Chapter 4:

Chapter 4: An Encounter By Chance

Element U

It was a one in a million accident, Daisuke’s carelessness the sole cause of a rough trip that sent him flying into the air, right into another boy. No chance for a warning, no way to move out of the way. This encounter inevitable from all angles. Destined to be.


Their head’s collided and bounced off each other, bodies sent tumbling back onto the ground. The other boy sprawled out on the roughened earth, bits of gravel scattered beneath his flattened stomach. Yet he didn’t utter a word. Silence his chosen expression as he embraced the pain and brushed it off.

Ooooh. Eerrmm.

The sore surprise settled in quickly for Daisuke, his muffled groans the next thing to follow. Childlike exaggerations of the anguish that subsided within seconds, irritated skin and mental aches put to rest.

Daisuke pushed himself back upright and dusted off his bare chest. Right palm raised up to his forehead, he rubbed at the sore spot where he hit the other boy. A teeny little coral swollen bump chafed beneath his dirtied fingers.

Owww. What did I run into? Daisuke questioned as he fidgeted with the lump.

One glance backward was all it took for Daisuke to find the cause. Sat curled up in a tightly wound ball on the grassy graveled earth, the boy's back was all Daisuke could see. His whitish-golden faded hair corroded with a fresh layer of dust that dirtied his white ragged shirt.

Ooh. I did that.

Cautious yet able to know enough that it was his fault, Daisuke turned toward the boy. Guilt swarmed his face, eyes broadened by the possible damage he had done, pain he had caused. But it was only an accident right?

“Sorry, I was just—”


The apology was knocked right out of Daisuke’s mouth, interrupted by a measly pathetic sniffle. Its cause puzzled Daisuke, to him it was only a simple tumble. Their momentary clash was nothing worth anything more than an exchanged apology, but something was wrong. Was off. Attention redirected, Daisuke slowly trekked back to the front side of the boy to get a better look. To get an answer.

Huh? Daisuke uttered brokenly, baffled by the sight in front of him.

The boy was bawling his eyes out but his downcast face was emotionless. Distant and lost in thoughts that left him shivering all over. Little glistening bulbs of grief trickled down onto the gravel from the boy’s chin. Head propped up against his knees, his arms wound around them tight to hold them together. Sorrow kept to himself.

“Uhhm, hello?” Daisuke muttered with an uneasy wave.

The boy glanced up, face exposed to the bitter rays of sunlight.



Sniff. “I’m f-f-fine.”

He wasn’t to say the least, Daisuke able to pick that away instantaneously. Stuck in an awkward stare, the boy wiped away the tears and snuffed back up his runny nose. His lips quivered as Daisuke remained silent, nerves on high beneath the narrowed watch of a stranger.

“W-what?” The boy muttered out anxiously.

The moment dragged on as Daisuke tried to read the boy. Figure out something more than what he was told. Mind focused and vigilant.

Offset by the weird stares, the boy rose to his feet, slow to get up he clenched his teeth and sequestered the gripes of pain that clawed their way up his throat. But they weren’t from the fall. His suffering was a separate matter, something he kept to himself and those involved. Daisuke, the first to take a real notice of it, tilted his head to the side from the weighty interest that washed over his face.

“Whhat are you doing?”

“Just . . . looking.”

Inspecting the boy from every side Daisuke tried to find a reason for his tears. His misery.

“Hmm. What are you hiding?”


“Yeah, h—”

Daisuke spotted it. A clue.

A little irregular marking poked out from the boy’s shirt collar on his neck. Something hidden on purpose.

Daisuke stepped around to the boy’s backside and tugged down at his shirt. It was only for a brief moment but the marking only expanded in front of Daisuke’s eyes the further he dragged the boy’s shirt down. But he couldn’t get a full look, the rest of it covered up as the boy stepped away bashfully.


Daisuke narrowed his focus right into the boy’s vibrant yellow eyes, a wave of discomfort cast from his determined stare. The pensive gaze was too much for the boy to handle as he tripped back in a panic. Tried to escape the unnecessary confrontation, but Daisuke only continued to get closer in order to read the boy’s emotions. His secrets.

“I’m not hiding—”

“What’s on your back then?”

“Nothing’s th-there.”

