Cutscene: All in the Hand

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Who: Yisa Taimiev
Where: Taimiev Estate, Outskirts of Sumaru City
When: August 14, 2011 (IC)

"Your father is looking for you."

After the longest night in a long time, Yisa Taimiev is five steps inside the hotel lobby when a familiar voice hits her turned back. Without looking, she knows who it is, and what it means.

Glancing back, she meets eyes with the man hired by her father. He's a retired cop-turned-investigator, employed to keep tabs on her safety inside the foreign country, and now looking about ten years older in the few months he's been forced to track her movement.

She sets her jaw. She doesn't have time for this. Not after the events of last night, the explosions she witnessed pocking the city. "I know. I'll speak to him shortly."

They watch each other for a long time.

Yisa loses the staring contest first. Patience snapped, lips twitching with a barely-repressed sneer, she turns around to continue her flight back to her room. "It's all I'll promise. I'm not going anywhere."

"He's here," her investigator's voice tells her turned back. It stops Yisa cold.

The fight sighs out of her body.

The ride back to the estate is one of the longest and most painful silences of her life. Yisa spends it in the back seat of the investigator's car, her chin leaned against her knuckles and her green eyes gazing blandly out the window. The city rolls by with its many pockets of devastation, smoke still pillaring into the new morning and disappearing far up until the sky. Soon the smoke will taper off, she thinks, thinned into the sky, and the city will eventually fold this destruction back into its body, and the only shreds of evidence that anything happened at all will be in the memories of a select few.

She's not too sure how to feel about that.

The estate looks smaller in her return. The car grinds to a halt on the country gravel, and opening her door and stepping free, Yisa looks up on the manor with indifference. It's never felt particularly like home to her since her arrival to Japan, and even now, it feels strange and alien.

What makes it worse is knowing that her father is waiting inside.

The investigator watches her over the car. Feeling his eyes on her, Yisa glances back, her patience rankling against his expression. It's heavy with authority. He tells her with his stare alone to go inside.

She has half a mind to say something, but her father's close, and she can't seem to find the spirit.

It's almost laughably anticlimactic, Yisa's doomed reunion with her father.

He's in the private dining room, seated at the head of the ornate table, eating breakfast, smoking, and speaking into his phone in fierce Russian, when Yisa arrives, stepping slowly between the left-open part of the doors and displacing little with her presence. She stands there for several seconds without notice.

It's their family accountant who sees her first, her nervous hands making a surprised clang of her own silverware. It attracts the man's eyes.

Abbas Taimiev was the one who gave Yisa her eyes. His are just as sharp and stingingly green. He appraises her for a heartbeat, staring straight into her face, before he just as easily dismisses her, leaning back into his chair with a creak of the hardwood and speaking anew into his phone. He doesn't interrupt or rush his conversation. He lets it end naturally, finishing it with a diplomatic blessing.

Ending the call and casually tossing his phone aside, he plunges the entire room into silence. No one else dares speak. The accountant waits in nervousness, knowing well not to announce what Abbas does not already know. A member of the kitchen staff, one of the young women Yisa had temporary dismissed in the wake of Sumaru's siege, keeps station in the room, though now she's far from minding to the dishware. She's paralyzed against the threat of a family scene.

Yisa shares their silence, but hers just seems tired.

Putting out his cigarette, Mr. Taimiev finally rises to his feet. He's a tall, solid man, just as darkly-skinned as his daughter and just as careful about his appearance. But he looks older than he is, and his face wears the weathering of a lifetime of frowns. And like all Chechens, there's no part of him that isn't branked with a perpetual tension, a conditioned sense of unease. Not even the expensive cut of his suit can hide that.

As if to compensate for it, he moves with a deliberate patience, be it the way he re-buttons his opened suit jacket, how he motions his eldest daughter closer, or how he backhands her across the cheek the moment he can.

The heavy crack ricochets up and down the room's cathedral ceiling.

Head turned with the blow, Yisa slowly reopens her eyes. She's been expecting this. Not that it does anything to help the sting in her cheekbone. But she's trained herself since years ago to respond little against her father's strikes. Because of it, not even her anger bubbles the way it should. When he gets this way, she turns off.

