[TB/X one shote]Beautiful Things
Title: Beautiful Things
Fandom: Tokyo Babylon/X
Summary: The Sakurazukamori is Death, and death is about change.
RICKY : I was filming this dead bird.
ANGELA : Why?
RICKY : Because it's beautiful.
The first lesson was observation.
He had learned that one very early, when his mother used to take him with her to work. He could remember with amusement the variety of behaviours from the people she would introduce him to before killing them. Some would greet him fondly, others looked annoyed. They all ended up in a pool of blood at the end of the evening.
One of his most vivid early memory was of being locked up with corpse in decomposition for three days. He had spent those hours in close intimacy with the slow and ineluctable maturation of flesh. Entranced, he had smelled, eyed, heard, felt, tasted the long transformation of the tense body through the relaxing process of decay into a blossoming nest of worms and flies. Few things are as alive as a dead body. He had never forgotten that lesson that in the end people where just that much of meat. She had never again left him for that long in the presence of her work's leftover, but when she took him with her she always made him look hard at the remains, lest he forget that truth.
Afterward she would ask him questions about the target, the situation, how she had killed them, and could he remember their name, what they had said ? He was to listen with attention, watch with all his eyes, and remember it all. She would always bring him to the dead body to examine it and he used to watch with fascination the grim sneer settle on their visage. He liked how people looked after they were dead. They didn't look the same. They weren't so loud, so jarring, so false anymore. They were fixed, anchored like a photography by the moment of their death at the hand of his mother. He thought it was beautiful, to be able to fashion so definitely the way people looked like.
But it was all see, don't touch. One time, when he had raised his hand to feel the gaping wound, his mother had took his arm gently and broken every fingers, one after one, followed up with a kiss on each nail. He had never tried again to touch a corpse without her agreement. He was, as she was fond to say, a fast learner.
Later, the lessons of observation had become more complicated. He was to shadow someone in the street taken randomly and to report to her within twelve hours anything of interest about this person. Or he was to listen to a registered conversation, and identify the interlocutors' gender, age, profession and relationship from it. On some occasions, she only gave him a name, or a telephone number, or an address, and he was to find out that person, and what kind of secret he or she had that justified an assassination. Everyone deserved to die if you looked hard enough, she would say to him.
Watch and report. Listen and analyse. She had made him practice it so often it had become a routine, something as natural as breathing to him. She had taught him the art and the rapture of stalking, the pleasure of succeeding to decipher people's secrets and hidden fears, feels and wishes. She had given him eyes to appreciate the magnificence of death setting in like a dark sun. When he had for the first time summoned a shikigami and it had been a goshawk, he had thought it was a homage to her good teaching.
The second lesson had been about hiding. Disappearing into shadows, finding the good spots to take cover and concealing things was easy. Less so where the lessons of faking what he thought and what he felt. She has took her time, spending unending hours to patiently and tenderly inscribe in his body the ways of keeping his face neutral and pleasant as she made him endure pain and pleasure, hunger and thirst, sleepiness and intoxication. She taught him how to make his own body a tool of his mind, how to shape his face into a mask that would reflect only what he meant to show. He underwent her lessons of discipline gladly knowing it meant that one day he would be the shaper.
She was an attentive teacher, using reward and punishment alike with prodigality. Assessing sharply like a cook preparing a difficult receipt the balance of pressures and releases needed to mould him into the perfect Sakurazukamori.
"You'll make me so proud", she would say. "You know I love you so much, that's why I want you to be the best."
"I know, Okaa-san." He'd answer levelly.
"You love me too, ne ?", she'd say, putting a hand lightly to raise his chin.
"Of course, I do. You know I love beautiful things."
She would laugh then, with a delightful, musical mirth.
"I'm not a thing, Seishirou."
"But one day you'll be one.", he'd say, smiling to her like she taught him to smile.
"You're such a wonderful, eager child.", she'd answer and she would kiss him.
She taught him to lie, in every way you can lie. With his words, with his silence, with his body. She taught him to use his voice to suggest things that were never said and how to act so people would assume what he wanted them to assume. She taught him to blend in, wherever he was, or to stand out with whatever impression he wanted to produce. She taught him how to radiate dread so that no one would ever doubt they had been faced with death itself. It was interesting, to mimic the strange expressions of emotions he didn't feel, he liked the challenge of it. It was just as if he'd use a knife to carve whatever expression he wanted them to display, and that pleased him.
With those lessons, as well, came the instruction of illusions and make-belief. The subtle spells of trickery and deception, the common glamours, guise and vanishing, and the glorious execution of the maboroshi.
The last lesson was the art of killing.
