Categories > Games > Harvest Moon > Sanctuary0 Reviews
She wanted love and lacked empathy; he wanted truth and lacked proof. A falsely accused man takes shelter in the mansion of a difficult woman. He's at her mercy... and vice-versa? ClairxKai AU
Sanctuary: Valour, the Pursuit of Knowledge
Chapter One: Temperantia - Gula
The crash of thunder echoed in the night. The one and only inhabitant of the mansion couldn't sleep. It was not because of the weather, but because of an annoying bout of insomnia that assaulted her for three days in a row. She had not been able to fall asleep until sunrise and then it only lasted two or three hours. The floors of the mansion were covered in thick carpets, the walls lined with expensive paintings. The lights were off and she didn't care. Outside it was pitch black as the rain beat against the glass windows with all its might.
It had been three days since her cousin's wedding, an event to which she had not been invited. She huffed, what did she care? The woman was marrying such an unworthy man with nothing to his name but a dirty old farm. The groom could never pass for a man of high society and with the act of marrying him, neither could the bride.
Clair was not like that. Clair was a woman of status who would not marry unless it was to a man who could match her assets, or better yet surpass them. She laughed bitterly at the thought. Who could surpass her riches? Unlike her uncle who commanded a modest industrial empire, her father had been wiser in his investments leaving her as the heir to a conglomerate of corporate titans.
Her mother passed away when Clair was still quite young and she was raised by the maids since pre-adolescence. Her father saw her every morning before leaving for work and every evening during dinner. Their time spent together in a day amounted to an hour at most, but it was enough. Mr. Moon could assert that his daughter was alright and still projecting the aura of a fine young lady, while reminding her that she was better than the others around her.
Mr. Moon had not wanted young Clair to feel as less because she did not have a mother to guide her in the ways of being a lady of high society. He would not have anyone belittling his precious daughter. Clair firmly believed her father's words when he spoke them and still did after his passing.
It was then, when Mr. Moon's life came to an end, that Clair entered her solitude, or rather was exiled by her relatives and their friends, even the mansion staff quit. They owed a lot to her father but not to her, and when the man was no longer present, they felt their debt had been paid sufficiently. After all, they had humored his impossible daughter for years to keep him at ease.
Mr. Moon had married at a relatively mature age, so his passing came as no surprise to Clair, who clearly saw the age in his face. Mr. Moon was prepared as well, though some silently theorized that he was prepared to die since the day his wife passed away in that terrible accident that crushed her inside her car.
Clair made her way to the front door of her mansion leaving the large entrance open. She walked into the wet driveway wearing only a nightgown with a robe over it. The thin layers of fabric were not enough to keep the chill of the night away. It was fall, but winter was clearly on its way. She looked at the skies above as if challenging the forces of nature to strike her down and reveling against the world that refused to grant her much wanted sleep.
She walked on through the driveway, barefoot and soaked. She progressed slowly until she saw a most intriguing sight. She did not see this until she was right in front of the main gates that connected with the street a considerable distance away from her front door. Outside, a lamp post on the spacious sidewalk illuminated the moonless night enough for her to make out the shape of a human climbing over the bars of the tall gate.
The person lingered on top, struggling to get over the points unharmed. For a moment, Clair wondered what kind of sound would be made if that person fell. Perhaps the distance was enough for bones to break. To her disappointment, the person made it to the bottom safely. "Don't move!" She screeched.
The trespasser was a young man soaked to the bone. He turned around sharply, surprised by what he saw. He intended to hide in that mansion, taking refuge from the police until he could come up with a way to prove his innocence. He never thought he would run into someone once he lost the officers after him, especially not a young woman quite inappropriately dressed for the weather. The sight shocked him so much he stared, noting that she not only lacked a coat but also shoes. One should not be out in that weather at all, let along barefoot in clothing that offered basically no warmth.
Her cold blue eyes stared into his as she untied the crimson band of her robe, revealing the scarlet nightgown underneath, which clung to her body. He stood as if paralyzed as she lifted the hem of her nightgown to her thigh, revealing a black thing strapped to her leg. He couldn't see it clearly until she pulled the shiny object from it.
The silver gun was aimed right at him at point blank. His eyes widened and he lifted his hands, palms facing her. He wanted to speak but could not find his voice. His breaths were still labored from all the running he did to get there.
She grinned, it seemed she found herself a new toy, "inside," she commanded and he knew he had no choice.
The young man stepped out of the rainfall and through the mansion's front entrance. Clair stepped in after him, her gun still aimed at his head. She closed the doors with one hand, not turning her back on him for a second. She reached for the light switch and turned it on. A blindingly bright light invaded the room, decorated in white and gold. The man blinked and waited for his eyes to adjust to the brightness. He kept his hands up, palms open the entire time and was certainly not in the mood to notice the expensive paintings that lined the walls.
"I know who you are," Clair finally broke the deafening silence. A crash of thunder echoed near by. "You're the chef who works for my aunt and uncle," she spoke into the darkness, "what was your name?"
"Kai," he choked out that one word wondering how it was possible for the thunder not to have startled her in any visible way. Then again, she wasn't the one who had been running for her life after being falsely accused and almost arrested with no hopes of ever leaving jail. She was the one who held all the cards, and most importantly, the gun. No one would ever dare to accuse her of any crimes, not the rich heir, not the elegant Miss Moon. She was feared by some, scorned by many and envied by most. "You're Clair Moon," he didn't know what else to say to break the tense silence than to state he recognized her too.
"Why did you break into my property?" Clair cut to the chase and demanded to know.
"I wasn't trying to steal anything. I just wanted... I needed... I'm innocent!" The stress and drama of the night was too much to bear. "I didn't do it; I swear I didn't do it."
"What did you not do?" Clair asked coolly.
"I didn't kill Jack," Kai confessed.
Clair's blue eyes widened in shock, "Jack is dead?" Her grip on the gun tightened, her trembling index finger resting dangerously on the trigger. "Jack Harvest is dead?!"
Bang! Kai's heart stopped and he had to take a deep breath to assure himself that he was still alive. His purple bandana was hanging off the side of his head, almost on his shoulder before. It was now on the floor with a bullet hole in it. As he realized what had happened Kai's shock grew and he wondered if Clair's aim was very good or very bad. "I'm innocent..." he whispered, as if his voice had almost completely disappeared.