The boy couldn’t look Daisuke in the eyes as he hung his head forward, gaze averted to the rocky soil between them. All he could do was hope that Daisuke would lose interest, walk away, and leave him alone. A fickle hope.

“So there is something.” Daisuke muttered as a sly grin spread across his face.

“N-no. You're imagining things.”

And you're lying.

“Let—me—see!” Daisuke chanted energetically.


Without a second thought, Daisuke lunged forward and tackled the boy to the ground, arms flailing all over as he tried to hold him down. The scramble was a battle in and of itself as they rolled around like pigs in the alleyway. Animals fighting over nothing.

Oof! Daisuke grunted from a wild swing of an elbow that buried itself into his stomach.

“St-top it!”

“I just want to see!”

They tussled back and forth, fists thrown and kicks thrusted, but an end was in sight. Daisuke pinned the boy down and rolled him over onto his stomach with a hefty shove. Pebbles scattered beneath him as Daisuke shifted around and sat on the boy. He was trapped.

“It’ll just take a second!”

“Wait! Don’t!” The boy yelped as he squirmed to get free to no avail.

Without any care for the person trapped beneath his knees, Daisuke slid the shirt down enough to see the markings. The boy’s bare back was exposed to the sunlight that beamed down from the open heavenly sky above. His reason to cry put on full display.

“There . . . woah.”

There were countless scars carved into the boy’s back. Some were still relatively fresh, evidence apparent in the bright scarlet scabs that crusted over the trenched skin. Agony encapsulated the wounds he hid beneath his garments, all of it now laid out for Daisuke to see. To gawk at.

I’ve never seen some like these before.

He winced in pain as Daisuke poked around and ran his fingers down the interwoven lines that decorated his flesh. Old buried tarnished memories brought back to life with each jab.

Blushed from the embarrassment of the situation, the boy thrashed his arms out sporadically, face warmed to a pitiful cherry. His personal matters were his to bear alone, but it was too late. Wonder had enveloped Daisuke’s mind, the outside set to the side for the abnormality right in front of him.

“What are all of these?”

“What . . . what do you mean?”

The boy glanced back at Daisuke from over his bare shoulder, tears lined along his eyelids.

“Why do you have so many extra markings?”

Daisuke’s innocent supple gaze fell under the obvious truth, all the haphazard gashes and heavy bruises that stained this boy’s back were seen as nothing more than adornments. Their culture a close knit family accustomed to brutality. Scars were something to be cherished and praised, but this was something else. Something darker.

Drops of fresh blood drizzled down the boy’s pale warped skin from a reopened scab, the stream absorbed by the loincloth tied firmly at his waist. Pain endured as the two remained there in a division of understanding; one interested while the other resisted. Patience thinning.

“C’mon tell me!” Daisuke egged on earnestly.

The boy wiggled around in a last ditch effort to escape the truth, but it was no use. He was stuck, the past driven out of him to be heard. Words flicked right off his tongue.

“My father gave them to me okay?”

Hmm. Gave them. Daisuke pondered.

A few seconds passed as Daisuke considered what that meant, how the boy had earned such scars. Right hand clutched onto his chin, the thought circled around in his mind clashing with feasible reasons. But he couldn’t find one. Focus retained as he tried even harder to think, to come up with a possible answer.


The boy could only watch, completely baffled as the discomfort drained from his face. Now pulled back in an awkward glare, he waited for this stranger to stop making weird faces and let him go. Eyes narrowed in on the bubbly expression Daisuke held.

“Can I . . . get up?”

“What? Oh, ermmm sure.”

Unable to make sense of it, Daisuke withdrew his control over him. Rising up to his feet, he gazed down at the boy, eyes full of a nosy curiosity to unravel the truth.To find know more about this excessively marked kid.

“T-thanks, I—”

“Anyway, what’s your name?” Daisuke said kindly as he stuck out his right hand. A friendly gesture insisted on his fingertips.

Caught off guard, the boy paused and rolled over onto his butt. Eyes squinting, he tried to peer through the Sun’s lustrous rays that beamed down onto his face. His golden tipped hair blown back from a gentle breeze. The curtain pulled back to reveal his sunken cheeks and colorless skin.

“My—-name?” He responded meekly.

