "No. You're lying. She wanted to hurt me. She never cared about me."
Clayman shook her head, her hands clenching into fists again. "No, Haru. Before she died she told me that her greatest regret was not letting you make your own choice that day. But she knew you would come in if given a choice. She never blamed you. After you had her committed for evaluation, she never blamed you. After you stole all of the paintings and sold them, she never blamed you. After everyone started believing she was a fraud and she couldn't practice as a medium anymore, she never blamed you. She blamed herself for all of that."
Naoya was on the floor now, shaking his head. "No! That can't be true!"
"You can ask her."
Clayman opened her mouth to speak again when she felt someone push past her. Everyone watched as Breda stepped in front of the group, looking down at Naoya contemptuously, knives poised. "You are annoying me," she spat out at him.
Naoya looked up at her, tears running down his single eye. Breda continued to stomp toward Naoya's body.
"Breda! Stop!" Ban shouted at her in German, but it was too late. She raised her knife and plunged it into his neck. His eye flew open wide, his mouth falling open with blood pouring from it. Breda pulled the knife out, bright red blood shining on the silvery metal, gleaming on her dark hand.
Naoya fell to the side, mouth working furiously, trying breathe or speak. The group ran toward him, ignoring Breda as they all gathered around him.
"Someone do something!" Ginji cried out desperately.
"There's nothing we can do," Ban said sadly. "We'd never get someone who is trained in medicine and has the right tools down here in time."
"He's suffering," Kadsuki whispered, watching the man struggle. He looked up at Himiko, noticing her reaching behind her for her bottles of perfume. Taking the top off with her teeth, she waved it in front of his face. His eye closed, and his mouth stopped working.
"Himiko.." Ban whispered, watching her put the top back on the bottle.
"Sleep scent," she said simply. "If we can't help him he shouldn't have to suffer."
Clayman closed her eyes for a moment before turning him onto his back, moving his hands across his chest. She took a white handkerchief from her pocket and wiped the blood off his mouth, covering his neck with it. There were tears in her eyes as she cleaned him up, but when she finished she stood and wiped her hands on her pants.
Everyone else stood when she did, and they all turned to face Breda, her hand still covered in blood but her knives put away.
"What the hell did you do that for?!" Emishi cried out, voicing what was on everyone else's mind.
"He attacked us," Breda said simply. "And he was annoying. He wanted us to die. It was self-defense."
"He was on the floor crying and he couldn't walk. I'd hardly call that self defense," Ban shot back at her.
Breda shrugged and started to walk away, but suddenly froze in the path. "Aren't you coming?"
"We're not going anywhere with you," Kadsuki told her evenly. "You can find your own way out."
"Wait," Clayman said. They all looked at her. She was still looking sadly at Naoya's body. "Do you know where his room is?"
Breda shrugged. "I couldn't be that far. He obviously couldn't get very far on his own."
Clayman nodded and walked in the direction that he had come from. The others paused for a moment, watching her, before they followed her. She began pushing on the walls as she walked until one finally gave under her hand. No one else entered behind her as she disappeared.
Reiko reached up slowly, weakly and put her hand on her daughter's cheek. She was smiling softly as she did, the sunlight filtering through the windows scattered around the room making the silvery highlights in her hair shine.
"You're such a good girl," she said. "You always know just what I need."
Chieri took her mother's hand. "I'm here, Mother. I'll do anything you ask."
Reiko nodded, looking across the room at a spot on the wall. "Chieri, it won't be long now."
"Mother, please, don't talk that way..."
"It's true. I am not afraid of dying, Chieri. All my life I could see death. I could communicate with the dead. I know what lies beyond and I don't fear it."
Chieri blinked back tears. "But I don't want you to leave me, Mother."
Reiko shook her head. "You don't need me anymore, Chieri. You never really needed me. It was me who needed you. But Chieri, there is something I want you to do for me."
"Anything, Mother," Chieri said firmly. She squeezed her mother's hand to let her know she meant what she had said.
Reiko nodded. "If you see Masaharu again, you need to tell him that I don't blame him."
"It wasn't his fault. I should have let him make a choice that day. I thought I was protecting him, and instead I hurt him. Everything he did he did out of the pain my actions caused him. You need to tell him that I understood this, and that he was my son. My greatest regret in my life was never saying it, and not letting him see me that day."
Chieri nodded, swallowing hard. "I will tell him."
