Chapter 29:

Vol 1: Ch 28: More Lies

Realms of Destiny


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Kurogane strode purposefully down the two rows of Shadow Hands members who have come out to welcome him. His haori billowed in the breeze, his grey scarf he had around his neck doing the same; both were tattered by battle and stained by blood. The half mask that covered the lower part of his face was pulled down, revealing a dried wound on his left cheek. At the end of the row stood Mejji, her purple hair as short as it was the day he arrived six years ago, but now with a row of blue down the centre, a new experiment.

“Welcome back Kurogane-kun, what happened to ya? Where’s da rest of ya group?” she asked the young man as he approached. He didn’t stop walking and merely answered in passing.

“I’ll explain it to Kumichou right now, you can hear it if you follow me.” She could feel, and almost see, the aura of annoyance emanating from him like heat waves on a hot day.

“Did ya fail?” she dared ask. Kurogane fixed her with a burning stare.

“No.” was the short reply. He did not say anything else. He wouldn’t hit her, she knew, though he could’ve by right; Kurogane would never hit anyone in the Gumi unless he was specifically ordered to by the Kumichou himself.

As was ordered, Mejji had trained him, with the help of the Kumichou, to become the ultimate weapon for the Shadow Hands, the deadliest one it had ever had or will ever have. All the members, and those who are unfortunate enough to come into contact with the gang, fear and respect Shindou Kurogane, not without reason. He wore the nick name “Demon” once again, but proudly now, for what he did, not what he is; though the latter may still hold true. Kurogane didn’t mind as much though, for the old name made new are now being whispered with reverence, respect, and fear, as opposed to simply fear and hatred. However, to his face, they all called him ‘Waka’ or ‘Young Master’.

Six years ago, he could remember clearly when it all happened. He had woken up in one of the bedrooms on the ground level of the main house. Mejji was beside him, and the Kumichou walked into the room. They asked him a few questions regarding where he came from and all that which he answered the same way he did, saying he’d forgotten in order to protect whatever’s left of his old home. Murayama didn’t seem to mind that answer at all, saying it mattered not. They discussed about his powers, and when he said he didn’t know how he got them, just knew that he was cursed with them for as long as he remembered, the Kumichou just laughed.

“Your powers aren’t a curse son, it is a gift for the chosen.” The familiarity had caught him by surprise. The man who didn’t so much as look at him when he first saw him is now addressing him as ‘son’. That odd behavior became clear very soon. The next thing he knew, the leader of the Shadow Hands was claiming Kurogane was his long lost son, pointing to their red eyes as proof. He then lifted his headband to reveal a yellow gem, embedded as firmly into his skull as his was on his chest. Murayama told him that he would tell the whole gang of this new discovery as soon as that evening, and from then on, he shall be trained by the Kumichou himself and by Mejji, his most trusted advisor, on how to control his powers.

Back then, Kurogane didn’t know what to make of it. Everything changed in a matter of days. He went from an orphan ward of a swords master, to a mass murderer, and now an heir to the biggest crime organization in Japan. Kurogane didn’t seem convinced at first, but knowing now for sure that the boy had no idea he was Rathnorian, Murayama spun the lie with even more flare and creativity, describing his mother in such vivid detail that it made him believe she was real. His ‘father’ then promised him the Shadow Hands, and the rest of Japan, that they would rule together as father and son.

From then on, every day for two hours, if the Kumichou was about, he would teach his son how to tap into his powers. Murayama Shohei, taught him everything he knew, holding nothing back. For six years he’d been praised on how fast he could pick up everything and his father held nothing from him, unlike Hakuda Tensaburou. Kurogane believed then, as he believes now he had found his home at last. All the members were ‘honoured’ when he sparred with them. With his improved ability to control his strength and powers, he hurt them less than he did his fellow students, but even if he did, the cutthroats, thieves, and murderers of the Shadow Hands wore whatever wound, bruise, or broken limb he gave them proudly like a badge of honour.

His training had progressed for a year before he was first given a mission, to steal a certain named sword for his father’s smuggling operation. It had gone swimmingly, and from then on for the next five years, he had been doing just that. With his help, the operation progressed more successfully than it ever did, and the Shadow Hands itself gained even more members; it even gained support from certain corrupted factions of the peace-keeping police force. Today, however, he would have to explain to the Kumichou how he managed to lose five of his ‘brothers’ fighting an opponent who looked like a twelve-year-old.

