“I don’t know either, Natur!”
“I had no clue anyone was around. I failed you…”
Brian dodges a swing from the woman’s giant weapon, and then parries another strike. “Only if I die, Natur. Then, you have failed.”
“Oh, great…so, basically, if you die at any time, it’s now my fault?”
“Jup. No pressure.”
“Ha, ha…but, as for the matter at hand…what do you sense from her?”
“Rage. Pure, simple hatred that has spun out of control. Great loss, pain, and suffering. Yup…just another average individual in this world. But she’s a little different. Mislead to believe I am responsible, yes, but certainly not evil.”
“Then you might be able to negotiate.”
“Talk sense into her?!? Natur, easier said than done!”
“You can start with why she thinks you have sinned.”
“Right, I’m supposed to ask the woman who thinks I’ve done something wrong…exactly what I did? Forgive me, but that seems like a recipe for disaster.”
“Would you rather say, ‘No matter what you may think…I probably didn’t do it’?”
“Good point. But neither will do me any good, and I can’t win without risking injuring her.”
“Call me crazy…”
“Okay, you’re crazy.”
“Very funny, Brian. But…what if you didn’t win?”
“Yes…I see. That could do it. I could die a dozen times with this plan, but it just might save both of us.”
“Stay back! Both of you, stay back. You might want to help me, to interfere with the fight…but look at her eyes. That would only make things worse. Understand, Kinomi?”
“That’s the point! I—”
“I think I understand what he’s saying, Kinomi. This lovely young lady is enraged. For whatever reason, she believes Brian is responsible for something of dire consequence. She wants to kill him, to avenge a loss. If we interfere, we will only injure her further. While Brian could get seriously injured, he won’t harm an innocent soul.”
“Alright. I’ll stay back.”
Brian blocks another strike and dodges another swing of his opponent’s weapon. Her speed with it is overwhelming; Brian can barely keep up. Again, he blocks, the ducks a second blow. Another parry and another dodge follow two more ferocious attacks. After another barrage of attacks, Brian leaps back a dozen feet towards relevant safety. He clenches his left hand over a gash in his right side; the last blow had only grazed him, but that graze was enough to cause serious damage. He leaps back again, hoping to stay out of her reach for a minute.
“I don’t know who you are, but it is clear you believe I have done some type of great evil to you,” he begins, leaping back again to stay out of range of her charge. Another leap and he lowers his guard before continuing his small speech, “And, now, you’re here to kill me. I have killed many before. I hold more regret than most people can handle. I see a similar look in you. So you should understand why I’m not going to resist. Ending my life would remove my suffering. But would it do any good? I’ve done many things I’m not proud of, but none I view as evil. Evil, though, is an opinion. If you truly think of me as evil,” Brian pauses, dropping his sword and extending his arms out. “Then I am yours to slay. I’m at your mercy; make your decision…did I do what you think I did, or did I not?”
His foe shakes. She can’t charge him. She is only a few feet away, yet she cannot get closer. Her resolve weakens. Her weapon tremors violently, shaken by Brian’s speech. She hesitates to strike her foe. This must be a trick! As soon as I lower my guard, he’ll strike back. He killed them…I’ll kill him. So why can’t I move?
“You…lie. This…is a trick!”
“No trick, no deceit. If you are so certain I did it, why haven’t you killed me yet? No manipulation, no charismatic speeches to twist your mind to favor me. It goes against my beliefs to use any technique resembling brainwashing. You are you, right now. If you can’t strike, it’s probably since you’re no longer sure I am responsible.”
“Now, how do we resolve this? Turning my back on you would be an insult. I will not attack you, nor you kill me. And, now, you accuse me of treachery. I have no evidence to deny that, other than what I’ve already said.”
“Don’t finish that sentence, please. Such language is not something that a lady must be forced to say. I would not forgive myself if you, someone who is usually gentle, had to use such vocal aggression.”
“Oh? And you do you know I’m nice?”
