X = Y
The day remained bright, yet night befell the Dojo temporarily. A boy, who the world seemingly execrates, was laid to rest. A wet cloth on his head, the sound of omens progressing through the air, and the world, with nothing but vengeance and merciless destruction, is but a sliver of what he faced. Beneath it, kindness rested, so too did love. Emotions and perplexion were things that compelled the human mind to act out of character, altruistically for loved ones or to benefit themselves.
Rei awakened, opening his eyes languidly. The glare from the light prompted by the open doors withered his visibility. From a blur to vision to comprehension, he slowly evaluated his position. The students who remained in the Dojo looked attentively, with utmost concern. Those on the brink of tears, and those who hid their emotions behind torn visages, all felt relieved.
"Rei! You're awake!" said Hirotaka Mitsuoka with solace.
"What happened..." Rei kneaded his eyes and glanced at the room, inspecting his surroundings disquietingly.
"The fire. What happened to Master..." Rei said in confusion.
"Rei! I'm here. You're awake! Good!" Umetori spoke with relief, thought to be inconceivably provided with their plight.
After remembering what he observed, discomfort maltreated his head. He held on to his conscious though it felt like slipping away.
"How long was I out for?" Rei questioned.
"It's been about an hour. Akinobu and the students he took from here still aren't back. It's a dark day for all of us. This Ruler is going to pay for what he's done to my students!" Umetori exclaimed. "There's nothing I could do...Why did I leave them?!" He spoke clearly, shattering the air around himself. Pummeled by regret, his voice became more severe. "I should have been there!"
"Master...don't be like that. It was my fault. I wanted to graduate from your Dojo. I persuaded you to do it. I should be the one experiencing your regret." Rei said empathetically.
The doors slid open. A crowd of students, along with their Master, Akinobu, entered the Dojo. Seared from the inferno they tried to extinguish, ash marring their clothing, the group were breathing heavily and sweating extensively. Defeated and worn out, their bodies swaggered from side to side, and they entered the Dojo with feelings of remorse and sorrow hinged onto their souls.
"We put the fire out. Your Dojo, Umetori...it's gone. There's nothing but ash and the smell of burnt flesh. The only ones that survived were him and the students you sent to the Subterranean." Akinobu spoke with sympathy, having never felt such pernicious defeat in his life.
"What happened to you? Why are you guys circling him for?" Akinobu questioned them, trying to divert his mind from the fire that now encased his mind.
"Nothing. It's fine, guys. I kind of lost my balance because of that fire. Hehehe..." Rei spoke amusingly, trying not to concern Akinobu.
"I sent many of my students as messengers to the Subterranean. We need to lock down every single Dojo. We're not safe anymore. The Ruler was the kid that Elder Furutoku was talking about." Akinobu spoke with his thoughts disseminated. Not able to concentrate, his vision remained scarred by the fire.
"Who's the ruler?" Rei questioned.
The other students present were staring at Akinobu, trying to persuade him to tell them.
"Now's the right time to tell you all..." said Umetori with promise. "I cannot reveal too much, but there was a student like Seijiro and Nagai. He was taught the Eternal Rule, but he killed students in the Subterranean. Elder Furutoku banished him, and he was the one who taught him. He could be the one behind this all."
"Wait! Master Kirihoshin had an underclassman?" Rei said in surprise.
"Not exactly. No one knew of his existence except for the Elders. I don't even know if he's real. Seijiro has never seen him either, nor has Nagai. But the message the Elder gave us was loud and clear. He fainted when he heard about the monster that burnt that student in the forest. Even the Elders think it's him." Umetori added with concern. He ensured he trod carefully with his words.
"Is he the one I've been looking for? But that doesn't make sense. There were four of them that day. One of them was holding my mother's pearls. He had the biggest bag. Everyone was killed by fire..." Rei thought to himself. "NO! Think of something else. I don't want to be useless again! I don't want to be a burden again!"
"That's confidential, Umetori. But it cannot be helped. All of you! Remember what he said. Have each other's backs. It looks like we're not enough to stop a threat that feeble!" Akinobu said in disgust.
"Kid! You're one of three who can defeat this thing. You have the same power he does. Seijiro and Nagai are going to stay here. Where are you planning to go?" Akinobu now spoke with ferocity.
Lines, like stardust connecting stars in the sky, appeared in Rei's mind. Memories, hopes, dreams, events, people. All of them were united and gained prominence, but none were more dominant than his home town. Thinking things through, and being wise, were far beyond Rei's method of reason. A single goal in his mind bounced around, but he snatched it with power, obliterating it to dust.
"I'm going to find him, and make him know how I felt now and back then. I'm going home and I'm going to get him," said Rei with lethal avidity.
