Warning: Homicide attempt. (Hell, I’m in a weird mood.)
Millions of Dreams
Side Story I: The Twenty-Fifth Dream – Winter
By Aikawa Fuuko
The soft voice of a young girl caught his attention. Sakurazuka Seishirou raised his head to see his younger sister Setsuka approaching him quickly from inside the house.
He couldn’t help but smiled a little. One could be surprised that a fragile-looking girl like her could walk so fast and firmly like that. On the outside, Setsuka might look delicate and small, easy to be broken by the slightest impact, but in fact, she was a very strong and determined young girl. She moved with the grace of a leopard, fast but cautious, ready for its strike.
Within one minute, the black-haired girl had reached her older brother. Seishirou nodded towards her. He looked at her for a while. Setsuka was seven years old this year. She was very nice and innocent, like any young girls her age. Her wide amber eyes, her smooth white skin, a beautiful contrast to her silky long black hair, small pink lips, everything about her was a gorgeous picture of innocence and purity.
She was wearing her usual light blue silk kimono; it made her look even paler under the weak light of the winter sun. Seishirou didn’t understand why she loved wearing kimono that much. She had a large collection of very beautiful design kimono by many famous designers. That collection was worth a huge treasure in his opinion. But since their family belonged to an old and wealthy clan like Sakurazuka, plus their father was the Clan Head, it was not a very big problem.
Setsuka approached her brother with a small frown that only made her look even cuter. Her brother looked at her and smiled. But she knew him better than that. Seishirou was clearly upset by something; the instinct of a child told her so.
She was concern. Her brother hardly ever looked this sad. She wanted to know the cause of it. Her brother was the most important person to her. She didn’t want her brother to be sad. However, unsure of what to do, she could only stand there and stare at him, hoping that he would say something to brighten up this winter morning like he usually did.
Aware of Setsuka’s worried gaze, but Seishirou didn’t have the heart to talk to her about his reasons of sadness now. Sometimes he was surprised that Setsuka was strangely sensitive. Only a slight change in his attitude and she would know there was something wrong. Sometimes he would share his problems with her, sometimes he would just keep silent, and Setsuka would follow him all day without a word. Today was one of the days like that.
Seishirou didn’t want Setsuka to know his reasons of sadness this time, because today was their mother’s death anniversary. She had died two years ago. At that time, Setsuka had still been too young and couldn’t fully understand the loss.
Setsuka had cried, but only because she couldn’t see her mother anymore, she had been scared. Only some time later, she had come back to her usual self. She had only been a five-year-old child to understand the true meaning of her mother’s death and the event that had happened not so long after that. But Seishirou had been able to understand.
He hadn’t cried at the funeral. Somehow he had found himself unable to cry. He had felt so empty and lost. You know the feeling when someone close to you dies; it’s something we cannot describe by words. He had felt like that.
His mother had always been so angelic and ethereal. She had been born in a family with hundreds years of history and had been brought up as a fragile princess. She’d had a weak mind and body. She’d died because of one of the diseases that had been haunting her from her childhood.
Even so, she had been really beautiful, like an angel from heaven. She had always been so caring and gentle towards her children. They loved her very much. They were also her joy and pride of this life, her beautiful children.
Everyone said that Setsuka was a perfect copy of her mother, beautiful, pure and fragile-looking. But Setsuka had the strong mind and determined attitude of her father. Seishirou, on the other hand, was almost nothing like his parents. He didn’t have the angelic kind of beauty, but a charming and dangerous one. His beauty was dark and light at once, mixed and constantly altered. One moment he was gazing into space and smirking slightly, the next he was cheerfully smiling and running around with his sister. He had the attraction of innocent beauty and mysterious beauty all at once. His mother had once said that he had the tendency to become an actor in the future.
Seishirou remembered her words with a wistful smile. Those days were like a fleeting dream to him now, a dream that ended too soon. Only one year after her death, their father had married to another woman.
Seishirou hadn’t said anything about that marriage, and Setsuka had been too young to understand at that time, but the strange woman had stepped into the Sakurazuka house in the unappreciated silence of most of the people here. The maids and servants were worried that their young mister and mistress – whom they loved just as much as their previous mistress - would be treated badly by this stepmother.
Their worry was partly right. The woman clearly didn’t like her husband’s children. She was annoyed that they took away too much of her husband’s affection. But she didn’t dare to do anything. Their father, though rarely met them because of his business, was indeed cared about their well beings very much.
Everybody had a distinct feeling that she’d married their Master only because of his money. She was a beautiful woman, though not as beautiful as the previous mistress, but still enough to allure the man who had just lost his wife. Her beauty was keen and dark, revealing a part of her true nature: a woman who would do anything for money. And that was for another theory why she didn’t like the kids: she was afraid that they would take her part of inheritance in the future.
However, in Seishirou’s eyes, he felt that she also had a somewhat unstable state of mind. That only made her more dangerous. But he didn’t want to do anything unappreciated towards his stepmother, just tried to avoid her as much as he could. He didn’t want to cause his father anymore headaches. Sestuka, on the other hand, had started to develop a clear distrust and dislike towards her supposed-to-be stepmother. Child instinct, he guessed. He would tell her to behave later.