"If not you, then who did it?" Clair's calm demeanor was gone; she was clearly enraged, almost desperate.
"I don't know!" Kai's voice returned as he defended. "That's what I want to find out. I was set up, if they arrest me now, they'll just assume I'm guilty. I need to prove my innocence somehow!"
"I'll give you the benefit of the doubt..." Clair took deep breaths as she tried to calm herself.
xoxox xox xoxox
Clair and Kai had first met a few months ago when she had gone for her last visit to her aunt and uncle. The visit had ended with an argument when Clair became enraged upon hearing of her cousin's engagement to Jack. Before that, a somewhat civil meal had taken place. She had intruded into the kitchen soon after, slipping away from her relatives with the excuse of complimenting the chef.
"Did you make the meal?" Clair, dressed in an evening gown as if she were attending a ball, looked out of place in the kitchen, no matter how fancy the spacious kitchen was.
"Yes, miss," Kai smiled cheerfully, "and the dessert as well." He wasn't sure if she was there to compliment him or criticize him, her look was hard to read.
"How much do they pay you?" Clair sounded serious and neutral, her tone flat.
"Excuse me?" Kai was taken aback.
"How much?" Clair insisted, knowing full well he had heard her question before.
After a moment's pause, Kai revealed the extent of his salary, mentioning that he was also given a room to live in at the mansion.
Clair laughed, which didn't please Kai. Then she gave him a look of absolute superiority, "I'll double it."
"What?" Kai didn't know what to think about the sudden offer.
Clair gave him a mocking laugh, "are you always this eloquent? I said I would double your salary if you work for me. I will give you a room to live in bigger than what you have here. Of course, you'd have to quit your current job."
Kai shook his head, "I can't just leave."
"Triple," Clair offered firmly.
Kai stared at her for a few moments. Was his food that good, or was Clair just trying to cause trouble for her cousin's family? It was easy to see that they didn't really get along and the hypocrisy was about to fall apart. The offer was very tempting even if there was a rumor going around that all of Clair's employees got fed up with her and quit. Kai really wanted to save up and open his own restaurant one day. He imagined a sea side restaurant in a tropical town. Then he snapped back into reality, he couldn't leave and he had a good reason not to. "I'm sorry, as generous as your offer is; I have my own personal reasons to stay here."
If looks could kill, Clair would have murdered Kai there and then.
xoxox xox xoxox
Clair laughed bitterly at the memory of her job offer being rejected. "I bet you're regretting not taking my offer. If you had been working for me you wouldn't have gotten into this mess."
Kai offered no reply, he knew it wouldn't do him any good to think of the what ifs. If he had left it wouldn't have stopped the murder. The culprit would have just found another scapegoat. "I would rather focus on the future."
"Good, because you're going to help me find the culprit," Clair had calmed down in comparison to her recent outburst, but she looked like she was holding back tears. "Until the real culprit is found, you're still my main suspect, but if you're truly innocent you should have nothing to fear. I don't just want to blame someone; I want to get to the bottom of this. Until the truth is revealed you'll stay here. Don't even think of running off, I have more resources to track you down than the police." Another crash of thunder shook Clair's mansion. "It's late," Clair stated with a grave expression, she was clearly still shaken by the news of Jack's death. Her strong reaction puzzled Kai. "We will begin the investigation tomorrow. For now, I will show you to your room."
Kai silently nodded and picked up his bandana from the floor as Clair flicked a switch and a series of lights illuminated the mansion much brighter than the electric storm in the windows. He shuddered as he looked at the bullet hole in the purple fabric, which he tugged into his pocket. It had been dark, what if Clair didn't miss? Had she truly missed on purpose? Did her finger slip on the trigger and his survival was just fate's grace? As such questions flooded his already overwhelmed mind; he walked down the halls of the mansion next to Clair.
Though she was leading the way around a structure that was unknown to him, she maintained a relatively slow pace. It was as if she was telling him with her body language to walk next to her, not behind her. Kai quickened his pace and so did Clair. He could feel her icy glare on the side of his face and tried not to look at her too much. She almost looked as if she was deliberating if he deserved the benefit of the doubt or if she should just end his life with a bullet.
Clair stopped in front of a door and opened it. Kai stepped inside the room automatically reaching for the light switch. The sight he found once the room lit up was most unpleasant. The polished dark wood furniture and blue walls were littered with bullet holes. Random broken items were scattered all over the floor. A butler dark gray tuxedo style uniform hung from the lopsided blue crystal chandelier and looked as if it had been used for target practice with a gun.
"This isn't your room," Clair walked past Kai nonchalant while he stood frozen near the door. "I just thought you needed something to wear, since it's obvious you can't go back to your previous place of residence to fetch your things. My butler quit, alive, in case you're curious." She opened the closet with her left hand, still holding her shiny silver gun on her right hand. "I think these clothes will fit you." Two more uniforms similar to the one on the chandelier, but without any damage, were inside the closet, along with a pair of shiny black shoes. "Come here."
In a split second, Kai was next to her, not daring to question her orders. Clearly, this woman was... troubled. He certainly didn't want to trouble her further. He needed to upset her just as much as he needed a bullet through the brain.
Clair placed the uniforms and shoes in a pile in Kai's arms and walked across the room again. Slightly disturbed by her own memories, she stepped on a piece of glass from a broken base. The sharp clear shard cut through the expose skin of her bare right foot. She automatically let out a sound of pain in protest and stumbled to sit on the bed. The bed was covered in ragged blue sheets, with several bullet holes adorning the mattress and pillows.
"You're hurt," Kai quickly dumped the pile of clothes he carried into the bed next to her, kneeling over to have a better look at the injury.
"It's nothing," Clair dismissed it; she had enough of being in that room and didn't want to sit there any longer.
"At least let me get the glass out," Kai offered, "just keep your foot still," he carefully began to pull out the shard that was stuck to the bottom of her foot. Even when the glass was out she was still bleeding a little. He took the bandana from his pocket and tied it around her foot. It was obvious that she was uneasy. Kai assumed he was to blame for her unrest, though it was more so the room.
"You'll ruin it," Clair pointed out, referring to the already battered purple bandana.
