Realms of Destiny
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Reina woke up at the smell of miso soup and grilled fish to find that she was by herself, snuggled warmly underneath the blanket that has been pulled up to her chin for her. The autumn air was especially chilly today and she didn’t want to get out of bed. However, the smell of warm food was so tempting that she found herself torn between the two. She allowed her eyes to open just a little and realized just then how late it was. Yesterday was a long and eventful day, she must have overslept. Her thoughts jumped then to their eccentric visitor who later got into a massive fight with Sousuke.
“Sousuke!” she thought out loud, as all the memories came rushing back. He was badly injured last night, and that’s probably him cooking in the kitchen. Though she had already taken care of his wounds he still shouldn’t be moving around so much.
As soon as that thought crossed her mind Reina found herself blushing to her ears at what happened afterwards. He must have heard her calling him, for not long after he heard her voice the door slid open and he poked his head into the doorway with a big smile on his face.
“You called?” her husband asked with such enthusiasm and energy that no one would have caught how injured he was the night before. “Good morning Rei-chan, had a good sleep?”
“G…good morning Sousuke. Yes, sleep was good. How are your injuries? I’m sorry I overslept, I should be helping you with breakfast.” She began, having the injured husband do chores is just disgraceful even in the ‘Reina’s book of wife duties’, which didn’t have that many wifely duties in it to begin with. Never mind him being her husband, her father would be angry even if it was just ‘Sousuke-sempai’. “Just give me a moment to get changed.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it, breakfast is pretty much ready, your father and Tora-kun are waiting in the living room, just go join them. I’ll meet you there.” That said, the door closed and she could hear him whistling a tune down the corridor as he returned to the kitchen to go about his business. She’d never seen Sousuke this happy before, their wedding day included. Having pondered the notion, it was probably because the whole speedy engagement followed by a next-day marriage hadn’t really quite sunk-in for her – or for him, for that matter.
Sousuke still felt like Hakuda Tensaburo’s ward, and Reina had always been out of reach for him, but after last night he actually caught up with the fact that this is all very real. Now, he is allowed to be truly happy without having to question his own worthiness.
Rei got out of bed and noticed suddenly that her clothes have already been brought out for her and placed beside her futon, they were her training kimono and hakkama which she likes to wear when she’s at home, nothing has changed. She quickly put on her clothes in hopes of being able to at the very least make it in time to help Sousuke carry the food out to the living room.
Sure enough, he was still putting food into their little bowls and plates and arranging them onto trays. She picked two completed sets up on each arm.
“I’m taking these.” Said Reina, as she made her way out the door.
“Wait! What are you doing?” Sousuke called out, seeing Reina with food trays on both arms. “I’ll take those out, don’t worry about it.” He assured her. “It’s my job. Let me do it.”
“What do you mean, ‘your job’? first of all, you’re injured;” she gestured with her eyes towards the visible cheek bandage she had put on him last night. “Secondly, I’m the wife remember?” To Rei’s satisfaction she could see for a fraction of a second his face change to one of surprise. However, that was swiftly replaced by a smile of adoration so warm Rei herself was taken aback. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
Sousuke finished filling the last bowl of rice and placed it in the other tray. He then walked to where Rei was still standing with the two trays. He walked so close that she thought he wasn’t going to stop, but when he was inches from her, he placed his hand underneath the trays and bend down to whisper softly into her left ear. “That’s all I ever wished for. Nothing else has to change.” He lifted the trays off her hands. “Nothing brings me more joy than to serve and protect you for the rest of my life.” He gave her a peck on the cheek before walking back towards the other two trays, stacking the two in his hands on top of those, then carrying them all as easily as he was able to hold his sword.
Even if you say that…Reina thought silently to herself. But she let it pass. He seemed in such high spirits he’ll never let her do anything. At least his injuries seemed to have healed quite well. She led the way into the living room, opening the doors so that Sousuke can carry the food in.
The dojo master already seemed to be in the middle of a serious conversation with their visitor. As soon as the newlyweds arrived, the mood lightened and both looked up with a smile. Tora and Chibiku, the dog sitting nice and snug in the boy’s arms, both eyed the food trays hungrily, licking their lips several times, the boy sniffing the aroma enthusiastically; not unlike the dog on his lap.
