Realms of Destiny
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Flanked by the Kumichou’s personal guards, Kurogane ascended the steps that served as the bridge between the Sealed Room and the rest of the Shadow Hands’ headquarters. He will have to face his father once more, and this time he was ready. He went over what he was going to say and what he was going to ask dozens of times in his head.
First, he would apologize for his mistake. He will then swear to follow orders from now on; and to make amends, he would bring the Tiger back as a present for his father. Then, he’d ask about the ‘real’ him. Surely, if anyone would know who he really was, his father, the only one who’s like him in this world, would. Everything will go as planned, he knew it.
The double doors to the large meeting room opened. At his arrival, the Kumichou signaled to dismiss the meeting that was going on right then. The regional heads of each faction gave a respectful bow and began to leave. Within seconds, it was only Kurogane, the Kumichou, and Mejji, who was sat in her usual place by the Kumichou’s side.
Kurogane didn’t need to be told to kneel, he dropped to both knees and prostrate himself before his father in the lowest dogeza he could manage.
“Kumichou, I have wronged you. Having spent time in the Sealed Room, I have learned my mistake and swear not to disobey you ever again.” He kept his head low, almost touching the tatami mats that covered the floor.
“Have you now? Repented?” Murayama gave him a look of disdain. “How do I know that tomorrow you won’t spare another woman or another child because of your weak heart?”
“I shall bring you the Tiger’s head.” As he said this, he raised his head just enough so that he could look straight into the Kumichou’s red eyes.
“That’s not a bad idea, Wataguchi was telling me that the Tiger has been sighted in Onitsuba. That’s not very far.”
“I will bring you his head in two days.” Onitsuba…that’s just on the other side of the forest…from Soratenshi…His thoughts went back to his childhood days with Reina and Sousuke.
“I can see your conviction alright.” Said the dark haired yakuza boss. “Then tell me, what is a punishment befitting those who disobey orders? What should I do with you, if you were to fail me again?”
“You may have my head.” The 18-year-old said. “Disobedience will not be tolerated.” He quoted the Shadow Hands’ motto.
“’Disobedience will not be tolerated.’ He says.” Murayama turned to Mejji. “One of our lackeys here disobeyed me. Will you finish them off for me?”
“If that is your command, Kumichou.” Said Kurogane dutifully. If he wanted to get the truth from his father, he must obey his every command, he can’t risk doing anything to make him angry, not now. Even if it meant killing someone who’s already earned himself a death sentence.
“Alright then, prove to me that you will obey my orders.”
“Mejji, tell Sho to bring her in.”
Mejji gave Kurogane a pained look, which Murayama missed, but the young man caught. His heart dropped as Sho, a 17-year-old who has grown to be a big man much larger than the Kumichou himself, walked in, half-dragging the person in question.
“This servant here disobeyed a direct order.” Murayama grabbed her brown hair, revealing the massive burned mark on her face. “Would you be so kind as to kill her for me?”
“Kumiko!” Kurogane exclaimed. The girl was gagged and bound hand and feet. Her eyes scrunched up in pain as the boss held her up by the hair. However, when she saw Kurogane she found new strength from within her and struggled desperately. She looked into his eyes and made unintelligible sounds from behind the gag. “What she did, she did for me. Please spare her. She only brought me food, that was all.” This, he did not foresee. His father’s not going to make him kill her, surely. This is too cruel a punishment.
“Did she now? Well, that wasn’t the crime I brought her here for, but if what you say is true that just adds to it doesn’t it?” Murayama smiled, and his red eyes laughed. He was enjoying this.
“Well, son, you did swear you will obey my every order. Kill her.”
“What do you mean? What did she do to deserve death?” Kurogane realized the trouble he’s in now. He can’t afford to disobey again, and yet, even if he did, Kumiko will die anyway.
“She’s a spy. She heard things that weren’t meant for her ears.” The boss looked into the girl’s eyes knowingly. The fear in her was so strong that Kurogane felt it on his skin. Yet, she didn’t look at his father for long but turned back to him and made those urgent sounds from behind the gag. It was as though she was trying to say something to him. Perhaps to plead for her life. “She was eavesdropping.”
“But, why would she do that? Surely, it must have been an accident. I’m sure she wouldn’t tell anyone what she heard. Right Kumiko?” Kurogane was desperate now. If Kumiko could promise silence, he may be able to get her out of this mess. Nod Kumiko, nod! However, what she did the young master would never understand. She made more noise, it sounded like the same sentence over and over again, and she shook her head vigorously.
“Girl don’t know what’s good for her.” Said his father. Mejji was strangely quiet. She actually liked the girl, and she was the one who introduced Kurogane to her. Seeing this clearly pained her, but the secret must have been a very important one that the second-in-command could say nothing to stop the Kumichou.