He had been taught most of them, using all kind of tools and instruments, and the different kind slaying spells and silent incantations. By then, he was already very intimate with the working of the body from his previous lessons, so it wasn't difficult knowing the weak points to strike at. She had made him exercise himself every day to the gracious patterns of strikes, parades and evasions, his now well-disciplined body answering the training with ease and a pleasant readiness.
She wouldn't let him kill for real of course. He was only to study the ways and the movements until they became part of him just as the onmyoujutsu practice was part of his soul. He yearned for the day he would at last know death by giving it, watching that red veil settle on the gaze of his target. He longed for at his turn making beautiful things out of warm bodies.
When it came, it came like a grace. The lovely February day, full of promises and inviting white snow under a perfect blue sky, had put him into a cheerful mood. He liked snow, when it was still fresh and glittering he always felt the appeal to step into it, as if purity only existed to be shattered. Watching his footprints in the snow behind him, he had decided it would be today. He had taken her last lesson that day, watching softly death sets down as her eyes became glassy and hollow like a doll.
"You are so beautiful." He had whispered to her, softly.
Thus, he had become the Sakurazukamori, the one who killed with a genial smile and who carved the dead into that final expression of themselves. He had experimented, in those first years, with a glorious eagerness, amusing himself with trying out different technique to give death and to display the remains; composing so many macabre tableau waiting to be discovered. It was a subtle art, all in the arc of one falling hand, the cryptic tracing of blood, and the pale mask of death looking up.
Depending on the way he killed them, they didn't die the same way, showing either quiet peacefulness, deep anguish, mute pleas, acute horror, or the cruel illusion of liveliness. For each quarry, he would ponder earnestly how he would slay them, depending on who they were and why they were to be killed.
He knew so many manners of murder, but his favourite one was with his naked hands. He liked the sensuality of it, to be able to feel the warm flesh break under his fingers, to sense the heart flutter and halt as he closed his grasp on it. It was like seizing life itself. Things were never as true, as beautiful as in the perfect moment they ceased to be. He used his very hands to birth a new, unfathomable butterfly out of the disgracious vulgarity of those living things.
He had started to smoke for the same reason. It was a genuinely sensuous habit, combining the pleasure of many senses as you could smell, taste, watch and touch the consumption of matter into an elusive, flying smoke. Yes, it was very much like killing.
Yet, despite all the satisfaction he could have taken into his labour, he had still felt like something was missing from his life. It was a distressing thought, nabbing him when he contemplating the execution of his daily activities. His world, his existence, had to be perfect into its every little aspect. How could it not be so ?
The answer had come with the running steps of a small boy, catching him by surprise while he was proceeding to the feeding of the Sakura.
He had looked into the young child's wide, innocent eyes
/ Do you like sakura ? /
And he must have said something to test this prey's reaction
/ Did you know that there are corpses buried under the sakura tree ? /
To see if it could appreciate the beauty of death like it appreciated the beauty of the cherry blossom
/ It's because of the corpses buried beneath the roots that the sakura blossoms every year /
And what manner of death it was worth
/ Do you know why these sakura blossoms are pink ? It's because the sakura feeds on the blood of the corpses buried beneath it /
But the boy had said something that had surprised him
/ But don't the people under the sakura suffer ? /
Such concern, such grief in its eyes for the dead... he had wondered
/ Let's make a bet /
was it possible...? could this child come to understand, to appreciate... ?
/ So today... I'll let you go /
He was ready to wager on it. He would fashion the boy into the audience that his art so desperately craved.
After all, what was beauty that nobody ever gazed at ?
"We are shaped and fashioned by what we love."
When he had met the boy, so many years ago, he had been striken by the purity of its soul and the kindness of its feelings. The child had been so full of feelings reaching for others, so ready to answer to other's emotions. It was so much the opposite of him, and yet, it had made the boy feel for the dead like he thought no one else than himself did.
That had intrigued him. If you put such contrary beings in contact with each others, what would happen ? Surely they couldn't remain apart, which one of them would share its essence, transform the other and thus destroy all that it had been ? Could this kind soul remain as innocent as it was despite all he could do to it, or could it in answer make him see and experience the emotions that had always evaded him ?
Nine years afterward, at the end of the bet, the answer was unclear. Evidently, he didn't feel any kind of concern for the well being of Subaru-kun, as delightful and enjoyable a thing it was to contemplate and play with. However, neither was the result of his actions on him totally satisfying. When Subaru's eyes had filled with tears and laid motionless under his blows, he had felt frustrated. Despite this betrayal, despite his actions, the boy was still as pure and innocent as it had been when he had first met it. Neither had won out. He had almost been glad for Hokuto's excuse for not killing it right out. Maybe with a longer timeframe he would have the answer to his question. He was sure he could make more of the other omnyouji. Certain he could impart some of his ruthless point of view into this beautifully responsive face, and thus resolve the enigma that it had been to him.
