Chapter 21:

Vol 1: Ch 20: The Test

Realms of Destiny

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“Kumichou’s got a test for ya kid.” Said Mejji to Kurogane. She had been on-edge since she came out of her meeting and was eyeing Kurogane worriedly. She had both her hands on his shoulders, looking him in the eyes, holding him firmly. If she wasn’t so much of a stranger to him he would’ve thought that she was trying to reassure him or something. “how’s ya fightin?”Bookmark here

“My fighting skills?” he raised an eyebrow at this unusual behaviour. “I’m pretty confident, why?” He wasn’t lying. Well, after what he did to his entire dojo, he really had no doubt about his ability to fight. However, he was a little worried. What if I lose control again and killed these people too? “I…don’t think I want to fight anyone here though.”Bookmark here

“Ya don’t have a choice kid.” Said Mejji, she was dragging him by the hand along the dimly lit corridor to a wing he had never been to before. There was a door which she unlocked with one of the keys she produced from her sleeves, it opened into a dark staircase. She clicked a switch on the wall and a few lights blinked into existence. Kurogane was rather intrigued and curious about this unnatural white light but paid it no mind as Mejji seemed to be in a bit of a hurry to get him to the bottom of the stairs.Bookmark here

After about two stories there was another set of double doors. The purple-haired woman pushed the doors open into a brightly lit room. Kurogane had to shield his eyes, but Mejji seemed fine with her square-glasses whose lenses have now turned dark in the presence of bright light. When his eyes became accustomed to the brightness he could see that he was in an empty space surrounded by seats. Like a sumo ring. On the seats were various Shadow Hands members, some of whom he had seen around before, while others he had never met. They all wore the black haori of the Shadow Hands.Bookmark here

Mejji led Kurogane to the centre of ring and left him there; herself, joining the Kumichou on the special boxed seat directly opposite the entrance. Murayama Shohei properly looked at the boy for the first time. He noticed that the boy was staring back at him with the same defiant eyes as the fiendish demon dog did. There was no fear, but at the same time, no recognition. Those red eyes he recognized immediately as those that belonged to a Rathnor. The red hair was cut short, slightly messy. The Shadow Hands’ leader’s eyes travelled below the boy’s head towards his chest.Bookmark here

As Mejji had told him, there was a red heartgem, rare. By enhancing his Rathnorian senses, Shohei focused his sight to that gem and realized with a sudden shock that it was swirling with essences of flames and earth. Red-hair, red-eyes, two elements…The Shadow Prince!? His hypothesis was confirmed when he looked closer and saw Kurogane’s black birth-marks. Murayama didn’t know how or why the Shadow Prince was here in his Realm. But the Kumichou knew that something must have gone wrong as the Prince was entering the Realm because the boy didn’t seem to realize that he was a Rathnor.Bookmark here

The Kumichou now knew why his demon dogs were so easily shred to pieces by Kurogane’s own ones and now felt his own confidence come back from the moment that dog had given him a killing stare. He doesn’t recognize me, and if what Mejji says is true, if he really doesn’t know he’s a Rathnor…I can make use of the Shadow Prince’s powers. His eyes sparkled with greed.Bookmark here

“Mejji here tells me you’re special, kid. Give me a reason to keep you under my roof.” Said the red-eyed man.Bookmark here

“Well I—“ Kurogane began, but before he could come up with a good enough reason for them to keep him, which he couldn’t, Shohei grabbed his own wakazashi and threw it down at the boy. Kurogane caught it on reflex.Bookmark here

“Prove it with your skills.” Said Kumichou. He held up his right hand and snapped his fingers. At his signal, there was a loud clang and sounds of gates being rolled up. Out of the shadows walked one…two…three black akita dogs, eyes red, hackles raised, saliva dripping and the air crackling with electricity.Bookmark here

