Chapter 10: Façade
Tora had been working late in the university’s computer lab. He was glad that his work was finally over and now he couldn’t wait to go back home. After such a long day, what a bless it would be to be able to change out of his clothes and then go lazying around on the worn sofa of his flat!
It was 9:00 at night and the hallways within the building were empty for most parts. Most students either had left or gone back to their dorms. Therefore, Tora was surprised to catch sight of a lone figure appearing at the end of the corridor he was about to walk into.
Out of instinct, Tora quickly jerked himself backward to hide beyond the wall next to him, hoping that he had hidden himself fast enough so the person at the other end of the corridor would not notice him.
The raven-haired man didn’t know why he would react like this, why he would suddenly sense it was necessary to keep himself out of sight from whoever was approaching. It was something out of pure instinct; his gut feeling was telling him something wasn’t right...
Fortunately, the corner he was standing in was poorly lit enough that he believed there was a good chance the person at the opposite side would fail to notice his presence.
He waited until he could no longer hear any footstep, indicating that whoever was on the other end of the corridor didn’t walk any further. Then, Tora silently looked out from his hiding place, hoping to find out what was going on.
What he could see was the silhouette of a young male facing a row of lockers. At first, it was easy to mistake the person in question to be merely trying to open his own locker to take something out like most students would do when they wanted to pick up their things. But curiously enough, Tora soon noticed the blond-haired male wasn’t using any key to open any of those lockers.
Thankfully, the other person still hadn’t seemed to notice Tora’s presence since not only he was facing away from Tora’s direction, he currently was also busy checking something amongst the lockers before him. Tora kept watching; and finally, the raven-head third year recognised the other man.
Tora knew the person standing in front of the lockers was Kohara Kazamasa—also known to his friends as ‘Shou’—one of the star-students from the same faculty of his. They were not friends, but Tora definitely knew who the other student was. Whenever he saw Kohara in the campus, the latter seemed to be forever surrounded by a bunch of friends and classmates, which was the opposite of Tora himself: he only hanged out with a few close friends and didn’t go socialising around unless he had to.
Therefore, it was a bit surprising for Tora to find the star student all by himself, sneaking around on the corridor, acting suspicious as though he was picking locks.
Tora was surprised by his own thoughts. Locks-picking and sneaking around secretly so late at night at the school’s corners, as though he was worried that someone else might see him. That really wasn’t the Kohara Kazamasa he knew.
Then, Tora saw the blond student focus his attention on a certain locker at the top. He stopped, stared up at it, and did nothing but watched it for a long moment; before he grasped the handle of said locker and then began to push at it.
The raven-haired student was even more bewildered, but now there was no mistake: Kohara was in fact trying to open a locker, which didn’t belong to him. However, why would he do this? As far as he knew, Kohara had no criminal record and wasn’t known for behaving suspiciously in the past.
The third year student continued his silent observation as his blond classmate kept on trying to pull the locker’s door free from its frame, without success. Eventually, Kohara sighed and slowly letting out of the handle, giving up.
Then, as if he was suddenly getting nervous, Kohara rapidly turned his head from side to side, checking his surroundings. So sudden was his action, Tora barely had time to duck beneath the shadow, hiding himself from the other student’s sight.
With his back pressed against the wall behind him, Tora could no longer see Kohara, once again had nothing to do but wait. Eventually, he could hear footsteps—this time it was walking away from him.
Slowly, the raven head turned until he had his left side pressing to the wall, and then he tiptoed to the edge of it and peered out, just in time to see Kohara’s silhouette disappearing from the far corner. Still, he waited until the footsteps faded away completely before he left his hiding spot.
Walking as unhurriedly as he could, Tora made his way to the lockers, and then he stood in front of it to gaze up at one particular locker, the one he thought Kohara had previously tried to open.
This locker was just like the other ones, and like all the other lockers, there was a nametag on the steel-made door. Upon the half-faded nametag of this locker, Tora could read the name printed on it: Sakamoto Takashi.