And in the meantime, the youth was still the perfect mirror were to appreciate his performance.
After a work of nine years, he was rather satisfied by the result of his effort. During this time of isolation and chasing, the once young and pure boy had matured into a fascinating, broken thing, so fragile yet enduring by the force of the twin strains of obsessive guilt and anger. It was a beautiful sight to behold, really. He couldn't wait to test it more, to see what reactions he could trigger in it, what new odd expressions this face could stress itself into, what unfathomable anguish would drift through those clear eyes.
He would not be disappointed.
He played it tentatively, with light touches and delicate strokes, teasing and casual. A random meeting with abrasive words catching it unprepared, a tender compliment when it was looking for fight, a courteous dedication, left with the cooling remains of his art and a dozen of red roses. Let it not be said he wasn't a considerate enemy.
He got a response of delightful anger, sweet desperation and ringing sorrow. It was pleasing. There was yet so much innocence and gentleness in this soul to blemish and mar, so many virgin territories in this tender heart to explore, so much more lessons to imprint in the very flesh and being of the younger omniouji.
There were more surprises to come, too.
He hadn't expected to see it express desire and want, but it did make sense. After all, death had always been tinted with lust, waltzing in the oldest dance of Eros and Thanatos. It just meant he could bring the game to a whole new level.
He could break and mend the young man, again and again, in the way he favoured, stroking it, tasting it, holding it, and making beautiful new shapes and patterns out of this naked flesh as he felt the life twist and quiver within his own hands, teeth and skin. He had always preferred to most intimate way to work his skill.
He could also make it wait for days and weeks, making it feel ignored, freed maybe, and appear at the least expected moment to ravish what they both wanted, and give as much, in a price of blood and scathing indifference that cut and cut more into his prey, more than true cruelty would have. And taking note of the self-loathing that surged with a greater intensity every time he could wonder how many more dimensions of pain and care the boy was able to give him, how many more beautiful emotions he would watch unfurl and ripple over this face until he consumed them all. He loved to enjoy things as they walked the path of destruction, and with that one there was just no end to it. It was a captivating pastime, and he could not grow weary of it.
Holding that thin body against him as it finally fell into slumber, observing it with an attentive eye, he thought it was more like narcissism than anything else in truth. To watch himself reflected into the broken mirror of these green eyes, to listen to the bitter curse and low moans he could goad in it, to trace wistful calligraphy in the white scroll of its skin and feel it shudder in answer. How easily did that skin bruise ! It was a wonder to see the beautiful patterns slowly colour as the blood flowed underneath with a pink bluish hue that told so many fables of hurt and need.
Such a white skin you have, Subaru-kun. When I will finally kill you, I'll have to keep it.
But despite it all, despite all the changes and the lines he had carved into the young man, there was still a well of gentleness within the young man, and he came to wonder whether he would be able to empty it all to nothingness or rather would go on sculpting it until the inner core of purity beneath it would be revealed like a shining diamond. Which would win out in the end ? It was still a question.
The boy was still kind enough to let his eye be taken in a vain guilt wish. It was infuriating, seeing his masterwork despoiled by another, wondering if the boy had learned nothing all this time, if he had listened to nothing that he had been imprinting into his flesh...
But still, he came, he came to him, and laid in an embrace made of shadowed bliss and soothing distress, to whisper to an indifferent, mercilessly impartial face words of longing and inquiry.
An endless blabber of hushed words, why, why do you do this to me ? Why don't you let me be alone, why don't you let me hate you when I know you care nothing for me ? I know you care more for the people you kill than you do for me, so why do you hold me like this, why won't you kill me ?
I have already killed you Subaru-kun. I just can't stop killing you.
He never answered aloud. Wearing still in silence the affable, easy smile, or just leaning in for a kiss or a bruise, both equally hurting.
He never answered, because he didn't believe anymore that he could touch the bottom of this one, that he could unfurl all the transformations, beautiful and unique, that he wanted to see refracted in these eyes. And maybe, just maybe, death was more interesting when it kept on going, everyday a little more ending, every time a new beginning. And that was a worthy lesson in itself, one he had never learned with his mother.
So it came that he took his decision, accepting the result of a long timed bet, in all the ironic nuance it answers. He set the stage and waited, in this place of in between where two opposite essence could walk and meet each other, transform each other, and destroy each other.
Subaru was still kind, as ever. He told him so.
"I have changed."
Yes and no. Not that much, Subaru-kun. Not enough.
"You have changed me."
Of course I have. But you have too.
"You've killed someone here..."
But I haven't changed that much either.
He was still the Sakurazukamori.
He would change him more. He would keep on carving and shaping him into new beautiful metamorphosis. Even if he won't see them, he would go on killing him, killing him without an end.
Everything ends except change.
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