♛ Scarlet Carousel | oo4

{Installation} – [oo4]

You trust us to find her? Your trust is cheap.

February 2017
South Korea

“Here, this is the source of our system’s hijack, Mr Yamaguchi.”

The aforementioned ran his eyes across the network protocol and address. “A one-man operation?”

“Indeed. Helluva a genius this one is. Shall I get rid of him? Your call, Sir.” His proud lackey rubs his hands together, eager for mission. He shifts his weight from foot to foot – the only sound that could be heard in the Yamaguchi headquarters.

Yamaguchi grits his teeth and lets his thoughts fill the silence. Finally, he lets out a deep chuckle and says, “Let this go on.” He swivels around to face the vast skyline of metropolitan Seoul.

“But Sir, this man has obtained crucial information –

“Let him pass system security for a whee bit longer.”

“Sir, our database has been compromised –
“You heard me.”

“Sir, for someone to hack into the system, he’s not simple to begin with…”

“I have made myself very clear. You may go.”

Puzzled, his subordinate hastens to retreat. Meanwhile, the stack of sheets containing the hijacker’s information goes alight with a flick, and disappears amongst dark wisps of smoke. Within minutes it is nothing more than ashes in Yamaguchi’s wastebasket.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“For God’s sake what this lady needs is the hospital!” Eiji does not follow the party up the flight of stairs leading towards a dimly lit private apartment.

In Pierre’s arms, her arms and legs droops like a lifeless ragdoll.

Pierre grits his teeth. “Keep this up and you’ll be the one needing a medic.”

Eiji’s head snaps up. He charges forward. Reina quickly blocks the stairway with her frame and shakes her head vehemently. “We need to lay low,” Reina lays a hand on Eiji’s forearm an leads him up the stairs, “as we’re clearly on the run now. Showing up at the public hospital would only cause a hoo-hah we don’t need.”

Pierre lets out a low whistle. “Thank god someone here’s got brains.”

Eiji’s fists clench at the other man’s remark, but with Reina’s soothing hands running up and down his arms, he could no longer stay angry.

A swift intercom call later, they are introduced into a dark studio apartment. The world outside is cut off by a sharp, almost inaudible click of an automatic door security system. As the door shuts quietly behind their backs, Reina registers a monochrome space with patches of greys and startling implants of scarlet red. Beyond the walls, nothing from the inside can be heard even to anyone pressing a stethoscope to the cold metal of the door. Hence nobody, save for Eiji, would ever have heard Reina’s soft, surprised gasp as she first lay eyes on Jae – a tall stranger of which she could only make out the sharp contours of his deepset eyes, high cheekbones and strong jaws. In the dim of the lights, he looked even darker in a full suit of black, eyebrows in thick slashes of rich chocolate brown furrowed in an inconspicuous frown. So natural was this look of intense concentration that this man did not appear to be frowning at all, until you took a closer look at the lines at the base of his forehead.

Taking her gasp as an indication of fear, Eiji steps protectively closer to Reina, and this movement leads Jae to frown in their direction. He immediately recognizes the face from a recent seige of the nation’s identity databases – a Reina Yamaguchi who Pierre asked to keep tabs on.

This close, Jae is stirred by the girl’s dark, startling beauty. Keeping his cool, he steps one forward, deliberately closing the distance between them. He takes one look at the unconscious girl in Pierre’s arms, then back at Reina and Eiji. “If the pair of you so much as breathe a word to anybody outside of this room, you two are as good as dead.”

With a chin-tilt, he gestures for Pierre to go forth into another room. “I’ll be attending to the wounded. The two of you need to remain on this couch, within our sight.”

From the room, Pierre replies, “the female identity is verified. You can just discard the boy.”

“Hey we came here together and I’m not leaving without Reina!”

Jae sighs gravely as he pushes both of them onto the couch. “Oh Pierre, why the heck did you bring the boy here.”

“I couldn’t run with one girl’s body and securely ditch another. The pretty one is too fragile to be of any help.” Pierre steps back into the room, wiping his hands on a bloodied towel.

“Could the two of you not speak as though we don’t exist?” Reina points back and forth between Eiji and herself, emphasising their presence.

“Yup, pretty one’s got guts and brains,” Jae confirms, “and so I’d expect you to know how to shut your trap. If you guys try to run, you’ll only escalate your deaths. Not to mention your room-mate’s.”

“Noemie? You know where she is?” Reina stands abruptly. Suddenly, the couch tilts back and Eiji is flung onto the floor. “Hey!” he gets back on his foot and looks befuddled.

“Watch it. My home is booby-trapped everywhere to disarm intruders. If you don’t wish to be caught off-guard, don’t make sudden movements. The trick is – stay still, don’t leave the premises unless you’re with Pierre or me. Also, the studio with the red door is out-of-bounds.” Jae throws out the warning before leaving the room.

Eiji tugs Reina down to his side and pulls her close. “You guys are insane!”

“Are we? Your roommate is insane. This Noemie. Tell me, why would she stalk me in the middle of the night, dressed like a whore.” Pierre questions.

Reina frowns in concern. “You met Noemie? Is she safe? She was supposed to meet me at my dad’s bar but was uncontactable all night.”

Pierre slips a hand into his jeans and pulls out the device. “Because I have her cellphone. And she has mine. We had a confrontation but I didn’t hurt her, or see her after. I was hoping to find her in that apartment to return it.

“We stay together in that apartment…” Reina lets her voice trail off. The room they shared was now ransacked and destroyed.

“And we don’t know who that girl is.” Eiji chin tilts to gesture towards the room where Pierre had carried the injured girl earlier.

“The main thing now is to make sure that girl lives to tell the story.” Jae says as he returns with 2 Styrofoam cups of water. “Drink up, you look like you need it.”

Thirstily, the two downs them. Reina wipes her mouth with the back of her hands and says, “Thanks. I really need to know if Noemie is safe. Can you find her?”

Jae takes the empty cup and thrashes them. “If she’s important, we’ll look for her, dead or alive.”

“Of course she’s important! Don’t even mention dead. I can’t hear it. If you brought us here, you must know what happened to her.” Reina’s eyes start to fill and Jae has to look away from them.

“Give me a reason we have to bother with you kids fouling up our plans.”

“We have no such intentions. If you know where Noemie is, would you find her? For me?” Reina pleads with desperation in her eyes. She searches Jae’s face to no avail – a cold hard emotionlessness is all he shows.

Jae fights an urge to let down his guard; in his defense he’s not usually weak when it comes to girls. In Reina’s records, she was an actress with accolades to her name – a girl like that could charm the pants off a man without lifting a finger.

Jae shrugs. “You trust us to find her? Your trust is cheap. Lesson number one: don’t finish your drinks so quickly.”

It takes them 2 seconds to digest this piece of news. In the next instant, they had fallen into deep sleep.

In the makeshift surgery room, Jae grits his teeth and frowns in concentration. With doctor’s precision, he weaves the stitch needles in and out of the fresh wound. Pierre hands him a hot sterilized napkin, which he dabs on the face of the wounded girl.

“Jae. You think we can get much out of her when she’s conscious?”

“I think she’s as innocent as those two out there. One less life on my bad karma, one less load on my conscience.” With an inbuilt flashlight on his Swiss army knife, Jae examines her pupils. “Any idea where this girl comes from?”

Pierre shakes his head as he winds up the bloodied sheets and tucks them away in the washer, and quickly checks the security screen with cameras reflecting all zones of Jae’s apartment. Huddled on the couch, the screen showed Reina and Eiji fast asleep.

“I’m still confused. Are you gonna tell me what’s all this about? First you check up on this Reina Yamaguchi. The next moment you show up with her, plus an almost-dead chick and a dumbass.”

“So that girl is Reina Yamaguchi?”

“Yea. What’s the story? Start from the beginning.”

“Okay, so, a briefcase full of bio-hazardous drugs should have been on that flight to Vegas an hour ago, but nobody showed up to hand them over to me. I couldn’t leave for Vegas. My guess is, peddlers of the patented drugs killed my messenger. I got shot in the alley, hence my bleeding head if you haven’t noticed. Out of nowhere, I found a girl who’s been following me. I thought she had shot me in the first place, but turns out she’s just a very sexy whore. Her name’s Noemie Matsumoto. We had a scuffle; I tried to get information out of her. She acted all girly and weak in front of me so I let her go. Then our phones got swopped, and I know I got that girl into trouble because if she picks up any of my calls at all, she’s dead meat. That Reina Yamaguchi had been calling the whore’s cellphone the entire night, so I figured she knew something. When I got to their shared apartment, I found her,” he points to the makeshift surgery table, “and none of us know who the fuck is she. Their apartment got torn apart.”

“Right, this is not confusing as hell. Who do you think wants those drugs?”

“Man you have no idea. If news had been leaked, countries would pay gazillions for these drugs as investment in biological warfare. These new anti-retroviral drugs are deadly. You don’t need internal ingestion to kill an entire population within seconds. When genetically altered, these viruses can be timed into action, so if you want a person, or a society, to die at a specific time and date, that can be made possible.”

Jae curses under his breath. “And that stuff was carried around in a briefcase?”

“Discreet huh. At the moment the drugs are unnamed, manufactured by a private South Korean organisation nicknamed Cave, which coincidentally also sold the satellite database system to the government.”

“Really? Coincidentally, I was skyjacking the government satellite system earlier. Guess what? Complete access.” Jae winks.

“Nice.” Pierre holds up a hand for high-five, and follows Jae into the red room where his devices were stored. “I was hoping to find out more about Cave through the drugs transaction. Did you find out more?”

“See? Sceenshot here says interference on my skyjack was from a source name Yamaguchi. I was totally blocked after that. Considering my system is still up and running I’m surprised they didn’t try to shut me down completely. My guess is, Cave built this the database for the government, but for Yamaguchi to hack into government files and change records. Afterall, Cave sold the system to the government many years ago. So Cave is in fact working for Yamaguchi. Coincidentally, that girl outside shares the last name.”

“But when you ran a check on Reina there was nothing on her.”

“Not her. Her family.”

“Family. So you’re saying…”

“We need to find out more about her family. Then we need to find Cave’s headquarters.”

“Jumping into conclusions aren’t we. I like that. Where do we start?”

“Before we go anywhere let me look at that gunshot. That sniper got you good.”