Seishirou turned and placed his arm around Setsuka’s shoulders, guiding her for a walk in the large garden. That would make her less worried about him. She was still so young and innocent…
“Going for a walk, dear?” A sweet but sharp voice startled the two children. They looked up and saw a beautiful woman with long strands of brown hair falling carelessly on her shoulders and a dangerous smile on her blood red lips, gazing at them.
Seishirou stiffened. His face was shaped into a perfect emotionless expression within one second. Setsuka’s frown deepened. She looked at the woman in front of her warily, a clear disgusted expression on her young innocent face. Seishirou’s hold on her shoulders strengthened.
“Yes, Megumi-san.” Seishirou kept his voice neutral and unwavering. He just hoped Setsuka would have enough self-control to keep silent throughout this unwanted meeting. He needed to protect his sister from this dangerous stepmother, and war between two determined leopards would do no good. He looked straight into the woman’s eyes as if wanted to challenge her.
The brunette was silent for a moment, and then her lips curled up into a fake smile. “Have a good time then.” She looked at them nodding politely, and then raised her head, continued her walk.
After she had disappeared from his sight, Seishirou heaved a relieved sigh. His hold on Setsuka loosened. He pulled her away as far as possible from that woman’s direction, feeling glad that she hadn’t said anything.
Setsuka’s frown still hadn’t ceased. She hated that woman. The way she looked at her and her brother… It unnerved the young girl. Somehow, she felt worried for her brother… The way that woman had looked at him lately…
“Goodnight, onii-chan.” The young girl raised her blanket up to her neck and smiled towards the doorway.
“Goodnight, Setsuka-chan.” Seishirou nodded slightly towards his sister. He gently closed the wooden door of her bedroom and stepped into the hall. He didn’t really want Setsuka to sleep alone, she was only seven, but she resisted and said that she was fully capable of taking care of herself. What a strange kid, Seishirou sighed.
It was eleven already. Setsuka had been stubborn and determined not to let him go till she was exhausted herself with all the games and books she had bugged him with. Seishirou was pretty tired himself. He hurried towards his room’s direction, ready for a good sleep, only to be stopped by the brunette he had met that morning.
“Seishirou dear, what are you doing here at a time like this?” Her far too sweet voice really made him cringe away in wariness. He silently cursed his ill luck today. And he should be the one who asked that question.
The pale moonlight outside illuminated the hall with its ethereal glow, and illuminated the woman with a sense of mystery. She looked so paled. A strange gleam twinkled in her deep eyes, unreadable but still gave him the distinct impression of danger and insanity. He couldn’t see her very clearly. Her dark locks of hair fell all over her shoulders, hid away her face.
Seishirou tried to keep his compose. He bowed politely towards the woman.
“I’m going to bed right now. Thanks for your concern, Megumi-san.” He answered softly, and then prepared to turn and go towards his room. But before he had a chance to do so, she had caught his wrist.
“Wait. Don’t you want to go with me for a walk?” Her grip was hard. Seishirou tried not to jerk away from her. Her hand was cold, so cold. It sent chill down his spine. Keeping his voice steady, Seishirou raised his head to look at her.
“A walk?” He glanced outside. It was very late. The woman smiled sweetly at Seishirou’s confusion and suspicion.
“Yes, dear.” And without further explanation, she pulled him down the hallway. Her grip remained hard on his wrist. It almost made Seishirou wince. He was sure it would leave bruise tomorrow. Too bad his father was not home. He was at Osaka for two weeks because of his business.
The outside was very cold. It was winter anyway. Fortunately, it wasn’t very dark in the garden. The moon was full tonight, bathing the garden in the pale silver light. The woman stepped out and walked straight towards the smaller garden behind the house. Now sure that Seishirou wouldn’t try to escape, she had let go of his wrist. The young boy hesitantly followed her, trying to keep his face neutral the whole time.
For a long while, they didn’t say anything, just walked and walked. For the lack of a better thing to do, Seishirou took his time to admire the house again while walking. Unlike what people usually thought of a Clan Head’s house, this house was not what they called ‘traditional’. It was built with Western style, a very large villa with vast European garden, granite hallways, and candles every one meter in the house, etc. It was simply gorgeous.
Going pass a large brush of roses, his view was opened by a very large swimming pool, decorated by hundreds of small lights on trees around it. In some of the nights, when those lights were lit, their glow reflected upon the water made a fantastic and ethereal scene.
This swimming pool had been built only one year ago, due to his father’s new wife’s request. The woman seemed to like it very much. She went here often every morning in the summer. Seishirou and Setsuka had never swum here because of two reasons. First, they didn’t want to meet the woman there. Second, it’d been built very deep, and neither of them had learnt how to swim yet. However, sometimes when the brunette was not there, they came to admire the beautiful view of water under sunlight or moonlight.