“Very few people qualify as monsters. Those that do not might have an aggressive attitude, but are really calm underneath. A good percent of people are like this, these days.”
“And that makes me gentle…HOW?”
“It doesn’t. Who said I was talking about you being in that category? There is a much larger category that makes up the largest portion of the population. This other is the opposite: one who is gentle by nature, but is forced to act aggressively.”
“You’ve got it wrong!”
“I do? Really? Darn it! I thought, for once, I’d actually be correct! Rats…maybe next time.”
“What gave you that idea, anyway?”
“Your companion. Very few aggressive-natured people have gentle dogs at their sides as faithful followers.”
“Who said the dog is gentle?”
“Well, he’s not barking, nor growling. He isn’t showing his teeth, either. His eyes show sympathy and regret. He’s more human than I am, to be honest. He seems like a companion, not a warrior.”
“You’re wrong. He’ll kill any under Kadrane’s influence.”
“Yet another reason I’m not guilty. I’m not with Kadrane.”
“Kadrane does not cause all evils of this world!”
“No; he causes them all. Sure, he is not directly to blame for many of them, but if not for Kadrane, evil would have died a hundred years ago. All that is and continues to go wrong would not have happened. I, however, failed at killing him.”
“You took on Kadrane?”
“And lost…badly. I bear the scar he gave me on my chest. I was a fool. Taking on Kadrane was the right decision, then and even now. But I was an idiot. The mistake I made was trusting the wrong people. I trusted Eros with my life, for example, thinking she was an ally. My trust, obviously, was misplaced. For that, a dagger in my gut has left its mark permanently as well.”
“I did not know she worked for Kadrane. Nobody did. The whole world thought she was one of the largest fighters against Kadrane. We all thought of her as an ally. But none were as close as I was to her. There were signs that I missed. I didn’t want to think of it. Never once did I doubt her. I spent more time with her than any other; I should have seen it, but I didn’t. I was blind. Do not be blinded by emotions. See the truth, no matter how hard it is. While I might be responsible for the state of this world, Kadrane is who created the monsters in it.”
She wavers at his speech; she can barely keep standing from his speech. He speaks of more pain than she could ever imagine, of deep hidden emotions and pure hatred for Kadrane. She whispers under her breath what she realizes to be the truth: “It…could not have been him. He…he couldn’t have done it…”
“That’s why being killed would be a blessing. I might not have been the one who ‘sinned’. I might not be responsible for who is guilty. But I am definitely responsible for the one who is responsible for the real person who committed the act. I deserve to die for just that, alone. So why don’t I just end my life? Because my death will do the world no service. Killing me might remove some regret, yes, but not only would it never leave you for good, but there’s also the fact that it would do no good. So, will you kill me, for being one responsible in some way, or will you let me live to help bring down the man who continues these evil deeds?”
Midas whistles on the sidelines. Both he and Kinomi decided to watch the scene unfold from a hill above, within earshot of the battlefield. “He’s good.”
“Weren’t you calling his speeches terrible only yesterday?”
“Well, yea, but this one is…better. I suppose that one person is easier than a hundred, in this case.”
“‘In this case’?”
“Yea. Other times, the reverse is true.”
“So…do you think the fight’s over?”
“Yea, but the entertainment is just beginning. How will both react to the speech? What happens next? Knowing Brian, this may be the first fight of the day, but it won’t be the last. Something else will come up. Brian will insist we stay back, so we’ll just watch it like we are now. Brian lives an interesting life, full of combat. His soul might be eternally doing combat until the world is rid of evil and he can rest. Similarly, there’s going to be at least one more fight, today. It’s just getting started.”
The two observe the combatants, the prolonged silence dragging on with not a single movement from any of the four. What breaks the still ness catches the eyes of the observers; a fifth figure is on the move. The dog Brian spotted before steps between the combatants. He whimpers and whines, hinting at his intentions to end the fight. The woman lowers her weapon and collapses to her knees, not able to fight.
“It is good to see you. Now, we were never properly introduced. Might I ask what your name is?”