HOW DO I

HOW DO I

How do I sleep with voices in my head –
telling me what to do, what to say,
who to love
in a torrential rain of unspoken words,
this cascade of love misplaced
from desired keepers
whose intentions long expired;
all memories are deadweight.

How do I sleep with footsteps in my head –
walking miles into a receding path
of all that’s forgotten
bursting from dams across distant shores
like prisoners newly reprieved;
we are dredged up beached whales
awaiting a death sentence
we hardly know is coming.

How do I sleep with a bullet in my head –
point blank fired,
lodged in a hollow in the shape of you. 

How do I sleep with these raindrops in my head –
a constant drip-drop, walls a-stripping
till what’s left to fend against (you)
is but a thin membrane.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

How do I

♛ SCARLET CAROUSEL | OO3

{Installation} – [oo3]

Life would be an endgame if we knew it all.

February 2017
South Korea

Even Las Vegas was in boycott of his calls. Pierre consciously fights the urge to crush the identical twin of his own cellphone in his palm. Calls to his Nagasaki hometown, directed to the comrade who had handed him the transaction, went straight to voicemaill. Somebody’s obviously having the time of his life at 2am. He curses his comrade under his breath.

Pierre, having gone solo as an agent, had long since acquired the art of non-existence. He had plucked the traceability of his mobile phones off the locality map — contributing to the anguish of having lost the only point of contact with his Vegas merchant.

He spends a good 3 hours retracing the alleys in search of the girl who is in most unfortunate possession of his cellphone, sincerely hoping that she had not stupidly picked up any calls.

Yeah right.

“Meddler”, “nuisance” and “interferer” were written in bold all over that girl’s pretty face. Pretty face. Did I just think that aloud? He looks down at the cellphone indistinguishable to his own, save for the absence of a small spiderwebbed crack – a scar acquired in the backpocket of his owner who had fallen 10-feet onto a parapet – and he admonishes himself for the possible disastrous mistake.

In the span of 3 hours, a Reina Yamaguchi had tried to contact this girl, whose name he had no burning desire to learn of, a grand total of 153 times.

“Jae? I need to crack your brains. Take down this name and get her checked.”

True to his top-notch skills at disarming passcodes to government system files, Jae had replied within the hour.

“Reina Yamaguchi was a child actress in Japan, born in Nagasaki and raised by nannies. Attended a Western University in Korea. Seems to have blood relatives here too. You like this chick? She’s hot.”

“Nothing fishy about her?”

“No…wait you’re checking up on her? Man, I thought you were just interested. She’s clean.”

“Great. Get me photographs, address, next-of-kin, details.”

“Sent.”

With no time to lose, Pierre cracks the lock on a Vespa in an open-spaced lot and races it to the address tagged to Reina Yamaguchi. The helmet reeked of cheap cigarettes but Pierre keeps it locked around his throbbing head.

Whoever had hired the chick whom Pierre silently and swiftly disarmed earlier in the alley was bound to have already heard of her misstep.

Pierre was to be dead. Details of the transaction had to be hushed, forever.

Now he lives. And this Reina Yamaguchi was going to lose an important friend.

All Pierre needs at the moment is his cellphone back in order to inform the Vegas merchant of the glitch in operation. The money was already in somebody else’s hands, for god knows what reasons. He would need to get it back. But to do so, he would need to play hero for a certain intrusive damsel in distress. He abruptly guns the engine. Long legs already sweeping up the porch steps to Reina’s dormitory before the Vespa was even silenced.

Why the heck had she been trailing in his shadows all night? She looked way too uptown and naïve.

The gun loosely tucked into his waistband was a .45 caliber Beretta, and if required he was swooping in for a quick decisive kill. But the victim he was looking for had no place and name. Who the heck had pounced on the previous messenger, and how did they know of this clandestine deal?

First things first — find the girl, save her ass.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Eiji doubles back up the stairs, taking three at a time, and finds Reina collapsed in a quivering heap. He crouches by her side, takes her by the shoulders, as he takes in the scene before him. The house was in disarray – looking as though heavily ransacked. Eiji makes a mental note to ask Reina if they had lost any precious items when she sobers up.

“Stay here,” he orders, gets back up in a run towards Noemie. With fresh blood streaking down her face, and frail breathing, Eiji does not move her. Instead, he places emergency calls to the police and the hospital.

“Get her blankets, Reina.”

The girl staggers to her feet and moves as instructed. The thick blankets were soon stained with blood upon placing them over the motionless body. Her hands shiver as she struggles to wrap the blankets around Noemie, careful not to dislodge any vital crime-scene imprints.

Suddenly, Reina drops to her hands and knees in the puddle of blood and peels off the blankets. “Wait. It’s not Noemie. It’s not her, it’s not her!”

Hysteria rises in her voice, as new panic replaces the shock of discovering the body.

“She’s wearing her clothes! Why is she wearing Noemie’s outfit?”

Eiji pulls Reina up and hugs her briefly. “Go into the kitchen and call her cellphone. I can’t find it anywhere.”

He calmly dissects the scene and the injuries of the girl before him. Somebody had used physical force to knock her out. His or her main intention was not to kill. It was also a fresh wound, Eiji observes, probably minutes before he had brought Reina home. Blood trickled down her left temple. Seeing as bulk of the bloodshed came from the base of her skull that had met the edge of the dining table with force.

Noemie’s ringtone sounded just outside the door, seconds before it swung open.

Clutching the ringing cellphone, Pierre takes one look at the girl’s body and cursed under his breath. Eiji makes a grab for the nearest table lamp, steps between Pierre and Reina.

“Look,” Pierre surrenders his unarmed hands,  “I know what happened. If you want to save your friend, listen carefully.”

Wailing sounds of siren alerted them to approaching authorities. Pierre dropped to his knees.  Weakened pulse. Alive. But this unconscious body of his attacker in the alley was smeared with Pierre’s fingerprints.

“Grab fresh blankets. We’ve got to keep her warm. We’ve got to get out! I’m not here to hurt anyone. Staying will make things worst if you two are arrested for suspected murder.”

Urgency in his voice seems to engage his listeners into shocked action. In minutes, Noemie’s double was wrapped in bedsheets and huddled down the stairs in Pierre’s arms, closely followed by a stricken Reina and a suspicious Eiji. They make it past the dumpster, before hearing their unlocked front door slamming and male voices establishing contact. Cops.

“Got a car, boy?”  Pierre gently lowers the body onto his stolen bike.

“No. Dont call me boy.”

“I’ll upgrade your nickname when you prove it. Think you can handle a Vespa? I’mma jack another.”

“Who the heck are you?” Eiji rants, but already he is swinging a leg over and starting up the engine.

“Get into the back of his bike,” Pierre tilts a chin at Reina as he single-handedly disarms a sound lock security, “and follow my lead. Don’t even think of going anywhere.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Cutting edge technology my ass. He had, in his possession, government blueprints, corruption archives, treason records, and proof of rumoured political scandals. He could earn trillions from blackmail, but Jae was not one to hanker after big bucks. Countries, states, unions, societies, and organisations…everybody was entitled to secrets, right down to the individual. He stood resolute to an absolute faith in the moving power of unresolved riddles and enigmas. In a lifelong race, Jae had been searching for a sense of an ending to the life he knew before his father was dead.

Aren’t we all searching for answers? Life would be an endgame if we knew it all.

Secrets.

Off the screen, he deciphers a series of numbers and barcodes and scribbles them onto a sketchpad. On his unlisted cellphone he translates the encrypted message.

1975.RALPHSARK.VIETNAM.

1975 marked the cessation of the Vietnam War. It was also the year his father’s company filed for bankruptcy in the face of corruption lawsuits. The year Pierre’s parents sought refuge with his father after the war.

Ralphsark was too well formed to be incidental gibberish. Jae cracks his brains for the next hour but comes up with nought.

A bleep sounded. This indicates an interception of messages and Jae enters the transmission to locate the source of interference.

YAMAGUCHI.

Yamaguchi?

Meanwhile, someone from the other end detects a hike in interferring lines.

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

Scarlet Carousel ©
Searching for the centre of the universe, the centrifugal force that holds everything together.
Each spinning out of control, yet inevitably riveted.
Is this a journey with an end, or does the weight of the world settle in places where the spinning never stops.
Where then will the spiral lead them?

To be continued…

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

xoxo
Viktoria Jean

SCARLET CAROUSEL

Writing Prompt: Mint

Describe the taste of mint, without using the words blue, green, cool or fresh.
No, you can’t use “minty” either. — Sarah Selecky

You place it gently at the tip of your tongue, slowly wrapping it in a fold, delivering it into the moist cave between your lips as you clench your teeth shut. You close your eyes to savor the first burst of sharp flavor and here comes your first thought – it tastes like the sea on the cusp of summer’s noon.
Its circular body is flipped through and through, crashing against the banks of your teeth like a pebble in restless tides, chipping away each time it hits the shores. Alongside the summer heat, it glows with a force. It is a piece of invitation – come to the sea where it is cold, and I will melt the heat away.

At its peak, it throbs with torridity, fighting with a fervor to be scorchingly cold.

At the close of the day it is chipped to its core, releasing feeble spurt of tangy tremor as the setting sun retreats.
Its purpose dutifully served, it fades to nothingness.

xoxo viktoriajean

tumblr_m8muquM1zR1rbn12so1_500_large

oo4 ✦ Dangerous Mind ✦

The kids today are gone away petitioning the dust
Just misfit melancholy dregs gone lost in the mall
Wanderers to nowhere at all

It was never in Max’s honest intentions to fall asleep with his head in Devynn’s lap. It was never in his expectations that she would stay to watch him fall asleep.

She knew not to probe, and merely studied the way his eyebrows knit into a frown that deepened in his troubled slumber. Her thumb traced the anxiety written all over his forehead, finally applying a little more pressure to ease the creases between frowning brows. That appeared to help, as Max was evidently falling into a more peaceful sleep, marked by a tiny snore…

Lithely, Devynn slipped out from under his weight, replacing herself with a soft pillow. When she had smoothed out Max’s dark brown hair, she pulled the duvet blankets over his sleeping frame. Quietly, she left him to his dreams.

******************************************

“Don’t leave me!”

Max awoke in distress, gripping the blankets so hard his knuckles turned white. It took a full minute for him to remember where he was. The bedroom was dark but not pitch-black, and it was Devynn and not the servant-boy who had stayed by his side.

She too was gone, and he was tucked comfortably in bed. Max ran his fingers across his shoulders, feeling a phantom warmth that still lingered from Devynn’s presence.

