Realms of Destiny
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“It hurts….release us…please…”
The boy looked around from left to right…nothing. He could see nothing, and yet he knew that the darkness around him stretched far, very far. He could feel the fear, the sorrow, the anger and pain in the wispy hands and arms that were clawing at him, desperately trying to garner any warmth he was emitting from his body. They were moving closer. He tried to run, run away, but they were coming for his gem and he couldn’t run fast enough. Their cold phantom touch drained the energy from him.
“Demon! Release us!” The voices were getting angrier, more persistent, and there were so many of them. He screamed, trying to push them away, only he couldn’t, as his hands went through them like smoke. Go away! He thrashed wildly, but in his panic, tripped and fell on his back. Immediately he could feel the phantasms closing in on top of him and he couldn’t move, they were holding him down, and yet he couldn’t do anything to them. Nooooo!!! “Kurogane…”
“Kurogane-kun! Wake up!” Kurogane’s eyes flew open in fear and desperation only to find that he was being held down by strong hands, green eyes looking into his.
“No! Let go of me!” He backed into the corner of the room. The panic of the dream still fresh in his mind, his eyes wide with fear.
“Shhh…it’s okay, just a bad dream.” Said Rei, who had emerged from behind Sousuke.
Kurogane looked around the room, at first not remembering where he was. He then remembered that this was the new room they’ve put him in three days after his arrival at the Soratenshi no Ryu dojo.
“I heard you screaming in your sleep, you were thrashing so wildly I had to ask Sousuke to help.”
“I…I’m sorry I woke you guys up.” He was still panting, beads of sweat rolled down his forehead and the gem in his chest felt uncomfortably hot. His wing-shaped birthmark was tingling and it felt rather irritating.
“Must have been a really bad dream.” Observed Sousuke, he had never seen anyone experienced such degree of fear from night terrors. “Took us a while to get you to wake up.”
“I must have been very tired to have fallen into such a deep sleep.” Said Kurogane. “I get these terrors sometimes but usually I wake myself up.” He was finally able to take a breather and relax a little. He slumped against the wall, exhausted.
“Sometimes? So you’ve had them before?” it was Reina who said this.
“Every so often, yes.” Said Kurogane.
Reina and Sousuke looked at each other, seeming to be thinking along the same lines. Sousuke smiled, got up, and slid the wall opposite where Kurogane was sitting on to one side, removed the panel, turning two rooms into one big room. Kurogane could see that there were two futons in the other room, which must have belonged to those two. Reina had gotten up and begun dragging the two futons towards the center of the room while Sousuke did the same with Kurogane’s.
“What are you doing?” The red-haired boy asked, unsure of what to make of this.
“Redecorating.” Replied Reina. Kurogane watched as the two moved about, rolling and unrolling the futons. Finally, all three were laid out in a row next to one another in the center of the new bigger room they’ve just created. “There!”
“From now on, should you get disturbed by night terrors again we’ll be able to help you out.” explained Sousuke. At the moment, he had laid out Kurogane’s futon on his left and Reina’s was on his right. He wouldn’t want the thrashing boy to hit his ojousama while she sleeps.
“You really don’t have to…” protested Kurogane. Having them see him thrash about just now was embarrassing enough. He wouldn’t want them all to lose sleep over his own predicament. When he said ‘sometimes’ it was much of an understatement, he almost gets them nightly, save for when his sleep deprivation became so bad that he just sleeps the whole day through which was the case for the past two nights since he got here. If he shared a room with them, they would be sure to find out about these nightmares he’d been having. Being seen in such a fearful state is not good as a first impression to the people who’ve been so helpful to him. “I’m not used to sleeping with someone else in the room.”
“Oh, don’t worry I don’t snore, and neither does Sousuke…I think. But then again, I wouldn’t know because I always fall asleep before he does.” said Reina cheerfully. She likes company, and the more the merrier.
“That one sleeps like a log.” Sousuke feigned a whisper towards Kurogane.
“What was that?” snapped Reina, grey eyes narrowing in suspicion.
“Nothing, I just told him it’s true…that you don’t snore.” Smiled Sousuke innocently. Rei knew that there was something more to it, but his beautiful and genuinely smiling face was just so pleasant to look at that it threw her off guard.