“Sanyu. My name’s Sanyu.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Sanyu. Now…this has been bothering me: what is it you believed I had done?”
“My village has been leveled. It was burned to the ground last night. There was evidence there had been an earthquake and many bodies lay shredded to pieces in at least four different ways. Some buildings were swamped. I heard about someone with powers capable of doing that kind of thing. I thought you…”
“I see. It’s true that I have that kind of power, but I did not commit that act. I think I know who was responsible for it, even without the elemental traces. With them, my theory is confirmed. Only one I know of could possibly do this besides me.”
“David. Kadrane controls him like a puppet. So, Sanyu…now that you know who did this, will you help me bring him down?” Brian offers, extending his hand.
Accepting his help, Sanyu stands up and grabs her weapon. “Yea.”
“It’s nice to know that I have an ally with skills such as yours. Rest a little, now, though; you probably exerted yourself in the fight. In the men time, I’ve got a companion of yours to thank.”
Brian walks over to the dog and rubs the canine’s ears. Stroking the animal’s back, he expresses his gratitude with a thank you and more attention. The dog lets out a happy moan, perhaps the closest a dog can come to the happy purring of a cat. The sound reminds Brian of a time long past…but then, he thinks that it’s almost…too familiar. Looking closer at the aged dog, he senses a sensation of familiarity. The look in the obviously old dog’s eyes portrays a sense of companionship that Brian has not seen in a long time.
“Wait…no…it couldn’t be you, could it? Jimmy…what did Eros do to you?”
“You know him?”
“Yea. He was my family’s dog. No wonder he was so friendly; he knew me after a hundred years! Oh, you poor thing...it’s because of me that you’re like this.”
“Don’t think of it that way, Brian. Think positively. He’d be long-dead otherwise; feel happy to see him.”
“Thanks. That helps. But…why’d you ask about me knowing him?”
“It’s…nothing, really. Just…it’s just that…something earlier that I thought I heard—”
Brian’s eyes widen. “Wait a second…how’d you know my name and what I looked like? How’d you even know I had the powers that could destroy your village?”
Sanyu is shocked by Brian’s sudden urgent attitude, but answers. “A man who visited me earlier.”
“Who? Was he the one who told you I was responsible?”
“Yes…but why would that be import—”
“What did this person look like? Who was he?”
Now, Brian’s concern can clearly be seen by anyone in the area. Midas and Kinomi now can see how Brian is alert, bothered by something. The elements can sense his distress. They know something is terribly wrong.
Then, Natur’s thoughts of Brian’s distress are sidetracked by a figure he senses rapidly approaching. “Brian! There’s something coming here…fast! It’s a powerful presence. This presence is equally strong to that of David!”
“Brian! I detect a figure coming in at high speeds. This figure is powerful; we need to be on guard.”
Brian confirms their feelings. “I sense it too. Forget telling me who was with you earlier, Sanyu. We have a larger issue at hand.”
Brian looks at Natur, who is becoming increasingly frightened. “There’s more, isn’t there, Natur?”
“Yea…I feel that this figure’s power is immense. It’s so great that I can feel his soul’s power. He could easily take you down. For a while, I thought it might be David, but…”
“The figure bears great hatred, but is not evil, correct?”
“Yea. It seems…”
“To be directed at me; I know.”
Addressing all in the area, Brian again warns them. “Back away! Go as far back as you can; things just got much, much, much more dangerous.” Clenching the wound on his side, Brian knows that this was all planned out; he could be in trouble. “Go! NOW!”
Sanyu and Jimmy run for the hills, joining Midas and Kinomi at their viewpoint. A strong wind hits the area, carrying a menacing aura with it. It may not be evil, but those not trained to sense evil would mistake it as such. Midas is unnerved by it, even from his location. “Any idea who it is?”
Natur is also puzzled as to how Brian would know what he did. His senses are great, but they shouldn’t have been able to know that quickly what it was. “Brian, sometimes you scare me. How’d you know, exactly, what I’d say?”