“Mmmmnn! I smell salted Sanma fish, miso soup, and marinade eggplant.” Tora listed the menu without fail. From his vantage point on the floor, it was impossible to see what were on the trays. Chibiku gave a bark communicating his agreement.
“That is one keen sense of smell you’ve got there Tora-kun.” Reina was impressed. She was also happy to see that the boy had recovered from last night and is no longer in a hostile mood. “And Chibi! You two seem all friendly today, that is very odd, considering how scared he was of you yesterday.” The entire Hakuda household knew full-well that Chibiku is not one who would forgive very easily, he was a very protective dog, especially of Reina and Sousuke who rescued him from the river six years ago.
“Oh, it was a misunderstanding. I explained it to him and he seems to understand.” Tora gave the dog a playful ruffle of his hair which was met by lots of tail-wagging and face-licking. “I also owe the two of you an apology. Sorry for ruining your wedding day. I was travelling for days without much rest, you could say I was a little… cranky.”
“Don’t worry about it, nothing was ruined.” Sousuke assured him with a smile, his eyes still on Reina. “….maybe the wedding kimono, but then again, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed. Also, it’s not like I’m going to need it again anytime soon.”
“How are your injuries? I know there were a few deep cuts. I really got to apologize to Reina-neesan. Sorry for wrecking part of your dojo and your husband.” He looked extremely meek, full of guilt. “But I’ve got to say, Sousuke-niisan, you’re really good! Aside from that Shadow Hand dude who attacked our dojo, you’ve got to be the strongest person I’ve ever fought. Hell! I even passed out! If you were a Shadow Hand member, I’d be dead.” Tora’s mismatched eyes shone as he talked about Sousuke and his fighting, it was clear that the boy truly enjoyed the fight even though he was dead serious when it happened.
“You flatter me Tora-kun. If I was your age, you’d crush me swift as anything.” Said Sousuke humbly.
“No way, you beat me yesterday and you didn’t even use your magic while I went all-out.” The boy argued as he bit off the top half of the fish he had, chewed it, then swallowed it bone-and-all. “Oh wait, you did use it once…” he continued eating, replaying the battle in his head. Before Reina could ask him to clarify what he said he had finished his bowl of rice. He held the bowl out and with puppy-dog eyes that pleaded silently if he could have another.
Sousuke happily filled Tora’s bowl, himself and his Master giving a chuckle at the boy’s appetite.
“My, kids these days, they sure do have a healthy appetite!” Hakuda laughed.
“Tora-kun, did you just say Magic?” Reina wasn’t sure she heard right. “What magic?”
Tora stopped eating and looked Reina straight into her gray eyes, then at her gem hanging from a necklace, then at her eyes again. He then turned to Sousuke, doing the same thing. He was met was a collective confused atmosphere from all in the room. After a moment of stunned silence he finally swallowed and spoke up.
“You’re saying you don’t know about your magic?” a coughing spasm caught him in his surprise and he had to hurriedly grab his tea cup and down it in one go, pounding his own chest to help the food go down. “Ahhh! HOT!”
Having followed Tora’s eye movements, both Reina and Sousuke brought out their gems and started looking at it anew. They both knew there was something special about the gem itself. It had a special meaning and connection to them both, and when staring hard enough into hers, Reina could sometimes see movements as though there were ice and wind dancing at its core. The same goes for Sousuke’s which had flickering flames in them.
“You guys didn’t honestly think you are ordinary humans did you?” Tora pressed on. Tora looked them both in the eyes and saw doubt.
Reina and Sousuke looked at each other. Sure, they both knew that they’re special, be it the eyes, the miraculous recovery speed, the strength, speed, and co-ordination, and the gems which seemed more a part of themselves than their very own arms. But magic?
“That move!” exclaimed Reina suddenly, taking both her father and Sousuke by surprise.
“Sousuke, the one you did last night, the flashy one. The technique I’ve never seen before. I thought I saw flames then as well.” Sousuke thought back to what he did the night before, and realized that he did indeed use a proper technique which he never remembered having ever learned. “Was that magic, Tora-kun?”