“Please, let me at least know what it was that she wasn’t meant to know. Let me know what crime I am executing her for.” Kurogane was stalling for time. He’s stabbing in the dark now, but whatever help he could find, he had to grab with both hands. At the word ‘execute’ his friend looked so pained by the prospect of him killing her that he felt a knife pain in his chest. However, there was something about the look in her eyes. There was fear, but, unlike what he was used to when he went out on missions. It wasn’t fear of one’s own death.
“It is so important that even you can’t know it. That is the enormity of her crime.”
“Then…before I kill her…” he said those words again. “I’ve a few questions about me that I need to know the answer to. I wish you could answer.” If he gives me the answer now, I may be able to save her and escape. Retreat somewhere. Kurogane knew that the Kumichou probably wouldn’t answer him, just for the sake of thwarting his wishes alone.
“What is it?”
“Who am I really? Who are we? Who is the ‘real me’?” at that, both Mejji and Murayama’s expressions changed. “You are my father, aren’t you? You know, don’t you?” his eyes couldn’t lie and he did know.
“You are my son.” Was the Kumichou’s answer. “Murayama Kurogane.” When he answered, Kumiko went into another fit of struggle. She shook her head so vigorously that the yakuza boss rammed his metal-plated glove into her face.
“Waka…no…don’t believe him.” Her lips didn’t move, she was still gagged, yet Kurogane could hear her voice clearly. As soft as it was. His eyes bore into hers. “He’s not your father.”
“You’re not my father.” Kurogane turned to Murayama. It wasn’t a question.
“What idiocy is this? Of course I am! I’m the only one who’s like you!” Kuro’s red eyes darted swiftly from one person to the other; Mejji, Shohei, and Kumiko. He knew it then, from Mejji’s reaction and the voice that lacked the confidence that always seemed to be there. Kumiko seemed to realize that he could hear her in his head and went on.
“He’s not your father. He means to kill you! He’s been using you! For your powers!” That attempt at communication was that much too long. The dark-haired Rathnor saw it.
“Oh…caught onto telepathy have you?” there was a sudden movement, and before Kurogane could do anything one of Shohei’s three swords flew through the serving girl’s chest.
“KUMIKO!!” Kurogane could only stare while life seeped away from his friend. “What have you done?”
“Well, I guess the cat’s out of the bag. Seize him!” With their swords, the guards who flanked him into the room barged in and placed their blades on either side of his neck.
However, Kurogane was too numb to make a move. He realized suddenly what Kumiko was trying to say to him. ‘He means to kill you’ She said. ‘run.’ She said. In a swift movement, the Demon placed his hands on the tatami mats and two pillars of rock jutted from the ground to impale his guards. He unsheathed his sword and made to slash through the sliding doors but in a flash like lightning, the Kumichou stood in front of him.
“You forgot this.” He thrust something round and wet into his hands which Kurogane realized, to his horror, was Kumiko’s head. Her lifeless eyes staring straight past his. That split second was enough distraction that Murayama needed. He grabbed Kurogane’s face with a single hand and sent such a strong static lightning shock that made the younger man go numb completely. When the shock ended, his clothes were smoking and he found that he could not move. Two more Shadow Hands members came in and picked him up by the arms. His eyes drifted to the disembodied head on the floor.
I’m sorry Kumiko….I’m so sorry.
“I was actually gonna wait a little longer for the true extent of your powers to mature. But I guess this’ll just have to do.” There was disappointment in those red eyes, as though he’s being made to eat an unripe fruit. Kurogane saw electric sparks on the fingertips of the person who he believed for six years was his father.
“What…what are you doing?” he managed to ask as the hand inched closer. “No….NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” What followed that was excruciating pain. Pain he had never known before. Sharp nails dug into his chest and he felt as though his very heart was being forcibly removed from him. The numbness that was preventing him from moving did nothing to the pain. He felt like his soul was being ripped to pieces and he screamed. An unearthly scream that sent all the hounds to howling.
“Magnificent!” said the Kumichou as he held up a pulsing red gem. “I can already feel its power. Thank you graciously…” he looked at Kurogane and grinned. Eyes burning bright with greed. “…Your Highness.” He then forced the gem into his own chest. There was a scream and dark energy filled the room. But when it was over, the Kumichou held up his hand and conjured a fireball. It burned brightly while crackling with electricity in his hands. “This is marvelous! Haha….HAHAHAHA!”
“K..Kumichou.” Kurogane recognized Mejji’s voice, just off from his line of sight. He could no longer move, not even his eyes. He felt absolutely drained of all energy, and for a moment he thought he was going to die. “What…what do we do with him now?”
“Do whatever you want. I have no further use for him.” He was still occupied with his new powers. Experimenting with the earth element as well as the fire. “Cut him up, throw him in the river, burn him, or drain him to make more demon dogs if you want. I don’t care. Just take him out of my sight.”
“Yes, Kumichou.” She moved towards him and picked him up by herself. She refused the help of the two guards that were holding on to him when the Kumichou took his gem. And carried him off to the direction of her lab.
Kurogane felt consciousness leave him as Murayama’s laugh continued to echo around him, then everything went dark.