“Well, the sun’s about to rise, and I’m quite awake now. What should we do?” asked Rei changing the subject. She looked from Sousuke to Kurogane.
“I may as well start preparing breakfast.” Said Sousuke. He will have to do some extra cleaning for the rest of the week after all. “Kurogane-kun, if you feel up to it, you can join us for training today. The younger kids come in today, you may be able to join them. If you’re living here from now on, you might as well become a student of this dojo.”
“I can train with you!” exclaimed Reina excitedly. “Father confiscated my training swords, so I’ll be with you and the other beginners this week.” This punishment may not be too bad after all. She was upset at first that she would not be able to practice with her sword, and Sousuke would just get better and better. However, she may as well make the best out of it. Just you wait Sousuke-sempai! She thought. “On that note, why don’t we go for a walk around the area while Sousuke-sempai prepares breakfast, Kuro-kun?”
“S..sure. Although, can you not call me Kuro-kun?” he thought it sounded childish.
“What’s wrong with Kuro-kun?” asked Rei. “Kuro-tan, Kuro-chan? Kuro--”
“No, no! Fine, you can call me Kuro-kun.” The boy had cringed when she said ‘Kuro-chan’ as though he was a little girl. Well, she did give me the name I guess I can let this one slide. He admitted to himself.
“Well then I’m off, don’t wander off too far. I’ll see you two back in an hour.” Said Sousuke as he got up to change into his day clothes before beginning the chores of the day.
“Yes, sempai!” Reina called back. She turned back to Kurogane and plopped herself next to him on his futon. “So! Where should we go today?” she asked eagerly.
“I don’t really mind.” said the boy, backing off a little. He wasn’t used to people invading his personal space like that. And as lovely as Reina was, he’d only known her for three days and she’d already given him a name, moved herself and her sempai into his bedroom, and dubbed him a student of her father. He found all this quite difficult to digest.
They got changed and headed out of the dojo towards the town centre using the canal road. The town was small and cozy and everyone knew Reina. It was safe enough for two five-year-olds to walk about without a chaperone; as a matter of fact, Sousuke had gone on a shopping trip by himself when he was five before. If he refused to let Reina out because of her age, she would bring that up and he would have to let her go. They walked along the canal until they reached a bridge crossing to the other side.
“From here, if you go straight you’ll reach the town where we do all the grocery shopping and go out for good meals sometimes. On the other side of the bridge however,” She turned to look across the canal into the woods. “That’s the edge of town and those are the Eastern Woods.
“Yea I know, my village is approximately five days walk on the other side of it.” Said Kurogane. There was no nostalgia in his tone, that place only brought back bad memories, and he frowned at the woods.
“Have you actually walked in the woods?” Rei asked him, seeing his frown. “It’s actually not that bad you know. I was thinking of taking you to one of my favourite places.”
“In there?” Kurogane looked dubious.
“Come!” Without warning, she grabbed his hand and dragged him across the bridge and towards the woods. “Although, don’t tell Sousuke we crossed the bridge, he’d kill me if he finds out I left town without him.”
The two followed a path into the woods that had often been taken by travellers who commuted from place to place. The sun was already up, shining bright on a beautiful day that is neither too hot nor too cold. The trees towered high above their heads and the shadow cast by the canopy created a cool din. Five minutes down the path, at the same time moving up on an incline, Reina came to stop in front of a regular looking tree. She walked up to it and studied the trunk. Kurogane looked with her and noted a little mark in the shape of a wing on the side of it.
“This is it.” Said the girl triumphantly. She moved off the path to the other side of the tree and began walking ninety degrees from the direction they were going.
“Where are you going? Are you sure we should leave the main path? You never know what’s in there.” Kurogane followed after her worriedly. He wasn’t scared of the woods, as a matter of fact, save from the phantasms in his dreams he was rarely ever afraid of anything. However, he had seen how protective Sousuke was of Reina, and he could see why this girl should never be left to roam about on her own in a forest such as this. If the older boy found out that Kurogane let his little miss enter such a place, guest or no, he will be in trouble. However, after making his way past a bush, he realized that there was another path, smaller than the main one they were following, but a decent one for a child.