Suddenly, a fear struck Max. His friends always vanished or were taken away, simply because they had been in touch with Max. He was afraid this fate awaited Devynn and his new friends. That Devynn would abruptly vanish like a servant-boy whose companionship had kept him sane during those long nights. His only friend had departed one day like a burst bubble, whose disappearance he missed from blinking his eyes.

He did not wish the same fate upon Devynn, or Sora, or Thierry.

He looked around for his room-mates but they had not returned.

Something else caught his attention.

The dining table was adorned with colourful plates, all laden with a selection of Korean cuisine – rolls and rolls of fat kimbap, beef stew, cold noodles, bean paste noodles, and kimchi pancakes, inducing an audible growl from the pits of his stomach. A note to him was written in a beautiful cursive hand.

You must be hungry after your sleep. Don’t skip any meals. I am known for my excellent culinary skills, so…count yourself lucky! – Devynn

It was like he had been dead to the world when she had prepared all these food. No clanging pots and pans were heard. After all, despite a brief nightmare, he just had one of the best sleeps in a long time.

His mouth watered as he sat down to savour the sumptuous spread. He made a mental note to ask for a recipe for her salmon sushi rolls. A trace of a smile tugged at Max’s lips when an image of Devynn arranging the sushi rolls on a plate popped into his mind.

The buzzer to the apartment door sounded.

“Package for Mr Max? Please sign over here.”

The bulk was loaded into the living quarters, a red ‘FRAGILE’ label intact on the rock-hard casing. Finally! — his beloved guitar was here, shipped from Korea on request. It was not smashed, after all.

Hastily shutting the door, he threw open the casing, and ran his fingers over the familiar rosewood and strings – the familiar scent soothed his anxieties.

******************************************

 

Their den swarmed with movement, speech and activities. All of their members were in attendance. A heavy cloud of smoke hung in the air, filling every nook and cranny with the odor of filthy tobacco. Above them, busy streets of Tokyo were bustling with cars and traffic.

The clubhouse was their second home, where everyone gathered when nobody desired to go home. That happened often.

Hazily lit by a flickering lamp was a round table where they gambled. Each filled their usual spot, puffing away on weed and cheap cigarettes.

“That new guy– what’s his name again?—was such a dick. Did you see how the girls were all over him? Is that why you’ve been brooding the whole damn day?” Shiwon asked, giving Justin a light push on his shoulder.

“Shut the hell up, Shiwon.” Justin sat down on a chair and slunk further in his seat.

“Do you want us to teach him a lesson? Just say it.” Dong Hae cracked his knuckles and smirked.

“The girls were all ‘oh look at that hunk’. Bleargh. He looks a bit like Taguchi, don’t you think?” Shiwon laughed.

“Shut your mouth.” Taguchi banged a fist on the table. “Justin, just holler if you need back up.”

“Honestly, do you guys like violence that much?” Akanishi asked with a frown. He looked at Dong Hae, then at Shiwon and Taguchi.

“What’s the matter with you, Akanishi?” Shiwon challenged, his fists balled up in a combat stance.

“Enough.” Justin’s word brought silence.

Hee Chul, who had been curled up in his mid-afternoon nap, was awokened. Annoyed, he sat up and flipped his long hair. Running his tongue over his dry lips, Hee Chul said, “Simmer, Justin. You ruined my beauty sleep.” Hee Chul unfolded his legs, got up and sashayed towards Justin who was still in his seat, looking away from the group. Running his perfectly manicured fingers across Justin’s chest, Hee Chul gave a seductive moan and stared into Justin’s eyes. “Who angered my dear Justin?”

Justin pushed Hee Chul’s hands away. Hee Chul gave a seductive laugh. He cocked his head and looked at Justin. “You are one stubborn bitch, and I love you anyway.” Looking around the room, Hee Chul asked, “Since Justin won’t tell me, would any of me kindly give me an update?”

“It’s the new guy.” Dong Hae explained. “Someone’s been frowning the whole day and he won’t admit that the new douchebag is the real reason.”

“Lies. Why would a new guy get on his nerves? No one can out-fight our Justin.”

“This one can,” Justin mumbled.

“What did you say?” Akanishi leaned in to hear Justin, but caught nothing else.

Just then, Dong Hae’s cell phone rang. “Hello….speaking…….WHAT? Holy shit. Right now?” He hang up abruptly.

“Guys, it’s Daiisun. The previous dealer. Our loot was seized. The people from Che-mun Corporation is on their way.”

Everyone stood up, vulgarities flying in all directions.

“Listen up! We have to leave right now.” Justin was in control.

“Where to?”

“Get to Daiisun. We have to keep to our promise.”

And they were off.

******************************************

It was 6 months ago. The deal was made within the hour.

The 7 boys -Justin, Taguchi, Akanishi, Dong Hae, Chris, Shiwon and Hee Chul – accepted Daiisun’s offer to be runners. They would have to back Daiisun in every deal. They knew the market like the back of their hands, and Daiisun could use a whole bunch of street-smart high-school thugs.

On paper, Daiisun was an international trade union, working under pseudo licenses from the local government. In truth, they were an underground organisation amassing cash from trafficking humans and transacting drugs and all other types of illegal or fake goods. Their activities centered around South Korea and Japan as well as the rest of Asia.

The terms of the contract were listed when Daiisun bought their loyalties for 10 million dollars.

1. They were to abide by the leader and Daiisun’s words under all circumstances.
2. Betrayal would result in immediate death.

They became slaves to money in the underworld.

Daiisun’s biggest rival was Che-mun Corporation, which dealt in Korea, Japan and China, and whose leader led with an iron fist.  Often, both sides have come to blows over clashes in trade.

With the boys’ help, Daiisun had come to an agreement with Che-mun over the use of trade space in the local region. Daiisun would have clients that will not overlap with Che-mun’s clients, such that both corporations would work hand in hand in the market and no boundaries were crossed.

6 months later, all these right would come crashing down.
***

In a dark alley linking Daiisun’s warehouse to the Daiisun main building, tall men in trenchcoats and dark glasses lined the place. Tension hung in the air.

Daiisun’s head honcho stood face to face with Che-mun’s. Both were tall enough to see eye-to-eye, unwavering in their poised stance.Unspoken fury threatened to boil over.

“It seems like your men stepped out of line first, secretly made deals with our biggest client, having sold 200 pounds.” Daiisun spoke.

“My men did nothing of the sort. In fact, your men killed mine in order to get a deal that was rightfully ours. Your men are at my mercy.”

“Let them go this instant. My men would never jeopardise this agreement. You are using this excuse to break off our agreement, so you can raid our warehouse.”

Anger flashed in Che-mun’s eyes. He took a step closer to Daiisun.

Instantly, Daiisun was backed up by his members straightening up in their bearings, as if to warn Che-mun against any rash actions.

“Why don’t you get those boys who initiated this deal to get here right now?” Che-mun challenged. “Those boys presumably made a promise to safeguard this promise.”

“We did.” Justin announced as he stepped into the alley amidst the heightened tension.

Behind him, the other 6 boys assembled.

“You hired…kids? Boys, go home to your mummies. Curfew’s over,” he chuckled, looking over his shoulders at Justin.

Several men sniggered as they watched the young boys doubtfully.

“What are you laughing at?” Dong Hae grimaced and stepped forward brazenly.

Justin placed a hand on Dong Hae’s arm.

Looking straight at Daiisun, then at Che-mun, he said, “We’ve kept our promise. We hurt no men, nor did we break any agreement.”

“Then where are the goods? Did they fall into the sea? You boys were last seen trading.” Daiisun boomed.

“We did as told. Che-mun himself was present, we saw you getting into the limo outside the ferry terminal. It was a tri-party trade. The other party acknowledged the loot.” Justin rocked back on his heels in disbelief. The tension in the air was rising rapidly. He heard a few knuckles cracking. It was a multi-million dollar deal. Tempers were bound to be a lot more short-fused.

Che-mun laughed and turned to face Justin. “Is this all you can do? Daiisun was too stupid to trust you boys, but I am not. Perhaps you looted them all to make a bit more…extra cash. Who else is in this game? Who else bought you?” These further insinuations seemed to produce a veil of doubt on Daiisun’s already cynical expression.

He sniggered, turned back to look at Daiisun. “The deal…is off.”

Instantly, an uproar rose in the dark alley. It was of bodies slamming into walls, fists smashing and breaking jaws, and screams of fury and agony blended into one. Daiisun and Che-mun were each surrounded by bodyguards.

“Che-mun, I’m going to kill him!” Dong Hae exclaimed. With clenched fists, Dong Hae charged forward angrily.

“Wait no! You will be killed, Dong Hae!” Akanishi exclaimed and reached out to grab him, but only grabbed at air. Justin followed after Dong Hae who had managed to snag a knife from a dead Daiisun member.

Hee Chul was calmly tying his hair with a rubber band, while the rest of the boys, too, charged forward to help their leader.

A man in black threw a punch in Justin’s face. He dodged, grabbed the man’s arm, and swiftly threw him over his shoulders in a perfect karate move. Another attempted to stab Justin’s back, but Dong Hae saw it and crashed into the man with all his might before he could reach Justin.

Behind them, Akanishi and Taguchi were fighting off Che-mun’s men.

Justin reached the human barricade around Che-mun faster than any of his friends. With two flying kicks, he threw off 2 bodyguards in his path, but they were quickly replaced by more. There were so many, all armed, with pistols gleaming in their gloved hands. Any bullets fired from these weapons could not be traced back to any sources. Che-mun was watching all these in amusement, thinking he was safe and sound within his human barricade.

All 7 boys were now charging towards Che-mun, breaking down the barricade as swiftly as they could. Groans of agony and exertion could be heard all around.

Shiwon fell to the floor as a hard punch threw him off balance.

“You alright?” Taguchi reached for Shiwon’s arms and got him back to his feet.

“Never felt better.” A thin stream of blood was running down his chin. Shiwon swiped his bleeding lips with his bare hands.

The men in black were falling in large numbers, as some were running away from the scene, and others fell defeated. The human barricade was thinning. However, the boys were utterly drained, tired out from fighting.

Swaying, Akanishi threw a punch in a man’s direction but missed. Someone from the back kicked him and he fell to the floor, twisting his ankle. He let out a loud cry.

“Akanishi!” Chris lost focus as he saw his comrade fall. He did not notice that there was someone in black behind them. A sharp blow slammed into the base of his neck.

