Secret of the Tenei Star Chapter 6
"Hmm. . ."
The insistent peeping of newborn sparrows brought him back from the surrealistic merry-go-round of the unconscious world. His eyelids fluttered as his mind converted, and he let out a groan, scarcely audible. Remaining still for a moment, he opened his eyes again, for good this time, and turned his head to look at the person beside him. . .and he smiled. He then rolled off of the bed, slipped on his robe, and, cautiously, slowly, walked over to the source of light that was flowing through the cracks of the old window's wooden shutters.
Pausing for about a second, he unlocked the bolt of the shutters, and pushed them toward the outside air until they were parallel with the brick edifice. He shielded his face from the morning sun as the light momentarily blinded him. Then, bringing his arm down slowly, he stared straight ahead as his eyesight adjusted, and his mouth fell open at what treasures of art nature had set before him.
Fair, harmonious morning.
No clouds tainted the sapphire hue of the immaculate sky. Lilies, fresh and new, were scattered in rows against the front walls of the neighboring houses. The recent-bloomed flowers, which lay beneath his windowsill, down below, adorned the side of the building in a kaleidoscope of colorful tones. The sweet, tangy scent of the honeysuckle, combined with the crisp air, teased and delighted his nostrils. Warm, soothing golden beams of sunlight sparkled from tiny, orbicular discs of dew that rested on lush, fruitful leaves of the surrounding trees. And high above, the melodious chirping of bluebirds and robins, filling the air with nature's most lovely chords.
He raised his face once more to the sun, absorbing the magnificence in its entirety, greeting the splendor of the Apollonian morning with a humble, though contented, feeling.
In a word, it was wonderful.
Yes. It truly was going to be a glorious day, touched by the beauty of spring.
So what was that feeling he held in the pit of his stomach? Why did he feel somewhat tense? Somewhat uneasy, perhaps? Perhaps he did have a reason to feel somewhat unsettled. After all, it wasn't as if this was something he did daily, awakening only to admire the beauty of nature.
But this did not account for what he was feeling at the moment.
A strange sound escaped his throat. A laugh?
Gremio had no idea why he was about to laugh, let alone know why he was standing at the open window trying to stifle it. Was it because. . .he knew that he was headed for trouble if he didn't get his butt moving now? Or was it because he was off doing something that he knew might blow up in his face if any of the townsfolk found out?
"Heh heh heh heh heh!" Gremio couldn't hold it in anymore. He then quickly slapped a hand over his mouth, slowly turned around, and found himself looking at a somnolent yet startled Emily, trying to sit up in bed. "Oh, um. . .oops. Did I wake you?"
Emily groaned. "Yes, you did," she grumbled. "You're such a dork." She pressed a hand to her forehead, gradually bringing it down her face, as she held the sheets at the top of her chest. Opening her eyes, she glanced at Gremio, and smiled at him. She let out a pleased sigh as her tone changed. "You know, you really surprised me last night," she continued in a low, sensual voice.
Gremio snickered once more, and stepped away from the window, adjusting his robe. "Heh, well, I could say the same about you," he retorted. He leapt and landed on the bed beside her, nearly knocking her off of the mattress.
"Agh!" Emily cried out. "Geez, now you've got me fully awake!"
He laughed again, then moved in to kiss her.
She closed her eyes, smiling as her lips met his. "Mmm. . ." Pulling back, she turned to reach for her watch. Her eyes widened in alarm as she looked at it. "Gremio," she gasped. "If we don't get up now. . ."
"It can wait, it can wait," Gremio told her calmly, reaching over to guide her hand down, causing her to drop her watch.
"Gremio, what are you-" She was cut off as Gremio came closer. "Hmm." Moving her head back against the headboard, she once again surrendered to him.
Gremio's eyes averted toward his startled friend. "What?" he asked, a bit surprised himself, but only at Pahn's reaction.
"I, uh. . ." Pahn started. He shook his head in astonishment as his mouth tried to form the words. "Grem. . .er. . .I, uh. . .I know I'm not the one to talk, but. . .don't you think you're rushing it a bit?"