"It already has a bullet hole in it," Kai pointed out as nonchalant and casual as he could manage. He didn't want to think too much about that incident. He looked up, his brown eyes meeting her blue ones. Her icy glare was gone and in those endless blue orbs he saw sadness. It was as if her very soul had been bleeding for days without rest, days that felt like years. Or perhaps her soul had been injured long ago and it was only recently that she noticed it.
She broke eye contact and gripped the base of her silver gun, her right index finger gently resting on the trigger. "Let's go," she stood carefully, as if testing her balance and walked to the door. Kai picked up the uniforms and shoes, following Clair. She turned the light off as soon as she reached the switch near the door. She didn't want to look at that room anymore and was secretly thankful that Kai didn't ask about it.
They walked in silence down more long elegant hallways lined with various paintings with a small expensive sculpture or base here and there. As they walked, the atmosphere turned fancier with predominant decorations of gold. Finally, Clair stopped in front of a door. Keep your friends close and your suspects closer, his room would be right next to hers. "This is your room. Stay in there until morning. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt; don't betray my trust and you'll be fine," she reminded.
"I understand," Kai ascertained in all seriousness. He entered the room to find a grand suite adorned in gold and purple. He didn't even hear Clair close the door behind him. He didn't hear her returned a couple of minutes later and quietly open the door just to make sure he was still there. Then the door was closed and locked for the night. The entire time Kai couldn't help it but to contemplate the irony. Clair Moon had everything and yet her eyes looked as if she had nothing.
xoxox xox xoxox
Sanctuary: Generosity, the Pursuit of Charity
Chapter Two: Caritas - Avaritia
It wasn't until morning when Kai's status as a fugitive finally sunk in for him. Even so, he wasn't sure exactly how he was supposed to feel other than frustrated and annoyed. His room covered in purple and gold was very luxurious, but it was a cage none the less. Perhaps it was the elegance which delayed desperation. He shuddered at thinking that he could be trapped for a long time in a much different room in jail if he got caught before he could prove his innocence, or if Clair sold him out to the police.
He had woken up early as it had become his habit. On a normal day he was supposed to cook breakfast early. Upon rubbing the sleep from his eyes and focusing on the room, the events of the previous night had rushed back to him. He had showered and dressed in one of the uniforms Claire provided him with the previous night, finding that it did indeed fit him well. Then he tried the door and realized that he was locked in. The rest of his time in the room was spent pacing around.
Kai jumped as he heard the click of a lock and the door was opened. He stood there staring at the woman standing just outside the room. She was wearing a fuzzy lavender bath robe, her hair still damp as if she had just washed it and dried it only with a towel. She wasn't holding her gun, but Kai had a feeling she had it hidden somewhere in her long bath robe. "You didn't think I would let you stay here just like that, did you? You're a chef, so it's up to you to make breakfast."
"Yes, of course," Kai nodded and followed Clair out of the room and down the halls lined with paintings. They arrived at the main entrance after going down some stairs that he must have climbed so automatically the previous night he didn't even remember them.
Upon crossing the main entrance hall in broad daylight, Kai noticed one of the paintings. It was a large painting that hung in a small balcony in the middle of two flights of stairs that crossed over each other in the shape of an X facing the front entrance. The staircase was truly grand in its white marble and golden details, but Kai's attention had been stolen by the painting.
The large canvas depicted a field with a small house in the distance. The land was planted with various spring crops. It was a picture of a random farm, most would say. However, Kai knew that place, he had visited it before. It was the farm of Jack Harvest. Why would Clair have such a painting, why did she get so upset upon hearing of his death if she supposedly didn't care about her cousin? Why would the death of Karen's new husband rattle her so much?
Kai's eyes traveled to the center of the large canvas. There was a big stain on it that, had he seen it before, it would make him think of blood. At least he had enough sense to notice it was a stain of red wine, further emphasize by the tiny shards of glass that stuck to the thick canvas. Someone had thrown a bottle of wine at the painting. In comparison to the disturbing ruined room with the bullet holes, this was nothing, yet it was further proof that Clair was... disturbed.
Clair cleared her throat noisily in annoyance. She was already at the bottom of the stairs while Kai had lagged behind to stare at the painting. The young man quickly made his way down the stairs, wisely deciding not to inquire about the painting. Instead he followed Clair to the large kitchen in silence.
The kitchen was so white it was almost blinding. It lacked the golden details of the rest of the house that gave it a strangely ironic heavenly look. The kitchen was just bright and empty. While Clair stood at the entrance, Kai wondered in feeling as if he was wandering into nothingness, walking off the edge of the world.
"I'll leave you to your job, I trust you will behave. Make some breakfast for yourself too, you'll need the energy," without waiting for a reply, Clair left.
She didn't hear the, "sure," Kai mumbled under his breath. She didn't request something specific for her breakfast and it was when he thought about it that her statement sunk in. He would need the energy; that could only mean that she intended to put him to work as more than just a chef.
The mansion was empty; he wouldn't be surprised if he ended up stuck cleaning the whole place from top to bottom on his own. Then it impacted on him full force that he was a fugitive being hidden away. The streets outside down which he walked without a worry in the world on the very afternoon of the previous day should be crawling with police officers waiting to arrest him.
While Kai tried to focus his mind on preparing an omelet, Clair returned. She wore a crimson blouse made of silk with three quarters of a sleeve ideal to go out in the somewhat chilly, but not freezing day. Her pants were white with a red belt that matched her red boots. Her blond hair had been properly dried and slightly curled, falling in waves on her shoulders. She wore light makeup for the most part, though her soft red lips stood out, albeit not excessively.
"An omelet, is it?" Clair approached Kai from behind; he had only glanced at her before turning his attention back to the food. It was amazing how different she looked from the previous night.
"Is that okay?" Kai asked as casually as he could.
"It smells good," Clair commented, before walking over to the refrigerator and retrieving a covered blue glass bowl. "Add some of this when it's done," she lifted the bowl's cap and smelled the contents, her nose scrunching up in disgust. "On second thought, the cheeses and hams are enough..." She retrieved a spoon from a drawer and dumped the contents of the bowl in the trash, scraping what was left in the bowl with the spoon. She placed the bowl and spoon on the sink, Kai knew it would be up to him to wash them.