It was now 5 against God knows how many more.

A gleam of sharp and shiny knife flashed somewhere in the tangle of flaying arms and legs. Hee Chul saw it first. Then Shiwon noticed it too.

Hee Chul whipped out his handy hair brush from his pockets and charged for the man. Leaping into the air, Hee Chl landed on the man’s back and began to ravage the man’s face with his hairbrush.

“You wanna play with weapons, two can play the game!”

Hee Chul whipped out a hairbrush, brandishing it as his weapon. Justin had to control his laughter, when suddenly, he felt a sharp stab on his left side. Pain shot through his insides and rapidly spread to his entire body. He doubled over in pain.

“Justin!” Shiwon was being pressed down by another man, but he had seen the whole thing. The guy with the knife who was being attacked by Hee Chul had slid the knife over to another man. His movements were too quick for Shiwon to give any warnings.

With fury, Hee Chul grabbed the man’s hair and smashed his face against the concrete floor. Blood spurted from a deep gash in his forehead, and pooled around his now-limp body.

The knife protruded from Justin’s left side as he struggled to stay up. Blood was gushing from the gaping wound with every small move he made, and Justin could feel his skin go cold.

Taguchi had just flung a man against a wall and rushed over to Justin. “Let us do the job!” But Justin knew that they needed him. Waving his hands in dismissal, Justin stood up tall and bit his lips. He was strong, and stubborn, he would not back down while he was still able to fight.

Shiwon was getting on his feet. He limped towards Justin.

“We…we must not stop.” Despite his quivering thighs and greying lips, Justin gave a weak smile and encouraged his friends.

Just then, the barricade fell open with Hee Chul’s flying kick, taking down 3 men effortlessly.

Seeing that he was the nearest to Che-mun, Justin clenched his fists and charged, his knuckles connecting with the crook of the corporation leader’s nose with such blinding force.

Che-mun crashed to the floor.

And so was Justin, as he fell atop Che-mun, and rolled onto the floor, unconscious.

One by one Che-mun’s men fled, not only because their leader was down, but also they had heard the siren of police cars in the distant.

It was only when every one of the men in black was gone that the boys realised the siren came from Hee Chul’s mobile phone. But no one wasted any time complimenting his wit, as they rushed to Justin. By then, Chris was conscious again and Akanishi was hopping on one leg.

“Justin!” Loud cries rang through the dark alley. Not even Hee Chul’s slap could get their leader to open his eyes.

 

******************************************

 

That face. Justin thought in that split second when he had knocked the dark glasses off Che-mun’s face. Where have I seen him before?

It was only when Justin fell to the floor that the memories that had long pervaded him returned.

 

******************************************

 

Max was fidgety and uncomfortable as he fingered his red star pendant. Something in his heart told him that things were not right. Something was happening right at this moment.

As Max stood up from the table, he knocked over a glass of water. The glass cup rolled off the table and fell to the floor with a loud smashing crash.

Max stared at the fragments that now lay on the floor and thought to himself: Now they can never be patched up again. No matter what I do, these will always remain as broken pieces.

He sat back down, staring limply into blank space.

~*~*~*~

 

max4

✦ Dangerous Mind ✦
The blackholes in the deep recesses of your mind, secrets you never wished to hide.
The lovers you never want to remember and the history you can never leave behind.
You can’t run further if you’ve only been escaping your own mind.

oo3 ✦ Dangerous Mind ✦

In so many ways we live to follow the sun
In so many ways we exalt and fail as one
In so many ways we want so bad to be done

“Now be a good boy, Max, hold on to this white bag. Wait at that junction for a man in a black trenchcoat. You must see a scar on his chin before you pass this to him, are you clear?”

Only one end-goal persisted in 6-year-old Max’s mind: Father promised to take him to the amusement park if he obeyed and played by the rules. As if his life depended on it, he hugged the heavy package as tightly as he could.

“This is an important task. Daddy is counting on you. Don’t let me down, you hear?”

“Yes, Daddy.” Max grinned.

“Atta boy. “ Father ruffled his hair.

Evening descended, and after they had made their seventh round on the outskirts of the public garden, an image of the junction had been etched in his mind.

“Now. Get out there, Max.”

Father’s assistant unlocked the door, and Max was nudged from his seat. He forced his jittery body to obey, even as his little palms started to sweat.

“Go. Do what you’ve been told. Man in black trenchcoat. Chin scar. Remember.”

Still holding on to the bag, Max walked to an inconspicuous spot at the junction, hidden by towering trees and unkempt bushes, and waited.

An hour passed. The heavy bag kept slipping through his tired arms but Max held on.

Another hour passed. His arms shivered from the strain, and he was both hot and cold all over from nerves and the summer heat. Father’s car was no longer in sight as the sky was dark by now, but occasionally, he knew that Father’s assistant would flash the headlights to signal that they were there. Street lamps were of little help. He narrowed his eyes in scrutiny of every single passing person. Finally, when he could no longer feel his arms, he bent down and let the package slip out of his hands.

Just then, the supposed man in the long black trenchcoat appeared. He was crossing the junction when he saw Max, then proceeded to walk in Max’s direction. Max squatted over the package, watched as the man hesitated, then opened up his strides towards Max.

When he was close enough, Max caught a flash of his face. Indeed, a prominent white scar covered a large part of his chin.

Convinced that this was the man Father had instructed him to pass the package to, Max stood up and pointed to the white package. He looked at Max, then to the package, and nodded. Picking up the package, he turned to leave.

 

Satisfied, Max ran back to the black sedan and climbed back onto the comfortable leather seats.

Immediately after he closed the doors of the car, Max was knocked over by a force so large and brutal that he was slammed headfirst against the car door and out of his seat, finally settling into a heap onto the carpeted floors of the vehicle.

“Why did you put the damn thing down?” Father’s voice boomed.

Max let out a strangled cry as pain shot through his whole body. His mouth was beginning to fill with blood from the impact of the slap. His cheeks were stinging with acute pain. He thought his arm might be twisted.

“ANSWER ME!”

“I…I…I am sorry father. It was so heavy…”

“I did not ask you to put that damn thing down. What if someone else had taken it away from you? How are you going to answer to me?”

“I am sorry, it was really heavy…”

“I don’t give a damn whether it is heavy or not!” Father grabbed Max by his collar and pulled him back up onto the seat. “We’re going home now. And you, young man, are going to spend the night in the closet room.”

“I’m sorry! Please, not there!” Fear overwhelmed the young boy. He almost choked on his own tears which now ran freely down his swollen cheeks.

“Yes the dark and damp closet room. And no dinner. For heaven’s sake stop crying! Start the car, Jung.”

“Master, should we get some medicine for Young Master? He is bleeding badly.”

“JUST START THE DAMN CAR, JUNG!”

The engine roared to life, and navigated its way through the alley, and onto the winding roads of Seoul.

Wet from blood and tears, Max continued sobbing uncontrollably, his dreams of a happy outing with Father and Mother dashed, replaced by the nightmarish thoughts of sleeping in the dark closet that night.

Back home, Father grabbed Max, pulled him out of the car and dragged him down to the servant’s quarters. The servants’ quarters were rooms that housed the maids, chaffeurs and housekeepers. Dark, filthy, small rooms with a musky smell mixed with the stench of human blood and sweat.

 

A closet sat on the far end of the corridor. With a heave, he was thrown into the closet. By then, Max was too tired to struggle anymore. He listened as the door closed and the lock fastened, meaning that he would have to spend the night alone in this dark closet room with only a thin stream of light entering through a gap in the latch of the door. Curling up his small battered body, Max hugged his knees to himself, sobbing. His only companion was the dark that surrounded him. His stomach growled with hunger, and he shook with fatigue, but was unable to fall asleep. He could hear the bustle of activity outside the closet, where the servant’s families were getting ready for bed.

Just then, through a gap in the latch, something fell into his lap. It was a torch light, and a note attached.

‘Don’t be afraid. I am here for you. Let my light shine in the darkest corners.’

Something else fell in. It was a tiny cupcake which Max immediately devoured hungrily. To express his gratitude, Max knocked on the door twice. In return, he got two knocks back.

Another littl cupcake was passed through the gap.

Suddenly, there was total darkness as the servants turned off the lights for bedtime. Max screamed and began to cry once again.

“Hush! Do not cry. Turn on the torchlight I passed to you!” A little boy’s voice instructed him from outside of the closet.

Light instantly filled up the closet.

“Do not be afraid, I will stay with you tonight.” Max heard a soft click, and he knew that the other boy on the other side of the door had his own torchlight too.

“Are you afraid of the dark too?” Max asked.

“Not really. The dark is my best friend. Do you have any friends?”

“From elementary school. Yes. I like my friends. Do you have friends other than the dark?”

“No. I don’t go to school.”

“What do you do then?”

“I help out here. I stay in the basement. I do things like peeling potatoes and weeding the garden. Hauling the woodstock to keep the fireplace lit You live upstairs don’t you? The family that is taken care of by the families that live in the basement.”

“How do you know?”

“I saw you getting thrown in by your father, our employer. It wasn’t a pretty sight.”

“I know. I am Max, what is your name?”

“You can call me ‘hyung’ since I am older than you.”

“What is your real name? Can you tell me? Because you are a very marvellous friend.”

“I don’t have a name.”

“My name was given to me by my parents. Where are your parents, hyung?”

“I live with my mother. I don’t have a father. Do you want more cupcakes?”

“Yes please! Where is your father? Everyone should have a father by default.”

“I guess he is dead. My mother does not like me to speak of him.” The little boy handed another piece of his cupcakes to Max through the gap.

“Thank you. What time is it, hyung?”

“It is 11 in the night. I can hear your father brewing his decaf in the kitchen above us. He usually does this before he sleeps, while reading the papers.”

“You sure do know my father better than I do!”

“My mother always tells me about Master. Sometimes, she would bring me to the window where we can see Master’s bedroom.” The boy fell silent for a long time. Panic rose up like bile in Max’s throat.

 

“Please keep talking! It’s too quiet in here.”

 

“It’s always too quiet here,” the boy replied, but complied, “because the parties, dinners and summer galas are always held upstairs isn’t it? Mother tells me everything about the world upstairs – the silk shirt that Master wore for Charity Ball and Portugese egg tarts that he ate for brunch yesterday. She knows the room so well, I guess it’s because it’s her responsibility to tidy up. Our Master would be undressing while pulling the curtains shut, and Mother would gaze until the curtains are fully drawn. And sometimes, when Master’s main servant girl is sick, Mother always volunteers to clear up Master’s room and she would take me along. She touches everything on Master’s drawers and sheets. I wonder why.”