Kurogane had never seen the like. He wasn’t sure what it was that he was facing, but these were no ordinary dogs. He looked back up at the Kumichou and Mejji, Mejji looked worried, as though staring at him for the last time; Shohei though was watching the boy’s reaction closely. He was confident now that Kurogane hadn’t a clue he was Rathnor. With a smile, Shohei twigged a finger and before he knew what he was doing, Kurogane had on reflex drawn his sword just in time to parry an attack by one of the dogs.Bookmark here

The beast had thrown itself at him with such speed that he could barely react to its movements from the other end of the ring. The boy held the dog at bay with the sword in its mouth. The dog was trying to chew through the sword, but this blade must have been special for despite the sharp demonic teeth, the blade stayed strong and intact. The demon dog was clawing at him and trying to chew through the sword, itself cutting into the top of the dog’s mouth, though it didn’t seem to notice.Bookmark here

Kurogane gave a push with his arms and kicked his opponent away. Adrenaline pumping, he quickly stood up and unsheathed the wakazashi completely. It was a little heavy compared to the wooden sword he was used to. However, he threw it from one hand to the other, testing its weight, swung it a few times until he was confident that he is familiar with its balance, assuming the Soratenshi no Ryu offensive stance, he was ready.Bookmark here

Kurogane stared his first attacker in the eyes, the dog recognized his challenge and pounced once again, at the boy, with a vicious growl. The other two dogs followed suit and all three dogs now launched themselves at the twelve-year-old. Kurogane plunged his sword into the ground and dragged it in an arc at top speed shouting “Tenshi no Maku (Angel’s Curtain)”, the dust curtain flew with slicing force towards the oncoming attackers. The attack didn’t seem to injure so much as irritate the demonic akita dogs, but that was sufficient distraction.Bookmark here

Gauging the positioning of each target from memory, Kurogane kicked himself off the ground into a no-handed cart-wheel and plunged his wakazashi into the spine of the dog in the centre, it gave a pain-filled yelp, followed by a loud thud. As he made the stab, Kurogane could feel a sudden shock travelling from the blade as though he had been electrocuted. He wasn’t sure what caused this but quickly created distance between himself and his remaining opponents in order to make sense of the situation.Bookmark here

As the dust cleared, the crowd could see the boy’s handy work. They gave a roaring cheer of excitement. Kurogane had never been praised for his skills before, no matter how well he did, and for a moment he actually felt happy that these thieves, murderers, and outlaws were applauding him. However, it was too soon to celebrate. He still had two remaining opponents and his sword-arm now feels slightly numb from the shock. He figured that it must have had something to do with the lightning that had been dancing around the black akita dogs. Bookmark here

Since the previous attack only involved a single arm, he still had another free hand that was not partially paralyzed. He placed his left hand on the sword handle once more and resumed a two-handed stance. Again the dogs attacked, one jumping for his throat, the other his ankles; each at a different angle of attack.Bookmark here

Kurogane picked his next target, the one going for his throat. It was in the air and therefore had restricted movement capabilities. He closed the distance between himself and his target, causing the ankle attack to miss. With a speedy swipe, he muttered “Tenshi no Muchi (Angel’s Whip)”, barely visible to the naked eye, he dashed across in the direction the demon dog was coming from, and sliced his target in two. His attack did not end there. He could already feel the shock coming. Pivoting on his right foot he tried his best to grasp the sword as tightly as he can in his numb hands. Bookmark here

By the time the remaining dog had come around from its failed attempt, Kurogane had already launched his final attack “Soratenshi no Yari (Sky Angel’s Lance)”. He threw the wakazashi spinning high into the air, the crowds’ eyes followed its movements. He jumped as the sword was making it descent, his small frame almost floating in slow motion. The dog looked slightly confused as its target disappeared and stood there looking from left to right. With a well-aimed kick at the butt-end of the sword handel, Kurogane sent the wakazashi flying towards its target like a lance of death. Sure enough, the sword impaled the demon dog where it stood.Bookmark here

