A Few Good Men
Ring around the rosies,
Pocket full of posies.
Ashes to ashes,
We all fall down.
We all fall down.
Chapter 4--Me, and Her
It’s coming towards you, kid.
I looked around me. Where? I gave Schrudich a suspicious glance.
Sure enough. He gave me a teasing grin. Gotcha.
I gave him a dirty look.
He gave me another grin, then he looked over at Crawford and gave a yawn. Bo-ring.
I ignored him and looked at Crawford expectantly. Not that I expected he would actually say anything, because he normally doesn’t do that. But then, as of right now, circumstances are pretty out of the ordinary.
Like, for example, his hailing all of us here—that’s a strange thing, since he normally doesn’t do that. And then, there’s the fact that for some reason, he was home even if it was still early—something about that is strange. And since he didn’t usually call us all together in this room during the mornings, something about that was strange, too.
-And- since he didn’t usually call for meetings with people other than Schrudich, Farfello, and I, something about that was also strange.
Not too far back, about a year ago, when this man named Takatori Reiji, whom we worked for, was still alive, we—Crawford, Schrudich, Farfello, and I—collectively known as Schwarz—used to, on a regular nighttime basis, hold our meetings right here, in this room, on the fourth floor of the SZ mansion. This is a room big enough to house the whole downstairs living room, but in contrast to the physical appearance of the living room, this room is pitch-black, and it holds a certain outer space sort of exterior.
Normally, we would all go here, summoned by Crawford. He would be standing right across this oval-shaped glass table and leaning on the wall. Schrudich would be sitting on a chair beside the table and his elbow would be resting on top of the table. Farfello would be standing at the corner opposite the door, and I would be sitting either on the sofa opposite from where Crawford was, or beside the computer near the sofa.
And then, we would all stay there, silent for about an hour, waiting. Actually, we never have any meetings that involved definite conversations or something of that kind. Our meetings usually consisted of waiting for about an hour or so.
Waiting for what? Well…the next move, or something like that, I guess.
Maybe one can say that this room was more of a waiting room than a meeting room. At least, for normal people, that’s what it would seem. But we were never normal. I guess that’s why typical meetings for us are similar to doing nothing but wait for normal people.
I guess that really doesn’t make much sense, does it? But that’s fine. I never could make much sense of anything anyway.
If there’s anyone who could actually make sense of anything among the four of us, it’s Crawford. For one thing, he’s the oldest, and for another, he knows a lot about things. I think it’s probably due to the fact that he could tell the future. I’ve never actually known him to have no explanation for anything. Strange as it may seem, I think he actually finds sense in everything.
Or maybe I just think that because I can’t really make much sense of the world around me. I don’t know.
As for Farfello, it’s really hard to tell if he can actually make sense of the world around him. I don’t think I’ll ever know what he’s really thinking. I never really understood him.
And Schrudich? His tendency to explain things in circles makes everything all the more confusing. But then, at least he can explain them. That must mean he can at least make sense of something…right?
Uh…anyway, as for me…I think I’ve said it already. I understand some things, but not all things. The problem with me is that there are more things in the world that doesn’t make much sense to me than there are things that actually make any sense.
So what does that make me? Well, as much as I think it’s sad that I have to be like this, I think it’s more…pathetic.
I mean, the fact that I’m almost seventeen and I still can’t make much sense of many things in the world, that’s what makes me pathetic. And the fact that maybe I actually knew a lot more four or so years ago than I do now, -that- adds to my pathetic state.
But then, four or so years ago, someone was there to actually help me make much sense of things. I sort of wish she had been around longer to help me out, but as I said, that was four or so years ago.
I mean, I guess Crawford could have been the one to help me make sense of a lot of things when she left and even when she was still around, but when it’s him who explains things to me, instead of making them clearer, they become more blurry.
I don’t know why the heck that was. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s a lot older than me and the fact that he and I grew up differently. I’m not sure.
Where was I? Umm, yeah. Four or so years ago, I had someone younger, nearer my age and knowing my background to teach me things and help me make much sense of the world. Although we were both young and she probably couldn’t make sense of the half the world back then, she made me understand a lot of things.
Plenty of things, especially about life. Though I don’t know how she came to know all that. But then, I didn’t really know much back then, did I?
She was eight and I was seven when we were separated, and then she was twelve and I, eleven when we were reunited.
