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Cocytus novel

"Cocytus -Ballerina Under the Moonlight" Episode 5

 

"Cocytus. A river in the underworld of Greek mythology. A frozen hell that spares no traitors."

 

  

The aroma of coffee filled the air.

Syunka tilted her head at the unusual sensation of waking up, stretched, and yawned.

She felt like she had slept much deeper than usual.

The bed was disheveled, sheets askew, with her underwear scattered at her feet, near the pillow, and elsewhere.

Recalling the events of the previous night, she felt a weight settle low in her abdomen, and her previously calm body temperature rose, coloring her cheeks.

But whose coffee aroma was it? There was no room for doubt.

She pulled the sheets up, gathering her scattered underwear out of sight, but to get her clothes, she needed to reach the closet in the corner of the room.

"Good morning."

Startled by the voice, Syunka jumped.

Flustered, she turned her back and wrapped herself in the sheet.

"G-good morning..."

"I used the shower first."

"Y-yes. You're up early."

"Yes. You slept well."

"Did I?"

"You had an adorable sleeping face. I wanted to keep you like that."

"Y-you always say strange things. Um, I'm going to take a shower, so could you turn around?"

"Why?"

"Because..."

"I've already seen everything."

"That's different..."

As she fumbled for words, Nathan chuckled behind her.

When she turned to look, he stood leaning against a pillar, holding a coffee cup, watching her. He was dressed only in a cotton wrap around his waist, his hair tousled, and stubble softening his gentlemanly appearance.

He had a statuesque physique, not just a fitness enthusiast but well-muscled.

"Sorry, I'm washing my shirt."

It seemed they were in a similar situation.

They bought a late breakfast from a nearby bakery and drank the coffee he had brewed.

She had never started a day in such a quietly luxurious way before.

Nathan looked at her more clearly than he had the day before. There was no longer a wall she had sensed before, and it felt comfortable.

It felt like an unexpected reunion with someone long lost.

"Any regrets?"

"None."

"Morning feels different from night. Aren't you disappointed with the morning me?"

"I said no. What about you, Nate?"

"None. If anything, I've made up my mind."

Nathan's hand reached out and cupped Syunka's cheek.

Despite his rugged hands, his touch was surprisingly gentle and dexterous.

The warmth of his palm was so soothing it made her want to close her eyes again.

"Made up your mind about what?"

"About ending everything."

"...?"

"You don't need to know... not now."

"Not 'now'...?"

"When the time comes that I can tell you, I will."

Nathan's gaze was direct, holding no deceit. When she met his eyes and nodded, he relaxed and smiled, a rugged, determined smile different from usual.

"Alright."

Nathan leaned in and kissed Syunka with a resounding smack.

 

 

He left the Hôtel Paradiso with her as she went to work.

The manager happened to come out. When he saw them, his eyes widened.

Nathan put a finger to his lips and whispered, "Shhh."

The manager shook his head in mild exasperation and pretended not to see them.

Nathan wanted to drive Syunka, but unfortunately, the car was still at the five-star hotel.

"Can I borrow a car?"

"Only have a bike right now."

Nathan called out lightly to the manager, who took a key from the desk and tossed it to him.

"Grazie."

They headed to the underground parking lot of the Hôtel Paradiso and borrowed a bike used by the employees.

Syunka clutched the handle of her bag.

"You know this place well."

"I have a wide network."

"I'm sure you do... Is this hotel one of your clients too?"

"Who knows?"

He handed her a helmet and helped her onto the back of the bike.

Her slender arms wrapped around Nathan's waist.

"This is my first time on a bike."

"Not scared?"

"No. Because I'm with you."

The May wind carried the scent of gardenias.

As long as they roamed the streets, it was peaceful. But one step into the back alleys, and the shadows of Clan Giallo lurked.

Even the ancient castle "Rocca di Luce" overlooking the city was nothing more than a pile of stones in the morning light.

The casino bar "Il Santo della Forza," which ruled the night, was now just a palace-like building.