“Yea…I know who it is. He’s here.”
Before anyone can ask what Brian means, a figure familiar to Sanyu drops in…literally. The gust of wind he was riding disappears and he draws a longsword, approaching Brian slowly. Multiple voices ring out the same question at the exact same time: “Who is he?”
Brian desperately dashes back to retrieve his sword for what he knows is an upcoming battle. The effort causes him more pain in his side, though, but he grits his teeth and ignores the pain. “Clever…dirty trick as usual, I see. Weakening me before battle is not a tactic I’d use. It’s been a long time…brother.”
“Yes. He’s my older brother. He knew of my powers from our conversations a hundred years ago. That’s how he knew of me. By being alive, I can only assume that Kadrane got to him; that explains the feeling of hatred directed at me that I felt. He was away, finishing college; I thought he’d be safe.”
“But I wasn’t, Brian. Kadrane found me. He found me even before the massacre at our home. Instead of killing me, I was experimented on. You…” his eyes glow with hatred and he clutches his sword tighter, “have no idea how bad it was. You don’t know what I went through. Elemental power flowed through my body, but did not blend with it. That should have killed me; I wish it had. They kept me alive with their equipment; while it failed, it only made me stronger, strong enough to endure more experiments. When that failed, they resorted to technology. Countless injections, countless hours of pain, modifications that I still don’t fully understand to my body and more; these atrocities are just the tip of the iceberg, my brother. From this, they created me, a superweapon prototype. Where they went wrong, however, is the fact that this weapon has a mind of its own.”
He pauses for a second, letting it sink in. “I escaped,” he clenches his free hand into a fist, “and massacred them all. I wish Kadrane was there; I would have done what you so miserably failed to do. I had escaped, yes, but was not the same. I could no longer age. I’ve been cursed to roam the land…like…like…this,” he nearly comes to tears as he extents his hands to show off his battered body, “for a hundred years, no thanks to you.”
“Dan, I’m sorry for what you’ve been through. Because of me—”
“Sorry?!? Sorry doesn’t cut it. Sorry can’t return me to normal.” Dan’s rage boils over; the hatred in his eyes manages to burn Brian without any physical flame. “Sorry can’t let me live a normal life. Sorry won’t get me my life back. Sorry…is nothing. I hate Kadrane; he did this to me. I hate David; that weapon is a dog. But most of all, I hate you for ruining my life, the lives of our family. Dad’s dead. Mom’s dead. They all are dead. I was about to graduate. I was going to start a normal life. I had a future. And, because of you, that future is gone.”
“You are correct, brother. I destroyed your future. Kadrane would have eventually ruined your life—like he did with so many others—but I sped it up. I also failed to stop him, when I could have a dozen times. I cursed you to live a hundred years. But the past is the past. Learn from it; don’t let it drive your actions. You can still hope for a future.”
“At least you could help the world…help dispose of Kadrane.”
“Like how you helped the world a hundred years ago? I think not.”
“If nobody tries to make the world better, then it never will, Dan. If we don’t try, it’ll only get worse.”
“I don’t care, anymore. I’ll do what I wish…when I wish. I might wish to kill Kadrane later; at that time, Kadrane will die. I might help the world however I can someday, but I do not feel like it right now. Right now…right now…I want to kill you. I want you dead for what you’ve done. You might have rapid regeneration abilities, but you’re still wounded from earlier; weapons designed by Eros leave a nasty mark, even in those with regenerative powers. You die now.”
In a flurry of movement, Dan charges. Brian manages to block the fury of the attacks, ignoring the wound he received earlier. Another barrage of attacks follows; Brian manages to barely block again. His brother is outmatching him in speed and Brian feels the superior strength of his blows.
He grits his teeth as another round of attacks hit his sword; he cannot block a stab which grazes his face, allowing a scratch to bleed. After a few more of these, his brother is frowning. “Is that all you got? This sword isn’t even enhanced in any way. Or, am I just too good for you?”