Why on earth would Kohara try to open the locker belonged to Sakamoto Takashi?
His train of thoughts was broken by the sudden noise of engine starting. The noise pierced through the quietness rather sharply, and it was coming from outside of the windows.
Rushing to the side of the hallway towards where the windows stood open, Tora looked down to the car park outside of the building. What he saw was a black vehicle moving out of the car park before it disappeared behind a line of trees. There was no way for Tora to be certain that it was Kohara Kazamasa driving his car away; still, something told him it was.
Slowly, Tora retreated from the windows. He still didn’t know what he should think. He could only try his best to gather and summarise the very few facts he had just discovered.
His classmate, Kohara Kazamasa, had been lingering on Sakamoto Takashi’s locker when no one was around. He tried to open it, but failed.
Why would Kohara do this? Why would he ever try to do such a thing? Was he just one of those busybodies who got the thrill by lingering around the belongings left behind by a missing person?
None of it was adding up.
Takashi could hardly believe it, but now he was walking upstairs again, leaving the horrid little cell behind. He could only wish he would never be sent back down there again. He knew he would do anything within his power to make sure he wouldn’t go back there.
Wishful thinking; but right now, he would rather believe things were turning for the best, instead for the worse.
His hands were still bound in front of him, with only the short chains in between the cuffs to allow him some freedom of hand movements, and he was still blindfolded. Both of these facts had made walking impossible without aid. Much to Takashi’s chagrin, he had to rely on the nameless kidnapper’s support to climb up the stairs without falling face first to the ground. Plus, he also needed his captor whispering direction to him so he could know when to mind his footsteps, when to stop, when to expect the stairs and when to expect even floor to walk upon.
In fact, he didn’t dare to let go of his captor’s hand the whole time, nor did he have any strength left to walk on his own without having to lean onto the other man’s shoulder for support. It was when he realised the kidnapper seemed to be slightly taller than him and more solidly built. Takashi was once again being made aware of the fact that he was probably no match in strength against his captor, especially not in his weakened status.
In Takashi’s mind, the kidnapper was a freak, a madman, a monster; but ironically, at this moment he would be hopelessly lost without the other man’s guide.
Plus, the man was guiding him away from his prison cell. Therefore, the brunette knew he must follow, and kept his rebellion at the minimum...for the time being.
Despite being supported, Takashi still found himself sweating. His legs weakened on the knees, his footsteps echoed heavily around him with every slow step he took.
Next to him, the kidnapper slowed his pace, allowing the blindfolded captive to catch up; before he came to a rather rapid stop. Takashi was confused and before he knew what was going on, he was once again being lifted and carried by his captor.
A small cry of surprise escaped his lips, but he was hushed by the man who was carrying him in his embrace.
“I’m sorry; I shouldn’t have made you walk up the stairs. I forgot you haven’t gotten better yet.”
The man now talked as if Takashi was only falling ill due to natural causes, instead of being starved hard to death; which Takashi knew only too well it wasn’t the truth. However, there was nothing he could do but to keep himself still and clung to the front of his captor’s shirt; gripping the fabric so tightly that the shirt had to be wrinkled, but if his captor noticed, he didn’t say anything. Therefore, Takashi guessed it was allowed for him to cling to the other man in such a manner.
It was difficult for Takashi to sense his surroundings when he was being carried. Still, the bound youth could tell his captor was carrying him as he walked along a corridor of some sort without passing through any door.
Just when he was thinking about it, the kidnapper made a turn and came to a stop, opening a door and then stepping in.
Takashi tried not to react but he couldn’t stop his head from turning from side to side, as though he could scan his surroundings or at the very least, sense where he was even when he couldn’t possibly do that, given the fact he was blindfolded.
The kidnapper didn’t pause. He didn’t even slow his pace. The man seemed to know quite certainly where he should go. Eventually, Takashi found himself being lowered from the other man’s arms and then—even before the brunette had time to panic—placed on a soft flat surface.
