It was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the man in the suit.
Through the thick wasabi haze of Kenzei’s ramen stall, I caught glimpses of him smoking by an old cherry blossom tree. When my gaze collided with his steely pewter stare, I found myself getting to my feet before I could fully comprehend what was happening. With a rehearsed fluidity infused into his limbs, he stubbed out the half-smoked cigarette and melted into the shadows of the Sakura tree.
By the time I had cleared the crowd of hungry onlookers surrounding Kenzei, he had traveled a considerable distance into the night. Against my better judgment, I broke into a run, relishing the feeling of cold air blowing into my steam-warmed face. His stride was lengthy, allowing him to wade through the sea of pale pink petals that carpeted the concrete.
He took a sharp turn at the end of the road, straight into the blood red canopy of the Jisatsu forest. I faltered at the entrance, trying to put a stopper on the flood of memories that spilled into my consciousness. Jisatsu forest carries a thousand curses for each footstep taken, Mei.
In the end, curiousity had gotten the better of me like it always did. I tore through the forest, taking huge steps, so as to escape with the least amount of curses possible. The man in the suit had not gotten as far as I had expected him to. He was standing in a clearing, illuminated by a single beam of moon light. One pale hand rested against the bark of a gnarled tree for support, as if he had lost all hope. He was suspended in mid air; I had caught him in the act of climbing the tree.
He did not budge. I cringed at how my voice echoed in the vast emptiness, though judging by his reaction, I might not even have been there at all. My eyes began to adjust to the silvery dimness, and the details of Jisatsu dissolved into view. At first glance, what I thought had been his neck tie, turned out to be a thick, black rope. One end was secured tightly around his neck, and the other tied around a branch above his head.
Rooted to the spot in horror, I watched him leap from his perch, followed by the sick sound of resistance. The rope tugging against the thin skin of his jugular. Teal veins bulging full of repressed blood. And like a disturbed pendulum he swayed in the sweet cascade of blood red Sakura petals that plagued Jisatsu forest, paying his sins with interest.