 

Max nodded, though he couldn’t understand why this was being told to him. He took it lightly, like a bedtime story, so he curled up even tighter into a ball.

“Is your mother beautiful?” He asked.

“She’s gorgeous. Like a blossoming flower on a winter night.”

“Wow, that’s a beautiful way of describing her.”

“Is your mother beautiful as well?”

“Her beauty is indescribable. Except it is masked behind a constant fear of my father.” A fear that Max knew like the back of his hand.

The sky was dotted with pretty stars and cottoncandy clouds carely covered them like a thin veil. Soon, both young boys fell asleep in the dark, each with a smile on his face.


***

When Max awoke the nest morning to the sound of the lock unfastening, he scrambled to his feet. The torchlight was still clenched in his hands, as he burst through the door, looking left and right for his lovely friend.

But he could not be found. The caretaker picked Max up.

“Where is the boy sleeping outside last night?”

“What boy?”

“The boy? Cupcakes? Something about his mom…” a nagging thought at the back of Max’s head told him that it was best not to mention the conversation that had gone on late into the night.

Servants do not and must not make friends with their masters.

changmin

✦ Dangerous Mind ✦
The blackholes in the deep recesses of your mind, secrets you never wished to hide.
The lovers you never want to remember and the history you can never leave behind.
You can’t run further if you’ve only been escaping your own mind.

oo1 ✦ Dangerous Mind ✦

The night is long – shadows grow on my wall
I’m calling out but no one’s home;
Cause paranoia is the only friend I know

Street lamps dimmed promptly at midnight, signalling the witching hours. A rented motorbike cruised along the Kan-Etsu expressway at a speed enough to give the common man a heart attack. Constant roars of the engine were probably the only sounds in this prefecture of rampant crimes and felonies. The Harley-Davidson travelled another mile before skidding to a stop at the gates of a hostel. The rider swung a lean leg to hop out, ran a hand through his hair – damp from ravages of the evening wind.

With a loaded haversack slung across his back, he walked, fists clenched, towards a relatively modern-looking building situated at the far end of the parking lot. He approached the porch entrance. Kikokushijo Student Hostel – the sign formally printed in katakana. He was in the midst of brushing up on his Japanese, though admittedly he was a better composer when his works were Korean.

A chair was propped up against the entrance gate.

“Max?”

A petite elderly lady gently beckoned. She must be Kawa-san, the caretaker whom everyone dubbed the ‘Halmeoni’. A Korean immigrant herself, she adored her hometown lodgers and never failed to welcome them with open arms.

Max shuffled his weight from one feet to another, hesitant.

Kawa-san cupped her thin, callused palms lightly over Max’s, extending her warmth to the tips of his icy cold fingers.

“Please call me Halmeoni, like everyone else. It’s great to finally meet you,  Max. Come over where there’s light.”

Such benevolence in a smile could only beget genuine humanity. Max nodded and attempted a smile which didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Come,” she repeated, undeterred by his silence, “I’ll show you to your room. Let’s get you comfortable. School begins tomorrow. A good night’s rest will do you some good.” Kawa-san then led the way to the co-ed dormitory that Max was to share with two other fellow students. Max was thankful that she comprehended how he did not wish to speak.

The room was dark. Closing the door behind him softly, Max approached the only empty bed by the window, which faced the dimly-lit streets. He could sense the gentle rise and fall of his room-mate’s chests as they slept on soundly, but quietly so he would not wake them, Max unzipped his jacket and draped it across neatly-folded sheets.

For a long while after, he was lost in thoughts as he stared out of the window. His mind had a life of its own, swirling with memories long buried and better off forgotten.

Here at last, Max was finally physically safe enough to revisit his past. Though blurred and fuzzy at the edges from prolonged suppression, recollections were raw all the same. He fingered the red star that hung from a thin silver chain, warm from the heat of his chest, as he was laid in bed thinking.

That night, Max was sleepless.
***

“Hey handsome! G’morning.”

A chirpy girl greeted Max with a wide smile.

Max didn’t mean to stare. She was dressed in a beach-ready bikini, and as she stood up, he was hit with the fact that his room-mate was drop-dead gorgeous. Max stopped himself from scanning her from top to toe, and focused on her mega-watt smile.

Noticing Max’s creeping blush, she let out a loud laugh.

“Hah! Forgot my manners. Forgive me. I’ve been here for 3 years and this is nothing new. You are Max right? Halmeoni told us you would be staying with us. I’m Sora. Kim Sora from Seoul, Korea, like you!”

She sure talks a lot. Max thought as he shifted his gaze onto the body on the adjacent bed.

“Oh that one is Thierry. He is so lazy even though we need to wake up at this time every morning, and now the time is….OH NO. OH MY GOODNESS. THIERRY! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!”

Sora was born a multitasker. Max watched her tug the blankets off of Thierry, and slapped him in so many areas that could wake the dead, and all the while, managed to powder her nose and put on mascara. Her lungs were a separate entity – they screamed at a hundred decibels for Thierry to get the hell out of bed.

Thierry, however, was dead to the world.

Sora launched her last resort.

“Max. Give me a hand will ya? Press Thierry down.”

Curious, Max did as told.

Sora stood a few feet away, poised to charge at the bed. Max stood rooted as Sora flung her entire bodyweight, and more, at her sleeping victim.

“YARRGHHH!” Sora roared as she slammed onto Thierry. Her fingers latched onto him and began aggressive tickling.

“What in the WORLD!!” Thierry sprang up. He tried to lift his body but Max was holding on. Max was not just ordinarily strong – he was chocked full of biceps.

Thierry growled and howled like a tortured maniac. “SORA…STOP!”

“Get up lazy ass. Get dressed!”

Sora then grabbed Thierry by the cheeks, and kneaded his face like it was a lump of mould. Thierry’s cheeks – already scarlet from laughter and pain from Sora’s abuse – turned pinker.

“KIM SORA I’M GONNA GET YA FOR THIS!”

Easing his weight off Thierry, Max took a step back and watched as Thierry sprang up to a sitting position. Grabbing Sora’s waist, he flipped her over effortlessly. The two rolled off the bed onto the Gabbeh carpets, with Sora on top. Laughing, both pursued unrelentingly with their brutal tickle assaults. Both looked so engrossed in their own little world, forming such a sweet picture of bliss.

Not wanting to intrude further, Max turned away. Quietly, he picked up his duffel and closed the door to the dormitory behind him.
***

Kikokushijo Academy was almost a mile away from the student hostel. Seeing as it was early, Max arrived at school on foot, taking in the fabulous scenery surrounding the campus. Cherry blossoms lined both sides of the walkway, and pretty auburn leaves were snow flakes in the wind. The branches crackled when the winds struck.

Around Max, high schoolers moved in big crowds, lively with chatter and gossips. They must have been friends for a really long time as Kikokushijo was an affiliate of their namesake elementary and middle schools.

“Look. He is the new guy I overheard Sensei talking about!”

“I heard he is from Seoul! Lives in that Kikokushijo hostel.”

“Does he share a dorm with anybody? We have an empty bed in ours!”

“He is tall!”

“What’s his name?”

“He looks hot.”

Max straightened his back and trudged on, his duffel slung high across his back. He was wary of this fresh environment although he was certain nobody knew, that he came from a place where his story was fodder for gossip, people were willing to pay to know his whereabouts.

He refused to slouch away or hide his lanky frame, which had become subject of all conversations. Max ran his fingers through his tousled dark brown hair and picked up his pace.

“Look! He is shy isn’t he?”

“He was flirting!”

“No look! He is blushing!”

“Are all Korean guys as hot?”

Girly chatters could be heard all over as they gushed. They were now discussing his muscular frame and that he must be a really good fighter.

Teeth grit, Max thought: You could do much worst in Korea, in that house. Accept this life. Japan is your safe haven now.

Friends were a luxury. Anybody could betray him. He had to stay low, and all these attention was not doing him any good.

He bowed his head as he crossed the gates into Kikokushijo.

~*~*~

✦ Dangerous Mind ✦
The blackholes in the deep recesses of your mind, secrets you never wished to hide.
The lovers you never want to remember and the history you can never leave behind.
You can’t run further if you’ve only been escaping your own mind.

———

A/N: Reposting a novella written 6 years ago by the old me. Here it is, fresh again after some edits.

To be honest, the protagonist, Max was inspired by a favourite Korean boyband then.
Hence pardon the amateurity, immaturity and bouts of girlish-ness.

max1

To be updated…

♛ Scarlet Carousel | oo2

{Installation} – [oo2]

Noemie Matsumoto is accustomed to getting what she wants. A girl with a purpose.

February 2017
South Korea

“Noemie is late! I tried dialling her cellphone but it’s been going straight to voicemail.”

“I wouldn’t be too worried. Knowing Noemie, she’s possibly hooked up with some fella on her way to Miller’s.”

Reina rolls her eyes, sighs. Eiji was right. Her other best friend undoubtedly had the knack for lapsing into temporary non-existence. Especially when a decent-looking man was within twenty-feet radius.

“Even if that’s so, Miller’s is just down the corner, she should have brought whomever down to meet us! We’ve agreed on a celebratory toast to the end of finals and summer term.” Reina grumbled.

“So much for bros before hoes,” Eiji gives an empathetic nod, but is unable to hide a grin, “well in any case that leaves you and me Reina. Let’s head in while we wait for her.”

Eiji drapes a casual arm around Reina’s slim shoulders and steers her away from the sidewalk, and into Miller’s Pub.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Noemie Matsumoto is accustomed to getting what she wants. A girl with a purpose, she picks her outfit with calculated deliberation. A semi-formal navy blue blazer over an off-the-cuff white sundress that skimmed her mid-thighs – she would bite her own tongue if this is not a sure-fire way to turn heads on a casual Friday pub-crawl with her best mates.

She had let slip, in a conversation earlier, to the attractive new Professor of European Literary Classics that she would be spending Friday evening at Miller’s Pub with Reina and Eiji. That she was somewhat uncomfortable playing gooseberry to her two closest classmates, watching the lovebirds bicker and persist in absolute denial of obvious mutual attraction. The Professor was new to the faculty — so naïve was he as he shook his head, insisting on having thesis papers to grade. A slight tilt of her chin to accentuate her slim jawline and a slow flutter of her long dark Asian lashes were all it takes. Noemie had noticed the immediate shift in Professor Rousset’s stance.