"You wretched little whore!" he snarls in Chechen, voice like a door slamming, and in those four words, there is no doubt from whom Yisa inherited her famous temper. To the shared flinches of their involuntary audience, Abbas seizes his errant daughter by the jaw to glare into her eyes. He shakes her harshly. "I have allowed you freedom and you use it to spite me!"

His pale eyes search her through his temper. They stop when they land on a familiar object, his attention fixing on the heirloom shortsword Yisa remembered to wear at her waist. It's the blade of Mansur Taimiev, the same what was denied to his father, to himself, even to his late first-born son, only to be gifted impossibly to his daughter. He had balked the first time he saw it in her possession. Now he can barely stomach the sight. He reaches immediately for the weapon. "You don't deserve this --"

That seems to reanimate Yisa. She jerks back abruptly, struggling away, freeing herself just in time to save her sword from her father's swipe. With a possessive hand clutched around its handle, she backs up out of his reach, one foot planted as though she means to face off. Her stupor passes. Her expression locks itself up into resolve. Her eyes narrow. "And neither do you!" she snaps back. "You don't touch it! It was never meant for you!"

The accountant, a Japanese woman hired only to manage the family's assets and holdings in Sumaru, can barely parse what's being yelled back-and-forth between father and daughter in their native Chechen. But she doesn't really need to guess. Past the fight, she motions wordlessly for the help to get out. The girl looks endlessly thankful, retreating quickly and quite possibly winning an award in her ability to close a door without a single creak of sound.

Neither of the two Taimievs notice.

"And you're so entitled? You've dishonoured me and worried your mother!" Abbas instead shouts back with a damning wave of his hand. "It's time for you to return home to her." His eyes burn down on Yisa as his voice drops, lowering in a way she knows well, growing colder and thinner as his anger builds. "I've committed a mistake naming you my heir. I've committed repeated mistakes in my belief that I could raise you like a son. You know nothing about fealty or loyalty. I won't allow you to embarrass this family any longer."

There it is. Yisa feels her temper catch. And she hears herself spitting back before she can even realize: "You've embarrassed it WELL enough for the both of us! I'm trying to make our name MEAN somethi --"

This one she doesn't expect.

It makes their family accountant stand up from the table in transparent shock.

His knuckles hammer her eye socket. It knocks the argument out of her mouth. She sees stars. Yisa feels herself take a surprised step, and the world tilts dangerously. Her legs give up, and, somewhat anticlimactically, she sinks down to the floor, catching herself with both planted hands to sit upright. At first it's the pounding pain in her head what makes it hard for her to think. Then it's just the anger.

Slowly, Yisa lifts her glassy eyes to look back up at her father. They don't flinch against his initial roar.

"How DARE you speak back to me!" he screams down on her, his patience well and truly lost. "Ungrateful slut! Do you really think of yourself as, what, a revolutionary? A hero? What have you done to change anything?

"Now you say nothing. Would you like me to list your proud accomplishments?" Mr. Taimiev inquires, every biting word seeking to pin Yisa down like some mantled butterfly on display. "You've angered me and you've made your mother sick!"

Her building rage falters. Yisa's hands lose all their tension, and she sways on her own arms against a momentary loss of strength. What?

Her father looks down on her with undisguised contempt. "Don't look so surprised. These are the consequences one expects out of stupid, inconsiderate girls who insist on doing stupid, inexcusable things. Your mother stopped eating. She believed you were dead. That is your doing. That is your great work."

For the first time in a long time, Yisa has nothing to say. The pain throbbing in her face is laughable against the horrible, guilty twist in her gut, her organs trying to knot their bodies into a noose to hang herself. The shame builds until she can no longer look her father in the face, his expression too hard to take, and she lets her head bow to stare hollowly down at her spread hands. She made her mother sick. She didn't mean to. She didn't want that. She just wanted to make a difference. If she had remained in contact with her family, they would have compelled her out of Sumaru. And she had people who needed her. They needed her, right?

