Even if Kaze’s brother still lived, the person he once knew as his twin was already dead, and had been for years.
A blanket of heavy silence hung over the room, allowing his thoughts to delve into dark places he should never have visited. His fingers were numb, yet he couldn’t bring himself to light something to warm the air up, aside from the flickering flame feasting upon an incense stick.
Maybe Rajin – his ‘brother’, or the remnants of his twin’s past self – would do something about the cold once he arrived home.
Yet, his brother was late. Rajin was never late – well, for anything revolving around his duties.
Well, it was fine. The incense could get enough time to calm him before Rajin came so he didn’t release any unwanted emotions.
A squeaking arose, and Rajin slipped inside, eyebrows furrowed. He closed the door, then perched on another chair in the room. “Sorry I’m late. The Chief kept me longer than expected.”
Kaze nodded. “So? What did you want to say?”
Rajin bit his lip. “A little while ago, the Chief told me about a mission coming up for me – one of those major ones the ninjas are investigating.”
Again, Kaze nodded. The ninjas took on various big tasks, and Rajin usually knew about them – and the situation was almost the same with Kaze, despite no one understanding why he and Rajin weren’t more alike.
“The Chief told me today what it was – I’m heading to Terra tomorrow to gather information about a magic surge found there.”
“A magic surge?”
“Something like a portal, he said.”
A portal… Kaze frowned. Portals tended to bring trouble – and a lot of it, with the corrupt humans of the world attempting to find something – anything – inside to benefit their own ends.
“I was thinking…” Rajin hesitated, adverting his gaze. “Would you like to come with me?”
Kaze flinched. Why did Rajin want him to come? His brother’s shell stopped caring years ago. His missions took priority.
Another doubt arose.
“What about Aiko?”
He couldn’t leave his little sister behind – the mere thought of her would be nagging at his consciousness for weeks on end if he tried.
Rajin folded his arms. “She’s eleven, now. Don’t forget, the other ninjas will look after her – they’ve done that before for us when Father used to go on missions. Remember?”
“Yeah, but –”
“And don’t forget, we were younger than Aiko at the time.”
Kaze shook his head. “She’d be almost on her own. We had each other!”
Indeed, that was true… but Rajin had died long ago, four years ago, not physically but mentally.
Rajin sighed. “You don’t have to come. I’m just giving you the offer…”
“Thanks, but no.”
Rajin paused. “…Fine. Whatever suits you. Still, I think Aiko’s perfectly fine to look after herself…”
Kaze didn’t reply.
“Anyway…” Rajin got to his feet. “I need to go. I’ve got one last thing to, so I’ll be late.” With those words, he walked out the room, not casting another glance backwards towards Kaze.
Kaze bit his lip.
Stupid Rajin… he thought. Why do you only care about a ninja’s duty? Why can’t you understand you’re destroying those who care?
He didn’t know the answer.
Knowing his brother cared more about his duty than his own family made his spirits sink as he turned back to his desk.
His legs itching to move, Kaze stood and left the room.
He had a little sister to pick up.
Silence. The cold, heavy silence, only infiltrated by a single sound of clanking metal armour as a guard prowled the halls of the lair, searching for intruders.
Rajin fingered a sleeping dart, eyes trained on the guard. No need to kill.
His target would be the only casualty.
As the soldier turned to do another loop, Rajin slipped out of his hiding spot and into the next corridor. For some reason, his target was cocky enough to believe no one would attack him – a pitiful arrogance that lead to the downfall of many. Fools, all of them.
Another guard lurked in the next area, wiring cameras to the roofs – presumably to counter assassins like Rajin himself. Turning himself invisible, he crossed the next few halls with ease, using his temporary power until it ended.
As he flickered back to visibility, he caught sight of an open pair of brass doors – his target would be there. Sorcerer or no, his hideout was pitifully small.
Slipping the dart back into his pouch, he watched the final guard turn to walk in the other direction.
Then he dashed behind the soldier and into his target’s room.
His target – a black-cloaked sorcerer with a bird-like mask – sat at a desk in the spacious room, casting a short glance towards Rajin. “I see you have infiltrated my lair.”
Rajin unsheathed his sword. “Your death is near, fiend. Any last words?”
A laugh. “You really think you can kill me?” He waved his hand. “I’ll play, then, petty fool.” With a snap of his fingers, the doors slammed shut, and a click signalled them being locked. “I suggest you prepare to die.”
He stood, and another spell sent the minimal furniture in the room to the walls. “Now, grace me with your name – you may call me Cyrus.”
“My name is Rajin. Rajin Rais.”
“A ninja, hmm?” Beneath the mask, Cyrus’ eyes narrowed. “Very well.” Red sparks formed at his fingers, and he sent a ball of flame in Rajin’s direction.
Rajin dodged, and lunged forward.
A lightning bolt flashed across the room. “So…” Cyrus avoided a strike from Rajin’s blade. “Why do you want to kill me?” He hooked his foot around Rajin’s leg and yanked him to the ground.
Rajin scrambled to his feet and leapt backwards, gaze fixed on Cyrus. “All natural-born magic users are the same.” He deflected an ice dart with his sword. “Greedy, power-hungry, merciless murderers.” His hand clenched tighter around the leather hilt of his blade. “You are no different.”
“No different, you say?” Cyrus smirked under the mask, and vines lashed out from the ground.
Rajin cried out as a creeper coiled around his wrist, throwing the sword out of his hand. He pulled back, trying to free his hand from the plant. “You’re no different to them all!”
As if reacting to his words, the vine ensnaring his wrist loosened. Perhaps he was affecting the sorcerer…
Dark ropes shot through the air and pinned him against the wall.
“It seems you’re a little too cocky, ninja…” Cyrus approached him, a blade of shadows forming in his hand. “You try to take my life, but I end up taking yours.”
He couldn’t die now… Struggling, Rajin glimpsed his blade. He wouldn’t fall here.
Cyrus raised the sword and slashed.
The ropes shattered with the sound of glass, and the blade grazed Rajin’s side as he twisted free.
Cyrus hissed. “You slippery…”
Rajin darted for his sword and grabbed its hilt. “Time to meet your doom!”
He twisted his sword, causing a light to flash from its blade. A magic user could only be defeated with a certain form of magic… one that only an heir to the Rais line could use.
Cyrus shook his head. “Little brat… trying to prolong your death!”
He shot a fireball across the room.
Rajin dodged and lunged as the magic smashed into the wall.
He stabbed his blade through the sorcerer’s chest.
A sudden gasp for air told him what he needed to know.
Stepping back, he withdrew the sword.
“You…” Cyrus panted, blood staining his clothes from the wound. “A powerful magic lurks inside you… did you know that?”
With a sigh, Rajin nodded. “May you rest in peace, even if your deeds were poor at best in this life.”
Cyrus didn’t answer.
He collapsed to the ground.
Rajin closed his eyes. The sorcerer was gone. The victims of his dark spells were avenged, the people trapped under his spells would be freed… and yet, he felt sick to the stomach – a usual feeling his father would have scorned him for.
“You taught me merciless killing was what the Rais name meant…” Rajin whispered, wiping the blood off his blade. “That’s what you taught me, Father, yet it’s not true…”
Casting the thoughts from his mind, he left the room through a lone window, avoiding looking back at his own handiwork.