He agreed to vet through Noemie’s draft essay on Henry David Thoreau. Of course, not a word of which had even been written. Noemie told him she needed loads of help, as English was merely her second language. A corner of his lips had lifted and his eyes narrowed into crescent moons. If that wasn’t a loaded smile, Noemie didn’t know what else it was.

Well, a girl with her charismata have got nothing to lose.

Standing with her feet crossed at the ankles to accentuate her long ivory-white legs, she blows a fringe out of her face. Even the ordinary stance she took while waiting for her two best buddies resembled a model posing for a photoshoot. From where she was standing, men had been giving her appreciative looks and extensive once-overs all night. Well, almost every man. That one earlier had looked at her as if she was a pest, a nuisance. Or worst, a prostitute. Oh please, I’m not one of them.

Men never looked at her without a second glance. Men certainly did not display such obvious disinterest and disgust. Indignant, her ego was admittedly bruised, which fuelled her urge to pursue the strange man in a bid to expose his inner lust. After all, all men were the same.

Forget Professor Rousset. He would be putty in her hands.

Noemie totters gracefully in her stilettos, yet hurries to catch the fast receding shadow of the tall, dark stranger. The alley, lined with two rows of rear kitchens, is rancid with a stench of rotting meat, vomit and expired liquor. A trio of women stays squat by the curb, puffing on rolled cigarettes while a bald heavy-set man appears to be handing out a stack of cash.

“Make good with the crowd tonight. All businessmen with spending power.” The bald man chortles, stuffing the rest of the large wad of money into his back pocket.

Here lies the reality behind glamourous nightclubs and pubs: they ran on filthy money. Noemie totters close enough to glimpse the rolled cigarettes in their hands.  Upkeep of pretty, and desperate, hostesses involved feeding them with cocaine and amphetamine and weed. In return there was a business quota each night that they had to meet – a minimum number of men that they had to lure into their chambers of secrecy. Spiralling further into the depths of drug addiction, what other choices do they have but to return every night for doses of sustenance? It was their choice of livelihood.

Here, women used their charms in an entirely different manner from the way Noemie normally does. Noemie was clever enough never to throw herself at men’s feet. It was always quite the opposite.

Past the trio of women, she almost stumbles over a foot of a drunkard, sprawled like a starfish, facedown in a pile of trash. His friends, equally drunk but conscious, wolf-whistles in her direction. They smell sour, a mix of body odour and putrid vomit.

“Hey sexy lady!”

“You’re so fine, you blow my miiiinddd.”

Oh God, the things drunken people say.

One of them, who’s obviously been having one drink too many with his belly the size of a football, staggers to his feet, lunges at her.

Noemie steps aside, sticks out a foot, and rolls her eyes amusedly as the man stumbles. Not giving up, he swivels around and grabs her blazer by the edge, tugs her so close that she could smell the rancid liquor on his breath.

“Get the hell off me!” She screams and smashes a fist into his face. Blood pours from his nose. He growls like an animal and from behind her, his friends roar with laughter.

Another hairy arm wraps around her waist and turns her around. “Feisty, I like this one.”

Without thinking, she stamps her stiletto heels into his loafers, grinds down with satisfaction as she realizes she had hit a toe. The man howls with pain and falls to the ground, clutches his bloodied feet. She spins on her heels, makes a dash for it, leaving the intoxicated mob howling in pain and booming with drunken laughter.

Men, a bunch of idiots.

She clutches her cellphone, switched to silent, in her clammy palms. The atmosphere in the alley felt infinitely foreign, so much so that she breaks into a run further down the path where the man had supposedly gone. Noemie knows that it is far too late to turn back, but she could no longer see any sign of the tall, dark man.

The smell worsens as the streets became narrower and less familiar to Noemie. She hardly dares to breathe audibly for now, the only sounds that filled the passageway were distant soft footsteps, and that of her own heart beating. Before her, she notices a stranger slip to the left of a T-shaped junction and she quickly follows suit. But as she rounds the corner, the figure of the handsome man was there no longer. Not even a shadow of the man remains.

Then there was a gunshot. Unmistakably, someone had opened fire.

Noemie looks all around her in sheer panic. She doubles back a couple of steps, unsure of where to go from here. The odor of gunpowder residue wafts into her nose. Then she hears a scuffle. She knows she must leave the alley, but which way to go?

What was it? Who was hit? Where —

“Urmph!” Her breath catches in her throat as she is flung aside, and pinned against a wall by very strong arms. Her cellphone tumbles to the ground with a clang, the glossy red cover falls apart.

Thrashing her arms, she struggles to free herself. Single-handedly, her assailant grasps both her wrists in a vice-like grip behind her back, another hand clasps tight over her mouth. Hardly a sound could escape, much less her muffled sttempts at screaming.

“Who are you? Did you come alone?” He fires his questions emotionlessly.

Unable to move her upper half, Noemie knees him hard in the groin.

“What the f—

Doubling over slightly in pain, his right leg immediately hitches up, pinning the hem of her swishy dress to the wall, just enough to reveal a sharp glint of an object that resembles a gun, nestled in the side of a thin leather belt.

Blood drains from her head. He fired the gun. He had shot somebody. He had possibly killed somebody. Noemie shakes her head to show that she means no harm, but the man slams her against the moth-eaten timber wall. Pain shot through her spine. Noemie gives a soft whimper as tears runs down her cheeks, and onto the man’s fingers.

“Look, I’m not going to hurt you. But if you struggle, or make any noise, I’m throwing your dead body into the boot of my car, you hear me?”

Knowing she could very well be shot dead in an instant, she drops her tensed shoulders and bows her head slightly, surrendering to her assailant.

Sensing her relax, he loosens his grip, and slowly drops his hand from her mouth. Noemie looks up and recognizes the man she had followed into the alley. She searches the face of the tall dark stranger that was hidden by shadows cast in moonlight, and catches the dark trickle of blood running down his temples.

“Hey…you’re bleeding! Let me see to that, I’ve got a handkerchief somewhere in my purs–

He holds a finger to her lips, shushing her. Then takes astep back from her. Women, they talk too much. They annoy the shit out of him. He readjusts the clip on his belt that, by now she realised, strapped the gun to his waist.

“Why were you following me?”

His ice-cold mannerism seems more appealing by the second. At a loss of words, Noemie opens her mouth with uncertainty. “I…” What is she going to say? No explanation could express her whys. What could this man do to her? Kill her? Not with her charms. So she plays it such that the ball stays in her court.

She lets more tears run down her cheeks as she sinks slowly to the floor, and in doing so, her dress rips at the seams as the hem catches a splinter in the wall.

“I’m lost and I can’t find my way out. I thought if I followed you, I could find a way.…I…then heard a gunshot.”

He squats down, looks frostily at her tear-stained face with no sign of empathy, and says, “Don’t pretend to be a helpless female. All you whores use the same tactics.”

Coolly, he picks up his cellphone which had slipped from his coat-pocket, dusts them off with the back of his hand, and gets back on his feet. As he turns to walk away, he says over his shoulder, “If anyone asks, you heard nothing. You’ve never seen me.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Professor Rousset!”

Reina spots him, waves him over and gestures toward an empty bar stool right beside her. The lean French lecturer looks around, as if searching for somebody, before accepting the invitation.

“Looking for anyone?” Reina hands the Professor a pint of lager, and smiles at the attractive academic tutor. Rousset shakes his head, accepts the beer and pushes a couple of dollars toward the bartender, who pushes it back at him.

“Hey, on the house ma brudder,” the bartender strokes his handlebar moustache, “it’s Free-Flow Friday. To celebrate the last day of Ms. Yamaguchi’s exams.” He gives Reina a conspiratorial wink, and whizzes away with twenty champagne glasses in his hands.

“You’re a celebrity around here huh?” The professor chuckles deeply and leans close to Reina, clicking his jug of lager with hers. Eiji clears his throat from across the table, and leans over in a territorial stance as he grabs hold of Reina’s beer jug and pulls it toward himself.

“Her dad owns the place. Everyone at Miller’s knows her.” To Reina, he knits his brows together and warns, “ Don’t drink too much.”

“You’re sooooo naggy.” Reina snatches back her jug of lager and defiantly downs it all. As she clangs her now-empty jug onto the table, she gives Eiji a look that says so-there.

“Ah… Princess Yamaguchi,” Professor Rousset nods knowingly.

Reina shook her head. “That’s too much a title for me to bear. Besides, I’m just a geek who loves the literary arts.” She orders another jug of beer for herself, and Eiji who declines and looks on at his marginally drunk best friend with concern.

Barely a month into his teaching career at Seoul National University, he was well aware of the Yamaguchi’s contributions to the academic institution. From the Deans’ conference hall, to the performing arts theatre and the college central library, the family had a large share in infrastructure – so much so that the theatre and its surrounding hallways were named Yamaguchi Hall of Artistry. And as Reina was an undergraduate in the Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Mr Yamaguchi had built a separate building for research in the literary classics. Indisputably, Mr Yamaguchi was an associate on the Board of Faculty Directors.

“I don’t want to be a princess. I’m a Queen. Princesses are as weak as useless Barbies, always primping at mirrors…demanding this and that. Never working hard for anything they truly want. I’m no princess.” Reina shakes her head. “But since my dad owns Miller’s, feel free to drink up, Professor. On me!” Reina smiles, swaying as she stands, slightly tipsy from having knocked back two glasses of Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio, two tequila shots and 2 jugs of lager.

“Woah, steady there.” Professor Rousset holds Reina by her waist as she stumbles forward, giggling.

Eiji springs up, quickly shoves the professor’s hand aside, takes hold of Reina and allows her lean her entire weight against him.

Reina struggles out of his grasp. “Eiji!” She walks ahead a few steps, shaky but more steady. “I’m fine. Go back to your seat, I need the bathroom.”

“You sure?” Eiji looks ready to lunge forward to catch Reina if she should stumble and fall again.

“Naughty, naughty. Trying to get into the ladies’ bathroom on account of taking care of me? Tsk, Eiji Saito you pervert.” She slurs her last words and disappears round the bar corner into the washroom.

Reina grips the edge of the washbasin, and takes a good look at her face. She whips out her mauve lipstick and gives her lips a smacking fresh coat of colour, while remembering that her other best friend was still M.I.A.

