Chapter 19:

Vol 1: Ch 18: Fear

Realms of Destiny

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Kurogane felt ill, very ill. He felt nauseous from the scene he had just witnessed, the crime he had committed. The smell of blood was thick, it lingered in his nose and at the forefront of his mind. His hands and clothes stained red with blood, none of which were his. He still had a tight grip on his bokken, the murder weapon, he wasn’t able to release it; as a matter of fact, he wasn’t able to do anything save from run as fast as he could for as far as he could from the dojo and now he was so exhausted that he was dragging his feet and his sword, holding onto his consciousness. He finally collapsed and succumbed to oblivion as exhaustion overtook him.

Once again he was surrounded by phantasms. “No, not now, I can’t handle this right now!” he squeezed his eyes tight, covering his ears in a vain attempt to try to dream them all away.

“Can’t handle? You’re running after what you’ve done to us, Demon?” It was the voice of Ryoji. Kurogane immediately opened his eyes as he recognized the voice and looked up. He could see that the boy had the same look of disdain on his face as he did just yesterday when he refused to fight Kurogane.

“No…What are you doing here?” all the faces of the previous nights when he had seen these phantasms had been different, however, never once had he recognized any of them, and yet now, as he looked to the next phantasm beside Ryoji he recognized one, two, and another... He recognized all fourty-three of his classmates whom he’s just murdered. A lot of them looked angry, like Ryoji; some look like they were in pain, but do not know what the source of such pain was; while others just looked confused and lost.

“You put us here remember?” Said Kenta, another classmate two years older than him. “You killed all of us!”

“How could I? All I had was a wooden sword!” Kurogane shouted back with defiance. It was true. He thought back now and could remember exactly what had happened, fresh in his mind. Ryoji had provoked him again and this time Reina and Sousuke were both out. After much effort of holding in his anger, his gem had throbbed with demonic power and as he attacked the older boy with the bokken he could feel the sharpness of his powers slice through Ryoji’s back, and his warm blood spraying the dojo. 

The shock from the blood had sent him into a frenzy, he watched then, in horror, as the life drained from his enemy and the boy’s soul left its vessel and was sucked towards Kurogane. The soul entered his wing-shaped birthmark and he remembered the mark itself flashing red and extending down the right side of his body towards his waist. He felt then uncontrollable power flow from him, and in a massive blast, took the lives of everyone else. All he could do was watch as one by one his classmates were consumed by dark flames that burned them yet did nothing to the dojo floor, just for coming close to him. His master had walked in on the incident, but due to his safe distance was merely hit by the aftershock. Kurogane hoped then to god that he did not kill his master as well.

“Whatever you are doing Kurogane-kun, please stop, please let us go..” Said Tobi, who was the eldest among them. Tobi-sempai had always treated Kurogane the same way that Sousuke did. Kurogane haven’t a clue what he had done to his classmates, apparently, he had trapped them, like he did the other phantasms who have haunted him his whole life. He is making them suffer, and he didn’t know what to do or how to let them go free.

“I can’t.” said Kurogane to them as he backed slowly away from the masses of angry soulless stares of his classmates.

“You can’t…or you won’t? Murderer!! ” Ryoji lunged at him but went straight through. However, Kurogane could feel an unearthly chill as the two would’ve made contact, and it felt as though his life was being drained as this happened. Ryoji was joined by the rest of his angry classmates. 

Kurogane looked desperately around for the light which would usually save him from such nightmares. Although this time it was scarier because his dead classmates were there to haunt him, it is still just a dream and he will find that light, surely, that light will save him. There was no light - not this time. 

“Rei-chan’s not gonna save you this time, DEMON!”

Rei…Kurogane called for her in his heart. Of course, why would she save me now? He waved his arm as he backed away as fast as he could towards the oncoming wave of phantasms, but as he backed up he ran into yet more wispy limbs. Just as he thought that he would actually end up losing and succumbing to the angry and grudge-filled wave of phantasms there was a flash of dark light that was darker than the darkness in which he was in. The phantasms backed away the same way they did when he found the Light, but in fear.

The dark flash only lasted a moment and, before he knew it, Kurogane was looking upon the black wings of a figure he had never seen before, yet felt so familiar to him. The man, or whatever he was, standing before him had black bat-like wings and a long tail, resembling a whip with a sharp pointed tip. The figure had pointed ears, his red hair, cut short on top with a long tail that came halfway down his back was flowing in the breeze that Kurogane could not feel. From his vantage point on the ground, as he had fallen over on his bottom earlier, he could see this tall man in full armour. The armour was of a design Kurogane had never seen before, it was a rusty red colour, though most of the figure’s clothing were black. The figure wore a black cape and a circlet upon his head. He stood straight and proud, with a regal air about him. 

All the phantasms backed away and bowed in servitude, as though he was their master, and all he had to do, as far as the boy could see, was merely to stare at them. Kurogane tried to move around so that he could see the face of the person who saved him, but the figure, sensing what he was doing, half-turned and with garnet-red eyes, the exact same colours as the boy’s, pierced him with a single gaze. Kurogane could feel himself being read to the very depth of his soul, judged, and found wanted. 

The figure turned his head away again and spoke to him. “Get up." the figure said, "remember who you are.”

“Who are you?” Kurogane asked.