"Was that caviar?" He had only caught a quick curious glimpse of the substance in the bowl.
"Yes, but its gone bad. I bought too much..." just to bother her cousin when they didn't have enough left for her to buy and she had to go far out of her way to find some, if she even did. "It does wonders for the gardens, or so I heard. I suppose the season isn't favorable," she shrugged, "we'll see."
Kai froze in the act of serving the omelets, and he thought the hams and cheeses were expensive. He was feeling bad about following Clair's instructions and making enough for himself at the expense of her ingredients. Not anymore though, if she had enough money to throw away like fertilizer, it wouldn't hurt her wallet if he did eat some of her food, he should have known.
While they sat on the table eating breakfast, Clair looked up for a moment and commented, "you don't look anything like him," though she didn't specify who, Kai guessed she must have meant her past butler to whom those uniforms used to belong. "That's a good thing," she clarified.
"Thanks..." Kai honestly wasn't sure how to respond to her statement and decided to try to at least stay somewhat positive and take it as a compliment.
"I'll be going out today so you'll be by yourself," Clair announced with the same air of superiority that always surrounded her. "I'll assign some tasks for you to do while I'm gone," that much was already expected. "You don't need anything, do you? My past butler got some really bad migraines now and then; he was helpless without his prescribed pain killers."
"I don't need anything," the realization hit Kai once again with that little reminder. If he needed something from outside the mansion, Clair would have to get it for him. He couldn't just walk outside freely, he was no longer a free man, he was an outlaw, he was a fugitive. Kai finished setting up the table for breakfast, saying nothing more.
A long moment of silence passed between Clair and Kai as they ate. Finally, Clair spoke once again, "tell me the details." Though her words were not harsh, there was something about her superior tone that made her sound like an unquestionable authority.
Kai had to pause at the sudden request, the sudden demand. She could only be referring to one thing, the day Jack Harvest died. "It was a day like any other, sunny and nice, not too hot, not too cool. A soft breeze blew, not strong enough to be called wind. I went out that afternoon to buy a few groceries. When I returned to the mansion everything seemed normal enough. I got started on dinner as usual. That day it was lasagna."
Following a small pause, Kai continued, "after dinner, Jack started feeling sick. He went to rest, but there seemed to be unease in the atmosphere. He got worse that night and they called a doctor. Karen's mother, Sasha, was especially upset, angry and impatient even. She wanted some tea to relax so I went to make it. Then the next thing I know Karen is screaming and the police arrive. Jack was dead, the cause was poison and I was the prime suspect. They all blamed me without a second thought, all except Popuri."
'Not that a simple maid's opinion would count for much,' Clair mentally added with a small huff escaping her.
Kai took her expression as doubt, "it's the truth," he insisted.
"I said I would give you the benefit of the doubt, didn't I?" Clair thought quietly for a moment, her rhetorical question had only received a quiet nod from Kai. She then turned her attention to the rest of her breakfast and finished eating. She placed the utensils on the plate and rose from her seat wordlessly exiting the kitchen.
Kai tried to finish eating, despite his sudden lack of appetite. Every time Clair was out of sight he kept suspecting that she was calling the police. He knew that such stressful thoughts wouldn't do him any good. He had no choice but to count on her sanctuary. Out there, it was only a matter of time, and not a very long time, before he got caught. He finished what he could of his breakfast and cleared the table, setting the dishes on the sink. He took off his blazer, placing it on the back of a chair and rolled up his sleeves before getting started on washing the dishes.
"Kai!" He was only half done with the dishes when Clair's voice called.
"Coming!" Kai hastily dried his hands and picked up his blazer on the way out, adjusting his sleeves and putting it on. He had a feeling Clair would be annoyed if he didn't look presentable. He missed his old job where he could wear whatever he wanted, which usually consisted of jeans, a tshirt and sneakers, but he knew better than to annoy someone who was taking such a risk for him. Sure she could be a little more polite, but he sensed that Jack's death had disturbed her much more than she let on, not that she wasn't clearly already disturbed.
Clair appeared, making her way down a hall near Kai's path, she went through another door and Kai followed. They found themselves in an elegant sitting room with roses as the main theme. However, all the roses on the vases were terribly wilted, though their sweet scent somehow lingered. Clair sat down in an ivory couch with detailed red roses edged on it, "sit," she murmured, her attention on a white notepad with golden lining which she held. She twisted a golden pen around her fingers which, judging by the names on the sheet of paper, produced red ink.
Kai sat down on the couch beside her, sinking into the soft material and taking in the appearance of the room further. He could imagine Clair with a rose on her hair, if they weren't so wilted and brown, ready to turn to dust. The walls seemed to fade from white to rosy pink to red at the very bottom, with a plush carpet that was a darker shade of red. Ivory bases were scattered through the room holding the wilted roses, dust collected in their surfaces.
Aside from the elegant couches and seats, all which shared the same design as the one they sat upon, there was a dark red wood table in the center of the sitting area, with a layer of dust upon its surface. It was bittersweet, perhaps predominantly bitter, a strange mix of beauty and sadness. The room was very much like Clair, but Kai didn't feel in any position to make such an assessment so soon.
"All of these people are suspects," Clair finally spoke, holding the notepad at an angle from which Kai could easily read it.
His name was there too, heading the list no less, but the benefit of the doubt didn't mean he was instantly absolved. "Let's start with Karen's mother, Sasha. Though she was generally accepting of the situation, I happen to know she wished Karen would marry a man of high society."
"Yes, she would always speak of helping Jack 'adapt' as if he had to change to fit into his role as Karen's husband," Kai recalled, "but to kill him..."
"We'll have to go through a process of elimination investigating each suspect. Even if they are found innocent, their alibis may be clues in disguise that will lead us to the real culprit. Before we find the key piece to this mystery, we might have to examine the other pieces to try to get a clearer picture. If we know why one could not have been the murderer, we might realize why another could have been," Clair explained.
Kai nodded and was a second away from commenting when another voice interrupted. "Lady Clair!" The man's voice was dissolved by distance and sounded off quite faint, despite the caller straining his throat to shout, "Lady Clair!" Kai looked at Clair questioningly, as if silently asking if she was expecting visitors.