"I should be done by noon today. Can we meet somewhere?"

"Sure. I'll come pick you up."

As they turned the corner, they passed a slow-moving car.

In the back seat was a man in a silver-gray suit with pale blue eyes... their eyes met and didn't part until the distance grew.

The man subtly tapped his wristwatch twice at Nathan.

Nathan slowly closed his eyes.

After about ten minutes, they arrived at an old gallery.

"Okay, I'll contact you when I'm done."

"Alright. Stay inside the gallery until I come for you."

"Is that better?"

Nathan nodded, patted her shoulder, and they parted ways.

He switched to a Maserati at the hotel and headed for the casino bar "Il Santo della Forza."

The road was well-maintained, appearing fit for a king. Guests likely felt a sense of privilege just passing through.

The lobby gleamed white, and the bellboy bowed deeply when he saw Nathan.

During daylight, it was quiet, with only the café room in operation.

Nathan declined an escort and headed straight for the VIP room on the top floor.

A former pro-wrestler bodyguard spoke into his receiver.

The mahogany door stood nearly three meters tall, adorned with intricately carved gold trim and handles.

The bodyguard stepped aside, and Nathan grasped the handle.

With a deep, compressed sound, the door swung open.

 

Inside, there were six men in suits and seven young women dressed in little more than underwear.

The man sitting at the very back was the same one Nathan had seen in the car earlier.

When the man with pale blue eyes saw Nathan, he peeled the girl's arm off his shoulder and told everyone to leave.

They all obeyed without a word. They were executives.

The man, dressed in a refined silver-gray suit that seemed to shimmer in the light, stood up and greeted Nathan once they were alone.

With platinum blonde hair and a lean, panther-like physique, he exuded a certain nobility. His well-defined features bore fine wrinkles that only added to his charm.

"Nathan. It's good to see things are going well."

His voice, low and cold, seemed to drop into the pit of his stomach.

"But it took you quite a while. Couldn't handle one woman?"

"She's not just a giddy tourist. She's a professional. It's not that simple."

The man turned to the ebony desk, sank into the high-backed chair, and crossed his long legs.

"Well, they say making love to a Japanese woman is quite something."

"That's just a matter of preference."

The man glanced at Nathan sideways.

He probably knew about last night.

"Did you find the painting?"

"Yes. But it's in a warehouse. Not easy to access."

"So, what did you do?"

"If we get suspicious, it's over. It's worth taking the time."

"If you say so, I'll believe you."

Nathan muttered to himself. The man didn't trust him; he knew about last night.

"If only we hadn't rushed and killed him back then, right?"

Nathan met the man's gaze.

His pale blue eyes were like a frozen winter lake.

The man smirked and scattered the photos that were spread across the desk.

"You've caused quite a mess."

A photo fell at Nathan's feet.

A blood-soaked arm. At the end of it, a golden painting was reflected.

"It was supposed to be a gift to the police, but you've been quite clever. It's a warning. If we don't act quickly, copycats will emerge."

"For the order of Clan Giallo, right? ... If the data inside gets to the police, we're finished. Augusto—"

Nathan cut himself off and looked at the man—the capo of Clan Giallo, Augusto.

"As long as she holds the password, the police can't do anything. It's safer this way. Besides, I've been invited to a party by a client from my consulting business. It's on the last Saturday night in May."

Augusto briefly glanced down.

"We can't ignore the clients from your business consulting. It's your public persona, use it well."

"Yeah. The venue is a world-class five-star hotel."

"Tsk, we can't afford any mistakes. Well, fine."

Augusto smiled only with his mouth and said, "I have some vintage brandy."

He personally prepared the glasses and took the brandy from a shelf adorned with objets d'art.

With a pleasant sound, the brandy was poured.

Augusto handed Nathan a glass.

Inside the glass was a round ice cube. Wet with brandy, it reflected the world.

Nathan accepted it. The amber liquid held a rich flavor that blended into its color.

"Nateo, I'm counting on you."

Augusto called Nathan by his nickname and lightly tapped his shoulder with a finger.