And then, she was fourteen and I was thirteen when we were again separated. Back then, right before she left, I tried to keep as much as I can of the things we had shared with each other, and the things she’d tried to make sense of for my sake. In a span of two years, she was able to help me make sense of a lot of things that was probably equal to the amount of knowledge I would have gained had we been together, say, two years more.
Meaning to say, those things she thought me for two years would have been equal to what I would have learned for four years. But now that I think about it, had she been around longer, I would have had something worth more than four years.
If that had been the case, I should think I would be a much different person from the person I am now.
But fact is, that wasn’t the case. That was mostly wishful thinking on my part, because I am who I am now, and she wasn’t there those four years—in those four years she was gone, a lot has happened that made me what I am now.
And I had forgotten a lot of what she had thought me—a lot of things that made me what I was four years ago, and because I’d forgotten, I changed.
But I never meant to forget. Two years was just a bit shorter than four years, that’s all. I mean, I always thought I would be able to preserve much of what she thought me those two years. But I never understood her words back then, right before she left.
“Things will never stay the same over a period of time, Nagi. That never happens in reality. In reality, things grow. Things change. The world evolves, and as it does, so should you. To evolve would mean to adapt to the changes around you. But remember, you must never forget everything you’ve learned since you were young. You must learn, but never forget your past learning, for if you do that, you will never understand the changes going on around you. Never forget. Keep these in mind: the key to understanding is remembering...and feeling. You must feel. You’re the only one who can do that, Nagi. When I leave, I won’t be able to do that for you. No one will do that for you. No one but you. Understand?”
No, I never understood what she meant by what she said, but I nodded in understanding anyway.
I guess maybe I should have asked her what she meant then. Maybe if I had, I wouldn’t be as pathetically senseless as I am now.
But she’s here now, isn’t she…? A voice inside me asked.
I gave a little sigh. I wonder…would it be too late if I ask her about what she said back then…and what it meant…now?
Is anything ever too late? I thought that to myself as I gazed at my sister with hopeful eyes. My sister, Futora Naoe—she who taught me everything, but in vain, for I ended up losing most of it.
She, who left me, four years ago, and came back only now—now that a lot of things has happened.
Do I blame her for what happened to me? No, I don’t. Not really. It was my fault, for not understanding, but still, I just wish she didn’t leave me alone…
But she’s back now, isn’t she…? That same voice inside me. I looked over at my sister again.
She was sitting on a chair beside the side of the table across from Schrudich.
-She- was the only person other than Schwarz who was in the room right now. Her presence here with us, as I said, was strange. I wonder why Crawford called her here with us?
Why do I find her being here with us strange? First of all, my sister wasn’t Schwarz. Second, she didn’t have any idea of what we—Schwarz, that is—do, and third…
Third, well…I just find it strange, for some reason, to have my sister around with us. Especially since I haven’t seen her for four years. The way she acted, and talked, and most of all—looked, they all made it seem clear that she was different from the sister I knew before—I mean, before she left.
And that’s strange. What would make her different from the sister I knew before? She was still Naoe Futora. Futora Oneesan, my sister.
But still, it’s somehow…strange.
What’s so strange about it? A voice suddenly spoke up inside my head.
I gave Schrudich another dirty look. I don’t remember asking you to read what I’m thinking.
He shrugged, then looked over at my sister. Don’t blame me. She just wanted me to find out what’s making you so worried.
That was when I noticed my sister looking over at me with a concerned expression on her face.
I gave her a reassuring smile. Tell her it’s okay. I was just thinking about some things. I said to Schrudich.
He raised an eyebrow. Why not tell her yourself, kid? Didn’t you two use to read each other’s thoughts? He gazed over at me expectantly. Well?
I looked away. Yeah, but…that was before.
I was seven years old that time when my younger brother Makoto, my older sister Futora, and I were separated. That happened right after our parents’ death.
Right after they were killed. Executed, as Futora Oneesan would say.
It was strange, that day when my parents were executed. I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t even feel anything.
I couldn’t even cry even though it seemed perfectly normal for me, a seven-year-old boy, to cry when he sees his parents die.
It was even stranger that one of the only things I remember about that day was when they allowed us to say goodbye to Mother and Father. That was before they were executed.
I don’t remember anything that happened right after that. I only remember the aftermath—right after Mother and Father died, when some people came to take us away.
