A Moment in Time
Chapter 3: Falling
By Nagyra
 
 

What, more or less, followed that afternoon by the seaside was my fall. And I
had fallen in so many ways beginning with that spark of realization when I
looked at Kiminobu and one tender kiss.
Before I left him to return to my two drunk comrades--though I much preferred
Kiminobuís company over theirs, duty led me to it--I did quite an unexpected
thing. A couple of unexpected things actually.
I leaned forward to capture Kiminobuís lips in a soft and sweet kiss from which
I pulled away a second after it had started.
Kiminobu looked up at me, a faint look of surprise registering in his eyes as
his cheeks started to glow red. With the sun at the perfect angle, I was
enraptured yet again.
"What is it about you?" I whispered softly, moving closer until our lips were
just a hairsbreadth apart. "Youíre no courtesan. A simple server. And yet I
yearn for you."
I reached forward to tenderly caress his cheek. "For your beauty. For your
seeming naiveté." I tilted my head to the side. "And yet I donít know you. Your
disposition is simple as it is complex. Tell me, Kiminobu. What is it about you
that attracts me so?"
"Do you really expect me to answer that?" he whispered back.
"I was hoping you would."
"I donít know," Kiminobu replied. Then he stepped back. "We must return to the
saloon now." His cheeks had perhaps turned full red that time.
No one spoke as I followed him out of the sanctity of the beach and back into
the dusty streets of Beatus. When we reached the saloon, it was still crowded,
no surprise there.
Kiminobu immediately took the abandoned jug by the table and turned to me. "Will
you be returning, Sir le Vider?"
I couldnít reply immediately. I was treading on dangerous waters. I was walking
a path I had never taken before and the rational part of my brain told me I
should turn back immediately before I swam too deep and walked too far. But I
turned to look at Kiminobu. At his warm brown eyes. At his kindly face.
"Definitely."
Kiminobu graced me with a small smile before bowing slightly. "That is good. It
was a pleasure being in your company, sir." And he walked away.
I followed him with my eyes as he moved about the saloon, serving wine. Then I
wondered why he wasnít a courtesan. He had grown in an environment where
inviting themselves to other peopleís beds was the main source of income. His
mother was one of those who were considered the best at that profession so why
hadnít he taken the same road> I was further intrigued about his ancestry.
Courtesans did not have spouses and Claudia de Lecter had enough of a reputation
to give me a long list of men who might have fathered Kiminobu.
I shook my head and quickly returned to Mitsui and Hanamichi before I drowned
even further in my growing fixation.

The next day, I had nothing else in mind but to visit Kiminobu again. I kept on
remembering how his lips felt like against mine. How his eyes sparkled when he
spoke. How his cheeks blushed at the simplest of things.
"Leaving again?" my father asked me just after breakfast.
"Yes. Life in this city has grown dull," I answered truthfully--I never lied to
my father. "I seek amusement and it canít be found here."
My father laughed good-naturedly. "Pray tell, what amusement do you seek,
Kaede?"
I held my tongue back. As much as I stayed honest to my father, I never told him
the complete truth. He was perhaps my best friend but even best friends could
only know so much.
"What kind of amusement do you think I seek, father?" I finally said.
He grinned at me knowingly. "Company."
I was taken aback. "Excuse me?"
"You seek company," my father repeated, standing up. "And not just any company
too." He waved his hand at me as if he was shooing me away. "Go and find it
then. And when you do, do remember courtesy and bring the lucky boy here for me
to meet."
I blinked. Boy? "How--"
"You hate women," my father answered, another knowing smile on his handsome
face. "And I admit, most of that is my fault. I think Iíve paraded enough women
of the worst kind in this house. An injustice, I admit but you DO forgive your
father of this one weakness, donít you?"
He nodded at me before I could even reply and turned to leave. "And need not
worry, he doesnít have to meet Beatriz."
My eyes widened. "What--"
"I decided yesterday that sheís rearranged this house quite enough already," he
told me as he walked off.
I followed my father with my eyes until he turned one corner of the hall and
disappeared. So Beatriz had been given the boot. A small smile graced my lips.

I rode to Beatus feeling a bit light-headed.