“Let me give Noemie another call. She’s missing out on the hot Professor Rousset.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Pierre swipes the sticky blood from his face with the back of his hands. The wound had clotted, and he could feel a throbbing headache arising from within his skull. He had dodged, a swift decisive move that saved his brains from being blasted to bits. The bullet scraped the right side of his head and probably he would find a clump of dark brown hair missing from his scalp. But that was all the damage done.

Nagasaki’s message had been intercepted. The original messenger undoubtedly dead. The women who had attempted to kill him was now lying gagged, bound and unconscious in a pile of trash, accompanied by a band of noisy drunkards. He would never physically injure a woman, even if they had tried to blast a hole in his chest.

And who the hell was the girl who had followed him?

He had to make a quick call to Las Vegas.

As he held up his cellphone a connecting call flashed in the screen.

From << REINA YAMA ❤ >>

What. The. Hell?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Her cellphone rang.

Sitting upright from her slouched position by the dirty alley wall, Noemie flipped aside her long black hair to answer the call.

“Hello, Noemie speaking.”

“Noemie? Who the hell is Noemie?”

She quickly checks her cellphone screen. Caller Unknown.

“I am Noemie Matsumoto. And since you’re calling me, you should know who I am.”

There was silence on other end.

“Hello?” Noemie repeats.

“What did you say your name was?”

“Funny that you’re asking me. Noemie Matsumoto. Who are you?”

The man sniggers. “New, aren’t you? Noemie, Noemie, Noemie…” the man rolls her names several times around his tongue, “Noemie Matsumoto? I see they’re hiring young girls now.”

“Young girls…?” She lets her thoughts run for a moment, anger rising up from the pits of her stomach.

“Now Noemie, did you complete what you were supposed to do?”

“What job?”

The man remained silent.

“What job?” She repeats, anger boiling over the edge at having been provoked so many times on the same night.

“Hey listen up, I’m not a goddamn prostitute if that’s what you’re implying!” Noemie bursts, filled with annoyance accumulated from her earlier encounters. “You’re the second person today who thinks I’m a whore and it’s getting on my nerves! Go to hell, asshole!”

The man on the other end chuckles once before the line went dead.

Noemie feels the sudden urge to fling her phone across the alley. She shuts the call, clicks on ‘Contacts’ to search for Reina’s number, but to her surprise, all the names on her contact lists were so foreign they could be from another planet.

“Wha…oh shit.”

She remembers that moment when her phone had fallen from her grip, and that the man had picked up a cellphone of an identical model after labelling her a whore.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

5 in the morning. Reina staggers weakly up the stairs leading to the shared apartment. Noemie had rejected all her calls and she should probably be home asleep by now. She herself could hardly feel her brain functioning any longer. Sleep beckons.

Eiji had walked her home. To be more exact, he had lifted her onto his back, made her straddle him in a limp piggyback for most of the journey home. She had been too drunk to grip onto his neck. When they had passed by a convenience store, Eiji forced an entire bottle of mineral water into her. That had sobered her up a great deal.

She wrinkles her nose as she reaches her floor, as a peculiar stench pervades the hallway leading towards the apartment.

Strange, Noemie had forgotten to lock the front door.

As she steps in, Reina gasps, her back stiffens. Shards of broken glass from a fallen artpiece stuck out from their Persian rug. Noemie’s favourite orchid vase was now in smithereens. Their linen cosy pink couch had been overturned, with cushions slashed open and their feathers strewn all over the living room. She scans the damage, thoughts running wildly through her head.

Her drunken stupor clears the very instance she spots Noemie, her back against the kitchen table, slumped in a pool of what appears to be blood.

She falls backwards, and lets out a piercing scream.

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

Scarlet Carousel ©
Searching for the centre of the universe, the centrifugal force that holds everything together.
Each spinning out of control, yet inevitably riveted.
Is this a journey with an end, or does the weight of the world settle in places where the spinning never stops.
Where then will the spiral lead them?

To be continued…

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

xoxo
Viktoria Jean

SCARLET CAROUSEL

♛ Scarlet Carousel | oo1

{Installation} – [oo1]

…he rolls the strange word around his tongue, “Home.”
To a vagabond, the concept of belonging constantly emerges as an entirely new sensation.

January 2017
South Korea

Jae cruises down Myeongdong alley, slows down only to briefly admire a pair of attractive well-heeled legs that were thinly veiled by sheer hosiery, elegantly crossed at the ankles. She was nonetheless not enough of a looker for Jae to lower his sunglasses; fashion can only get a girl this far along the attraction spectrum. His engine revved with increased volume as he sped, this time undisturbed, toward his studio.

Nested in downtown Myeongdong, inconspicuously hidden by retail giants fifteen times the height of his apartment, Jae’s minimalist studio was home to unrestrained creativity, an outlet for the restlessness in his soul. Soft red velvet cushions and satin blinds in the same scarlet red stood out against the dark monochrome grey leather couch lined by black carpeted floor. Colour never did provided him any comfort, apart from his strange love for deep pulsating shades of scarlet. Perhaps to enhance a sense of privacy, he had chosen cautiously dimmed lighting with the exception of his sketching desk – so brightly lit one had to squint to avoid the sheer impact of such luminescence. Prince Jae generally liked his interiors dark.

His brisk walk to his apartment while rummaging through a black bag pack for his keys is interrupted by a slight scuffle of a shoe, detectable only amidst sheer silence. Raising an eyebrow, Jae slows to a cautious tiptoe. He briefly checks his cellphone but none of his clients had made appointments.

Nobody else ever made it up here to this apartment’s equivalent of an attic, albeit luxury-sized, as Jae had made the owner put a danger barricade beyond which all other occupants had zero access to.  Unless…

He makes no sudden movement, but a hand slips stealthily into his left breast pocket, feeling for the cool metal of his .38 Smith & Wesson. He continues to tread calmly across his studio hallway.

“Jae,” says a raspy tone, “still living large I see.”

The aforementioned releases a chuckle and lets down his guard. Jae’s deep voice suddenly voids itself of bass as he embraces his old friend. “You nearly startled me.”

“Here I thought nothing scared you.”

“Vigilance is my middle name.” And he unlocks his apartment to Pierre, a rare remnant from a lost childhood.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Reina ducks as a shower of hardcover textbooks whacks her out of her mid-afternoon reverie.

“Sorry! Bookshelf getting old,” Eiji, part-time book-store manager and full time jerk, calls out jokingly from the attic. Reina rolls her eyes at Eiji’s armful of textbooks – more ammo to be fired at his best friend trying to cram for a finals paper in 12 hours.

“Eiji! I’m trying to study.”

Eiji flashes a cheeky, charming grin. “You know, this could be a good way of getting knowledge into your brain, in case last-ditch cramming doesn’t work.”

“Damn you Eiji.” Pulling on a pair of old headphones, she tries to mask the hustle-bustle of Myeongdong in the late afternoon, as well as Eiji’s teasing and awful singing.

He swings from the high bookshelf ladder and lands perfectly beside Reina – a move perfected over their tumultuous years of best-friendship. “Come on Rei, lighten up! It’s your last paper. Let’s catch a midnight movie tomorrow alright?”

She slams her book shut in annoyance. “Can’t you let me have 2seconds of peace, Eiji?”

“Nope. Perks of being your bestie. First dips at driving you insane.” Leaning over, he tickles her relentlessly until the pair rolls from couch to floor in fits of laughter, with Eiji on top. Reina shrieks, twists away in attempt to escape but fails even after several tries, knocking over her pile of notes in the process. Her reading material scatters and carpets the cherry wood floor in a ink-scribbled white paper. Abruptly, as if remembering that there were people around, she stops squirming away.

A moment of awkward silence later, Reina untangles her hand from Eiji’s hair to sit up. Eiji watches her loosened hand intently, determined not to look anywhere else – especially not at her blouse which was now carelessly unbuttoned to reveal bright pink inners…and he shyly rubs the back of his neck.

“Sorry.”

“Me too,” Reina bites her top lip and looks at the opened books lying all around them, ” we made a mess! Gosh…let me arrange that.”

Eiji pulls Reina to her feet before she could argue, and pushes her back on the couch. “You sit, let me. The mess is all mine.” He opens her textbook to the exact page she was on earlier before the interruption.

“And please Rei, button that top. I can’t take it anymore.”

Reina slowly fumbles with her buttons, staring at Eiji’s back as he busies with the rosewood shelves. As she resumes focus on her study, Eiji’s steady hands were all she could think about.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“What brought you home, Crusoe?”

“Taking a breather. I have left the streets,” Pierre pauses to swirl the ice-cubes around his chilled Americano, watching the little squares clink on the sides of his glass, as though expecting something more extraordinary to happen.

“How long is it gonna be this time, Pierre?”

“Long enough, as long as I stay undiscovered.” He knocks back a long shot of coffee.

Jae resisted the urge to catechize: what was it this time? Had he killed a man, robbed a bank, or cleaned out an entire estate? As Jae observes, a thin veil of moist from the glass’s rim glistens at the scar that ran parallel to Pierre’s lips, morphing smiles into a semi grimace, Jae feels a familiar tug at his heart strings – a deep stab of pain he once knew like the back of his hand.

Knowingly, Pierre swipes the scar with the back of his hand, shrugs and smiles comfortingly. “Been too long and the scar has numbed itself, healed. Time to move on yourself, pal.”

But he can never move on without the knowledge of what had transpired. Pierre’s code of honor to Jae’s dead father is something above and beyond the courage that exists within the young lad holding on to a promise never to reveal the enemy, lest Jae should take the fatal path of hatred and revenge.

“I wake up every morning with the resolution of moving on, only to realize that at the end of the day, nothing has changed. Not me, not the world,” Jae shakes his head resolutely, continues, “The world is a cosmogony, and even so I’m on the outside looking in, plotting an entrance. My curiosity brands me just like your scar.” He grips his glass so tight, his knuckles turn white.

“That world you generalize is not everything. You don’t have to be in it. They are not to be messed with, Jae. You told me to stay out of the streets yourself! Its ridiculous if I’m out of it and you’re bidding your time to go in.”

“And when I do, it will be the first and the last time I’m associating myself with that world.”