As for what happened in between, I don’t know. I only remember that, right after saying goodbye to my parents, I was so angry that it felt like there was a storming blowing up inside of me. A storm that flashed destructive thunder, lightning and rain and destroying everything in sight, everything in this world that made my life—our lives, the living hell that it was.
The next thing I knew, my sister was calling me and telling me that it was time for us to go. That was when I was able to go back to where I was.
And that was when I found out that my parents were dead.
Beneath the soundproof glass in that room that was so dark and sad, I looked…and saw in there, two bodies, covered from head to toe with blankets. Not my parents anymore, just two dead bodies. Dead bodies of my parents.
They were dead, and I didn’t even see them take their last breath. I didn’t even get to say one last goodbye. I wasn’t even able to shed a single tear for them, if I still had the capability to do that. Nor did I even hear Makoto’s helpless cries…or my sister’s, if she, too, was crying then. I wasn’t even able to offer them any comfort. And we were so young then, and comfort was probably the only thing that could have eased our broken souls…if they weren’t permanently damaged, that is.
I didn’t have time to contemplate all that, because the next thing I knew, my sister and I were being dragged out of that room to somewhere else.
And then, the next thing I knew, my brother was being taken away by people I didn’t know.
And then, I looked over at my sister with a questioning look in my eyes, unspoken, asking, why, where are these people taking Makoto?
She shook her head at me. I don’t know, Nagi. Let’s just hope he’ll be alright.
Why, Oneesan? Why? I thought to myself, not even thinking to ask her that question directly.
But surprisingly, I got an answer.
These people…-they- seem to think this is what’s best for us. We’re orphans now, and we don’t have any other relatives but Father and Mother. This is the only way we will be able to survive. A thought, from my sister, sent straight to my head.
I don’t know if she knew what we were doing.
I found out, soon enough. Will we see him again? I thought.
She looked over at me as I looked over at her. I hope so. She answered.
And at that moment, we understood what was happening, even though it was unspoken, and even though it was un-thought.
And even if we didn’t know what it actually was. We only knew then that, somehow, in some way, we were able to communicate to each other without so much as a word, only thoughts sent to each other through our minds.
And that was how everything started.
Not long after that, a man and a woman took me away, just like people took Makoto away.
Right before I left with them, I made a promise to my sister. We’ll see each other again, Futora Oneesan, I gazed at her for long moments, making sure to remember her face, making sure to remember -her-. I promise.
She wouldn’t look at me, but I understood. Even that time when Makoto left, she didn’t look at him. She couldn’t bear to see him leave. But for her behalf, I said goodbye to my younger brother. I prayed and hope then that he would never ever forget us. And even then I saw that tears had fallen fast on her face. I knew she couldn’t look at him as she couldn’t look at me now for fear that she would just cry more if she does look.
But I did hear a very faint thought from her.
I started out to join the man and the woman who were waiting for me outside. As much as I didn’t want to leave Futora Oneesan, she was the one who said –this- was probably the best thing that could happen, under the circumstances, for us to survive. I stepped out the door.
I turned around upon hearing that thought in my head.
No matter what happens, I –will- see you and Makoto again. I’m going to reunite the three of us, if it’s the last thing I do.
She wiped her eyes and gave me a fleeting gaze. I promise.
I remember, just before he left, Makoto was crying because he didn’t want to leave until he was able to say goodbye, face-to-face, to both of us. He cried for a long time because Oneesan refused to look at him. Then all of a sudden, he stopped crying, bid us goodbye, and went to join the people who adopted him.
Oneesan must have given him that fleeting gaze that she had given me just now.
I promise that to you, Nagi. Just as I promised that to Makoto.
I gave a firm nod. Goodbye, Oneesan. I’ll see you again.
Then, I went out, without looking back. But as I left with the people who adopted me, I thought to myself, I’ll never forget my promise to her. Just as I will never forget her promise to me.
Promises were something I clung to a whole lot back then, when I was just a little kid of seven years old until before Oneesan went to Germany. But the story of that comes later.
As I said, promises were something I clung to. Promises were something I lived for. My sister’s promise—that we’d all be reunited someday—was something I hoped for, something I looked forward to.
And at the same time, -my- promise to her—that I’d make sure we’d see each other again someday, someway, somehow—THAT kept me alive.
It seems crazy that we had given each other similar promises. But I knew that for our promises to be fulfilled—that for us to be reunited again, all three of us—it would take –all- our combined efforts.