Despite the man’s careful movement, with his hands still bound together, Takashi still nearly fell to lay flat on his back when he was released. However, he was soon caught and righted before the impact. In the end, his captor helped him to sit on the bed with his back against the headboard; with what felt like a few pillows cushioning his upper body from behind.
Takashi should have been relieved, but the uncertainty he was feeling right now had eclipsed whatever comfort he felt by the change of his treatment.
Then, he felt the edge of the bed sank next to him as a weight was being added upon it. He knew what it meant: the kidnapper had sat down on the bed next to him. He held his breath, still not knowing what to expect his captor to do to him, but his doubt was soon answered as he felt someone took his hands; causing the bound man to tense. Instantly, he tried to back away, but once again the other man caught his hands and held them in place.
Those same words again, ordering him not to move. The kidnapper didn’t raise his voice but the icy voice froze Takashi’s movement instantly.
“Come on,” the other man spoke again, this time a bit more softly, “Relax.”
Takashi wanted to plead the other man to let him go, but only strangled gasps left his parted lips. Then, the brunette heard his captor sigh.
“Don’t be so frightened, I only want to change your bandage.”
For a long moment, neither of them moved; but eventually, Takashi willed himself to release bit by bit.
He knew he was doing something probably unwise: trusting a kidnapper’s words. But what other choice did he have? He could only trust his captor wouldn’t try to harm him. He had to. At least, the other man so far had always done what he said he would. He could only wish it would continue.
As Takashi held himself as still as possible, he could feel the kidnapper slowly relaxing his grip on both of his hands. Then, the brunette sensed a slight pressure being added to his handcuffs and then with the faint noise of key turning within keyhole, his hands were freed from the cuffs for the first time.
“Now, don’t do anything stupid. Don’t even think about it. Or I will put them back again; understand?”
Takashi knew what ‘them’ referred to, so he continued to keep still. He was almost glad that he didn’t try to fight back when the kidnapper cut the used bandages off with what seemed to be a pair of scissors. Not only the man could see, he might also had weapons coming in handy. It probably would be wiser to hold still.
His captor worked slowly; the wounds around Takashi’s wrists were treated with care. The old bandage was removed and replaced by new ones.
However, his relief was short-lived because once the kidnapper finished bandaging him; he also fastened the handcuffs back up.
Takashi bit back a groan, he had hoped that somehow the kidnapper would let him be, or even forgetting to put the handcuffs back on. But now it seemed he had been too naïve to wish that his captor would let his guard down so easily.
So here he was, sitting on an unfamiliar bed with his back against the headboard. He was bound and blindfolded just as before, with his captor sitting casually next to him on the same bed. Now, the other man wasn’t doing anything and it was getting onto Takashi’s nerves. What was the man going to do? What should he do now to save himself?
He could only hear the other man’s breathing. It was close to him as though the man was sitting close by. Takashi couldn’t detect any movement, so he guessed that the kidnapper was simply sitting there at the moment, doing nothing. Why would he do this? Why wouldn’t he leave? Why wouldn’t he say something now? Why wouldn’t he just...do something?
As if his captor could hear his thoughts, the next thing Takashi heard was the soft sound of the other man shifting his weight on the bed; and it was no mistake that he was inching closer towards him.
His breath caught in his throat when he felt the kidnapper landing a hand on one of his shoulders. Takashi’s whole body tensed up instantly, but it didn’t stop the kidnapper to place another hand at the side of his captive’s head, brushing the locks of hair he had found there.
Slowly, the man was combing through Takashi’s hair by using his fingers, whilst his other hand rested on Takashi’s shoulder, a reminder for the latter to hold still.
It took a while before the mysterious man seemed to become satisfied with the state of Takashi’s hair. When the kidnapper was finally done, Takashi heard the man straighten himself and move back, still sitting next to him but not so close anymore.
“You must be hungry, right?”
Takashi was startled when his captor asked him out of the blue. Was he imagining things, or was it really a slight note of concern in his captor’s words? Takashi’s response was a hesitating, careful nod. Despite the hint of concern in the kidnapper’s voice, this question could still be a trap. He knew, with a sinking feeling, that he would soon find out whether his captor’s question was a trap, soon.