Reiko's grip on Chiei's hand slackened. "That's good. There are things more important to me than those paintings, Chieri. I know you feel personally hurt by the loss of them, that the thought of them being lost or destroyed breaks your heart, but you have to understand that this isn't about those paintings or my career. It's about Masaharu and his feelings."
Yes. I understand," Chieri said softly. "And I will tell him if I see him."
Reiko smiled again. "You're such a good girl, Chieri. Just remember that even after I leave this world, I won't be gone. Although you can't see me or speak to me, I will still be watching over you."
Chieri nodded. "I will remember, Mother."
And with those words, Reiko's eyes slid shut, the smile never fading from her face.
When Clayman finally left the room there were tears sliding down her cheeks. However, she was very quiet as she gently shut the door, clutching something to her. She looked up at the group, who had been waiting expectantly for her, and smiled softly. "I've got it."
"What about the painting, Clayman-san?" Ginji asked. "Isn't that what we were supposed to help you find?"
Clayman shook her head. "No. He wanted that painting. He can keep it. There are some things that are more important than those paintings." She looked down at what she was clutching against her and pulled it away from her body. It was a book, green with a silver decorative border. She opened it and removed a picture from it, examining it and handing it to Ban, who was at the front of the group. The others crowded around to look at the photograph.
It had been taken outdoors, on some kind of deck, and appeared to have been professionally done. Sitting in a chair was a woman wearing a simple but elegant emerald green dress, her hair shoulder-length and falling in black waves touched with silver. Her green eyes looked worn but proud. Leaning against the chair from one side was a younger Naoya, his half-smile genuine, his cane simple and black. He was wearing a green school blazer and black tie as he leaned against the chair, his hair tied back and his dark blue eye large and reflecting happiness. Leaning against the chair from the other side was a tall, lanky girl in a similar outfit. If one just barely glanced at her they might have thought her a boy, for her wavy silver hair was cut short. Only one stand had been allowed to grow long, and it was clasped with a gold ornament. Her green eyes were bright with youthful energy, and she was smiling broadly.
"Clayman-san?" Himiko asked, looking between the picture and the woman in front of her.
Clayman nodded and took the picture back, putting it back in the book. "They were the only pictures we had of our childhood, and he took them when he left. This is what I wanted to get back. And I also wanted to give him Mother's message."
"As touching as I find all of this- and believe me, my heart has been completely warmed over- I am afraid I will have to end your moment," a thickly accented feminine voice announced. Everyone turned around in time to see Wilhelm round the corner, followed by several of her guards. "Did you really have to kill Naoya? I didn't like him much, but that was just overkill."
"I thought you were going to rest," Ban observed, not feeling amused in the least.
Wilhelm shrugged. "So did I. But then Naoya called up to my room and told me to send some guards. I thought it was a matter I should handle personally." She surveyed them all again with her harsh violet eyes. "Your little group seems to have gotten larger. Breda, I should have known you were behind Naoya's injury."
Breda glared at Wilhelm, holding her knives again. One was still covered with blood. "I've been here long enough. Let me go."
Wilhelm shook her head. "No, you seem awfully fond of your little friends here. You can stay with them and if they leave, you can leave." She moved her gaze to Clayman. "You are the owner of that gallery I made a donation to recently."
"Oh really?" Clayman asked mildly.
Wilhelm nodded, smiling. "Under the name Katrin Blauvelt."
Clayman nodded. "I know who you are. I never cashed your check."
"Your loss," was the simply reply. Wilhelm motioned to her guards, who walked back around the group again. "Apparently the dungeon couldn't hold you. I was going to only hold you long enough to gloat to my dear cousin Jakob, but since you insisted on being this way then I have something special planned for all of you." She smiled sadistically and looked at the guard stand closest to her. "Take them to Solomon's room."
End of Chapter Seven
Quick Note- Before anyone asks, I don't know what Clayman's real name is so I made one up. Considering I don't know her name, it's highly unlikely I'd know her mother's so obviously that is made up as well. Also, I had to fire my beta reader. I re-read this a few times and ran a spell check, but I really need a new beta reader. If you're interested, let me know in the review section, get on AIM with me (AGirlNamedGoo278), or e-mail me at email@example.com. For those who haven't been yet, there are now bios for the characters in Wilhelm's Manuscript at http://www.puddleofgoo.com (in the fics section).
*Cue Goo's Stupidity*
Next Chapter of Get Backers: "The Boy with the Evil Eye". Look forward to it!
Any similarity between anyone living or dead is purely coincidental unless other wise noted.