And so, I knew I had to stay alive, even if only to fulfill my promise to Oneesan, and even if only to fulfill my unspoken and un-thought promise to Makoto.
-And- even if only to fulfill my promise to my parents—which was—for us siblings to take care of each other, and as much as it is possible, try to stay together.
Yes, I had made a promise to them, just as I’m sure my sister and brother did too. Right before my parents were taken to the execution chamber, I was able to talk to them.
Unfortunately, I think I wasn’t able to keep one of my promises, because right after they died, my sister and brother and I were separated.
That is, -physically- separated. I had hoped that even if we weren’t together physically, that we were at least together even if it’s just in heart. If that were the case, then I’d know that I haven’t broken my promise to Mother and Father.
I never want to break any promises or even come close to breaking them, that was why I kept all the promises I had made to the people I love at heart. I made sure I remember them for every single day that I lived. More importantly, I made sure –I- lived to fulfill them, even if not immediately.
I had to survive. I had to survive so I can be able to help reunite—physically as well as in heart—what’s left of my family.
I had to survive.
I had to live, even though many people wished and tried it very hard to make sure I would die. Or even if I was alive, made sure my life was a living hell that death would be the best release from it.
From the time I was seven until now that I’m almost seventeen, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of deaths. Some of them were caused by the people around me, while some of them were caused by me.
Right after Mother and Father’s death, the people around Makoto, Oneesan, and I—wished death for the three of us.
I don’t know how I knew that, but the moment Makoto was taken away by some people, I had a feeling. But I kept it inside me, still hoping that I was wrong.
And as I myself was being separated from my sister by people I didn’t know, I had hoped she would be OK. And at the same time, I had hoped –I- would be OK too.
And for about half a year of living with the people who adopted me, I was OK. And I was happy. At least, happy as happy could get for someone whose parents were dead and whose siblings he was separated from.
For about half a year, I was pampered, given everything I wanted, sent to school, and I was treated nicely, like I was a real part of the family. The couple who adopted me weren’t very old, but they had two almost grownup sons. Those two sons were like my real older brothers. Oneechans. Every single day, they brought home gifts and lots of nice things for me. My new parents, meanwhile, read me stories and gave me nice things. They even gave me a nice room to play and sleep in.
I had felt like I had a whole new family, and I hoped my sister and brother were in the same condition as I was. I had a new family, and I loved this family. For every single night that first six months, I lied on my bed and thanked the heavens for giving me a new family, and repeated again and again how much I loved this new family.
How I loved them.
But I was a child of seven who can easily be fooled by material things, false pretenses and fake promises. And for someone who lived for promises, what happened in the next six months came upon me like a crashing blow.
If only I had ears that could hear so much that even the most silent things, like the blooming of flowers or the growing of grass, then I would have been able to hear the deception being plotted behind the walls of the house that I lived in.
Deception that involved me. Or should I say, deception where I was the central figure.
I was the one being deceived, and I never even knew.
I was just a little kid then, barely eight, and I never knew, until one day, the whole world fell upon me and what was once a world close to heaven became a living hell.
One day. Or one night. It started one night, in my bedroom. Just as I was ready to go to bed, a tall figure appeared at the doorway. The next thing I knew, he was in the room—the couple’s eldest son, and he was forcing himself upon me.
He was raping me, and I couldn’t do anything to stop him. I couldn’t do anything but cry. I cried all the tears that could have equaled the tears I could cry if the lifetime I’ve spent in this world was doubled.
I cried myself to sleep and I don’t know when he stopped doing what he was doing to me, but he was gone when I awoke.
I never cried again after that.
And that next day, my new life started. From earth it became a living hell. I literally became a slave to the family who adopted me. I couldn’t protest. I couldn’t even do anything to defend myself every time one of them feels the urge to abuse me right then and there.
And abuse me they did. They did things to me that I never knew of—I only knew that every time they did those things I felt pain.
And I couldn’t stop them.
Because I loved them. They were my new family. They made my life a living hell, but still, I loved them.
That was how I was able to bear living with them for the next half a year. Every single day of those six months, the cycle of living hell—the cycle of abuse in the morning and abuse in the night, went on. During the night, the two grown-up sons took turns raping me. Of course, I didn’t know then that rape was rape, only that it was painful. But I don’t cry anymore. I didn’t know how to cry anymore. And when they stop, I don’t fall asleep anymore. Not immediately. I spend the whole night thinking to myself.