Brian knows he expects a greater resistance. “Are you holding back? Do you want me to strike you down for what you have done? That doesn’t sound like you, Brian. Am I just that good?” He ignores the taunts and continues blocking and dodging. He smiles. It had been long enough. He changes strategies and parries a blow, followed by a counter-attack that misses Dan by inches.
“Be careful what you ask for. I was merely observing your strength and speed, not to mention attack strategy. If you were holding back, then you should not anymore. If you have another strategy, use it, because you don’t stand a chance, now.” He swings another blow at his brother, who manages to block it, sending Brian back.
“I doubt that.”
“Oh? Then come on. Prove that this wasn’t just a stroke of luck.”
The two reengage in battle. Brian blocks many of the blows. Every time he parries, he lunges forward in a counter-attack. Every time he dodges, he slashes back at his brother. He proves his worth as a swordsman after countless strikes; his brother has the speed and strength advantage, yet he is still winning. Dan’s sword cracks. Brian’s sword is magically enhanced with elemental power; only the most powerful swords in the world can destroy it. Dan’s regular longsword doesn’t stand a chance. More cracks form and the original grows in size. After another trade-off of attacks, his sword shatters into a thousand pieces.
“Oh, well…it was just a scrap of metal. I always did prefer katanas, anyway. If I really wanted to, I could use these fragments as a weapon, but that would be boring. But that was something…else, now, wasn’t it? I see…so it’s still true to this day.”
Dan begins to smile for a brief second. It is a legitimate smile; it is not the evil one that he had previously shown. “Even with your superhuman abilities, Brian, I bested you in hand to hand combat that one day that you came home. No matter the time period, I’ve been stronger and faster. You just get lucky fairly often. You believe your luck sucks and that I’m lucky. It’s true outside of combat; your skills fall short to my luck. But inside of combat…your luck is greater than mine, even if that luck is low. I admit, though, even without the element of luck, you are the better swordsman.”
Dan’s smile fades away for a brief time. He takes his longsword’s remains into his left hand and discards them, pointing his right hand at Brian. Now a smile reappears, but this grin is far more wicked, more sinister. “So, I cannot win in a sword fight with you, at least, not as I am, now. I could try hand to hand combat, but, personally, that’s not nearly lethal enough for my tastes. What to use, then, to beat you? The answer is simple, really. To win, I’ll use strength.”
Brian’s eyes widen as he realizes what his brother is going to do. He braces himself for the impact to come, raising his sword and crossing his hands in an X-block to absorb the damage. Using a great deal of elemental strength, he creates a massive wall of earth to protect him just as his fears are realized; a massive blast of wind hits only seconds later, disintegrating the wall. Not even the wall was enough; Brian gets pummeled by wind into his gut, stunning him. Debris from his own wall creates many small cuts on his arms, but he ignores the pain.
His brother launches a blast of flame from his other hand; Brian tries to match the flames with his own, but is forced back by the heat. Natural flames cannot burn him, but the flames of his brother scald his left arm. A jet of water rushes towards him; he knows his own water stands no chance against the wrath of his brother’s power. He again creates an X-block, hoping his arms will take the brunt of the blow.
He is knocked back several feet, stunned by the massive power in the water. He feels like a waterfall just hit him; he struggles to stand up. His clothes feel more damp and heavy than they should. His heat fails to dry them. I can assume that some type of chemical was mixed in with the water to make it more deadly. If that was pure water, my clothes would not be heavy. If it was normal water, then I’d be able to just use a small amount of flame to get rid of it.
“My water jets create a stream more powerful than what you can muster. Their power is much greater than three waterfalls in one. I’m holding back, you know; my full power is ten times what you have experienced. I don’t know what they added to the water, but it makes the aftereffects even greater.” The smile on his brother’s face never fades, actually growing larger as Brian realizes that his own face—for just a split second—showed fear.