The other man didn’t speak, simply stood up and moved away from the bed. Takashi could hear him walking further away, and then there came the sound of something, an object being lifted. If only he could see and learn what it was—
Next, he heard the sound of footsteps walking back towards him. Seconds later, a warm, sweet smelling scent hit him. The scent was getting closer with every step the kidnapper took towards him.
The scent of it...it definitely came off from some kind of cooked food. The promising scent of it made Takashi’s mouth water. His nails digging deep to the flesh of his sweaty palm out of desperation. Goodness, he had no idea he had somehow became hungry again before the scent of cooked food hit him. His captor was bringing him food when he was blindfolded and helpless, just like the last time. For a brief moment, the brunette wondered why he couldn’t catch this welcoming scent after he was carried into this room. Then, he guessed his captor might have covered the food entirely with some kind of dish-cover in order to cut off the scent.
Once again, a weight was added to the bed; making Takashi know his captor had sat back down. With the man being close, the warm scent of whatever food he carried was now coming off towards Takashi so strongly like it was thick, wet invisible ribbons.
Out of instinct, Takashi blindly reached his bound hands forward, to no avail. But his reaction only earned him a chuckle from his captor.
“Tsk. What have I told you before, dear Saga? Patience. Patience is the key.”
Takashi let his hands to slowly fall back to lay flat on the top of his laps. Without a word, he sat there and waited for the kidnapper’s next move. He didn’t like how there wasn’t anything he could do than biting the inside of his own mouth.
Finally, the order came.
“Open your mouth.”
Again, Takashi obeyed, feeling uneasy to find this time it took him faster to do what his captor had ordered. However, the discomfort was soon brushed aside as he once again felt the edge of what appeared to be a spoon pressed to his bottom lip. Then, at the tip of his tongue, he could finally taste warm thick liquid seeping down. He figured it must be some sort of heated up soup, and it tasted just...wonderful.
He quickly sipped his first mouthful down his throat. Then, he opened his mouth again, eagerly waiting for more; and his captor didn’t deny him from getting nutrient.
In between sipping the warm liquid with his tongue, swallowing and waiting, Takashi had no idea how much time had passed. Still, given Takashi’s situation, it was still a small pleasure to feel slightly full in the stomach.
He had never known what a blessing it was to be able to simply eat; to simply grip some kind of food and consume them whenever you felt like it, before this happened. There were many things he didn’t know before. How important it was to be able to see things. How terrible it was to lose your ability to simply use your hands. How much of a bless it really was to wake up in your own bedroom, safe and sound. How precious the freedom you enjoyed really was.
Now, everything was taken from him. He had nowhere to go. He couldn’t even take charge of his own survival anymore. All he could do was to rely on the man who had kept him captive, and wished he wouldn’t harm him again.
All of these facts could be summed up into one simple, awful conclusion: he needed the kidnapper in order to survive. Takashi hated it.
Eventually, his captor let him sip one more spoonful of cooling soup before withdrawing the spoon. Then, came the faint noise of the man standing up from the bed. It was followed by the sound of a bowl being put down somewhere. Instantly, Takashi straightened himself up to sit fully on the bed, slowly moving blindly forward to where he thought was the center of the bed. What was the kidnapper’s next move? Was he leaving or was he staying? What did he intend to do?
If the kidnapper noticed Takashi’s movement, he didn’t say anything. Instead, Takashi could hear the man was now walking around the bed to another direction. Next, he could hear a ‘click’ as if something was being pushed open. Only the brunette couldn’t figure out what his captor had just done in the room… But soon, he could hear it: the many different tiny sounds from outside; it was unmistakable.
All of a sudden, he could also feel it: fresh air pouring into the room, wind blowing softly through...the window? Could it be that the kidnapper had just opened a window?
Takashi’s heart leaped rapidly in his chest at the thought. There was a window in this room. He had never dared to even wish for that......unblocked windows...an escape to the outside.....