Seishirou looked at the woman curiously, wondering why all of sudden she wanted him to come here with her. It’s not like they could swim now. It was midnight, in the middle of winter, and the pool was definitely colder than ice. And this woman just didn’t seem the type that could sit for hours admiring a beautiful view, gossiping with her husband’s stepson.
The woman put an arm around Seishirou’s shoulders lovingly, made him almost shudder. She leaned down and embraced the boy from behind, like a snake circled its prey. He could feel her breath behind his neck. The woman whispered sweetly into his ears, sending chill down his spine again.
“Do you feel cold?” He felt as if she was hissing into his ears.
“Not really.” He answered in a small voice. He stood still, unsure of what to do. His instinct told him that something was not normal, something was going to happen.
“Good…” He could felt the woman’s dark smile. She straightened a bit, but her hands were still on his shoulders, right behind his neck. “Because…” He felt as if that hand would close on his neck and choke him anytime. “You will feel even colder at the bottom of that pool.”
Seishirou spun around and found the hidden crazy red gleam burning in her eyes. But before he could react, a hand grabbed his hair and threw him backwards. It was when he realized that they had been standing at the edge of the swimming pool.
Suddenly found himself lost his balance, he could only see the water coming at his face when he fell freely down. A hard surface greeted him, but he soon figured out that was because the water was so cold he could hardly feel anything. He quickly sunk down. The water was so cold, so cold… Soon he couldn’t breathe anymore…
Suddenly a small but strong hand grabbed his neck. Long and sharp nails dug into his skin. Under the pale moonlight upon the water, he felt his heart stopped when he realized it was the one who had thrown him down.
The crazy woman had also jumped down. She grabbed his neck and pushed him down deeper, keeping him under water and preventing him from coming back up to the surface. He struggled hard, but she was too strong. The water was so cold… his body was going numb… unable to breathe…
He tried to gasp for air. That was a big mistake, because he was under water. Freezing liquid rushed into his lungs, almost stopped his breathing immediately. All too soon, he felt a killing headache rush to his head. His entire body felt hurt, as if thousands of needles were sticking into him. His ears couldn’t hear anymore, but he knew someone was laughing. It was becoming darker and darker… It hurt so much to breathe…
Setsuka sat up abruptly on her bed. She was sure she had heard something. A sinking feeling was growing in her stomach. Something was wrong, something was badly wrong… Her unexplained fear grew when the strange sound she’d heard continued. Water… It was the sound of water…
Sestuka frowned. Her room was nearest to the swimming pool. But who swam at a time like this? Her innocent face turned paled slowly. Something was wrong…
Without further thinking, Setsuka jumped down the bed and dashed out of her room. She ran frantically down the hall, towards the swimming pool’s direction. Only one thought was in her mind: something was badly wrong. She rushed out, unaware of a maid’s shout when she saw her young mistress running outside at midnight.
A thought suddenly flashed in Setsuka’s mind: Seishirou. She felt weak all of sudden, frantically praying that nothing happened to him. Setsuka picked up her speed, dashed through the large rose brush, and stopped dead in track.
Her amber eyes widened in horror. Her entire body was like being paralyzed by the scene in front of her. There in the swimming pool, that woman…was holding a boy under the water. Under the moonlight, Setsuka could see her crazy eyes burning with hatred and insanity. She looked like… a devil… a devil from hell… like mother used to tell her in the fairy tales…
Slowly, the boy she was holding started to go still. And that snapped Setsuka out of her paralyzed state. Seishirou, it was Seishirou… Her mind started to scream at her. It was her brother… The scream got louder and louder and louder… She suddenly heard laughter… laughter from the devil of hell… shouting… screaming… hurt… Her eyes widened, a scream tore apart the night.
Sestuka bolted up on her bed, bathed in sweat. She stared at the wall in front of her. What…? The girl pushed her long black hair backwards. It was a dream… a nightmare… She could still feel her heart thumping madly. She used to have that dream many times. Every time she dreamed about it again, she would be unable to sleep the next four days.
Setsuka sighed. She wanted to cry. It had been twenty years since that terrible event. But every time she saw it again, she couldn’t help but kept shaking and silently praying that her brother was still all right. She was so scared… if that night she hadn’t come in time…
Setsuka shuddered. She pushed the thought away. She turned to look at the clock and was startled to see it was 2:00 p.m already. Damn, she needed to come to the studio fast. Today was the cast meeting, she couldn’t miss it.
Setsuka dashed out of her room and hurriedly prepared her stuff. She had to hurry up, or else Seishirou would think she was off somewhere with a date and started to phone her once every five minutes.
Setsuka smiled and stepped out to the bright sunshine. Beautiful day… All the thoughts about that fated winter night were quickly dismissed… Now was spring.
~*~*~*~*~*~End Side Story I~*~*~*~*~*~*~
A/N: Uhh, I didn’t think the side story would be so long… Seishirou’s side story was out sooner than I had expected. Oh well… maybe Subaru’s side story will be out till the next five chapters or so… It depends on my mood. Really.
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