It was a cold morning, the sun was high and the air was still and all that could be seen, stretching beyond the horizon was a thick layer of white from freshly fallen snow, marred by a patchy brown line cutting through it all. It was calm, quiet, the only sound to be heard was the gentle brushing of wind as it lifted snow off the ground like the Saharan sands. Soon though, that cool and calming wind was accompanied by a breezy melody, its source coming from a weathered acoustic guitar, played by a young man. Kiyoshi’s fingers strummed smoothly across the strings, an appreciative bovine audience having found his music soothing, accompanying him. He sat atop the three foot high fence, the separation between the cows and civilization as he played, feet dangling over the edge. Christmas was just around the corner, with the New Year following not too far behind. Family on his Aunt’s side had decided to come for the holidays this year, and while everyone was back at home enjoying the warmth of the fire and festivities, Kiyo had taken it upon himself to wander the countryside and play his guitar. Despite his Aunt’s objections, she knew that once he was set on something, he did it, she only encouraged him to at least wear something warm and while he did wear a dark blue hoodie, she probably would have scolded him for his brisk legwear; at least he was wearing long socks to cover up a little. His hands continued to play the endless tune mindlessly as his head wandered through the melody, lost to the tune of each note. Then...tragedy struck.
His song was cut abruptly short as tires screeched across the ground, ending in a resounding metallic thump and wooden crunch. His audience, clearly startled by the sudden predicament, scattered back into the fields from whence they came, Kiyo’s eyes furiously blinking as he tried to make heads or tails of what happened. Hands resting on his instrument, he slowly turned his head to the sound of an engine revving and tires free spinning, kicking up dirt and snow behind it...someone crashed their car, a relatively nice one as well. The young man’s brows furrowed as he processed the situation, “Geez...you think someone would’ve gotten their winter tires already?” Who the hell drives out into the countryside in a nice car like that after fresh snow, and doesn’t expect to get into an accident..? Sighing rather dejectedly, Kiyo started slinging his guitar across his back, “Well...there goes my Thursday…” Despite the sudden annoyance he couldn’t just leave anyone to their fate, especially since he was the only individual around for a couple of miles, he was pretty much obligated to help out.
Swinging his legs over the side of the fence, he hopped back down to the ground with a deadened thump as his feet plummeted into the snow. Trudging on over to the other side of the road, he leaned down and peered into the window to a rather flustered, if not distressed individual, then again, who wouldn’t be in this kind of situation? With a deadpan stare he rapped his knuckles on the driver side window to get the person’s attention, before waving his hand in greeting and motioning for them to roll down their window. With their attention grasped and window rolled down, he gave them a once over to make sure they were fine, which they certainly seemed fine physically, though also familiar. Dark raven hair, pale skin, wide blue eyes… the Mayor’s daughter? What was she doing out here? Kiyo’s expression was rather puzzled by this enlightenment, he’d never known the girl personally, she was ahead of him a year in school so he’d seen her often enough in and out of class. That being said, like everyone else in this town it wasn’t hard to know who was who unless you tried to make it so; Kiyo was one of those people who was particularly good at not being seen.
“Oh my gosh! My guardian angel!” Lillian turner quickly rolled down the window of her 2014 Mercedes CLA 250; a lovely hand-me-down from her father which stuck out like a sore thumb in the outskirts of the city. “I’m so glad you’re here.” She gave the man at her window a sheepish grin, feeling rather embarrassed about her current situation. “There was black ice and I lost control…” She frowned, glancing back at where she had first felt her tires sliding across the ice.
Slowly, she opened up the driver door and stepped out with her Timberland boots crunching into the snow beneath. Leaving the door open, there was a clear view into the backseat which was practically filled to the brim with wrapped christmas presents. “I almost made it to his house, too…” She sighed as she muttered to herself, walking around the car to view the damage. Luckily it was nothing major, only a cracked right mirror from hitting a tree branch and a few scuffs on the right side from going down into the small ditch.
“Do you happen to have anything that could pull my car out of here?” She turned towards the stranger who came to check on her, grateful that she wasn’t left to figure this out by herself.
The young man cocked his head to the side as the girl droned on. First she mentioned the black ice, “Well yea, it might be a dirt road, but people don’t expect luxury cars out here.” Then there was the mention of ‘his’ house, “Maybe some family member’s place? Nah probably her boyfriend’s or something.” As she inspected the damage, he did one of his own with a light kick to the tire, as though he were some offshore mechanic confirming that, ‘yep, she’s busted alright’; insert chew tobacco spit take. He took a brief interest in the contents of her vehicle, some rather sizable plethora of brightly colored gifts, it certainly gave the impression she was going all out, though it probably wasn’t for something charitable; like orphan children and puppy levels of charitable. As she came back around to ask him if he had a way to help her get out, his head levelled back up as he blinked his eyes to the question. What exactly was she expecting him to do? Hulk out and lift the thing out of this ditch? ...probably not, that’d be too boring anyway.