Thousands of thoughts filled Takashi’s mind at once, to a point that he nearly missed his captor’s new sentence.
“It’s late now, so you should rest, Saga.”
Takashi couldn’t help but turn his body towards where the kidnapper’s voice came from. The way he uttered those words, commenting how it was late; it was like how a person would normally chat with his friends or family. It sounded all too normal for the captive brunette not to fear there was some hidden meaning behind this seemingly harmless commend. But at least, now judging from the other man’s words, Takashi knew it had to be night time by now.
“It’s nice to lie down and rest, right? You want to spend the night here…” The voice came from somewhere close, from somewhere behind him; but Takashi couldn’t tell where his captor stood.
“It can be your room if you like. So...do you like it?”
It felt strange to hear this man talk. First, he seemed to be asking Takashi some questions, but in his next sentence, he was answering his own questions.
Still...there was great temptation in what the nameless kidnapper was offering now. A room, with an actual bed to sleep on; a room...with windows. It definitely was an improvement. But why was he still feeling so scared when it came to giving his response? Was it because deep down, Takashi knew although now he had the chance to be relocated to a room upstairs with actual pieces of furniture, it didn’t change the fact that he was still imprisoned?
“I said, do you like it?” The kidnapper repeated his own question, his tone sounded almost neutral. Still, there was a note of anticipation underneath. Like the question itself was some sort of bait.
Takashi knew not to make his captor ask the same question for more than twice. Now he could only take his chance, and then hope for the best. “...Yes. I do.”
“Do you want to stay here?”
Takashi found it becoming more difficult to form words. As though there was a thick layer of sands wiping against his tongue, “Yes...I’d love to.”
“...Surely you can stay here, for as long as you like…”
Takashi stirred when he felt a pair of hands land on either of his shoulders. The grip he played on him was not a forceful one, but it still sent shiver down his spine.
“But you must behave. Only good boy gets to stay in his room…”
Takashi nearly jumped when those words were whispered right next to his ear.
“Be good, so I won’t have to remove you back to that little padded cell.”
The sentence was uttered casually, in an off-hand manner; but Takashi still shivered at those words, he recognised the threat underlined.
“Saga, I also need you to do something for me.” The kidnapper said quietly, whilst his fingers caressing the lines of his captive’s shoulders.
Takashi did not know what to think about his captor’s request, but he didn’t dare to refuse either.
“I need you to hold every still. Will you do it for me?”
“After I’m done, I want you to count from one to ten before you do anything. Do you understand?”
Takashi repeated nervously, “Yes.”
Shortly afterwards, Takashi sensed movements from behind him, and then he felt a pair of hands tagging at the blindfold wrapped around his face. Then within the next second, the piece of cloth was loosened and then it was slipped off suddenly.
Takashi could not help releasing a loud gasp of shock as his eyes were freed from the tangles of rags being fastened upon them. Even after the thick, heavy piece of cloth had been removed, he didn’t even dare to open his eyes. Instead, he covered his face with his palms as though he needed some kind of protection. Beneath the tips of his own fingers, the skin around his eyes felt moistened, raw......moistened with tears; he needed to calm down, he needed time to get used to not being blindfolded...
He could feel a pair of hands come back to rest on both his shoulders, as though wanting to offer him some comfort. Although the mere thought of comfort was absurd. Takashi didn’t look up, didn’t try to turn back to see his captor’s face; still, he could hear the kidnapper’s voice speaking to him again.
“You’ll be fine, Saga. Now I want you to start counting, slowly.”
Calm down......Takashi repeated these two words in his mind like a prayer. Then, still burying his face in his hands, the brunette forced himself to start counting.
In painful slowness, the kidnapper’s hands slipped off Takashi’s shoulders.
“Sleep tight, Saga.”
Takashi didn’t dare to move, didn’t dare to say anything; and his captor didn’t seem to mind. A moment later, the bound one could hear tiny noise of movement behind him, as though the other man was truly exiting from the room.