“Yea! That move! I thought you used that on purpose! It was a very effective combination of sword and magic. That’s why I thought you’ve known for a while, long enough to have been able to come up with a technique that goes with it so well.” Tora remembered excitedly. Despite having been very tired and worn then, the new technique got him really hyped up, and he remembered every detail of it. He suddenly stood up. “I think it goes kinda like this…”
Seeing what the boy was about to do, Sousuke quickly grabbed the boy before he could wreck the living room.
“Okay…some other time then. You’ve gotta teach it to me Sousuke-nii, I can teach you two to control your magic. This will be awesome! You’d make a formidable opponent, not that you’re not one already, but I really do love challenges. I don’t get a lot of them where I come from see…”
“Ahem!” Hakuda gave a cough. “the existence of magic does answer many questions, however, Reina and Sousuke here need to know why you’re here as the story you’ve just told me concerns us all. If you don’t mind Tora-kun, could you recap a little then continue with your story?”
“Oh right. Sorry, I went off-track. Yes. Well, at Chikyuutenshi my Master, your brother, has in his possession, as you probably know, one of the three Houchou Masamune tantos. It was an award of service given to Master Hakuda’s Master, and was passed onto Hakuda Tonitsuba as the senior student. Then about five days ago now, before I left Hiroshima, the Shadow Hands came and stole it from us.” Talking about it brought back painful memories, and Tora lost most of the spark in his eyes he had earlier when he was talking about magic and sword-fight. “In that attack, they also took with them the lives of half our bravest kenshis who stood up to resist.” Tora’s hands clenched into tight fists until they shook.
Reina wanted to go to him and comfort him. This was so much like what happened to them six years ago…when she lost all 39 of her fellow kenshis. She could see herself so clearly in him, she was even around the same age as him. Only, Tora saw it all happen. The memories came back and she found herself unable to move to him, she was shivering herself. Sousuke noticed this and put his hand on top of hers; this comforted her somewhat. “I was able to take out most of them,” 14-year-old continued without shedding a tear. “…but the leader. He was very strong. Very powerful….”
“So you knew it was the Shadow Hands.” Said Reina. “Then, what made you think we sent them?” She was confused. Though the two brothers, that is, her father and her uncle, were always competing against one another, to the point where they split up and started different styles; they were still brothers, and bear no hostility towards one another enough to hire a murderer.
“I recognized Soratenshi no Ryuu.” Said Tora simply, “and he used a very advanced Tenshi-syllabus technique as well. I was sure he would’ve been one of the top students here. Though, I gotta say it was wrong of me to assume that you had anything to do with it. Surely there must be many Soratenshi students - ”
“No, that’s impossible.” Reina interrupted him. “Sousuke and I are the only ones left.” At that, Sousuke turned towards her father, and they seemed to have exchanged invisible glances which she couldn’t place. “Unless, it is one of the older students who left before the incident.”
“You two are the only students who have ever reached the advanced syllabus.” Her father said.
“He didn’t seem that old. He covered his face, but from what I could see he’s probably the same as you, Reina-nee-san.” Said Tora. “What incident do you mean?”
“Uh..” Reina began, but was unable to say it. She hadn’t talked about it for so long, and talking about it now almost brought tears to her eyes.
“They were massacred.” Sousuke answered for her, he looked melancholic but in his eyes Tora saw anger. Tora’s eyes widened, he realized then, why he hadn’t seen any students since he arrived. “By the Shadow Hands.” He added, with a softer voice than before, with less weight in it. That was what he and his Master had told Reina, the one lie he would ever tell her.
The boy realized then, what the things he said the night before could’ve meant to Reina. That was why she was so furious at him. Something tightened in his stomach, he was wrecked with guilt.
“I’m sorry Reina-neesan. What I said last night…” he began.
“Don’t worry about it, you had your reasons.” Reina brushed it off.