“Get up.” The figure repeated. The boy got up as he was told.

“Who are you? Tell me. Why did you save me?” He asked again, as he reached up to grab the figure’s armoured arm.

“You tell me.” Said the figure, and before Kurogane could react, he swiftly turned and grabbed the boy’s head with his gauntleted hand, pushing him to consciousness.

Kurogane’s eyes flew open.

“Whoa!” exclaimed a stranger who he never met before but, based on her reaction she must have been staring at him, as she gave a little jump. He did not know where he was but he noticed that his hands and feet were bound tight. He struggled violently. “Easy kid! Ya’ll fall off the table if ya keep doin that. Just answer a few questions and I’ll let ya go.”

“Who are you? What do you want with me?” asked Kurogane. He looked around and found that he was in a dimly lit room with no windows, and an eerie white light. His captor seemed rather unusual, she was smoking a strange looking pipe, it had a thin short tube, short compared to any normal pipe he’d ever seen, and seemed to burn itself out quite rapidly. The woman wore loose men’s clothing, wrapping her chest up with cotton bandages, had short cut spikey hair dyed an unusual purple colour, she wore unusual rectangular-shaped sunglasses and talked like a man.

“One of ma bros picked ya off the street a day ago and kinda left ya in my care that’s all. Hope ya didn’t mind, I kinda had to change ya, the blood on ya clothes were beginnin to stink.” As she saw Kurogane’s eyes widen, the woman gave him a reassuring smile and continued. “Dontcha worry kid, nobody here cares what ya did. We won’t reportcha.”

“But…why?” Kurogane asked.

“Them copper and us…” she lowered her sunglasses to look at him with her dark brown eyes. “we ain’t friends.” said the woman matter-of-factly. “Alright, if ya promise ya won’t do nethin stupid like tryin to run away or break stuff, I’ll letcha go.”

“I won’t.” Kurogane assured her, before adding more to himself, “It’s not like I have anywhere to run to.” The short-haired woman must have caught that last comment because he could see her smile briefly.

“Swell.” She motioned with her hands for Kurogane to turn around and with a short flick of her wrist, she summoned a knife as though out of thin air and sliced through his bonds with skill and precision. “So, whatcha name kid?”

“Shindou…Shindou Kurogane.” Said the boy. He felt bad using the name Reina gave him after the betrayal he’d done to the Soratenshi no Ryu dojo, but the name just found its way out of his mouth before he could stop it.

“Just call me Mejji, everyone calls me that.” She was offering to lower him onto the ground from the table he was sitting on, but Kurogane jumped down by himself.

“Ya’re one interestin kid ya know. Got some impressive tattooin goin on there, how’d ya get that gem ta stick?” She gave a suggestive look. Suddenly self-conscious, Kurogane grabbed the collar of the kimono he was wearing and pulled it up higher, however, it did not successfully cover the gem lodged in his chest, and the extended birthmark can also be seen. “Chill kid. I still like mine better.” She removed her loose man kimono from her shoulders and flashed her back at him. Up to the cotton bandages that came up to her mid-back, he could see a massive dragon-shaped tattoo which covered her entire shoulder, it starts at the base of her neck, extending down under the bandages. 

Kurogane was impressed with the skill and effort someone must have had to go through to put that design on, he had actually never seen a tattoo like that before. This woman clearly thinks that his birthmark is a tattoo as well; perhaps he should let her keep thinking that in order to not draw attention to himself.

“I..I don’t know how my late father did it.” He lied. The woman raised an eyebrow but seemed to have accepted the explanation. “He’s dead.” He added so that she would drop the conversation.

“Oh. Well, if ya’ll follow me we can get outta this blasted room. It’s kinda stuffy in here.” She lead him out the door, based on the sound that it made, it looked like it was made of solid metal, and had an unusual knob on it, not like any ordinary Japanese-style sliding panel. Now that he come to think of it, there is something very foreign about his surroundings. The door opened up into an equally dimly-lit long corridor which echoed as they walked down it. Fearless as he was with everything in his waking life, he couldn’t help but feel slightly creeped out by all this.

“So ya hungry Shindou?” Mejji asked, breaking the echoing silence.

“I’m fine thanks, I don’t feel like eating right now.” His stomach growled in disagreement.

“Ya sure?” asked Mejji, giving him a knowing smile behind her sunglasses.

“Maybe a little.” Said Kurogane, he probably hadn’t had anything to eat since the morning the day before, whatever time it is.

“Alrighty then, I’ll tell Maa-san you’re joinin us for food, and introduce ya to da gang.” Kurogane stopped and watched Mejji from behind as her black haori flapped behind her.
“…gang?” he could see a single letter enclosed within an intricately designed hexagon; The kanji for “Kage”, meaning “shadow”.

“Yup. Kumichou is out for da next few days, so ya can enjoy ya stay here while he’s gone. Noone will do anything to ya without his permission. That’s da Code.” Said Mejji.

“I see.” Said Kurogane, wondering what he’d gotten himself into. From the sound of things, he thought he had landed himself in some criminal organization with all the ‘gang’ and ‘kumichou (Godfather)’ and ‘code’. Well, I guess it’s fitting then…I’m a mass murderer after all. This was a bitter comment to himself more than anything else. 

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