Even during the first six months, I spent some of my time at night thinking, mainly about Makoto and Oneesan. When I began to spend my life in living hell, I hoped and I prayed to the heavens that they weren’t in the same situation I was in.
I always, always hope that they would both be in much better situations than what I was in.
And then, I get to thinking about my situation. Why do I let myself be hurt like this? Every single night since that first night after I was raped, I wondered that. Why do I let them do this to me? Why don’t I just run away?
But I knew I couldn’t do that. If I ran away, I don’t know where I would go. Even if these people are cruel to me, at least they feed me, and I love them.
Abruptly, I think about them.
Why do I love them?
I never got answer to this question. Saying that I love them because they made my life a living hell was like saying that I wanted to die.
And then, that word hovers above my head. Death. Then I start thinking the unthinkable.
Maybe it would be better if I killed myself. After all, no one’s going to worry about me anyway. And if I do that, I can escape this hell of a life I’m living. No one’s going to look for me anymore, anyway. No one, except…
Futora Oneesan and Makoto. But then again, if they knew the life I’m living right now, they would probably think I’d be better off dead.
But what about my promise…? Whenever my thoughts take a turn to my siblings, that’s when I shake the thoughts of killing myself out of my head. I knew I couldn’t die just yet. I still had promises I need to keep.
When I start thinking that, I knew there was only one thing left.
I can’t die just yet. I have promises to fulfill. I’m not going to break any promises. I’ll see my brother and sister again. We’ll take care of each other. That’s a promise.
Stay alive, Naoe Nagi. Stay alive until you reunite with them. You can’t die just yet.
I fall asleep with that thought in my head.
It was one year after I was adopted when my feelings for the family who adopted me changed from my loving them to hating, loathing them utterly for making my life a living hell. That, among other things.
Something that I heard on the news triggered the changed of my feelings. Or not that, directly. More like something they said and did in connection to what I heard on the news—that changed my feelings for them.
Or it wasn’t a change of feelings, exactly. It was more like an awakening. But that comes later.
That day was more than a year ago after my brother Makoto was adopted. And the news was about him.
It turned out that he had run away from the couple who adopted him, leaving the couple gravely wounded from head to toe. But no fingerprints that my brother was in any way connected to whatever happened to the couple.
And then, the family who adopted me said and did some things that hit a very soft spot in me. If only they’d kept their feelings and thoughts to themselves even just for a little while—that action would have been able to save their lives.
But they chose to talk. And they chose to laugh. And they made fun of things that they shouldn’t have made fun of in front of me.
Not just things, they made fun of people.
Like my brother.
And I am really sorry that whatever happened on that day, happened. But I have to say that they could do anything they want freely in this world—laugh, insult, hurt, violate, among other things—as long as they direct it to me, I can endure it. And I won’t complain. I would endure every single suffering—as long as it’s me, and just me who gets it.
But when it comes down to hurting the people I love—EVEN if it’s just in words—and mocking and insulting them in front of me—that’s a whole new different story altogether.
“That kid probably did it. Kids today…”
“That kid ran away, didn’t he? I’m positive he did it.”
“If I were that kid, I’d kill myself.”
“Yeah, I would, too. But he’d probably be too scared to do that. Poor, poor kid…if he gets caught, he’ll be taken apart bit by bit…”
I heard all those insults, mocks and jeering laughs. I’m not even going to repeat what else they said. Everything made me angry.
The first sign of my anger was when the TV blew up. And they continued talking. As they continued talking, I felt that it was one of those times when I wish I were deaf. But I heard everything. I heard every single word…
And then everything came crashing down. I saw red. Crimson.
And I got so angry at them. So angry that I wasn’t able to control my anger anymore. Every single thing in the house came crashing every which way, even the four of them. Fire broke out. Hell broke loose. And I couldn’t make myself stop.
All the while, as everything in sight crashed and burned all over the place, memories came flashing in my head…every single physical and verbal abuse they had so kindly given me…and my anger boiled up uncontrollably until everything blazed out of control…and even then, more memories of the hell I was in continued flashing before me. And then, my awakening started.
Right then and there, I knew that I never really loved them. I just gave that as an excuse to intensify the anger that had built up inside me ever since that day when they came to adopt me.