Rather than giving an obvious answer, Kiyo reached into his hoodie pocket and pulled out his phone to scroll through it. At first glance it probably looked like he was going to call someone, but here in the outskirts, a cell signal was hard to come by. Instead he was looking through his playlist for something he could listen to while travelling, the homestead of Oakley Ranch was probably a half mile or so up the road, they’d probably have a truck with a tow and it’d be a few minutes of walking to get to it. Satisfied with his choice he turned and started walking the direction the car was going in. About eight steps in he realized there was still another person with him and so he gestured for her to follow, inverting the headphones around his neck to act as a mini speaker as he walked. Hands stretched up, clasped around the back of his head, his bare legs bracing the cold as his shorts rustled in the wind; it really was a nice day out.
Lillian raised a brow as the man began to look at his phone without saying a word to her. She waited patiently, wondering if he planned on calling a tow truck service. “I could have done that…” She thought, eyeing him quietly.
As he began to walk away, still no words spoken, Lillian sighed. She’d have to figure this out for herself after all. It wasn’t his problem and she couldn’t really blame him. But didn’t he want to help a damsel in distress?! She groaned, taking one last glance at him just in time to catch him gesturing for her to follow. She grinned, hope was restored! “Oh! Me?” She hurried around to the drivers side door and shoved it closed, making sure to grab her keys and lock it.
As fast as she could without slipping, she ran to catch up with him. Perhaps leaving behind a Mercedes full of gifts and walking off into the countryside with a stranger wasn’t the best idea… but she believed most people to be good. “Maybe he doesn’t want to talk to me…” She pondered, walking quietly beside him as his music played in the background. “Peculiar…” She looked over his headphones before raising her eyes to his. “I’m Lily, by the way. What’s your name?”
He turned his gaze slightly as he eyed her up and down, “Lily, eh…?” He pondered this for a moment, yea he could see that, though he would’ve preferred keeping things impersonal, ‘Mayor’s Daughter’ had a better ring to it. Though since she was taking the effort to introduce herself, he might as well do the same. His hands began to rifle through his shorts and hoodie pockets, he knew there was one in there… ah!
Producing a small business card he stretched his hand out to give it to her, the text on it simply reading, My name is Kiyoshi Itsugaya, I am mute, apologies for the inconvenience. He used to bring a text to speech device with him wherever he went, but ever since the dredges of the outside world started touring Emerald City, plus an inconveniently, unfortunate encounter with a Wild Karen went south, he decided business cards were a more economic investment to introductions. To emphasize his point to her he pointed to his mouth as he opened and closed it, no sound coming out, ending the exchange with a brief shrug as he kept on walking.
Lily took the card and read it, suddenly feeling a bit selfish for thinking it was just her that he didn’t want to talk to. She put the card into her jacket and looked up at him, smiling. “It’s nice to meet you, Kiyoshi.” She looked forward, trying to figure out where he was taking her. “Thank you for doing this… you’re such an angel, seriously.” She stuck her hands in her pockets to hide them from the chill, twirling the business card around in her hand. To be honest, she wasn’t sure what to do when someone couldn’t respond directly to her. She felt the urge to keep talking to fill the silence, but in the back of her mind she knew that no one enjoyed aimless chatter. Typically, people were constantly talking to her, telling her things, asking her things and looking for answers. With that in mind, she decided to stop trying to fill the air with nonsense. The silence was actually nice and the music that Kiyoshi had chosen was charming.
A few days had passed since the misadventures with Lily ‘The Mayor’s Daughter’ Turner. After their introduction the two passed their walk in a comfortable silence, a mutual understanding between them. When they did make it to the farm they explained the situation to the ranch owner and hence hopped in his truck to pull her vehicle out of the ditch. Once everything was settled the two said their goodbyes and Kiyo, having had enough outdoor entertainment made his way back home to food and family. “Which of course, brings us to now…” As mildly entertaining as a dramatic monologue with comic book heroic undertones was, nothing was quite as amusing as live music and an audience to accompany it. He was back at the same fence post, playing the same guitar, to the same group of cows. Behind him was where a car had planted itself earlier in the week, the skid marks covered in a fresh layer of snow, but the damage to a small tree and another part of the fence was still prevalent. He briefly wondered if something like that would happen twice in the same week, though he was fairly doubtful.
“Ah-ha! Found him!” Lillian thought, pulling off into the shoulder of the road with the same Mercedes that she had gone into a ditch with earlier in the week. She had suspected that Kiyoshi had a daily routine and that she would find him near the same location that she had met him. Lucky for her, she was correct. Before getting out of the car, Lily grabbed the gift she had brought for him; a card accompanied with a medium sized square box wrapped in reindeer wrapping paper.
Excitedly she exited the car and called out, “Kiyo!” Careful with her steps, she crossed the ditch and made her way to the fence where he was sitting. “I brought you something.” She stretched out her arms, presenting the box and the card laying on top to him. “It’s not much but… it’s the least I could do. You’re my guardian angel, after all, and you deserve a reward.” She giggled as he took the gifts from her. “It’s a.. Merry Christmas and thank you gift. I hope you like it.”