When the door was opened for him by two doormen, he could see the leader half-reclining on his easy chair, a pipe in one hand, a sake cup in another, and two geishas fawning over him in expensive kimonos. Kurogane took three steps past the doorway and went down on one knee, producing the stolen Musamune blade from one of his sleeves and presented it to the Kumichou. Murayama made a gesture to Mejji, who then picked the tanto up and took it to him. He inspected it with a critical eye, unsheathing the blade, and placing his finger on the sharp edge, not flinching even where it had cut him as soon as he made contact.

“Well done.” He said to his son. “Put it with the others.” He handed it to one of his lackeys, a young teenager about the age of fourteen, who took it with care and left the room by a side door. When the boy left, he gestured for all to leave save for himself, his son, and his second-in-command. “So the Chikyuutenshi kenshis were as vicious a bunch as the rumors said they were? Tell me how you killed ‘The Tiger’.” he smiled deviously.

The Houchou Masamune was the last Murayama had to collect in the south and it had taken him three attempts; the first was a year ago, none of the members he sent ever returned. The same happened during the second attempt. He had left them till last, and now he sent his best fighter. As expected of his weapon, he came back triumphant, and the sword is his.

“Forgive me Kumichou, I could not prevent the Tiger from killing my brothers…” said Kurogane apologetically. He could still feel the loss, the Shadow Hands had become his brothers now, and some of the ones who died had exchanged friendly blows with him before. He even knew them by name.

“A small price.” said the Kumichou dismissively. “Now tell me how you killed the Tiger.” This would make a good story the next time he met up with the other heads of other gangs. He may even be able to make some of them agree to serve under the Shadow Hands. In his hunger for stories of battle, Murayama had forgotten that he was supposed to put up the well-respected Kumichou front who cared for his ‘brothers’.

“A small price? Five of our brothers got killed!” Kurogane couldn’t believe what he was hearing. This place had become somewhat of a home to him and though the members quarreled and fought among themselves often, at the end of the day they would dine together and share bottles of sake. They were brothers and each of them swore in front of the Kumichou, with their blood, on the day they joined. 

Six years with the Shadow Hands may have turned Kurogane into a skilled assassin, fighter, thief, or whatever else his father had him be, but the one thing that changed in the opposite direction was how much he had come to love and care for his ‘brothers’ the way he never felt for any of his Soratenshi classmates who feared him. The only exceptions were of course Reina and Sousuke but he knew that even Sousuke feared him at times and disagreed with his methods as well.

“Yes, yes. We will drink in their honour and pour sake over their graves.”

“I didn’t kill the Tiger.” Was all Kurogane said. From the look on the Kumichou’s face he could see that this displeased him. But the youth thought he deserved it, for not knowing where his priorities lay.

“And why is that?” the Kumichou’s voice was soft but sinister. His eyes narrowed, studying Kurogane intently.

“I've accomplished my mission. He was only a boy, no older than when I first came to you.” Was his simple answer. “I broke his legs, he will not be a threat again. I’ve slaughtered enough children to last me a lifetime.” 

His thoughts went back to the day he killed his classmates at Soratenshi no Ryu. The messy-haired, mismatched-eyed child had glared at him as he was about to leave with the Masamune, with so much pain and anger of a wounded tiger he couldn’t bring himself to kill him. It was the look that promised vengeance. It was the look he imagined Reina and Sousuke had whenever he thought of them. Having experienced the meaning of comradery here, he regretted more than anything in the world for having lost their friendship.

“You idiot, ungrateful boy!” Murayama screamed and with a gesture of his hands, Kurogane felt the sudden jolt from his training collar. Mejji had devised one for him at the Kumichou’s command. The initial reason was for his training, learning to think clearly and control his powers while still in pain, for pain him it did, and now the Kumichou is just using it to punish him. “Have you any idea how many more clans we’ve just lost because you’re too wimp to kill a kid? Is this how you thank me? Your father, I raised you and taught you all I know!” He gestured again and Kurogane went from one knee to both knees, then he had to use one hand to support himself, while the other tugged painfully at the collar. However, he did not cry out but merely gritted his teeth to hold back the pain. It was a well-deserved punishment, he thought, for letting his father down.

“Boss…the boy’s still hurt n injured from ‘is journey. Maybe ya shouldn’t…” Mejji began. She’d come to like Kurogane quite a lot, poor boy.

“Don’t you tell me what I should or should not do.” He didn’t spare the woman so much of a glance. “You two outside! Take this trash of a son and lock him up in the Sealed Room.” Two guards who were standing outside, came in and helped Kurogane up so they could take him to this so-called Sealed Room.

“But Kumichou…”

“Shut up Mejji. For making such a stupid mistake I should’ve had his fingers chopped off. But he’s more useful with his sword hand intact.”

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