Right then and there, I knew that the love I thought I felt was just a cover up for my real feelings. I realized then that I hated them from the very start.
I hated them for taking me away from the only people left of my real family.
Later on, I hated them for being nice to me for half a year, hated them for being my new family.
And later on, I hated them for making almost half a year of my life as a child barely eight years old a living hell.
And then later on, I hated them for insulting and mocking one of the people I love more than anything in front of me.
And I couldn’t stop hating them. I couldn’t stop my anger even as I continually heard their screams. I destroyed everything in sight.
I burned the house along with them. Every single one of them—the couple, and the two almost grown-up sons.
And I didn’t stop until I could no longer hear their screams, and even then, I didn’t stop. I didn’t stop until the whole place was completely burned into ashes.
Ashes to ashes, we all fall down.
Only thing was, they fell before I did.
This was four of the first couple of deaths that surrounded me—deaths I have caused. Just as my adoptive family triggered my extreme anger, my extreme anger triggered the release of an ability I never knew I had until that day.
I could move objects with my mind. And not just objects, also people. And this ability was able to turn four grownups and a big house to ashes in a span of one day. I was surprised to find out I had such kind of power, but there was no time to worry about that.
After everything burned to ashes I was left standing at the center of a pile of rubble and ashes than was once my house. And I knew what that meant.
I had to get away from there, as far away as possible. I don’t know how, I only knew I had to get away.
The next thing I knew, from that pile of ashes and rubble I saw myself standing in the middle of a grass clearing under a bridge where a small river runs through.
I had teleported. But there was no time to worry about that. I was very tired, for some reason. I fell asleep in the middle of the grassy clearing right away. And when I woke up, I had felt like there was a whole new world in front of me—that my living hell had ended with the death of my adoptive family.
But that was only wishful thinking. I never knew that a lot of things still lay up ahead for me. A whole lot of things. My living hell was just starting.
The day after I killed my adoptive family would have made my stay with them one full year. Likewise, the day after that was my eighth birthday.
I spent my eight birthday in that grassy clearing under the bridge. No one celebrated with me, not even me. There was nothing to celebrate.
My birthday was the second day I spent my life in that grassy clearing. I thought everything would go all right now that my adoptive family was dead. I had hoped, but I hoped in vain, for that same day I found out that my living hell continued on.
When I was still with my adoptive family, as they abused me, I realized the fact that in this world, there are a lot of cruel people—people who glorified in making other people suffer. People like my adoptive family enjoyed making people like me suffer. I kept thinking that if I wasn’t with them, maybe life would be much kinder and help me meet the kind of people who help those who have gone through suffering.
When I came to this grassy clearing, I had hoped of meeting such kind of people. I had extreme hope, for I knew that life was kind and it would help me overcome my sufferings.
But as it turned out, there were no such kinds of people. Everyone in the world were either people who make others suffer, or people who receive the sufferings.
And as I lived each day in that clearing, I fully realized that it wasn’t just the people around me who are cruel.
Life itself was cruel. And I knew that if I wanted to survive, if I wanted to stay alive, if I wanted to be able to fulfill all the promises I made to my family, I had to be cruel too.
Survival of the strongest and cruelest was the universal law there in the grassy clearing under the bridge. And there were many others like me there, too, who wished to survive. Orphans, that’s what we all were. Orphans who had no place to go and no other way to survive. To be able to survive, I had to be tough. And cruel.
During the first couple of days, I wasn’t used to it, and I ended up getting beat up pretty badly. I couldn’t even use my power. I felt too weak. But at one point, I had to keep on remembering that I had to survive in order to fulfill my promises. And that made me strong. And yes, that made me cruel.
And since that day on, I survived. I got rid of everyone and everything that threatened to end my life, or stop me from surviving.
I was cruel. I was merciless.
And from that day on, I hardened my heart to everything around me. I was going to survive, even if it means others will die.
In some unspoken way, I had vowed revenge to the world—the world that killed my parents, the world that separated me from my siblings—the world that made my existence a living hell. I vowed I would never stop until I destroy everyone and everything that caused my existence to be a hellish one.
And I kept that vow inside my hardened heart, along with all the promises I have yet to fulfill.
For three whole years, I survived in that grassy clearing underneath a bridge. The place where I lived was just outside of Tokyo.
I was a couple of months short of my eleventh birthday when a man from Tokyo went to my home. I had set myself up a tent made of materials that I stole from a store a short distance from the bridge.
