Le faux-ami du jour : eventually = finalement
Kazan was not at his usual evening post beside the river. He was squeezed, huddled into a crack in the rocks on the other side of the island, his whole body shaking. Kyu was squatting a few feet away.
He had spoken the word softly so as not to further scare the petrified animal which was burrowing itself into a hole. He saw in the semi-darkness that Kazan was trying to force his body even deeper into the narrow gap. He slowly held out his hand, palm upwards, towards him, and waited. When at last Kazan stretched out his own violently trembling hand he took and held it. After a while the shaking lessened and eventually stopped.
Kazan was frightened. The shock of hearing what Kyu was going to call the Grand Annual Tournament had overwhelmed him, and instinct had taken over. It was instinct which had driven him to earth like a hunted animal in order to protect him from a world which had rejected him, a world which had hurt him and hurt him again. Right now, Kazan was a terrified wild animal unable to comprehend what was happening.
Kyu was deeply affected by the look of terror on his face, by the way he had forced himself into the crevice to hide as much of himself as possible, and by how he was holding his arms and legs to protect his vital organs. He spoke to him to calm him down, in Japanese, language which had nothing to do with whatever he had previously been through, and which was steeped in the essence of this island where he felt at home, where he had learned to be someone, where he had laughed, learned, messed with mud and been happy.
“I know that you are frightened and I understand. You do not know what it means to have a father. I also know that you would like to be my son. Instinct made you run away and hide like you must have had to do in the past if the scars on your back are anything to go by. You need not worry that I am offended that it is because of me your instinct made you run away from today. I am not. On the contrary.”
While Kyu had been talking Kazan had listened but made no move to leave his refuge.
“Come out now.”
Kyu’s strong hand pulled him out of his hiding place. Kazan stood there in front of him and although he still looked very wary he seemed to be more himself.
“Would you like me to be your father?”
Kazan looked at the man he would trust with his life, the man who had been looking after him for all these months, the man who had never treated him unfairly.
“Yes, Sensei… arigatou, Sensei.”
“Hmm, yes Sensei, arigatou Sensei, what a good obedient son I have…”
Kazan gave a small smile but did not answer.
“One day soon we must go to Tokyo.”
“What for, Sensei?”
“Because I want to become your father officially. We must fill in the adoption papers.”
“Does that mean I’ll have your surname, Sensei?”
“Yes, your name will be Kazan Sukomatayashi and you had better not get into trouble any more or you will get what is coming to you. You saw what I did on the tatami earlier on, didn’t you?”
His eyes shone with admiration as he momentarily relived the fight.
“And that’s enough of that, too.”
“Enough of what?”
“Enough bad language. I want a polite son.”
The grocery boat took them to Yonago, where they would get the plane to Tokyo. Kazan, now over the initial shock, was just beginning to get used to the idea of having Kyu as a father. His father, shi-it. Oops, no bad language. His father disapproved. This time it was okay, he’d only said it in his head, so Sensei, er, his father hadn’t heard. Or had he? You could never be sure with him. Better not even think those words any more! He glanced sideways at Kyu to see if he had heard. You couldn’t see his eyes because he was wearing sunglasses so it was anybody’s guess. When you couldn’t see those strange-coloured eyes he looked Japanese. Well, even without the glasses he looked Japanese of course, but right now he could be just anyone. Ah, maybe that was why he was wearing sunglasses, like on the journey from France, so that he wouldn’t be recognized. But why wouldn’t he want to be recognized? He hadn’t been wearing his sunglasses during the Grand Annual Tournament and all those guys had seen – and recognized – him. So how come he could show his face on the island but not in Yonago or Tokyo or on the Paris/Tokyo plane?
Now that Sensei was his father Kazan felt slightly intimidated, especially after his recent performance on the tatami, shi… no, no bad language. He couldn’t bring himself to ask about the glasses.
“I am wearing sunglasses so that people cannot see my eyes.”
“It makes you look Japanese.”
“And what would I look without them?”
“Japanese too, but with them you could be anybody.”
“That is exactly why I wear them. I do not want to be recognized.”
“Is somebody looking for you?”
“Yes. I am wanted by the Japanese police. They have nicknamed me Suigyoku which means ‘emerald’. All the martial artists you saw at the Grand Annual Tournament are acquainted with this nickname, although none would ever dare use it to my face, but it is not in their interest to turn me in, firstly because they have no particular fondness for the police and secondly because I suspect they might have a job getting a good night’s sleep if they did turn me in. They might suddenly find they were scared of the dark. But if the Tokyo or Yonago police recognize me they will arrest me.”
“You can run fast.”