“My wind’s vortex outmatches the strongest hurricanes and tornadoes; yours is nothing, in comparison. Again, I am holding back in our fight. That was nothing. Yet it defeated you with such ease. How pathetic. My flamethrower is chemical-powered, producing a heat greater, thicker, stronger, and much, much, much more intense than what you can muster. Oh, and that longsword…was just a toy. Yes, I prefer katanas, but I have other weapons as well. I have no earth powers; I have something more powerful. It can’t take care of rock walls you make, but my wind takes care of that, even with you using your own wind powers, with plenty to spare. This thing is my true strength, the thing that Kadrane made me for. My strength: metal. It is something more powerful than any nature-based object; I can create a blade that can cut through yours, even with your elemental enhancements; it will kill you.”
Desperate, Brian is about to pour the last of his strength into his sword, in a last effort to create something capable of matching his brother. He knows this is bad. His brother’s right hand is ripped open as a long blade attaches itself to him. “Oh, how original. A blade attached to your arm; I’ve only seen that in three Anime before.”
“Well, it works, you know.”
He realizes that his effort would be futile against that blade; the glisten from it means that it is a chemically enhanced blade stronger than his own. He takes one look at his sword when making this deduction and it is then that he realizes it: his sword is larger than it should be. What could cause my blade to—water. His water. It may be full of chemicals, but it’s still water. I see. So, to win, abandon all offense.
A jet of fire streams from his foe, the orange and white mixture telling of the heat. With only a fraction of the energy needed to fight fire with fire, Brian summons a shield of water. It dissolves into steam as soon as the last flames pass, his brother’s attack rendered harmless.
Angry, his brother sends powerful winds enhanced by the steam towards Brian; he merely creates a spark. The steam, itself, would prevent it from igniting, but with the great mixture of chemically-enhanced winds, he sets it ablaze. Because the flames were not chemically-produced, they are harmless; Brian absorbs the fire for an extra boost in much-needed power.
A blast of water follows; with a mixture of soil and seeds in the way, a small garden grows in seconds. Brian is fighting with barely a fight; this is the way he was originally trained. In some elemental charts, opposites nullify each other. If that were the case, fighting fire with fire would waste just as much energy as fire with water. But the real elements work differently; Brian had taught himself this way and mastered it. While he used fire against fire later for fun, his core training remained. Now, he is using it to win with great ease.
His brother charges with his metal blade; Brian engulfs his sword in the flames he absorbed earlier and blocks. His sword gets a small gash in it, but his brother’s sword glows red-hot; much more, and it’d melt. Enraged, his brother punches Brian in the face.
“I could do this all day. It’s actually kinda fun, fighting you like this. You?” Brian laughs at this; his brother can’t help but give a small grin, disappearing rather quickly.
“If I wanted to. If I were fighting at full force, not even the element my attack is weak to would be able to stop me. Fighting fire with water, wind with fire, water with earth, and metal with fire; you were cleaver. That’s the natural order of the world. While fire and water nullify each other, the water is stronger. While wind and earth match each other in power, wind is beaten by fire. Water is absorbed by the earth. Earth, itself, cannot be beaten, but nature and metal are melted by fire. It’s a good strategy; I might adopt it.”
“So, you still insist you could beat me very easily?”
“Certainly. You might not be fighting at full force, but you are close. I, however, am not; my full power makes me…no longer human, to say the least. But you’re not worth the effort, brother. I’ve got…plans for the future. Despite what you think, I do have them. They are not anything like I originally intended, but they are going to…revolutionize the world. Killing you is a waste of time, Brian. I’ll find some use for you in my plans. I’ve vented my rage for the day; you are more valuable to me alive. Until next time, brother.”
He turns his back on Brian, preparing to leave. “Wait!”
“It was nice talking to you, but I have other matters to attend to. Kadrane is my enemy as well, but we are not allies, Brian; I have larger things planned. There are things…different about me, now, Brian. I’m not an enemy, nor an ally. Simply put, I’ve got plans that could make the world a better place, but just in my own way. These things are not something you want to get close to. I am a third side in a battle, Brian; I ally with a side only when it suits my cause. We may have fun, we may have common enemies, we may eventually work together…but we would eventually be enemies. There are greater forces at work than what you can see, Brian. I cannot go with you. Goodbye.”