"What do you mean, Pahn?" Gremio wanted to know. "It's not like we met last week or anything. We've known each other for a while, and it just seemed right."
"It 'seemed right,'" Pahn muttered under his breath. "Yeah, yeah, that's good. That's what they all say."
Gremio frowned. "Oh please. As if you're the one to lecture me on this."
"Huh?" Pahn turned around, caught off-guard by that last comment. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, come on," snorted the boy. "You and Cleo? You mean you two. . .aren't. . ."
"Me and. . .?" Pahn began, stunned once more. After the shock wore off, he began to consider the boy's words, and shrugged. "Well, actually, if you really wanna know-"
"Pahn." The stern female voice projected from the hallway.
Pahn quickly turned his face to the doorway and then back, an uneasy expression on his face. "Uhhh, w-wait a second. We're not talking about me; we-we're talking about you!" he tensely stammered, feeling his face grow warm.
Gremio only scoffed, and walked out.
Pahn shook his head once more, and made a face. Ugh. I think I've just lost my appetite. He let out a defeated groan, then decided to leave the room as well.
A few days passed, and with Emily and I falling deeper in love, we weren't thinking about what consequences would come with what we had. We did believe in what we had. . .it's just, maybe we had come to overestimate its power, such as. . .what it really couldn't do, and what evils it could not deliver us from in the worst of situations.
So many days, so many nights after the horrid incident, I wished and prayed I could go back in time. . .just for the chance to hold her. Just to touch her, to gaze into those beautiful eyes. To feel her once more in my arms, if only for a moment. One bittersweet moment I would gladly savor for life. But alas, I can look back only once, learn from the pain my own actions. . .and Emily's. . .not to mention Aaron's. . . inflicted upon me, and once and for all, leave her memory behind in my past, where it all truly belongs.
Gremio stood alone by the front gate of the city, his thoughts troubling him.
What's up with you, Pahn? he wondered. Why are you acting like that? I would think that you, of all people, wouldn't care at all! Why are you worked up over my relationship with Emily?
His eyes narrowed. "And why can't you just accept-"
"Hey." A tiny hand placed itself on his shoulder.
Gremio spun around to the girl behind him who was eyeing him cautiously.
"Gremio, calm down," she told him, taken aback. "It's only me."
Gremio's expression relaxed. "I'm always at peace whenever you're around."
Emily smiled. "You're so sweet." She stepped up to him, kissing him on the cheek.
Gremio returned her smile, then placed his arms around her, and the two remained in the embrace for just a-
"Well, well, well, what have we here?" The derisive, snickering voice seemed to come out of nowhere. "A little girl and her fruitcup."
The couple pulled apart just enough to look at the person addressing them, but not too much so that they were still somewhat contiguous to one another.
And they set their eyes on a piece of work. . .one very strange piece indeed.
At six feet tall, the man displayed a medium build. He wore loose black pants and matching sleeveless jacket over a grimy, unwashed shirt, and a light blue bandanna tied over his short brown hair. His skin bore plenty of light scars, running up and down the uneven pinkish-tanned tones of his arms. Despite the rest of his appearance, his face was clean-shaven, an innocent looking smirk on it. It was hard to tell what his intentions were, until. . .
"Ha ha ha ha ha. So we meet again," he snorted, his words and piercing dark eyes appearing to be directed at Emily. Without warning, he lifted an arm, snapping his fingers once, and on cue, three other men of similar unkempt wardrobe appeared behind him.
"Wh-who are you?" Gremio demanded of the prejudged hoodlum.
The leader moved his gaze to Gremio, and gave him a scornful look. "Heh. I'm the soon-to-be-ruler of this dump," he informed Gremio. "Oh, and these are my boys." He turned his head to the right, revealing a sparkling silver stud in his left earlobe, and gestured toward his companions in acknowledgement.
One of the men to the man's right stepped forward. He was just a few inches shorter than his leader, wearing dark blue pants that ended right below the knee, an oversized black shirt, and a ridiculous grin. With a nicer complexion than the previous man, he seemed to be more clean-cut, his hair combed neatly and parted down the sides. Like his boss, he also wore a simple earring, spherical in its metal form. There was only one thing about him, an obvious feature that seemed to be off. Something that wasn't right. Something that stuck out horrendously. His boots were covered from heel to ankle in a pure suede material. Having such a taste in exquisite footwear was nothing odd, but the fact that he placed the expensive-looking shoes together with his tacky outfit was.