“You’ve always associated yourself with that world. You’ve kept yourself so secluded, full of rage, just like your dad! One day you’ll set yourself ablaze. You don’t even know who and what you’re fighting against! There is no cause for your resistance. Why don’t you take it from me, and learn to live for something real. ” Pierre’s volume increases with his laden warning. In his own head, he sees faces of the dead – friends, passer-bys, allies, enemies, and people he had loved and lost.

Jae visibly stiffens. A moment of tension passes between the grown men, whose pride and stubborn hotheadness are very much the same as before.

“If you spent every bloody waking hour obsessing over righting a wrong, over seeking closure and vengeance if that’s what it takes, then like me, you would know.”

Jae’s deepset fury was masked, but Pierre has always known that for a fact. His ensuing silence posits empathy, and he forsakes the stab at discouraging Jae’s lifelong preoccupation with finding out who were his father’s traitors.

“Enough about me, Pierre,” a moment later Jae waves a hand dismissively,  “So tell me, why are you back?”

“Just making my rounds, routine home-coming.”

“Home-coming? Not like you, Pierre, not at all.“

Pierre traces a finger along the spines of a stack of books lining Jae’s bookshelf. “You’re right. I’m not sure I’m even me anymore,” he pauses to inspect a book, and then replaces it. He looks Jae in the eye. “That’s what life does to people.”

Both takes a moment to brood on this thought as they revive past habits of working their jaws on crushed ice.

“In any case…. I’m glad you’re home.” Jae breaks the moment with heart-felt sincerity.

“Me too.” Pierre smiles genuinely and rolls the strange word around his tongue, “Home.” To a vagabond like him, the concept of belonging constantly emerges as an entirely new sensation.

“Now, who wants more brandy?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Looking like the archetype of discretion – a low-slung haversack thrown over a casual black suit – Pierre walks inconspicuously downtown, keeping his senses on high alert for a messenger of sorts.

He had received an anonymous text from Nagasaki, instructing him to locate a messenger, newly deported from Las Vegas, who holds the crucial link to a large investment sum. In this case, money would save hundreds of lives.

Navy office suit, expensive earrings and a grey briefcase – that was his clue. Accustomed to ambiguity, Pierre’s vagrant instincts serve him well. Nevertheless to isolate one woman amongst the throngs of prostitues in this district was tougher than manually separating sugar from salt.

Once or twice he spots the cues, but those women lacked one thing or another. He walks with increasing speed, avoiding all female-like creatures in varying states of semi-nakedness flinging their desperate bodies into his zone.

He spots a young lady in a navy blue blazer at the entrance of Millers’ Pub, whose short skirt swishes to reveal a considerable length of porcelain white skin – an unintentional attraction that catches his eye. For a split second he wonders if she could be the messenger. Then his expert eye zooms in on her pale face, all wide-eyed suppleness, strikingly exposed like hooked liver on dangled bait. She wasn’t the messenger he’s looking for, but she’s definitely here for another reason.

Their eyes met. Pierre feels a tug in his chest. Eyes narrowed, he grimaced in her direction, walks past without a second glance, and then turns into the next alley.

Upon losing sight of the bustling main street, he exhales deeply and takes great comfort in the gloom of the avenue. The streetlamps were extinguished – some cracked and others smashed – thus his senses sharpens to hawklike vision, and his ears picks up timid footsteps from the rear, probably harmless. And there she is – flanked by scarlet red lips a cigar dangles from between her perfect teeth and as she steps closer she reveals a grey briefcase from beneath a suit of navy-blue, unclasps the lock and swings out a revolver, aims it straight into Pierre’s unguarded chest.

There are women who could physically subdue a man, who could make a man do her bidding. Then there are women who could unknowingly touch the careless depths within a man, and those were the most dangerous of all.

—–

Scarlet Carousel ©
Searching for the centre of the universe, the centrifugal force that holds everything together.
Each spinning out of control, yet inevitably riveted.
Is this a journey with an end, or does the weight of the world settle in places where the spinning never stops.
Where then will the spiral lead them?

To be continued…

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

xoxo
Viktoria Jean

SCARLET CAROUSEL

♛ Scarlet Carousel | Prologue V

{Prologue} Noemie Matsumoto’s

2017,
South Korea

When Noemie first laid eyes upon his handsomely flawed face, her heart squeezed with unexplained intrigue.

Everything about him screamed perfection, right down to his seeming lack of passion for love, lust and women, which was totally atypical considering his type. Usually, a once-over was Noemie required to have men stripped down to the bone. These creatures ran on instincts, and above all, physical needs. A rare and very fine specimen was this man.

Considering, also, the fact that he was marching down a street full of scantily clad prostitutes throwing themselves at his feet and he shrugged them all off without sparing a glance.

He was headed in her direction, his strut purposeful and quickening with the pace of her heart. Her breath caught when he was barely a foot away…

The look of menace he conjured when she attempted to catch his eye manifested as a grimace that was not unlike interminable pain. She then thought, even the silhouette of his back casted a spell of mystery on those who had the luxury of perceiving.

Just one look from him and she lost all sense of self-control.
He had a mask of a devil, albeit a painfully handsome one.

Fascination gave rise to curiosity. She tiptoed down the alley, retracing the tall, dark and charming stranger’s footsteps.

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

Scarlet Carousel
Searching for the centre of the universe, the centrifugal force that holds everything together.
Each spinning out of control, yet inevitably riveted.
Is this a journey with an end, or does the weight of the world settle in places where the spinning never stops.
Where then will the spiral lead them?

To be continued…

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

xoxo
Viktoria Jean

♛ Scarlet Carousel | Prologue IV

{Prologue} Eiji Saito’s

1999
Fukushima

Sunshine boy! 

Back home in Fukushima, the old lady with the limp at the convenience store welcomed her favourite elementary school boy with a daily tube of chocolate mint candies. Before her passing, Eiji crossed the street twice a day just to say hello and accepted her gifts with great appreciation. Despite being only 6, his ready smile and charming boyish disposition won hearts whereever he went. 

Sunshine Eiji!

Ever since mother-and-child fleed Japan, days thereafter had been colourless, stormy and dreary. Witness Protection Programme, or so the state of law claimed, for the Saito’s continued existence in Japan threatened all their relatives and friends. South Korea however provided little salvation, for they found neither peace nor stability. Eiji could never recover his prior glow of happiness.

Until, following years of misery, he chanced upon one true reason for belonging.

“You would stay with me?” He had sputtered, all bloodied lips and swollen cheeks from being at the receiving end of his drunken boss’s anger.

She had gently wrapped an unworn gym teeshirt around his split knuckles and applied pressure to the deep cut. “Yes.” He had turned away with disbelief. Why would a total stranger show him such kindness?

“If I didn’t, you would do nothing about these, right?” She wet her fingers and gently dabbed at his bruised undereye. It felt cool, comforting. 

“No. There would be questions. I could be arrested for underaged employment if I went to the hospital. My boss would be even more furious.”

“Then I will stay here with you.” Her gentle voice seemed to reach a deeper part of him, re-ignited a spark of warmth and happiness. That night, they went from unacquainted schoolmates to fast friends as they talked of the uncertainties that plagued their lives. She hadn’t lied about wanting to stay.

Eiji Saito was subsequently nothing without Reina Yamaguchi.

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

Scarlet Carousel
Searching for the centre of the universe, the centrifugal force that holds everything together.
Each spinning out of control, yet inevitably riveted.
Is this a journey with an end, or does the weight of the world settle in places where the spinning never stops.
Where then will the spiral lead them?

To be continued…

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

xoxo
Viktoria Jean

♛ Scarlet Carousel | Prologue III

{Prologue} Jae (Song Jae Won)’s

1999
South Korea

They wouldn’t let me out. When I finally shoved past the barricade of arms, and barreled out of the bedroom into Dad’s chamber where the loud noises echoed, I had to cough hard to clear my lungs. Clouds of smoke in the air were far too viscous to be that of Dad’s cigars, so what were they?  

Suited men were towing a limp body, until the procession receded from my fogged field of vision. My eyes glazed over, barely recognising… Dad?

A hysterical cry died in my throat. A fresh trail of scarlet red led away from his mahogany desk, staining the light beige carpets. There was now only one other person in the study chamber.

Pierre was sprawled facedown, jerking and spasming as he choked in his pool of blood. He had been left to die; a curved blade plunged deep into the carpeted floorboards by his side.  Outside, above the ruckus of the raging storm, sirens were wailing in increasing amplitude.

Hurried footsteps led to all other places in the exterior hallways. I crawled silently to Pierre, helplessly covered his shivering, twitching body with my shirt, defenselessly terrified to leave his side. I crouched beside him and hugged my knees in numbed shock, watching the shadows linger outside the chamber.

Frantic voices compounded the resounding chaos. A shrill siren approached, raising its distant wail to a howl…

There was a single gunshot. 

When I close my eyes, I could still hear its reverberating echoes.

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

Scarlet Carousel
Searching for the centre of the universe, the centrifugal force that holds everything together.
Each spinning out of control, yet inevitably riveted.
Is this a journey with an end, or does the weight of the world settle in places where the spinning never stops.
Where then will the spiral lead them?

To be continued…

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

xoxo
Viktoria Jean

♛ Scarlet Carousel | Prologue

{Prologue} Reina Yamaguchi’s

1999
Nagoya

To most children, the boogeyman and clowns were stuff of nightmares. But she had long associated fear with the sickly sweet scent of candy floss, and vibrant colours.

In the nebula of her subconscious, colours haunted her dreams and taunted her waking hours. When she allowed herself to close her eyes, her memories were a ricochet of psychedelic bullets. She felt each one pierce her skull, as inextricably painfully as a real bullet would. 

She was 6. The arms that had caught her then were strong, muscular, enveloping as they wrapped round her waist like fiercely protective vines. Smiling in expectation of her mother or brother’s comforting features, she turned, only to come face to face with a stranger’s menacing smile.

She hadn’t known fear, thus she couldn’t cry. She hadn’t known danger. Her beam lingered, as did her trace of innocence. Her lithe little body knew nothing of fight nor flight; she was physically, emotionally unguarded.

Naivety was only to be carried away like an object of trade while those who were supposed to be there for her watched from a safe distance, bidding their guiltless goodbyes.

carousel

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Scarlet Carousel
Searching for the centre of the universe, the centrifugal force that holds everything together.
Each spinning out of control, yet inevitably riveted.
Is this a journey with an end, or does the weight of the world settle in places where the spinning never stops.
Where then will the spiral lead them?

To be continued…

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xoxo
Viktoria Jean