Clair got up, leaving her notepad on the table with a tiny cloud of dust flying and settling on the surface. She moved towards the window, parting the dusty ivory curtains adorned with red roses. "Officer Harris," she shook her head as she spotted the man standing at the other side of her mansion's front gates. It didn't look like he would give up on calling her any time soon. Giving one last glance out the window, Clair turned her gaze to Kai, "I'll take care of this."
He nodded; there was something in her tone that told him she wasn't lying. She had not secretly called the officer; she was not planning to turn him in. Kai realized that he simply couldn't picture Clair calling the police. It wasn't because of him, as they didn't really know each other well enough to be called friends. Furthermore, she didn't seem interested in being his friend and he had far more urgent matters in his mind. She just didn't seem like the type of person who would call the police or any kind of help for any reason.
Clair was a proud woman with the means and the courage to take justice into her own silver gun wielding hands, should she feel it necessary. It was at that point that Kai realize that maybe the police wasn't his biggest problem. If he didn't clear his name, his savior would become his most dangerous predator and she didn't take prisoners.
Kai discretely watched from the window as Clair made her way to the gates of her mansion with a set of golden keys in her hands. She walked at a luxurious pace as if she was a model walking slowly through a stage so that any pictures taken would not be blurred by sudden motions and everyone could get a chance to take a good look at the latest fashion. Kai could tell, even from that distance, that the officer, whom she had identified as Harris, was aggravated by her slow pace and nonchalant attitude.
Clair finally made it to the gates in front of her mansion and refused to look at the officer, instead occupying herself with the keys while humming a melody only she knew. She looked at each golden key the on the set, every one engraved with a different gem on the handle for identification. She finally paused on one with a pearl and held it between her thumb and index, her thumb caressing the surface of the pearl. Finally looking up at the man in the blue uniform at the other side of the tall gates she smiled with superiority and asked, "may I help you?"
Though she made a show of locating the correct key, which Harris was sure she could have found faster and more easily, Clair clearly had no intentions of opening the gates to her property unless it was necessary. Fortunately, Harris only needed to follow a protocol and ask her a few questions, then he could be on his way. Honestly, he couldn't stand this woman. His first visit to her cost him a suspension and almost his job, when she let herself be arrested on the alleged charges of illegal possession of a fire arm.
However, it turned out that her documents were in perfect order and she had a variety of up to date licenses for several fire arms. She allowed a little technicality to slip, for Harris to accidentally overstep his jurisdiction, skipping over a tiny step in the protocol and she didn't breathe a word until his head was under the metaphorical guillotine. Harris had certainly come to hate that cynical little smile Clair would often wear.
"I would just like to ask you a few questions," Harris tried to sound as calm as possible. He knew better than to pick a fight with someone who had more power in her pinky finger than the whole police department put together. Money made a big difference and she had that, combined with what he perceived to be a cruel nature. "There is a fugitive on the loose," he produced a picture out of his pocket. "This man," the picture Harris held was clearly of Kai, "have you seen him?"
Clair made a long paused examining her perfect pink manicure before her eyes gave the picture a dismissive look, "no."
Harris mentally counted to ten and elaborated, "he used to work as a chef in the Moon household."
"The chef here was much older," Clair knew Harris wasn't talking about her when he mentioned the Moon household, but she pretended to assume it anyway, with her usual air of importance. "He quit some time ago, I do not know where he went."
"My apologies Lady Clair," Harris tried hard not to snap, he knew she was pushing him to do so and it would cost him dearly. His first mistake when they met was to think he had a shred of authority over her; to think that he had the right to scold her for shooting up into the skies in broad daylight. The act was in fact illegal in that area, however, Harris didn't know that he was expected to politely beg her to stop rather than demand that she did. He hated the weak attitude the other officers took with her, but he too had bills to pay and a reputation to protect. Clair Moon, always won, yet, unknown to all, she also always lost. "To clarify, I was talking about the household of Jeff Moon and his family."
"Ah, them," Clair made it a point to stick up her nose and flip her long blond hair in dismissal over her shoulder, as if they were not important enough to be mentioned in her presence. "You cannot expect me to remember such unimportant details. Some of us have more... dignified things to do than pry."
Gritting his teeth, Harris forced himself to smile, "I'm sure you do." He pocketed the picture. He had heard Clair had briefly met Kai before, but he didn't put it past her to simply forget about him. Then came the part Harris dreaded, it brought back bitter memories, but he had to warn her as it was his duty. "The neighbors said they heard a loud noise last night, similar to a gunshot."
Clair laughed, her property was large, but something as loud as a gun being shot without a silencer could still be heard in the distance. She expected Harris to mention this and she had already concocted a plan. She made use of the pearl adorned golden key to open the gates to her property, parting them enough for Harris to fit through. "Follow me," she commanded, and without waiting for an answer she walked away.
Clair approached a small shed on the side of her mansion with Harris wordlessly following her. She entered the little shed while he stood by the door. Placing the keys in her pocket to free up her hands, she picked up a lighter and something akin to a stick of dynamite, which she kept in the shed. She lit the stick and threw it on the ground outside of the shed near Harris. The officer jumped back, his eyes going wide. The short fuse ended and the fire reached the red stick with a loud boom!
Harris' heart raced, he was alive, not blown to pieces. It was just some kind of big and loud firecracker, just a piece of pyrotechnic material, not dynamite, not a weapon. Then again, he had a feeling that anything in the hands of this woman could be a weapon. With a smug smile, Clair informed Harris, "that is what was heard."
Harris could only nod and follow her back to the gates. He forced himself to say, "I apologize for the inconvenience, thank you for your time," then quickly left without looking back.
Kai obviously couldn't hear any of their conversation from his position hidden near the window, but when he saw the officer leaving and Clair heading back inside the mansion, he felt a wave of relief wash over him. His sanctuary was free of suspicion; he had a safe haven, for as long as Clair's mercy lasted.
xoxox xox xoxox
Sanctuary: Humility, the Pursuit of Modesty
Chapter Three: Humilitas - Superbia
After Clair had made officer Harris leave without a clue, she and Kai returned to examining the list of suspects. They had been previously discussing Sasha, Karen's mother, who was opposed to the marriage of her daughter and Jack. Their theories had picked up right where they left off before the interruption.