Lily? While not exactly as spectacular an opening as earlier in the week, seeing her so soon was unexpected. Curious as to why she was back here again, “Maybe to see her boyfriend again?”, he was surprised when in her hands was a wrapped present and card and that she was offering it to him. Curiouser and curiouser, Kiyo swung his legs around and hopped down the fence again, guitar slung across his chest as he accepted the mysterious packaged, a perplexed look on his face as he stared at her. Clearly she wanted him to open the gift as swiftly as possible, her giddy expression clearly a want for him to see what was inside the box. Gently placing the enveloped card in his mouth he carefully unwrapped the paper, and what revealed inside was… “Holy shit…”
His mouth suddenly gaped open, the card dropping on top of the box, quick to remove it, lest his eyes were playing some kind of illusion on him, he stared in awe at the package. A set of Blue Series, studio quality ’Ella’ Headphones, these things were like $800, how in the hell did she even manage to… Kiyo looked back up to Lily, then back down to the box...this was unreal. They’d only just met and here she was gifting him something like this? Was this… a bribe? No, what the hell he didn’t exactly have much to offer in return and she seemed far too nice for something like that. Confused he looked her in the eyes, trying to find some sinister trace to them, some ulterior motive...but there was nothing, nothing but pure joy that she got him something that his face clearly showed he liked. He couldn’t possibly accept this and yet he was sure she’d insist upon it...he didn’t even have anything for her...what about something that was already on him? His own headphones? No that would just seem like he was giving a hand-me-down. His hoodie? Girls liked those...no he hadn’t washed them in a week, this was literally the same hoodie he met her in. What about… he looked down at his guitar, it was something he bought with his own money, slightly worn, but well loved, something personal. Looking back to her, he wasn’t sure if she’d like it but...what the hell. Placing his new gift gently into the snow, he straightened back up and unslung the guitar from his shoulder, offering it to the young woman, much in a way a blacksmith offered a sword to another. He looked expectantly, hoping that she would take it, cause otherwise, he’d feel like a right jerk that he hadn’t thought of gifting her something in return.
"No, no, no, no!" Lily shook her hands in front of her and then gently pushed the guitar back toward Kiyo's chest. She laughed, "It's a gift, silly. Not a trade!" She gestured to the card, "Plus, you still need to open your card. I love giving gifts, I promise I don't expect anything from it." She moved in closer and quickly planted a kiss on his cheek. "I just wanted to say thank you and I really appreciate your help the other day."
He began to move in protest, his cheeks slightly puffing outward, communication really was a problem for him. Before he had the chance though, her light peck caught him off guard, and he stood frozen in place as his eyes widened, staring in bewilderment. His brain felt like a muddled cog, “Tch- I- dehg… wuh-CRASH
It’s 3 am…♫Kiyoshi Itsugaya
...3 months later
...3 months later
Jostled from his sleep, Kiyoshi took in his surroundings. It was dark, he was in motion or rather on something in motion...a bus...right. Sitting up slightly he looked outside, it was dark, the only visible source of light was the moon, a stark contrast from the fluorescent street lamps that dotted the city scape he had come from. How long had he been out for? How long had been travelling? Pulling out his phone he checked the time...3 am… sighing he slumped back into his seat, “What a joke…” Crossing his arms, he turned to look back out the window reflecting on what happened, a divet in the road most likely the cause of his sudden awakening, but more importantly he had that dream again.
Kiyo had been planning on going away for a few weeks, meeting up with his parents as they toured across the states. The travel would have been somewhat hectic, but not unfamiliar, plus he was just happy to see them. It was supposed to be fun, carefree and yet within a week of travelling he heard the news; Lily Turner was missing. It had only been a couple of months since they met and introduced themselves, yet based on their frequent schedule the two had been seeing each other usually every other day...nothing romantic of course, just two ships passing in the night. Even with the brief interlude into their daily routine, it had formed into a kind of constant familiarity that Kiyo had grown accustomed to. To find out that this constant had suddenly gone missing, it hit a certain note in Kiyo’s heart, like the dulcet tones of a sullened melody, an arrow in his chest. Some would mistake this as a romantic inclination, Lily wasn’t that, she was something akin to family and that familiarity is what made the potential reality hit hard and at home. With this in mind, despite his parents concerns, he felt the need to come back home, back to Emerald City, much to the chagrin of his early am bus driver. Kiyo preferred this form of travel though, preferred the quiet, solidarity, and with that his eyes had drifted back, fading away into those dulcet tones.
“Hey, wake up.” Kiyo’s eyes slowly shifted open, once again taking in his surroundings, Kiyo was back on the bus...only it was light out...really light out. “C’mon kid, look I know the other guy let you sleep in, but I got a schedule to keep, get up and move it out.” Looking up, this was indeed a different driver, and so begrudgingly Kiyoshi grabbed his bag and exited the bus, his eyes squinting at the exceedingly bright sunshine. Checking his phone again it was… 1:30? Jesus, how long had they been back in town? His surroundings were once again familiar and yet somehow felt different. Maybe it was the undertones involved with the disappearance? His aunt had mentioned something about a meeting that was supposed to be taking place? Perhaps it had something to do with that...or perhaps it had something to do with those plumes of black smoke off in the distance...