The day had started out so perfectly, not even running into Mitsui and Hanamichi
while I was on my way for a getaway could ruin it. Although it DID took some
doing to talk out of the coupleís coerces to drag me into another of those
saloons, this time in the less urban areas of Saltare.
The main reason why they wanted a third party was because they needed someone to
keep on eye on them after they get sloshed--just like yesterday. Of course, they
didnít exactly say this but I knew it to be true.
I was all ready to make a run for it when, thankfully, the captain of the
guards, Fujima, came waltzing in and I threw the coupleís proposition to him.
Fujima had caught the throw rather badly and he was winked out of sight by
Mitsui and Hanamichi before he could even think.
So, free and alone, I entered de Lecterís saloon to see it full again and a
surprise was awaiting me before I even took more than three steps.
Claudia de Lecter emerged from a group of men at one corner looking sinfully
stunning in a long velvet dress of dark blue. Her face was painted white and red
and her plaited hair, decorated with cerulean laces, were bundled up on top of
her head.
She approached me, leaving the men she had been entertaining without even giving
them a second glance or a word of good-bye.
Everyone had immediately turned to me--this man who had caught the famous
hostessí attention.
"Kaede le Vider," she said in a firm but melodious voice--the voice of a true
courtesan. An alluring smile graced her lips as she stopped her approach, less
than a foot away. The strong smell of jasmine perfume wafted through the air and
if it was meant to seduce me, it only succeeded halfway for I was more dizzy
than attracted.
Also, I was uncomfortable with her close proximity, as well as the attention I
was drawing from the crowd.
"What do we lowly beings have that you would care to grace us with your presence
this morning?" she asked me.
"Your son," I wanted to say, but it was too frank and too candid, I chose to
hold it back. And with that answer gone, I had nothing to say.
But she didnít wait for an answer which wasnít going to come.
She took my hand and led me to a secluded corner of the room, into the shadows
and away from the prying eyes of the curious little people.
"You are looking for my son, yes?"
I nodded slowly.
She smiled, a knowing yet sad smile.
"Go to the back room. Kiminobu woke up just an hour ago--he worked late
yesterday. He should be finished cleaning himself up by now."
Then she reached out and touched my cheek with her long slender fingers. "Youíre
such a beautiful boy, do you know that?"
I thought about the question. My own beauty was never really something I cared
about. It was something soldiers who went to war facing a good chance of dying
had little time to pay attention to. But I had enough vanity to admit I was
quite comely.
"Does it matter?" I asked.
"Of course it does," Claudia said, with a soft laugh. She shook her head and
took her hand away. "Go. Heís been waiting for you for a long time. But--" She
trailed off and bit her lip.
Then she just waved her hand and left me at the corner to return to her guests.
I was puzzled, but I pushed the feeling and the questions it brought with it
away to be reexamined in a later time. I made my way to the back room just as
Claudia had instructed me and Kiminobu was there amongst the small group of
people who transferred wine from large containers to smaller ones.
He seemed surprised to see me.
"So early," he said, meeting me by the door.
"Letís get out of here," I told him, grabbing his arm and dragging him off
without giving him time to reply, though he put up little resistance when I led
us out of the saloon, through the small path we had taken the other day and back
to the fine white sand of the beach.
I closed my eyes and breathed in the air, slipping my hand from Kiminobuís arm
and into his own hand.
He took it, only blushing slightly when he did.
"Kaede," he said with some hesitation as if he was experimenting the use of the
name. "I. . . . What happened--"
"Come to Saltare," I said suddenly, turning away from the sight of the waves
hitting the shore to look into Kiminobuís eyes.
He was staring at me with a shocked expression on his face. "Saltare?"
"Yes, Saltare," I said. I wasnít thinking anymore. All I knew was that I had to
bring him home. I had to introduce him to my father.
I leaned forward and kissed him again, much longer than the first one and ten
times more desperate. I pulled away only to whisper, "I couldnít stop thinking
of you, of touching you, of holding you," before kissing him once more. He
didnít resist, and he even returned the kisses after quite some time.
I scooped him into my arms, resting my palm on the back of his neck. And then I
pulled away.
"Please come back to Saltare with me," I said.