“Yeah. Like mine’s Daisuke.”

“But . . .you just—”

“Oh that? That’s nothing.” Daisuke paused and tilted his head to the side. “I’ve just never seen someone else with those markings before.”

“Oh. Okay. I’m Ki–yo.” Kiyo answered nervously. Hands trembling as he reached up and grabbed Daisuke’s.

Daisuke pulled Kiyo upright and the two boys stood in silence, clamor of the Nippon villagers heard behind them. The gravel paved streets flooded with the movement of Paladinian’s moving throughout the village. No notice paid to the children facing each other in the narrow gap between two households.

“I probably need to go home now.” Kiyo muttered.

Not a word of it was heard. Daisuke fell into a trance of realization, his first time beyond the next door neighbors house, an opportunity he couldn’t let go by. A flurry of questions fluttered into his mind about the world beyond the village. The great cliffside valleys, tar pits, and pitch black caves he had heard as only tales from his father. The markings on Kiyo were a probable evidence of his stature, that maybe he had seen such things. Just maybe.

“Can you let go of—”

“Have you ever been outside? Like outside-outside?”

“Out-outside? We’re outside now.”

“No, out there!” Daisuke said as he let go of Kiyo’s hand and pointed at the wall, voice elevated from excitement.


“But then how did you get those? How?” Daisuke sputtered and smacked his right fist against his heart. “I won’t tell anyone, I swear on the Sun.”

Giddy with excitement, Daisuke’s face flushed, brain overloading from all the things he wanted to know. Optimism at an all time high. Yet Kiyo seemed indifferent, nearly exhausted from the conversation itself. Plopped back on the ground, he nestled his chin into his forearms posted up against his knees. Face sullen and defeated.

He looked so . . . lonely.

Calming down, Daisuke dropped his arm to his side and settled on a single question. A tender smirk creasing his lips as he let it out.

“So . . . do you have any more?”

“What? Cuts?” Kiyo lashed back, disheartened.

“No markings. Like is there one on your right arm?”

Daisuke asked as he pointed down at Kiyo’s right arm.

“My arm?”

“Yeah. Should be right about . . . there!”

Daisuke sat down beside him and flipped over Kiyo’s right arm to reveal the clan’s emblem ingrained in his skin. The emblem of the Sun pierced by a longsword was burnt into his tender flesh at a young age, a permanent tradition for all marked children. Those bearing the blessed symbol destined to fight for the clan. Granted a chance to serve the most high.

“Oh . . . I thought it was like the others.” Kiyo said vaguely.

“No, even I have that one. See? Look.”

Grabbing the Kiyo’s right wrist, Daisuke dragged it over toward his own. Arms side by side, he compared their singed flesh, their gift of a purpose bigger than themselves. Their scars a perfect match.

“You—you actually do.” Kiyo babbled out, surprised to find someone like him.

“Well yeah! I just didn’t know there was another blessed child like me.” Daisuke flashed a wide toothy smile. “Makes me glad I ran into you.”

Daisuke’s overwhelming kindness was enough to pull a slight muffled chuckle out of Kiyo’s mouth. His oblivious nature was something that entertained him, made Kiyo smile. Made him happy for once. Both remained caught up in the joy of the moment, but the more they ogled at their similarities, a worry flickered on in Daisuke’s mind. Ayame.

He peered up and down the alley but she was nowhere to be seen. Coast clear for the time being. A heavy sigh of relief bellowed out of his mouth as the stress left his body, slouching back against the boarded wall next to Kiyo. Mind at ease.


“Where’s your maiden then? I lost mine on the way here.” Daisuke snickered, proud of his own successful escape.

“I don’t—-have one.”

“What? Why not?”

“My father said it was best for him to watch over me himself.”

“Wow, that must be fun then. Getting to train all day, and prepare for the trials.”

Kiyo’s smile faded as gloom settled in, the dark side of his household something he kept to himself. The thought of it enough made him shudder as he curled his legs back into his chest. Mentally and physically scarred by the life he was born into. Things he could never tell another living soul.

“Yeah . . . fun.”

“Well at least you don’t have someone watching you all day. It’s boring inside.”

“Oh? Is it now?” Ayame muttered in a cold whisper.