“Just keep following. Don’t worry, it’s not very far.” Reina called from up ahead. Kurogane hurriedly followed her, eyes on the ground, being careful not to trip over any extending roots. As he looked up, he could see that there was bright light where Reina had stopped moving. He brushed a small branch aside and stepped out into a small clearing by a small cliff face. It was a beautiful sight. Reina was standing on the ledge of a rock which jutted out above what appears to be a small lake with crystal clear water. On the other side, there is a small waterfall and behind it, a cave. To the left, he could see the water running off the lake downstream in a tiny trickle.
“What is this place?” He asked Reina, who now sat on the edge of the rock. Somewhere in his subconscious mind he could see the exact same image flash past, in another time, in another place. She turned her head around to beam up at him; her voice brought him back to the present.
“It’s my favourite place! A secret hideout! Only Sousuke and I know about it. We found it playing catch just last week. I haven’t gotten round to exploring all of it yet though.” She was sitting on the ledge swinging her legs in a playful manner, looking down at her reflection from the water. “I like water, it relaxes my mind, and it feels really great when I’m next to water like this and the breeze you get in this place…”
“If it’s a secret place…why tell me?” Asked Kurogane.
“Well, since you’re now part of the family, and my new roommate, I thought I’d share.” He was at a loss for words. Why is this girl being so nice to him? She is kind, trusting, beautiful, and being around her would lighten the load on anyone’s mind, very much like the place they were standing in. This place, the waterfall, the trees, the rocks, the light shining bright into the clearing surrounded by the dim woods, fits someone like her, not him. He walked closer and stood beside her, looking down into the water as well. At that moment she grabbed his arm and tugged, causing him to drop to a sitting position beside her. “I don’t know why…” She said suddenly. “…why I feel like I’ve been here before, or some place similar to this, when I really haven’t – that is, before I found it with Sousuke the other day - … maybe in a dream.”
Dream…true there is something quite dream-like about this place. Kurogane thought to himself. Sometimes, on rare occasions when he didn’t have his haunting nightmares, he would find himself in a place similar to this: clear water, surrounded by trees, a rocky ledge…and a girl. He couldn’t remember much after that though. Unconsciously he had been staring at his own reflection on the water’s surface.
“I don’t see anything scary or demon-like.” Commented Reina. She was looking straight at him, and had been for a while now, while he was staring blankly into space. He turned to see her face less than a foot from his, her grey eyes gazing intently into his red ones. “Your hair’s a really cool flaming red and your eyes are really pretty, matches your hair too. You’re not one bit scary to me.”
With that she gave a warming smile and went back to looking at her own reflection in the water. What she did not tell Kurogane though, was that it wasn’t only the place that was dream-like, but him as well. As impossible as it seemed that she would have met him before somewhere else, but she felt something very familiar about those eyes and his general presence. She realized then that he was blushing and looking rather dazedly at her so she decided to change the subject. “Hey Kuro-kun, can you swim?”
“What?” asked Kurogane, he had missed most of what she’d said. “Oh…swim, yes I can.” He kind of had to, since other bigger kids in his old village had tried to throw him and drown him on a number of occasions. There was a lot of survival skills he had to learn in order to get by.
“Can you teach me then? I really love this place and water in general, I’d love to swim in it one day.” Said Rei.
“Sure…I should be able to” said Kurogane.
“Why don’t we make it a secret between us? I wanna surprise Sousuke-sempai and my father. The next time they see me in water I’d be as fast as a fish!” she was all happy and smiling again. Kurogane wondered whether anything can bring this girl down, she just seemed so lively, cheerful and enthusiastic all the time. Suddenly the boy remembered something.
“Um…speaking of Sousuke-sempai, didn’t he say to meet him back in an hour?” there was a moment of silence when the two stared at one another. It had, in fact, been an hour.
“An HOUR!” exclaimed Reina suddenly and stood up so fast she slipped and almost fell into the water. Kurogane grabbed her just in time by the sleeve and pulled her back, as a result they toppled on top of one another in a heap. “Ow! Sorry, we must hurry! Oh my god, he’s gonna kill us!” She hurriedly got up and brushed herself off while Kurogane did the same. They dashed as fast as they could back through the small path, to the tree with the mark, followed the main wood path back towards town and sprinted the whole way back to the dojo.
Before they were out of sight of the woods, Kurogane paused and looked back.
A secret between us… he thought. When he turned back again, the girl was several paces ahead. She was a lot faster than he imagined. Without further ado, he followed her back to the dojo…back home.