"I still think it's too much to say she killed him," Kai quietly defended. Sasha wasn't on the top of his favorite people list; she wasn't even in the middle. However, she wasn't someone Kai would label as a murderer. She was simply proud, but not impossible to persuade, stubborn but not murderously obstinate. She had for the most part, as far as Kai could tell, accepted Jack.
"The ones that don't seem like murderers are the most likely suspects at times. She was conceded, she was used to having whatever she wanted," Clair elaborated. "She wanted her daughter to marry someone of high society and she didn't get it. That's a harsh blow. When someone lives like you, they get little scratches and bruises as they go through life. They learn to deal with the pain."
Kai's look became more attentive as Clair spoke. He wanted to raise an eyebrow and give her a disapproving look. She was speaking as if she knew him, but she didn't and it bothered him. Yet she spoke with such a sense of knowledge and experience that he couldn't interrupt.
"People like Sasha are fragile; people like her can't deal with the pain of disappointment. They can do things that are... preposterous," Clair finished with a hint of... Sadness? Guilt?
Kai's face remained frozen as Clair broke eye contact and instead stared at her list. If he wasn't too shock to move, even the small muscles of his face, his eyes would have been wide and his jaw would have dropped. Instead he was frozen. Was Clair speaking from experience? She certainly sounded as if she was. She herself was a rich spoiled lady, who had obtained everything in the eyes of most. Did she murder someone? Was she feeling regret? Was that her reason to help him pursue the truth? Was this her way to chase after redemption? That would explain why she was so disturbed. She certainly knew how to handle a gun and she wasn't afraid to shoot. Who did she kill?
"Are you listening to me?" Clair interrupted Kai's thoughts exasperated. When he snapped into attention, she continued, "Jeff cannot be discarded, though quiet and seemingly submissive, he might have been a time bomb waiting to explode. Years of being in the shadow of his brother, of being unworthy," Clair spoke proudly of her own father, Jeff's brother, as superior to her uncle. "And of being pushed around by his controlling wife, might have finally gotten to him."
Kai couldn't comment, he was too immersed in his own thoughts.
"Karen Moon," Clair spat out the name like poison, "or should I say Karen Harvest?" It was clear she hated her cousin. "Sure, Jack was her husband, but no one knows that girl like I do. She's got her dark side."
Pretty, proper, polite Karen? Kai was in no position to question Clair; he didn't know Karen well enough to contradict her. He realized that Clair had a point in considering everyone a suspect. Before he was falsely accused and Clair's mansion became his sanctuary, he knew she had a rivalry with Karen, but he never thought Clair Moon was so disturbed. He never would have imagined the inside of this lovely mansion to be so neglected and covered with dust if she was still living in it. He never would have imagine it to contain a horrific room full of bullet holes.
That mansion was much like a person, it was painted and cared for on the outside, displaying a beautiful yet empty face, but on the inside it was falling apart and no one saw that unless the door was opened and one was allowed in. People were like that too, especially Clair. Suddenly her list made a lot more sense, everyone was a suspect and he didn't blame her for including him on that list too. He was innocent, he knew that, but Clair had never visited the room of his soul, she had not seen what inhabited his mind, so she couldn't know. Maybe she didn't even know herself that well, maybe he didn't know himself that well either, maybe no one did.
"Alright, I'll just go and get started filling up the hot tub with bubbles so we can make love in it." Clair's statement brought Kai back to reality.
"What?" He stared wide eyed with his mouth open.
"You're not listening," Clair scolded. "I hope you at least know I wasn't serious. Honestly, men are impossible. Leave it to a man to filter out everything except that. Are you even interested in solving this case at all? I'm not going to keep you here forever. If I grow impatient with you, I'm turning you in and going after the culprit by myself!"
It was then that it hit him. Clair wasn't looking for the culprit to clear Kai's name; he knew that from the start. Clair was looking for the culprit for her own reasons, her own vengeance. What he didn't notice before that was the fact that she apparently had no intentions of handing the culprit to the police. Clair was going to make her own justice. She was going to kill Jack Harvest's murderer. "I'm sorry," Kai finally voiced. "It's just a lot to take in. I'm sorry, you're right, they should all be taken into consideration."
Annoyed, Clair huffed and returned her eyes to the list, speaking the next name, "Rick Poultry."
"Now there's a likely candidate," Kai voiced before he could stop himself. He had never seen eye to eye with Rick. He had a huge overprotective brother complex and Kai happened to get what he deemed to be too close to his sister. Then he stopped and thought about it. Rick was overprotective, annoying, nagging, infuriating, intolerable, unpleasant, cranky and a number of other things in Kai's opinion, but was he a murderer? That might be going too far. Furthermore, what would his motive be? "Karen!"
"Yes, I discussed her while you were off in space," Clair snapped.
"No, I mean Rick, Karen!" Kai insisted. "Rick is in love with Karen." Rick had been working for the family for some time. His father, Rod, had been the butler at the mansion for years before he left. Kai had heard Rod ran off to find a miracle cure for cancer to save his wife, Lillia, and had not returned since then. Most theorize he just couldn't face the truth. Kai had to agree with them. A miracle cure? If there was a miracle cure for anything, it would have been found by now.
"So you think Rick killed Jack out of jealousy? You can't say he's in love with her then," Clair mused aloud, "they say you hurt the ones you love, but that's only when you don't know how to love. I know the difference between that superficial lustful love and true love. I've felt both in the past, neither ever amounts to anything in the end, but true love lets go."
Neither amounts to anything? "Love is definitely worth something, its worth a lot. Love is-"
"Enough," Clair angrily interrupted. "This isn't a talk about love; it's a talk about death, about murder. Rick will be investigated like the others. The next suspect is Rick's sister, Popuri." She worked as a maid at Karen's home.
"She would never!" Kai immediately argued.
Clair's frown deepened, "shut up!" She shouted so defiantly, no one would dare to speak. "Do not let your emotions cloud your judgment. If you are useless to this investigation, you are useless to me."
Kai could only silently nod. If he was going to recover his life, he needed Clair's help. In the end everyone was a suspect, but that didn't mean everyone was a culprit, at least not of that particular crime.
Clair shifted in her seat in the room of wilted roses where she and Kai had been discussing the list of suspects. "You seem to be keen on coming up with reasons as to why these people didn't kill Jack. However, I must remind you that what we're trying to do is quite the opposite. Let's think more about why these people could have done it. We'll start with Sasha since, other than you, she's the one I currently suspect most strongly and your judgment is clearly flawed."