He was looking at me with a thoughtful expression on his face. "Oh, Kaede. You
donít know what youíre asking. You donít know me--" He looked away and yet he
brought his arms up to wrap around my neck and shoulders.
"--And I donít know you," he said.
"It only takes time to get to know each other."
"And it only takes time to get to know each other well enough to realize it
wasnít as good as it had appeared to be," Kiminobu whispered.
"Youíre not as naive as I had initially thought, then."
Kiminobu laughed at me, a soft and genuine laugh that very much resembled his
motherís.
"Whatís so funny?"
"Iíve grown up with courtesans around me. Iíve seen people break each otherís
hearts more times than you could count. I know what betrayal could do to a
person in love even though I have not truly felt it before."
I frowned. "Betrayal or love?"
"Betrayal OF love," he told me, resting his head on my chest. "And yes. Love
too. Iíve never felt love like this before."
"So you love me?"
He blushed once more. For all his wisdom and perhaps all he had witnessed, he
was still an innocent in my eyes.
"I guess I do," he whispered finally. "But then what is love? A simple
attraction or something infinitely more complex? You asked me yesterday what it
is about me that attracts you so. Now I ask you, what is it about YOU? Youíre a
soldier. A beautiful soldier. A man I could not get rid my mind of. And yet I
should."
"Should?"
"My mother likes you," Kiminobu said with a deep sigh. "No, not in that way," he
said quickly once he had caught sight of me starting to look cautious. "Well,
maybe yes. Youíre," he swallowed hard, "very attractive. But more importantly,
she thinks I should not cavort around with soldiers. Especially soldiers of your
rank."
"Cavort?" I repeated. "A while ago, you said you loved me, but youíre--WEíRE
just Ďcavortingí now?"
Kiminobu pulled away from me and I immediately missed his presence in my arms.
But I did not reach for him. I let him step back and further away from me.
"No. You donít see the point here," Kiminobu said, looking down on the sand. "My
mother never wanted me to be a courtesan. She hates her job, you know. But then
she refuses to leave it. A matter of necessity--at least thatís what she says.
The manner in which she raised me. . . . You could say I was sheltered. I grew
up accepting her profession but never fully understanding her attachment to it."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
He shook his head. "It has to do with everything. My mother is a perfect
courtesan--she could appear to be loved and loved even if sheís not. I do not
have that ability. That is why I couldnít be a courtesan. I . . . cannot make
myself feel detached. If I Ďcavortí I fall and here is the evidence before you."
He buried his face in his hands.
I reached out immediately and gathered him in my arms again. "Tell me about your
mother," I whispered, suddenly wanting--NEEDING to know him.
"I do not know my mother," Kiminobu whispered, closing his eyes. "I love her,
yet I do not know her."
"You must know something."
"She fell in love with a soldier," he finally told me. "A soldier who did not
love her back and left her pregnant and starving in the streets. Itís always the
same story. Love a soldier and face disaster. Either you die or come out ten
times stronger."
"And she does not want you with me?" I asked, remembering how his mother had
approached me only a while before. She didnít seem to hold any hostility against
me. But she had that sad look in her eyes every time I would lock my own with
them.
I suppose Claudia de Lecter had an idea of the tragedy that was to happen
then--of the tragedy that HAD happened that brought me to this cell. And I
suppose if I had stayed away after that, if I hadnít surged forward and let
myself drown in my growing obsession, it wouldíve been better for all of us.
But I am straying from the scene.
"She gave me a choice. A choice she never really had a chance to have--more for
the lack of experience and innocence than anything else," he told me.
I knew what the choice was. "Love a solider and face disaster--"
"--Or walk away and never find out," Kiminobu finished. "Whichever I pick she
will accept."
"And your choice?"
Kiminobu looked at me, tilting his head so that he could gaze into my eyes and I
felt exposed all of a sudden. I wasnít used to being so openly appraised.
And then Kiminobu leaned closer to plant a clumsy but sweet kiss on my lips. It
was the first time he had ever initiated a kiss between us and that simple act
carried so much meaning.
"So," he whispered. "I hear Saltare is quite a splendid city."
~~~ End Chapter 3 ~~~