There was three heartbeats of shocked silence, then the crowd roared and cheered in triumph. Kurogane landed on his feet, quite unharmed, though his arms are now both completely paralyzed. He is now confident that he had gained the respect and acceptance of the members of the Shadow Hands, but did he have the respect of the Kumichou? Kurogane looked up into the box. Mejji was staring at him with an expression of mixed relief and shock. She clearly never expected the boy to be able to fight one of those beasts, let alone three, and yet here he stood without so much as a scratch.Bookmark here

Shohei was too impressed he had forgotten the initial objective of this test. He was trying to test the Rathnorian powers of the Shadow Prince; he had expected Kurogane to be able to kill the dogs, but he did not expect him to do so without using his powers at all. He had to force him to do this though.Bookmark here

“Test ain’t over kid.” Said the leader of the Shadow Hands.Bookmark here

“What?” with that the dark-haired man raised his hand once more and snapped his fingers again. Another gate opened and a larger, fiery beast with crackling magma skin walked out. The crowd drew their breaths in anticipation. This apparition was new to them all, even Mejji did not expect her own boss to pull out this new monster that neither of them could control. She knew that her Kumichou could control the lightning demons but this apparition was a creation of Kurogane’s demonic blood. If anyone would be able to control it, it would have been him. However, the boy doesn’t seem to have a single clue as to his own capabilities and is now frantically looking for a way to fight this new opponent.Bookmark here

Kurogane grabbed the scabbard, which was closer to him than the wakazashi itself that poked through the lightning demon dog. He had not yet fully regained the feelings to his arms, but he could move them just a little now. He assumed the offensive stance. Without warning or order from Shohei this time around, the fire-demon attacked the boy with more speed and force than any of the other dogs ever did. The boy reacted just in time and failed to completely dodge the attack. The slight miss sent the attacking dog several paces in the other direction, but it did make a burning cut with its claws on his arm. The burning sensation raced through his body and his gem throbbed rapidly in his chest. Kurogane recognized the feeling well. It was what he felt every time before he gained his extra power and strength. When he injured his classmates, and before he killed them all. This time, however, he knew that he needed this power to defeat his foe. He allowed the heat to boil and, for the first time, welcomed his demonic powers.Bookmark here

The atmosphere became tense, and the room darkened. Shohei recognized the onset of Rathnor power of Darkness well and was amazed at the intensity of it all.Bookmark here

“Fear not who you are, and let it be your strength.” Kurogane could hear the voice of the mysterious red-headed figure in his dreams, saying in his head. Kurogane felt power well up within him, and he directed it towards the scabbard he had been holding in his hands. With this power, he was able to regain the feelings in his arms, and it strengthened the rest of his body. The fire demon attacked once more. Bookmark here

To the spectators save from Shohei, the following event would have been but a blur. However, to the two Rathnorians with heightened senses, the dog had slowed down massively. With six rapid slashes of his weapon, a technique Kurogane never remembered ever learning from Hakuda, the blunt scabbard sliced his opponent into 12 tiny pieces. A few seconds later, the atmosphere reverted to normal, and all the powers began to escape him. As the crowd applaud, the boy fell to his knees, slightly dizzy, like one would feel when blood escapes one’s head. Shohei gave a devious grin. As consciousness escaped Kurogane, he could see the Kumichou whispering something to Mejji.Bookmark here

“I want you to teach him everything he needs to know about his powers.”Bookmark here

“That kind of power could be dangerous…” Mejji began.Bookmark here

“I give you five years. Make him my strongest warrior.” With that, he stood up and left his spectator’s box, not giving her a chance to say anything. Mejji got off her box to retrieve her new task. She was beginning to like the boy, now he would just be turned into one of her subjects, like the dogs, a war machine to the Kumichou.Bookmark here

Well, she thought, there’s no time ta waste then is there?Bookmark here

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