Realms of Destiny
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“Haahhh! Finally we’ll get to eat nabe with some decent beef tonight!” Rei cried, stretching her arms out in triumph, and folding them over her head. “I told you that the lady said today’s a special discount day, didn’t I sempai?”
“I never said I doubted you Rei-sama.” Sousuke said, smiling at his master’s daughter, both hands busy carrying today’s shopping. He was glad that he could see her smile.
Rei is a positive person on the whole, but when she’s happy, he could really feel the atmosphere lift wherever she goes, as though a new refreshing breeze just blew in. The way her smile reached her beautiful grey eyes each time reminded him of the liveliness of rain clouds before a thunder storm. Rei noticed the heavy grocery he was carrying and offered to help.
“Here, let me help some.” She held out her hands. “I have more arm strength than I look you know, you’ve seen me training.”
“You shouldn’t, you are injured.” Protested Sousuke, referring to her broken ribs that nearly caused her to drown yesterday.
“I’m fine now, honest.” She said, and as though to emphasize the point she swung her arms around, ran forward, did a cartwheel, and ran back to him. “See? I have amazing recovery!” This is true, no matter the injury, a night’s rest usually does it. Sousuke did not know how or why it happens, but it is also the same case for him.
“It’s alright. Besides, what would people say if I let a little girl carry grocery for me who’s bigger and taller?” He asked with a smile. Rei looked offended at the mention of the word “little”. She had been in a rebellious stage lately, and had just had her growth spurt. However, the sixteen-year-old is and had always been taller than her, and it was not something she could argue against. He enjoyed teasing her about this touchy spot, and she knows that he is just having fun. However, she was determined to come up with a retort to that.
“W..Well, I’m not exactly carrying it for you. It’s my dinner too, so I’m carrying it for myself. HA!” She pointed out, placing herself in his way to prevent him from walking any further. “So I suggest you hand them over now before I set the police on you for theft.” She made a grab at one of the bags he was holding. Sousuke quickly moved it over his head away from her reach, causing her to stumble slightly, losing her balance.
“You do realize we’re almost home right?” He asked, still trying to avoid her waving hand as she pounced from side to side trying to get the grocery. At that she stopped jumping and looked around.
“You’re right. We are quite close.” She looked around, confused, and cocked her head to one side. “Although, it’s not lunch break yet, it’s unusually quiet don’t you think?”
Sousuke noticed this too and listened carefully. The dojo was only around the corner, and the garden is just on the other side of the wall they were walking along the side of. Something’s not right.
“Is it just me or does it stink a bit? What is that smell?” Rei commented, not quite able to place a name to the unusual smell, it partly smelled like they were in the market again, but there’s something different.
“That smell..!” With a flash of recognition, Rei saw Sousuke’s green eyes widen in surprise. And in that handsome face, she could see, what was that? Fear? He dropped everything in his hands and dashed off before Rei could even say ‘Hey!’. He turned the corner and saw that just halfway up the street, the dojo’s front gate was open wide. He could see some red marks on the ground from a distance. The boy quickly ran over to the gate, through it, straight to the main training hall where he had left his juniors training.
What he saw before his eyes, explained all the unusual silence, as well as the smell that he recognized. Sousuke felt as though his heart just dropped to the pit of his stomach, and he felt sick. Before he could say or do anything however, he could hear Rei’s voice from the front gate.
“What was that about sempai? So much for not letting the little lady carry the grocery!” She had moved up to him, panting from running with the grocery in order to catch up with him. “What? You have no re—“
“DON’T LOOK!” Before Rei knew what was going on, Sousuke had grabbed hold of her with one hand, pulling her towards him, and the other, blocking her sight. The movement was so sudden that she dropped the grocery bag.
“Wha..what is it? Look what you made me do?” Rei was surprised, and slightly panicked. “Sousuke let go!” His grip was actually getting painful. However, it did not loosen and she could feel him shaking uncontrollably next to her. She could feel the strength in his arms and body as he held her to him as though she was the only solid substance in the world and he was holding on to it desperately. “Sousuke, you’re hurting me..” She tried to wiggle free, using both her hands to try to remove his fingers.
“D..on’t..” Rei could hear his voice break as he held her and sobbed. He was trying his best to prevent her from seeing what it was that he saw, but she could feel his energy rapidly draining. Rei was confused, very confused. What in the world is going on? First the silence, the smell, then this unusual behaviour by Sousuke, who had never so much as allowed anyone’s hair to fall on her, let alone hurt her physically like this. The strong and gentle Sousuke-sempai is so terribly shaken and at a loss for words. She pried his hands lose and between those fingers she saw what she would later think was a nightmare.