As quickly as he had appeared, Dan disappeared. A gust of wind and dust blinds the group as he makes his escape, not to be seen again, with luck. With his departure, the group feels like fighting for the day would end. Things would return to normal. A few hours pass, Brian giving the group food and water out of thin air using his powers. While they had started the day with a fight, they spend most of the day doing nothing but giving Sanyu’s deceased village proper burials. Eventually, night sets in; the group gathers in the center of the ruins that were Sanyu’s village and Brian lights a fire. They begin conversing about the day’s events, discussing their future plans.
“So what do we do now, Brian? I’ve had all day to think about it and still don’t know.”
“I’ve also been thinking about it, Kinomi. The same thing as yesterday, I suppose. We go searching for those who will support our cause. We’ve got many allies already. While my brother may not be an ally, he has stated that he has plans; those plans probably involve the fall of Kadrane.”
“Speaking of your brother…you say he likes Japanese things?”
“He took years of Japanese in school.”
“Well, I think I know who he is. He said that, at his full power, he wouldn’t be human, right?”
“Something like that.”
“Well, then, I believe him to be Shishou. Shishou is a man who spent most of his time wandering through Japan. He was covered in some type of armor that gave him great power.”
“Shishou means master, right?”
“One of the definitions of master, yes. There are others as well. He was called by other names, such as former master, dead master, and dozens of others related to master. Shishou is just the one most commonly used.”
“I have a theory why, but I’ll keep it to myself.”
“Something related to a common past?”
“Yea, his name is roughly half of another name I know of.”
“Ah. I see. Well, he is a great figure in our history; he has done many deeds of heroism and terrorism in Japan.”
“How would you know, anyway, Midas?”
“I’m one sixth Japanese.”
“I figured something like that.”
“Alright. Enough of that, though. Let’s go back to what we are going to do. So we go to gather more?”
“Precisely. It’s the best course of action I can think of. The world has been under Kadrane’s influence for well over a hundred years. Let’s see his reign come to an end. But there needs to be something done for that. For Kadrane to fall and peace be restored, we have to unite the world for the slim chance of happiness.”
“Happiness?” Sanyu speaks up for the first time since her fight with Brian. Tears roll into her eyes; she had lost everything. She barely trusts Brian. She still doesn’t know what to believe and what her emotions are; she feels like Brian is manipulating her. “I am half-convinced you’re manipulating me, Brian. I…still can’t shake it off.”
“Sorry. But it does need to be said. I would never manipulate someone intentionally, but the subconscious mind is something that we cannot control. You don’t know what to do; you experienced your loss just today. But, through sadness, we can hope for happiness.”
“After what we’ve been through?”
“My, my, you pretty young lady; Brian brings up a good point. All of us have suffered. We may not have said it before, but we’ve all gone through what you have. We’ve all been lost; we’ve all got hatred. We all have wild emotions. We’ve all felt manipulated. We can use those feelings, that suffering, to hope others never endure it.”
“Pretty much; Midas nailed it, Sanyu. While not necessarily Kadrane’s fault, we’ve all suffered. None of us can know exactly what you went through, but we all can get the idea with similar experiences.”
“Oh? How about your friend, Kinomi? Correct me if I’m wrong, but—”
Kinomi sheds some tears; Sanyu shuts up. It isn’t an act; she can tell there’s pain in Kinomi’s eyes. She has suffered as well; that much is clear. “S-Sorry.”
“You’re just frustrated. I understand; it happened to me as well, Sanyu. While of unavoidable circumstances, not at all related to Kadrane, loss hit me hard as well. There are few you can talk to who have not lost something.”
“I can guess what this loss was, but I’d prefer not to. I’d do it to comfort you, Sanyu, but I would not wish to damage Kinomi’s feelings any further. That goes for all of you. Our pain can give us strength…but it isn’t something I’d like to bring up.”