"Hey," he greeted them, though his tone showed no desire of amiability. "They call me Suede."
Gremio and Emily exchanged glances. With a raised eyebrow, Gremio answered back, "Um, okay. Is that because of your, uh, shoes?"
The reply seemed to surprise the man. He looked downward and gawked as if seeing his own two feet for the very first time, then let out a rather hideous guffaw. "Ah ha ha ha! Didn't think about that!" he snickered. "Nah, they call me that 'cause I'm smooth!"
The 'leader' cast his friend a very scornful look. "Yeah, about as smooth as that chest of yours, Mr. no-pubes," he sneered. "Now get back in line and introduce your buddy over there."
Suede shot back an equally disdainful stare, but obeyed. Another man, having his boss' height but slightly heavier build, stepped out from behind the 'leader' and only gazed straight ahead with his large, intimidating eyes. He didn't seem to be looking at the lovers directly, but almost through them, as if his mind were focused elsewhere.
"This here is Soros," Suede said of the inattentive man. Soros, who wore a dark brown vest and brown trousers, remained silent.
"H-he doesn't say much, does he?" Emily nervously inquired, somewhat alarmed by the man's overpowering stare.
"Nah," answered Suede. "I read somewhere that not getting any will do that to you." He suddenly burst into laughter.
An aggravated expression appeared on Soros' face, and he finally moved his enormous eyes away from Gremio and Emily to flip Suede off.
Suede seemed appalled by the gesture as he made a disgusted face. "Soros, why don't you save that finger for a lonely day? Hell, you sure got a lot of 'em," he jeered. "In fact, why don't you save it for your mom 'cause I know you por-"
Suede was suddenly cut off as a hand slapped itself over his mouth. "Wh guh fmph?!"
"That's quite enough," the relaxed voice calmly stated.
Gremio and Emily found themselves staring at a new character, who seemed to be the most colorful of them all, despite his. . .dreary wardrobe. Vertical grey pinstripes covered his black suit from the shoulders down to the feet. The costume turned out to be about two sizes too small for his short physique, however, as the cuffs of the trousers ran past his shoes and stopped at the floor in wrinkles. A worn gold chain ran down from his hip across and up behind the front flap of his coat in an arc. Gold-plated canine-shaped cufflinks poked out at the end of his dingy white sleeves.
There was something mysterious about this fellow as well. Though his suit appeared to be in modern style, there was something about it that seemed old fashioned. He certainly wasn't elderly, he definitely wasn't a fashion expert, heavens no, but he still managed to catch the eye of many around him. Perhaps it was the fact that he seemed to have a criminal quality emanating about him; a gangster attribute of times long ago.
A smile faintly formed on his mouth as he lifted his head to look upon the couple, briefly lifting his hat in greeting. "How do you do."
Much to Suede's relief, the small man finally removed the hand from his mouth to adjust his gold chain. Suede let out an exaggerated cough. "Ack!" he sputtered. "Damnit, Shark, don't you wash your hands after your wipe your a-"
"As I was saying," the short man continued coldly. "The name is Shark. I am most pleased to meet your acquaintance." He calmly and slowly extended an arm as if to offer a handshake.
Gremio only stared at the arm as if he were unsure how to return the gesture.
"What's the matter?" Suede snorted. "Aren't you gonna shake the gentleman's hand?" He glared icily at the confused boy. Behind Suede, Soros did the same.
"Uh, um, I-" Gremio stammered. Reluctantly, he reached an arm forward to greet Shark's, eyeing him carefully. Just as their hands were on the brink of meeting, Shark suddenly jerked his arm away.
Gremio's jaw dropped. "What the-"
"AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" Shark chortled. "Psych! I'm not gonna shake your hand, queer boy!"
Gremio's expression hardly attempted to hide his annoyance. "I beg your pardon?"