Or is her only accomplishment her ability to hurt and kill her own family?

Breathing slowly, raggedly, in and out, Yisa sits unmoving on the ground. The world moves around her, but she barely registers it, outside sounds and movements staggered like staring through a screen. Distantly, after what feels like forever, she realizes her father's speaking to her, the angry blade of his voice the only thing able to cut through her daze.

"Listen to me, Yisa," he says, speaking to her in the same tone he uses for diplomatic negotiations, "now you will go upstairs and clean your face. You will collect the things you need. When you return, you will call your mother. Afterwards, we'll leave immediately for the airport."

Yisa looks at her hands.

"Now!" his roar booms through the dining room, its reverberation rattling inside her molars.

Her body feels numb. But Yisa picks herself back up to her feet, blinking to focus her eyes. She doesn't stop to look at her father. She can't find the courage to meet his eyes, afraid of trying and then being able to see on his face the evidence of her actions. His worry for his wife. Her mother who tried so hard, again and again, to keep calling her phone. She stopped eating...

Yisa walks like a sentenced prisoner up the stairs to the estate's second floor. Passing her by, errant members of the staff keep taking quick glances at her, before just-as-quickly looking away. Upon reaching her bedroom, she immediately realizes why. Catching her reflection in her vanity mirror, she appraises the bruising in her face, her eye already blackening and wanting to swell shut.

She deserves it.

Settling down on her bed, one she has not as much touched in weeks, Yisa resigns herself to her thoughts. But they do not last long. Something seems off about her room, the ambiance changed, and glancing up, she realizes the entire canopy of her poster bed has been removed.

Her lips part slowly with realization.

The canopy fell when she fought with Suou's shadow, the night the monster stole into her house. Enda had just as eerily discovered her after. That was the night she took flight from the estate to remain entirely in Sumaru, thinking her presence was needed by a city under fire. She left with her room in a mess, things fallen, the poster bed broken. Like she'd had been attacked. Of course her mother would think her hurt, maybe even dead. She left that mess for everyone to infer the worst possible outcome.

Eventually, Yisa tosses one of her expensive, oversized handbags on the bed, her face stern, expression wan, as she works to fill it with her clothes. She moves mechanically, trying to think about this as little as possible: the people she was leaving behind, the vow she had promised to this city, and the destiny she'd hoped to discover as her reward. As a person without a real home, she was beginning to look to Japan to fill the void.

She was making a life here.

Pushing the last of her necessary things into the bag, Yisa only stops at the weight of her weapon at her hip. Usually she forgets she's carrying it at all. With great care, she unbelts it from her body, taking the shortsword and scabbard in her hands to feel its weight. Its aged, polished steel shines up at her.

She pulls the weapon free to run her fingers down the serrated edges of the blade. All of them carved for one purpose only. Her shortsword exists to live one life. It has been smithed for one act. It is either wielded, or it is meaningless.

Her father has long reseated himself, and is, again, speaking fiercely on his phone, by the time Yisa descends back down the stairs and speaks to him.

Only this time he stares at her and cuts his conversation short, cutting the call in one swift flick of his hand. "What was that you said?"

"No," Yisa repeats herself, standing tall, her shoulders square, and her one working eye fastened on the man. "I need to speak to my mother, but I refuse to leave. I've seen too much to go back to France."

He is silent for a moment, watching her as he considers her words. Eventually, her father leans back in his chair, his eyes narrowing ever so slightly. She's done more than inherit his eyes; Yisa often fidgets when she's not thinking. Her father does just the same now, openly and closing his phone compulsively as he studies her face. Finally, he speaks. "Choose your words carefully, child. I am affording you one last chance before I disregard you entirely. As a Taimiev, your obedience is expected."

Yisa matches her father's stare, ready for it, that and all of his ultimatums he has prepared. Clenched in her left hand is the familiar weight of her weapon, shortsword and scabbard, and it centers her. If she's not this, she's meaningless. "It's not my life anymore," she tells him bluntly. Her jaw sets a moment, and a new resolve dawns across her face. "And if you force me," she enunciates slowly, "you'll learn the meaning of embarrassment."