Kai opened his mouth to protest but Clair's icy glare made him shut it again and remain silent.
"Are you absolutely certain you didn't notice Sasha doing something out of the ordinary?" Clair insisted.
"Well," Kai thought it was an unimportant detail but decided to cease that way of thinking. All the details, however small, were important to their investigation. "Sasha bought dessert. I thought it was unusual because I always made all the food, desserts included. I didn't think too much about it at the time. There's a new gourmet dessert shop in town, I thought she was just curious."
"Interesting," Clair mused, "we cannot assume that the poison was contained in the main dish. It would be inconvenient to poison a specific someone from the lasagna that was prepared as a whole?"
"Yes, I made it, I cut it, I served it," Kai confirmed. "As for the dessert..." his eyes went wide in realization. Clair might be on to something after all. "They were some elaborate parfaits, each a different flavors. Licorice for Karen, strawberry for Sasha, vanilla for Jeff, chocolate for Jack, she even brought a pineapple parfait for me. She knew everyone's favorite flavors; she knew Jack would eat the chocolate parfait."
"We might have found the answer, but it's too soon to tell," Clair acknowledged. "If Sasha wanted to poison Jack, she could have slipped something into his parfait, but how do we confirm this?"
"We can't," Kai grimaced, before holding on to a small ray of hope. "Unless Sasha still has some of the poison in her possession."
"That would certainly be incriminating," Clair nodded in acceptance of the theory. "The other members of the household are not as suspicious by comparison, so we'll focus on Sasha." Karen's mother had become the prime suspect in their investigation. Yet Clair didn't want to conclude that Sasha murdered her son-in-law until she was sure. Then, after the proof was found, Sasha would pay. "I must go out for a while," Clair tossed the notepad and pen onto the table. "First I'll show you were the cleaning supplies are. I want this mansion cleaned from top to bottom. You have until five in the afternoon."
Kai's jaw drop, "that's impossible! No one can single-handedly clean up a mansion this big in so little time!" He protested. He was expecting Clair to put him to work, but not like that.
"I didn't say you had to finish today," Clair growled. "Clean as much as you can until five then rest, sleep, that is after dinner has been made. I expect lunch too; I'll call for some groceries and other necessities to be delivered. I'm pretty sure there's an alarm clock in your room. Set it to whatever time you see fit for you to be fully awake after your nap by midnight. I also want a cake, a dark chocolate cake, not spiked. The most important part is that you're ready to go by midnight."
Kai nodded, taking in the torrent of information, or rather the flood of orders. Clean as much as possible, make lunch, dinner and an alcohol-free dark chocolate cake. Sleep and be ready to go at midnight. "What exactly do you want me to do at midnight?"
"We're going out to investigate," Clair grinned. "That is to say," she elaborated, "we're sneaking into the scene of the crime, the mansion where Sasha and her family lives. Leave the security system to me, I have connections. You just have to be ready to help in the search."
Once again, Kai was shocked, "that's trespassing!"
"Better a trespasser than a murderer, wouldn't you say?" Clair reasoned.
No one ever said proving one's innocence against all odds would be easy. With a serious but determined expression, Kai nodded. "I'll be ready to go on time."
xoxox xox xoxox
The rest of the day passed uneventfully except for the horrors of cleaning a mansion that was in great need of maintenance. His room had been clean, and so had the kitchen. Kai assumed that Clair did what she could to keep at least a few parts of the mansion presentable. Keeping the entire place in order without a proper staff would indeed be quite the challenge.
Kai wondered about Clair's connections and how their trip at midnight would go. She told him to be rested, but how could he take a nap thinking about what they were going to do? Just what was up with Clair? How could she be so nonchalant and at the same time so temperamental? Kai had never been shy around women; some would even label him as a flirt. He was not one to be discouraged or intimidated no matter how beautiful or strong the woman in question was, but Clair was a whole other story. She was a dangerous enigma, perhaps a deadly mystery.
While cleaning, Kai stumbled upon a room full of various stuffed animals. The room was behind one of the few doors that was unlocked in that particular hallway. After Clair had returned from wherever she went and sat down to have lunch, Kai had inquired about the locked rooms. Clair had told him to leave them. He didn't question this.
He observed the forest-like atmosphere of the room with dark green walls a lighter green carpet and polished brown wood furniture. There were deer, bears, birds and a variety of other animals. Kai wasn't sure if all of them could be legally hunted, but he wasn't about to question Clair about it. He would just clean the dust off them pretending they were only sculptures and nothing more.
Atop a large elegant fireplace there was a framed picture with a pair of hunting rifles hanging from the wall left and right of it. A man fully dressed to hunt, carrying his gear, smiled at the camera. To his right there stood a shorter person, the man's arm resting on the younger one's shoulder. The boy was also dressed in hunting gear... wait, it was a girl. Her hair was tugged into her hat and the baggy clothes did little to hint at the shape beneath them, but her face was smooth and feminine.
Looking at the picture, Kai soon realize that he had seen those blue eyes before. The girl grinned at the camera with an almost menacing expression, as if she couldn't wait to get out there and hunt. She was Clair; Kai knew right away it had to be her. She was perhaps fourteen or fifteen in that picture. If he had to take a guess, he would say that the man next to her was her father. Kai found that Clair as a hunter was rather easy to imagine, she gave him the strong impression of being trigger happy.
xoxox xox xoxox
After a long day of cleaning and cooking, Kai tried to take a nap as Clair had instructed. The reality had not fully sank in that they were apparently going to break into the mansion of Karen and her family to search for evidence incriminating Karen's mother, Sasha. Kai knew that if this went well he could be a free man, but what about Sasha? Was she really a murderer? What would Karen's reaction be to her own mother killing her husband? The household would fall apart and the tension would fly in every direction, including at Karen's maid, Popuri. The image of the strawberry haired young woman crying made him feel guilty when he realized that she was probably already crying. Her brother, Rick, would be having a field day throwing out all sorts of insults and accusations about how he knew all along that Kai was the very incarnation of evil.