“Yes, but they have guns. I do not run faster than bullets.”
A silence fell.
“I thought you were going to ask me why I was wanted by the Japanese police,” said Kyu after a while.
Kazan turned to him with the same black velvet look in his eyes that he had had at Ouané’s.
“When I wanted to know why you’d never asked me about the scars on my back you said that it was my story, part of my book. It’s the same for your sunglasses – it’s part of your book.”
Kyu looked at his son with affection and pride. There had been a clear progression in the way he thought things through. He had come a long way.
Kazan remained staring out over the waves for a time.
“I don’t want you to adopt me,” he said quietly, without looking at Kyu.
Then he swung abruptly round to face him and Kyu saw that his eyes were now glowing like live coals: the volcano had awoken.
“I don’t want to be your son!” he shouted. “I don’t want you to be my father! I don’t want your surname!”
Kyu saw the fury and the anguish, or rather the fury of the anguish, in his eyes. Yes, Kazan was the best son a man could have.
“I do not know what the procedure is in France, but here adopting an adult is very straightforward. It is simply a question of informing the authorities. Of course I will, as you have just realized, have to show them my passport, but do not worry, the police do not have my name, only my physical description with this striking distinguishing mark I wear on my face.”
“They don’t know your name?”
“Why are your eyes that colour?”
“I have always answered all your questions but I cannot answer that one for the simple reason that I do not know.”
“You’re a genetic error.”
Kyu was gripped by an almost uncontrollable desire to laugh. Who else on earth would dare to call him a genetic error? Who, other than Kazan, who had also been the only one to dare to raise his hand against him? Managing to keep his face straight, he turned to him.
“Raising your hand against your sensei is one thing, and you are well aware of the upshot of such behaviour. But behaving with impudence towards your father is worse. Do not forget that.”
He wouldn’t be calling his father a genetic error again, shi…
His father… he gazed up at the sky and felt like shouting it out for the whole world to hear, that he had a father, that Sensei was his father. Grinning, his nose in the air and his curls in the wind, he thought how good it was to have a father, to be Sensei’s son.
Kyu’s heart melted. The great fighter, feared by all, suddenly felt his ruthlessness turn to marshmallow. Kazan had just called him ‘father’. He tried not to let his emotions show.
“Have they got women in Tokyo?”
Kyu looked at him, the corner of his mouth twitching.
“Were you trying to soften me by calling me ‘father’?”
“No. I just felt like trying it out. Never done it before. Wanted to see the effect.”
And if he knew what it felt like hearing it…
“So you were wondering if there were any women in Tokyo…”
“It’s just that… I’m young… and healthy… and it’s been over a year…”
Kyu began to laugh, not a restrained chuckle like usual, but a real, deep down rumble.
“I am very happy to know that my son is young and healthy. I will talk to the captain of the boat. We should be able to work something out.”
“Arigatou, Otousan. I knew a father would understand these things… and… since you’re paying… one with big breasts if possible…”
Kyu made a mental note not to become too lenient with Kazan, especially as Hanshi let the boy get away with so much.
They completed the crossing in amicable silence, leaning on the railing, side by side, each watching his own thoughts shimmering in the water.
Kyu let Amélie out of the place deep inside where he kept her and watched her glinting through the waves and knew that she would be with him all his life. The memory of her grey eyes and the ringlets in her hair was not about to fade away. Maybe one day he would meet, even marry, another woman but the chapter entitled Amélie would never be erased from his book. She would always be there, in amongst those pages which no longer had the power to hurt him because he had implemented the choice to refuse psychological suffering. It was nevertheless an undeniable fact that the edges of those pages were not flush with the rest of the book and he knew full well that their contents had not lost their magic. He must resist. She had not written back and that was that. In any case there was Kazan to think about. He had become someone, someone happy, and the last thing he wanted to do was jeopardize that happiness. Kazan no longer wanted to see his mother. Kyu made his mind go blank so that Amélie could leave the waves and return to the dark place inside him.
He was suddenly struck by a thought: now that he had a son, he wanted a family. Then Kazan would have a mother, a home, maybe even a younger brother or sister. He glanced briefly at him and smiled, thinking that for the moment at least he was basking in being an only son. He had just got a father and almost certainly did not feel like sharing him just yet. He would have to grow up a little bit more, he would need to get used to what it meant to be a son, to have a father. And his education needed thinking about. He would have to be constantly available to guide him, on the lookout to make sure all those fences remained in place because Kazan would now try to break through them again to see if being his son changed anything. He saw that now: his son was his priority. The rest could wait.
And as for Kazan, what he could see romping through the sea was a beautiful mermaid. A beautiful mermaid with big breasts.