That stops the absent folding and unfolding of his phone. Mr. Taimiev's thumbnail taps against the device as he watches her. He stands from the chair again.

"Is that right?" he asks, almost charitably, his voice growing a humoured edge. "You've seen all there is to see? You're..." his voice drifts off, and that's when it ends, his temper igniting him, making his expression look immediately ugly. ".../Lecturing/ me on experience, you spoiled little slut?! Your life has been served to you, but not any longer. If you want to stay here among the zanadiqa, then you do it on your own. This," he demonstrates with a motion of his hand, to the dining room, its table, the room, the estate beyond it, "is gone."

Yisa's resolved expression hitches with shock. This she wasn't expecting. "How dare you," she blurts uselessly back with practised imperiousness. "I'm entitled to --"

Her father turns on her, making short work of the space between their bodies. She stands her ground as he bears his temper down on her, making herself meet his eyes as he snarls, "You're my disobedient daughter who thinks she's my son. My desperation to keep an heir is now my undoing. But it ends when your brother is of age.

"You have only one entitlement to your name, you stupid girl, and it's your future as a man's obedient wife. Should I feel gracious enough, and for your mother's sake only, I may just find someone decent enough to tolerate you. But even I can't ensure the sort of man who would accept my dishonoured whore of a daughter."

He punctuates those last words with a long look into her face, studying the bruises he beat into her skin. Exhaling, his green eyes circuit back to lock onto hers. "But if you wish to stay here, then you'll not waste any more of your brother's money. Stay here and kill your mother some more. It's because of her that I'll secure your education, but now you have become responsible for your own freedom. Perhaps when you've starved long enough, you'll remember obedience."

There's little Yisa can do but stare at her father. Shock still coils nauseatingly in her gut, mutating its body into a sick fear. She's never been without anything her entire life. To lose it all in the matter of minutes--

She makes a mistake of looking away from his eyes.

Her father attacks Yisa's moment of weakness, reaching out to seize her again, roughly, by the jaw, to force her to look up at him. She struggles proudly at first, offended, but a wrench of his wrist and his words earn her temporary silence. "And if that teaches you nothing," he continues, gently now, his voice softened into something that finally sounds fatherly, "may God take pity upon you.

"But let me warn you, Yisa," he tells her closely, wrenching her head back when she tries to fight him again, "the men who threaten to embarrass me do not live long lives. There have been dozens of them who tried. And, Yisa, ten of you would not be worth one of them." Her father's fingers tighten. "You're a coward to provoke me within the safety of this country. Had we been home, this would end differently. I would hate to hurt your mother. Yet, even then, she would understand --"

There's a knock on the dining room's doors. Attention broken, Mr. Taimiev glances up from his errant daughter to see the family accountant standing there, holding a few paper files nervously close but with a new intensity cut across her face. She dares not make it known, but this intrusion was deliberate. Apologizing profusely, she reminds the man in perfect Russian that there is only one hour before the day's market closes.

Yisa feels her father let her go.

His green eyes study her for one moment more, silently, severely, before dismissing her all the same. And with the same disregard demonstrated during the first few moments of their reunion, Abbas Taimiev leaves his wayward daughter behind.

Realizing she's been clutching it to the point of pain, the scabbard leaving marks and dents along her palm, Yisa relaxes her grip on her shortsword. She looks down at her weapon searchingly, then pauses, remembering that she's not alone.

She glances back up to realize the family's accountant is watching her, the woman's eyes small and dark but conveying so much in a single glance. "I will speak to you later, Taimiev-san," she tells Yisa in gentle Japanese, executing a short bow before leaving, closing the door with a pointed turn of its handle.

Feeling numb, Yisa lets her feet walk her backward, moving unsurely until she settles with a sigh in the chair once occupied by her father. She looks down again at her sword, her gaze gentling as she settles the object carefully on the table. It waits like a patient vanguard, watching her as she digs out her own phone and makes a call. When she tilts her head to bring the phone up to her ear, a fall of her hair covers her blackening eye.

Yisa takes a breath. "It's me. No, nana, don't cry --"

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