The young man shifted in his bed and buried his face in his pillow. How was Clair going to get into the mansion anyway? She said she had connections, but what did that mean? Would she threaten the staff? Would she threaten Popuri? Would she hire a professional burglar? Kai wouldn't put it past her, that woman was capable of anything.
While he tried unsuccessfully to fall asleep so he could be alert during the mission, he felt the door being opened and someone enter the room. It was Clair, as he confirmed turning his head towards her. She was as quiet as can be and would have slipped in unnoticed if Kai's senses weren't on full alert. "Still awake? You might as well get up. I want you to meet the other member of our team before we leave in an hour. Make sure you change into the clothes I left for you," with that said, Clair promptly left, not waiting for a reply.
Kai let out a deep breath and realized just how long he had spent tossing and turning in bed trying to take a nap he was too nervous to take. His body ached from the day of work and he was exhausted, but it was impossible for him to sleep. He got up and headed to the adjacent bathroom to finish waking up with cold water on his face. He didn't know what clothes Clair was talking about, but soon spotted an all black ninja style outfit waiting in the bathroom. He didn't know when she came in to deliver it, probably while he was busy cleaning. Dressing quickly, Kai headed to find Clair and meet her mysterious guest. His theories about the person were all over the place and none were favorable.
When Kai made it to the main dinning room, he finally succeeded in locating Clair. She sat at the end of a very long table with a man old enough to be her father to her right. In front of her there was a slice of the cake he prepared earlier, which she savored slowly. Another regular sized slice was set in front of the empty chair to her left. The rest of the cake was being devoured by the man in the chair to her right.
Clair nodded at Kai and glanced at the empty seat to her left, as if telling him to join them. His footsteps made no sounds on the plush red carpet as he walked next to the long redwood polished table. A multitude of chairs were placed on both sides of it with enough space between them for the occupants to be comfortable if it were full.
Arriving at the far end of the table, Kai nodded to Clair, not daring to speak. He quietly sat down on the chair to her left, sinking into its soft red cushion. Another quiet nod from Clair indicated that he should eat. The cake was accompanied by black coffee, a common drink when it came to staying awake. The coffee was neither bitter nor particularly hot. It was not what one would expect from its color but it was pleasant and none the less strong with a very noticeable aroma.
"Gotz," at Clair's voice, the man to her right stopped stuffing his face with cake and looked at Kai.
Gotz was tall and heavily built, with a lot of that built pertaining to muscle. His face was practically completely covered with brown hair and his dark beady eyes were hard to see beyond his long bangs. He laughed; his mouth almost impossible to see in his bushy beard. "So you're Clair's new pet, are you, boy?"
"Excuse me?" Kai raised an eyebrow.
"What's your name, boy? Mine's Gotz, like the lady said!" Gotz's manners in the table and in addressing others left a lot to be wished for.
"Kai," he frowned in disapproval. He was beginning to think that his guess about Clair hiring a professional burglar was correct. Not that burglary was an actual profession. Immediately, Kai instinctively trained his eyes on the man, watching for sudden movements while backing into his chair and pretending to mind his own business. He took a piece of cake with a golden fork that he didn't doubt was made of pure gold if the weight was any indication. Carefully, he ate the bite, the entire time his eyes remaining on the suspicious man across the table.
Gotz chuckled and Kai gripped his fork as if unconsciously preparing to use it as a weapon of self defense. A few more minutes passed in silence while each of the three ate their cake and drank their coffee. Then suddenly, once they were all finished, Gotz stood up and so did Kai. The younger man slammed his left hand on the table, gripping the golden fork in a stabbing position in his right hand as he leaned forward, his eyes menacing with the adrenaline of survival instinct.
"Kai!" Clair scolded him with sharp disapproval.
Kai didn't put his fork down and sit again until he realized Gotz had no intentions of attacking. "Sorry," he muttered still on edge.
Gotz laughed hardily, "you got yourself a protective one, eh Clair?" He met Kai's gaze unblinking, "but you know boy, Clair's not the kind to want to be protected, she's no damsel in distress." He then turned to look at Clair smiling under his beard. He ruffled her golden hair with the affection a parent would have for a child. "Thanks for the cake." He began to clear the dishes from the table.
"I'll do it," Clair offered, snatching the dishes away, piling the smaller gold detailed ivory plates into the larger matching cake dish Gotz was eating out of, along with the matching cups and golden eating utensils. She then briskly left, the heavy atmosphere weighing more on Kai's shoulders with every step she took away from them.
Kai's eyes never left Gotz as if watching out for any attack he might attempt to make. Then it sunk in how he ruffled Clair's hair. It was not something commonly done to someone who could no longer be called a child, let alone someone like Clair. "How do you know Clair?" Kai pushed his voice to be as polite and non-hostile as it could be.
"Ever since she was this little," Gotz laughed indicating a height that barely reached his waist. Seeing him standing up for a moment before he took a seat again, Kai observed his old stained white tshirt which added to his disheveled appearance as if the messy beard wasn't enough. "They were best friends," his voice turned solemn, "Clair and my daughter, just about the same age, but then I lost them, my daughter and my wife."
Kai saw then, not a dangerous man, but a kind hearted man who simply saw no reason in keeping up his appearance if those dearest to him were gone. Gotz was heartbroken and sounded painfully sincere. "I'm sorry," Kai whispered not only referring to the loss but also his earlier behavior. Despite Kai still fully expecting the means by which they would enter Sasha's home to be illegal, he no longer saw Gotz as a criminal, perhaps this would be his first unlawful act. That man was someone who held Clair dear as a living memory of his daughter. He wasn't a bad person; he just wanted to help Clair. No matter what people thought of Clair, Gotz looked past it and she returned the favor. An uncomfortable silence formed as Kai looked down in shame. Just as he, a traveler from a distant land was sometimes labeled as a trouble maker before he could convince people otherwise. Kai had decided long ago that he wouldn't judge by appearances, but he had broken his own rule.
Gotz chuckled, "can't judge a book by its cover, can you?" With a grin, he voiced the thoughts he correctly guessed must be going through Kai's head.
Something in Gotz's barely visible eyes seemed to twinkle with forgiveness and acceptance. It was then that Kai realized that despite his situation as a fugitive no doubt being all over the news for the world to see, this man was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as Clair had. "That's right," Kai grinned back.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Harvest Moon.