"Hahahahahaha," Shark continued to snigger. His hand reached into his left pants pocket, then reemerged gripping an elliptical item. With a flick of his wrist, the object threw forth a sharp, twinkling extension of itself. The blade abruptly stopped at the point parallel to its oblong host in a 'chink,' startling Gremio and Emily for a moment. Shark then proceeded to twirl the odd-shaped piece with his fingers, being careful not to slash his own hand as he weaved the sharp steel edge between his fingers. Then, without warning, he ended the blade's little show as he roughly grasped its handle, tossed it into the air, spinning rapidly, and snatched it back into his hand. A jackknife.
Shark's eyes narrowed as a wicked grin formed on his lips. "No. I'm going to cut it." He suddenly advanced toward Gremio, teeth bared, a maniacal glint in his eye. He brought his arm back, intending on slicing flesh, when someone grabbed him by the wrist.
"Shark, control yourself," ordered the leader.
Shark struggled to get out of the man's grip. "Aw, let me at 'im!" he protested as the man pried loose the knife from Shark's tightened hand. "C'mon, I don't like this guy! I wanna give 'im a slashing he'll never forget!"
Gremio could only flinch as the short man's voice soared higher and higher with each whining utterance, grinding ever severely at his eardrums.
"Now, now, we can't hurt my dear friend Emily by gashing up her little. . .companion," the man informed Shark as he pocketed the blade.
"And speaking of friends," Emily cut in, "just how do you know my name? How do you know who I am?"
The man let go of Shark, who crashed to the ground in a thud, with the force he used in trying to escape his boss' hold. The leader turned to Emily, a blank expression on his face. "Come on, Em," he said to her. "Don't you remember me?"
Emily could only shake her head no.
Gremio scowled. "Hmph. Just as I thought," he scoffed, then turned to his girlfriend. "Let's not waste another minute with these hooligans. Let's get out of here, Emily."
The leader's mouth fell open, and he exaggerated a gasp. "H-hooligans?!" he cried out, mocking his hurt. "Is that any way to speak of Emily's old buddy Aaron?"
Emily, who had started to leave, whirled around to face the leader. Her jaw dropped as well, but in true shock. "Aaron?!"
"Heh, the one and only," he answered.
"It's really you?!" she cried.
"Oh my gosh!" Emily gave a laugh, then threw her arms around him. "What are you doing here? I-I haven't seen you in so long!" She quickly pulled away, awaiting his reply.
"Aw, only about four or five years," he responded. "Anyway, I was just going from town to town, looking for a place to settle. . .but, uh. . .now that I found my old friend. . .y'know, why not stay here?"
"Really? Oh, that's great!" Emily cheered. "We can catch up on things. . ."
"Hmm." Aaron showed a pleased smile. "That's exactly what I planned on, Em. But for now, we gotta find a place to live." He turned to his friends. "Let's go."
At his command, all three began to walk back into the city. Shark glanced behind to shoot Gremio a threatening look, then continued to walk alongside the other two.
Aaron started to follow the rest of them. "I'll see ya, Em," he told her before hurrying off to join the group.
"Good-bye." Emily spoke the words softly, and almost as a question.
Gremio looked after the quartet as they began to disappear into the streets. "What was that all about?" he questioned no one in particular.
Emily turned to her side to Gremio. "Oh, that was Aaron, someone I sort of grew up with in my hometown," she explained with enthusiasm. Then, seeing the semi-mortified look on his face, her tone changed. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Gremio! I wasn't thinking! You just nearly got-argh!" She put her arms around him. "I'm so stupid!"
The shock finally began to wear off. Gremio lowered his eyes upon Emily. "It's. . .it's all right," he assured her, turning toward her, his back to the town's streets. "No, it's all right. I just-" He trailed off, not because he did not want to finish the thought, but because he had no idea what to say.
"I'm sorry, Gremio, I should've-" Emily then realized she didn't know what to say either. Done something, Em? she silently completed in question to herself. What can you do? Just steer clear of-
She suddenly found herself staring at Aaron's face. She almost gasped in horror, for she had not expected to see him as he had gotten lost in the crowd. Their eyes locked on one another for a moment in an intense stare, then Emily watched helplessly as Aaron turned back around and vanished once again.
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