Could this ‘click’ sound he thought he had just heard indicate that the kidnapper had closed the door behind him? Still, Takashi kept counting. Although part of him wanted to believe the kidnapper was gone, the other part of him wasn’t so certain, didn’t dare to disobey.
After his own voice faded into nothingness, there was only silence surrounding him. The only sound he could hear was his own heartbeat and every harsh, shallow breath being drawn out from his lungs. Both sounded so loud in this eerie quietness.
His upper body was still doubling over. His arms drew so tightly to press to his chests. He waited until his breathing came back to as close as normal. The sound of his own heartbeat reduced to allow him to hear sounds from his surroundings more clearly.
This time....he heard nothing. Not the soft noise of another person’s breathing, no footstep, no movement. It seemed like he was left alone by now.
One by one, Takashi removed his quivering hands, raising his head and took in his new surroundings for the first time. He turned back; fearful of what he might see when he opened his eyes. At first, he needed to blink to let his eyes adjust to the light and being able to see things again. No one was there; he was alone in this room.
The room was dim; the light was switched off; the only light being the fading rays of the pale moon outside of the window. Takashi paused, his eyes fixed on a pair of windows, which he now saw was setting at the opposite side of the bed.
At first, Takashi could hardly believe what he was seeing. He couldn’t believe there was a pair of windows, standing open before him from across the dim little room, revealing the night sky and the tall trees underneath it.
There were open windows in the room, a mean to escape!
With a surge of excitement, the brunette rushed towards the window as fast as he could. He was still cuffed, but at least he could still make a run of it to the outside if he was careful...
However, once he got close enough, Takashi realised something he had failed to notice before. The windows were fenced carefully with at least three layers of thin wire. They were in fact both barricaded.
Mindlessly, Takashi raised both his hands towards the fences, trying to do something—he didn’t even know what he was up to. Out of desperation, did he really believe he could shake those fences off, or tear them apart with his bare hands?
He didn’t know what he was thinking; his mind had seemed to go bland. He didn’t pause to analyse the situation logically, he could only act. The fences were his enemies now; he had to get them down—
He tried again and again until his nails broke and his fingertips started bleeding around the edges. Still, the fences couldn’t be torn down. As thin and breakable as they seemed, they were made of stronger material than they looked.
When finally Takashi collapsed, sinking onto the floor, he felt exhausted all over again; his fingers and arms were both aching. He felt defeated, knowing his effort was in vain, he wasn’t closer to salvation than before. His captor was too clever to leave his captive in an unguarded room.
There was still no escape, no hope.
Mustering whatever left of his strength, Takashi got up to his knees once more and took another look outside of the window. Beyond the fences, the entire world seemed to be shrouded entirely by darkness. Takashi could see neither streetlight nor lamps; the only source of light was the pale moon so far away on the cloudy night sky. It took a while for the brunette’s eyes to adjust to the darkness and made out more of the scenery. All he could make out was the shadow of tall trees beneath the pale moonlight.
Takashi kept looking, trying to find something else, but he couldn’t see anything other than the shades of towering trees. It looked to the brunette they seemed to be going for miles after miles, without ending.
Could he possibly manage to walk out of these woods, given his weakened condition?
At the back of his mind, Takashi knew the answer, but it would kill him to allow himself to acknowledge it. He wanted to scream despite he knew it was useless to even try shouting in order to catch some passer-by’s attention. Because there simply was no passer-by; not so deep in the woods. He also knew it was useless to even go to try to unlock the door. It had to be locked from the outside, his captor was no fool. All the routes to escape was blocked even before he had a chance to fight back, Takashi was too drained and disappointed that he couldn’t even cry.
Takashi didn’t remember how he managed to stand up and leave the window, but he must have somehow managed to do it because the next thing he knew, Takashi had stumbled back to the lone bed in the middle of the room. His thin frame hit the mattress as he felt his lids shutting with exhaustion.
Before long, Takashi was pushed under the heavy weight of a dreamless sleep. This time, he didn’t have enough energy to suspect whether he had been drugged again.
to be continued.