“No, Brian; this is important to me. It’s important that this be known. My father died a decent time ago. He taught me most of what I know, and then…he was gone. That’s not something I wished to go through again.”
“Not quite what I was thinking.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’d…I’d only hurt you further.”
“No; even if it hurts me, I’m too curious not to know.”
“Your Japanese name makes you the second sibling, no? You told me this before.”
“So you figured that out…I had an older sister. She and I were close. We were even closer after our father died. Years ago…there was an accident. She was crushed. With her gone, I only have half the family that I once did…”
“And it’s only worse, now, no thanks to me. Because of me, visiting her current family would place them in danger. She can’t go home until Kadrane dies. It’s something none of us really want to talk about; do any of us really want to stay on this topic?”
“After one more question. What about you, Midas? You speak of loss, yet you show no signs of it yourself.”
“I hide it well. My arm’s the only evidence of this. It has a history like none other. I lived in a wealthy village. I was taught charms as a kid and was raised on nature’s laws—this comes with a despise of Kadrane. When I was older, I was given an assignment to the nuclear power plant facility. It was no ordinary power plant. Terrible things were being done, special radiation deadly to all. Contrary to popular belief, not all resistance was destroyed when you lost against Kadrane, Brian.”
“I know; they were crushed twenty years later.”
“Nope. Not even then. Some, especially in Japan, lived on. I was a member of this resistance. Being raised as a charm master, it was only natural. I was also raised as a scientist, so I was considered the best and brightest, a natural candidate for the job at the plant. It’s what the resistance wanted. They’re still around today, but I’ve lost all my contacts to them. But, at the time, I was an inside spy. Eventually, once I had the specks, we were going to disable the power plant without causing harm to the environment.”
“Let me guess…things went wrong.”
“We never got the chance. When Kadrane got word of a rumor that a spy had managed to infiltrate his facility, he destroyed it in a self-destruct, along with the village and most of the surrounding area. Some in the village lived because of the distance away from the plant, materials in their houses, and luck. Most died. All inside the plant…were fried. I was in the plant; I did my best to shield myself from this special radiation, utilizing my charm knowledge to its maximum.
“It worked…kind of. My right arm was irradiated. It would have spread and killed me. I had to seek aid from my master, my teacher. He survived as well. This,” he waves his arm, “is the best he could do. It will slow the radiation, but not stop it. It is also a weapon that I can use when I’m desperate enough. Whenever I release it, a powerful blast of the radiation will pummel my foes. This increases my degradation, though. It will slowly kill me without a cure.”
“Let me guess: Kadrane has a cure?”
“Bingo. If I don’t get that cure eventually, I’m toast. For years, now, I’ve been searching for a way to get this cure. It’s not so easy, you know, since the second I survived, it was obvious I was a rebel, out to be destroyed.”
“Now we know.”
“Yes, and I’ve also got a price on my head.”
“Good to know, in case you ever get too annoying.”
The group shares a laugh; Brian’s comment removes the dim mood of the area; even the fire itself seems to glow brighter. Brian smiles. “We’ve all have a reason to fight Kadrane, be it personal or a necessity. We’ve all lost something. We all have a terrible sense of humor.” Again, there’s around of laughs at Brian’s last part, before he decides to continue. “We all want to make the world better; we all want evil destroyed. We’ve got so much in common, so much that is different. I can say you’re like family. So, what’s next? We gather up a greater number, a fighting force for hope. And, at its heart, our adopted family away from family will keep on fighting. I don’t want us to ever forget that.”
With that comment, the group agrees and begins to fall asleep. Brian, himself, begins pondering things, hours later joining his comrades’ state. He has family, both by blood and by bonds. While they might be across the world, he has a force ready to follow him, no matter what. He has a fighting force, with Kadrane—for the first time in over a hundred years—at risk of falling. This time, he’d succeed. This time, he would not fail. This time, he’d live, with hope stronger than it ever was before…