"There's nothing we can do now, is there, Master?" Hirotaka spoke whilst rocking back and forth with terror made known on his face.
"No. All the evidence of your Dojo ever existing is gone, Umetori," said Akinobu in despair.
"Isn't there a trapdoor in your Dojo? I remember there were tunnels under the Kendo Dojo, and one of the signs on the wall had your name on it." Rei said with a look of belief.
"You are right, but that does nothing for us," Umetori responded despairingly.
Rei arose, still feeling fervours from the fire. He kept both feet apart, and he looked with an indomitable stare.
"Wherever I go, there's always trouble. I'll be gone by the end of the year. I'll make it up to everyone who's no longer with us. Master Motoyanagi. Train me, please." He glared with greater intent than Akinobu could accept.
Rei turned his head around with the same look. "All of you, train me to box. Your lives are here, my life is out there. To be honest, I came here to learn how to fight so I could get revenge on the people who killed my parents. But the plan changed. No, it's not revenge. It's justice...to stop them and protect you all." He turned around again to look at the Masters.
"They died in a fire, and that's why I passed out. Thinking about it hurts my head and numbs my body. I will not let them get any more of you or any more of my family. My brother is still out there, and I'm going to protect him." He spoke with such zest that he inspired not only the students but the Masters. They all stood up in acknowledgement of his bravery, developing into rectitude.
"Fine. All of you heard that. Train and continue to fight like your life depended upon it. Do not hesitate to fight back. Protect what you love." said Umetori in an inspiring tone.
"First, there are things we must do. The people that have fallen, and the families that will miss them, we must give them a sending off with honour. That is our duty now. Understood?" Akinobu spoke valorously, attempting to dignify those who fell at the hands of the Ruler.
Days passed like the seasons in a year. Stood beside the gap created by the Dojo, which no longer existed, a funeral session occurred. Graves made from wood and stone inhabited the derelict ground, which felt the quake of many people pursuing their dreams and running towards their goals.
The entire Subterranean, exempting a few people, were present. The Judo students whose home was once this Dojo visited. Nagai and Seijiro observed the area, determined to find solace. Rei was beside them, and behind him were the students he fought. They were his closest friends.
Walking was heard from the distance. Two authoritative figures, followed by a squadron of guards wearing their appropriate uniform for the Martial Arts they studied, garnered their attention, compelling them involuntarily. Elder Shigehisha Miyokawa and Elder Yusakuro Osuga arrived, trying not to make noise.
Rei and everyone else pivoted on the spot impetuously, becoming flummoxed by an unforeseen appearance. Watching the two Elders ambling onwards, they advanced towards the congregation.
"What are the Elders doing here..." Rei spoke with confusion but was drowned by gloom. The two Elders stood before them all.
"We didn't want to interrupt, but look where we are now. We are sorry for your loss. This wasn't aimed at only the Judo Dojo, but all of us. They have declared war against the Subterranean. We shall not allow it any longer! Once they hurt you, they hurt all of us! We all feel the pain!" exclaimed Elder Shigehisha, whose voice grew louder with every word.
"My students...what more can I do for them," said Elder Yusakuro with doubt. "Seijiro. Nagai. Rei. You have the power to take the Ruler down. The hopes of my students..." he dropped to the ground on his knees. He began to grab the dirt with his bare hands, scraping them against the floor. Crying, he felt obliged to place all the power he could into the three. "They are with you! Destroy the one who did this to them!" he screamed.
The tears made it hard for the three to refuse. They knew, in that crucial moment, the only warriors the Subterranean could turn to was them. Looking at each other with commitment, far denser than the losses that overcame Elder Yusakuro, their fearlessness and courage blew the door of defeat wide open.
"We will, Elder," said Rei with his fist clenched and raised in the air.
"It's just a tale of revenge, again. Stop it. If he comes my way, then I will not hesitate to stop him. Do not make it about vengeance, Elders. This is about justice. That is what I will bring to him if he wishes to appear again. Nagai. Rei. Do what you wish." Seijiro spoke firmly, without moving to adjust his ideology or creating an exception.
"Yeah. I'll stay here and protect you all. Yeah! Yeah! That's what I'll do!" Nagai said with hope.
"We will send more fighters to protect this area. Never has this happened. Bases in the forest and watchtowers will be constructed using our funding. Worry not, students. We will keep you all safe." said Shigehisha Miyokawa.
Thus, Rei was invigorated by the presence of two notorious figures. Feeling like the weight of the situation was now dispersed amongst the shoulders of many he could trust, Rei's goal was far more lucid than what the night was to the day. The absent sensation of camaraderie remained temporary, and he gained a new motive to judge the hands that burnt his world.