As Nathan tilted the glass, the world inside it flipped.

The ice cube enveloped the two men reflected in the glass.

 

 

As promised, Nathan showed up at the gallery. Since he had work in the afternoon, they decided to have lunch outside. He took her to the largest park in the city. In the center, there was a fountain and statues of a man and a woman.

They sat on a bench, looking up at the statues and eating sandwiches from a food truck. It was a casual date, but the lemonade seemed to blend into the May air. Such a date was nice once in a while.

When she looked to the side, Nathan's face appeared stern.

"Is something wrong?"

"Huh?"

It was something she had seen recently, yes, at the market.

"... By the way, is your arm injury okay now?"

"Yeah. It's an old wound, so it doesn't hurt."

"How did you get injured?"

"Well... there was a bit of a scuffle. The guy was a bit crazy..."

"What...?"

"It's an old story. There was a brawl in the nightlife district. The police got involved and that was the end of it."

"But it looks like a knife wound, doesn't it?"

It seemed like a cut. Though the scar was hard to see because of his wristwatch, the raised skin on his left arm was painful to look at.

Nathan hid it under his sleeve. The navy linen shirt swayed in the wind, but he remained still.

If she asked any more, he wouldn't answer.

Shunka looked up at the statue and changed the subject.

"Do you like this place too?"

"Yeah. I like the sound of the water."

"Despite your urban look, you like places with a lot of nature."

"Now that you mention it... maybe it's a reaction."

In the consulting business, speed is probably essential. Even more so, business is often surrounded by artificial objects.

The leisurely atmosphere seemed to be a good refreshment for him.

"What kind of places do you like?"

"Hmm... but I do like parks like this. These are maple trees, right? They'll be beautiful in autumn."

All the trees along the path were maple. Now, they were fresh green, with refreshing yellow-green leaves, but in the cold, they would turn a magnificent color.

"I don't really have specific preferences for dates... but I do want to eat delicious food... I think it's more important who you spend time with than where you go."

"I see... If we can find the time, let's go to southern France. I heard that there, a picnic with white wine is a typical holiday."

"If it's with you, that sounds nice. As if we were just tourists who don't know anything..."

"... Yeah. Shunka, I have a gift for you."

He handed her a necklace with diamonds.

The chain was very thin, and the finely cut diamonds sparkled in the sunlight like scattered stars.

"I invited you to a party but felt something was missing. Sorry for not being thoughtful enough."

"Oh... the dress is enough."

"That was a loan. It doesn't count as a proper gift, right?"

"So, this is the thank-you gift?"

"... No. It's personal."

"Personal?"

She couldn't help but laugh at his typical joke, but he looked unexpectedly serious.

"It means exactly what it looks like."

  • I want to be with you forever.
  • I don't want to let you go.
  • I want to make you mine.

Her cheeks heated up.

Nathan said, "What, you already knew?"

"... I'll leave it up to you."

"Then, please put it on me."

Nathan softened his eyes and asked her to turn around.

Shunka lifted her hair. The chain tickled her neckline and collarbone.

The clasp clicked into place, and as it flowed down her back, Nathan's fingers followed it.

She turned around, lowered her hair, and touched the necklace adorning her neck. Upon closer inspection, the top engraving was a small flower motif.

"... Thank you. It's really beautiful."

"It reminded me of the flower on your business card. I'm glad you like it."

Nathan's hand caressed her cheek. Closing her eyes to the comfort, she felt the softness of his lips on her eyelid.

That night, Nathan came to the Hôtel Paradiso, and they got into a single bed together.

She would soon be leaving Italy.

Would she see Nathan again?

Such thoughts crossed her mind as she wrapped her arms around his back and closed her eyes.

(No need for such expectations. No need for anxiety. The only truth is that the present moment is here.)

She inhaled his scent, like fragrant wood.

Her eyes grew wet.

 

"To be continued"→"Cocytus -Ballerina Under the Moonlight" Episode 6 ※Contains sexual scenes.

 

 

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