‘Massacre’, would have been the most appropriate word anyone could place at that moment. All her father’s students, her friends, in her home. It was almost an unearthly sight. There was not much that Rei could take in before she passed out in Sousuke’s arms. The boy suddenly realized that she had passed out and was in a panic.
“Reina!” He shooked her, but she was out cold. Worried, he looked around for any survivors. As he was scanning the blood-covered dojo he heard a familiar sound from a corner. It was Rei’s father. “Master!” Sousuke gently but quickly put Rei down on the dojo floor and hurried to Hakuda who was still moving. “Master, hang in there!” Sousuke knelt down by his master and put his master’s head on his knee.
“Sou..ske?” The word came from his master. Lying on the floor, weak, but alive.
“Yes, it’s me sir. What’s going on? What happened?” Hakuda coughed up blood before attempting to speak again.
“Wait! You need a doctor! I’ll call help!” The boy made a move but was stopped as the man grabbed his arm, with enough strength to hold him back.
“I’m…fine…listen.” Each word came painfully, but Hakuda was so determined to tell his student this piece of information that Sousuke did not dare move an inch. “Where is Rei?”
“She’s passed out by the door sir.” He noticed now that his master did not see his daughter, and on further inspection, that he could not see anything at all. “She’s unharmed..but..everyone else..Who did this?”
“Listen to me…Kuro..gane…did this.”
“Kuro..What? It can’t be!” He looked around in disbelief. Kurogane was nowhere to be seen.
”How could he…I know he’s good but it’s just not possible for a 12 year old to do something like this!”
“I..don’t know how he did it. But he did. When..I…got here…” Hakuda was breathing heavily, but he had been through worse on the battlefields so Sousuke listened on as he explained. “Everyone was already…and Kurogane…he was holding his sword…and he did..this..to me.” He took a break and panted for a while before continuing. Sousuke was overcome with grief and confusion, but there is no reason that his master would lie, and that made him angry, at Kurogane, and at himself for not being there for…everyone.
“Kurogane damn him!” He tried to get up. “Master! I’ll find you a doctor then I’m gonna go after him, he couldn’t have gone far!”
“No!” Hakuda grabbed his student. “You can’t go after him.”
“I can fight him!” Sousuke cried. “I can bring him back by force!”
“You will get killed…there’s something.. different about him. Like he was possessed by a demon. You can’t go after him now.” There was another coughing fit with a lot of blood. “Listen… you can’t tell anyone, especially Rei..that he did this.”
“What?” This added to his confusion. “If he actually did this, the kid is a mass murderer! He needs to be stopped!”
“Do you want him to kill more people?” Suddenly it became clear to Sousuke that his master was as shocked about this whole situation as he was. Kurogane may have been a strong-willed, and slightly violent child, but he was a student here nonetheless, and if anything, everyone here was his classmate. It was not only painful to imagine but to think that one raised a mass murderer was a painful thought for Hakuda Tensaburo right now.
“Rei will already be shattered..after this incident… she wouldn’t be able to handle that kind of betrayal from Kurogane.” Said Hakuda. “If she knows that it’s him, she will try to find him…you can’t let her!” Sousuke finally understood why his master was being like this. He wanted to protect the only thing he had left: them. “You must…lie.” With that, Tensaburo passed out.
Sousuke slowly carried the unconscious body of his master to the room next door where there were tatami mats. He moved the unconscious Rei to the same location before returning to the crime scene to inspect it further.
Sousuke was an honest young man, but given the situation and his master’s wishes, he’s going to have to lie to protect Rei. As the green-eyed boy looked around, he realized what great damage Kuro had allegedly caused.
This was no ordinary murder. All the real swords mounted on the dojo wall were in their places. His master also said that Kuro was holding his sword, which is a wooden bokken. But there was blood everywhere…how is this even possible? Though the scene was covered in red, he could see that some bodies had no cuts on them. However, the faces of the corpses looked like they were in so much suffering and pain, eyes rolled, figure contorted, one he had never seen before. He could also see that the wooden swords gripped tightly in some of the older students’ hands, those who tried to fight, have been burned to a charred stump, yet there were no burnt marks on the dojo floor; All forty-three of his lower classmen, the entirety of Soratenshi no Ryu dojo, dead.
Aside from Sousuke, Rei, and her father master, not a shred of soul remained. With hot tears running down his cheeks. With a final woeful glance towards bloody footsteps that led outside the gates towards the left, the footsteps of the murderer, the shattered youth turned towards his remaining ‘family’ and proceeded to tend to his master’s injuries.