“I will avenge them for you as soon as I get a hold of them!” he vowed, once again, as fierce as a tiger. He looked up at Reina and Sousuke. “The guy, he had magic too. But very powerful magic, dark, and evil magic, totally different to mine, or yours.” This was directed at Sousuke. “But he controlled it so much better.” He added grudgingly. This took everyone in the room by surprise and there was a visible startle from Sousuke.
Tora found this odd. The topic of magic must have been no news to them by now, and yet the three of them just realized something he did not know. The cause of this surprise did not come from the ‘magic’. The boy tried his best to read the expression on the faces in the room. He was wrong. Reina’s reaction was what he had expected, she seemed startled at the prospect of someone else with magic, but having met Tora, that surprise had less impact. But the reactions of Sousuke and Hakuda Tensaburou was akin to…panic? Reina realized this too, that her father and husband knew something she did not.
“Do you two know who this person may be?” she asked Sousuke. She trusted both of them to tell the truth, but if one of them were to keep a secret from her, Sousuke was more likely to tell her the truth. She had her hypothesis, but she just needed confirmation. Tora watched intently as the mystery unfolded before his eyes. Sousuke tried to avert eye-contact and looked down nervously. Seeing no one was about to elaborate anything further, Tora continued to describe the perpetrator so that perhaps Reina would recognize him too.
“He’s not very easy to miss. He wore a gray scarf, and had bright red hair.” That description did the trick. Reina’s eyes widened.
“But how can that be? Kuro-kun….”
“Is dead.” Said Sousuke with conviction. “With everyone else.” His eyes moved out to the yard where wooden planks with student names on them were lined up. Hakuda nodded in agreement.
“Did he have a gem?” Reina asked the boy to make sure. “Around here, embedded in his chest.” She pointed to her own, indicating what she remembered of Kurogane’s red gem.
“None that I could see, but then again, it may have been under his clothing.” Replied Tora, trying to remember. Tora knew that these people had nothing to do with the attack on his dojo, but they clearly knew something. Perhaps he could try to catch Sousuke on his own when Reina is not around.
There seems to be a secret the two men thought better to keep from her. Pressing for it now would only cause a family conflict. He’s already ruined their wedding day. And have probably kick-started distrust in their wedding life. Now he had to get himself out of this mess. “Well, knowing you have nothing to do with the attack on my dojo, I’ll probably be leaving soon. Perhaps if I follow signs of the Shadow Hands, I may be able to catch them soon. Thanks for the meal.” He stood up to get ready to move out.
“Let me come with you.” To everyone’s surprise, this was Reina. “I need to clarify something.” She gave both her father and Sousuke a hurt look, knowing full well she’s being left in the dark about something, and how determined they were in keeping it from her.
“No. You’re staying here with your father.” Sousuke forbade her in all seriousness, something he’d never done before. “I’ll go. I’m sure you’ll find me helpful in fighting your opponent Tora-kun. And Rei, I’ll avenge our friends for you.” Rei hadn’t thought anything about ‘avenging’ anyone, but Sousuke seemed intent on this, she could even see it in his eyes. He was in a bad mood and is no longer smiling. She could see the struggle that was going on inside him and being made to confirm a lie he’d spun to deceive her pained him greatly. But she had no sympathy for him just then, they were keeping the truth from her after all.
“I’m coming whether you like it or not.” She insisted, walking towards her katana, leaning in the corner of the room. “I’m gonna go pack.”
“I forbid you to go.” This was the first time he had ever issued a command to his ojousama. As her husband, he did have that right. However, Reina was in no mood to be a dutiful wife now. Tora and Chibiku watched the exchange in silence, the boy seem to be trying his best to as invisible as possible, dreading the outcome of what he had caused.
“You said so yourself: ‘nothing has to change’.” She quoted his words back at him. “If you want me to stay, you’ll have to make me.” She picked up Sousuke’s sword which was leaning against the wall next to hers, threw it at him as she turned to face him. Sousuke caught it on reflex. But when he looked at her she had walked out of the living room into the dojo, the evidence from yesterday’s fight still present, then drew her sword.
“Reina, you can’t be serious.” He began, getting up to talk to her properly. But he stopped short as his eyes found hers. They were blazing gold.
“Oh, believe me, I am dead serious.”