During that time, there were only a few of us left living under the bridge. Most have died of hunger, drowned, or killed, or some other type of death. A few of the strong ones survived. That’s us.
It was the month of May, late springtime. Even though I had hardened my heart to life, there was a soft spot left for my family. I still remember that May was Futora Oneesan’s birthday. She would be twelve, since I would be turning eleven in a couple of months.
The man who came from Tokyo had a car. He was American, and he had dark hair and eyes, and he wore glasses. He came down to my tent that day.
I had just woken up, and I was staring at the river and making some leaves float and stabbing a couple of fish along the way using my ability to move objects. That’s when he approached me.
“Hey, kid,” he said. “Are you from around here?”
I looked up and glared at him. “What’s it to you?”
“Nothing,” he said matter-of-factly. “But it can mean something to another person.”
I rolled my eyes, stood up and turned back to my tent with the fish I caught. “Look, Mister, if you have something to say, I have no time for it, so go away.”
“You don’t have time for it?” He followed me to my tent. “Are you sure?” He raised an eyebrow.
I glared at him again. “YES, Mister, I’m sure. Please go away. I’m having breakfast and I can’t afford to share this with you.”
But no, he wouldn’t leave me alone. “Have you been here long?” He asked.
“What’s it to you?” I snapped. “Mister, what do you want from me?”
He shrugged. “I don’t want anything from you, kid. Question is, do –you- want something from me?”
He was talking in circles. “Look, Mister, are you going to leave or do I have to—“
“—Use your ability to move objects on me?” He finished.
I was stunned. He didn’t see me do anything, but he knew I had an ability to move objects with my mind.
He gave a small teasing laugh. “Yes, I know a lot about you, Naoe Nagi,” he continued. “I know a whole lot. I know you went here when you were eight years old and you’ve been living here since. I know you killed your adoptive family using telekinesis. I know your parents were executed when you were seven in the Tokyo Police Main Building. And I know you have a younger brother and an older sister.”
Who is this person?
I gave him a suspicious look. “Why do you know all those things? Who are you?” I demanded.
“My name is Brad Crawford. You can call me Crawford. I know who you are, Naoe Nagi. More than you could ever know.” He said.
“How do you know who I am?” I persisted.
“If you come with me—“
“NO! I won’t come with you! Answer my question!” I said angrily. Then I punched him without meaning to using my power.
He composed himself. “All right, then I’ll just tell your sister Futora that you can’t make it to the late celebration of her twelfth birthday. How does that sound?”
My sister Futora?
“Who ARE you? How do you know my sister?” I shouted, and as I did, another blast of my anger hit him. He staggered down.
He stood up and brushed the grass from his suit. “Your sister is in Tokyo, living with me and two other people. If you come with me, you can meet them.”
“NO! I won’t come! I don’t believe you! If you’re telling the truth, then bring her here!” I shouted.
“I can’t do that,” he said calmly. “I promised your sister I’ll bring -you- to her.”
“Promised,” I whispered. I was silent for a couple of minutes. “Hey, Mister! I’ll make you a deal,” I told him stiffly, “if you’re lying to me, I’m going to have to kill you, and you can’t refuse. Is that a deal?”
“It’s a deal, kid.” Brad Crawford answered seriously. “But I promise you, I –am- telling the truth.”
I didn’t say anything to that. I didn’t believe him. I couldn’t believe him. The only truth I know of this hellish world is that nobody tells the truth.
But still, I came with him. And as I looked back at the grassy clearing under the bridge that had been my home for almost three years, little did I know that it was the last time I was going to see that clearing. When I stepped into Brad Crawford’s car and drove away with him, that’s when my new life started.
For the first time in a long while, someone who lives in this hellish world had told the truth. As soon as I stepped out of Crawford’s car and followed him to that stately mansion where he lived, I realized that there –are- people in this world who existed to help other people who have suffered.
Crawford was one of them. As I followed him into the garden of the mansion, I saw a flash of long dark hair…then the eyes followed.
Dark blue eyes. Eyes that I would know instantly and forever.
My sister’s eyes.
“Oneesan!” I shouted.
And that was it.
I came running towards her. She came running towards me.
“Nagi!” She shouted, and then she hugged me. I hugged her back.
And with that, all the ice that had hardened my heart shattered.
And as we hugged each other, I couldn’t cry.
Neither could she, but that didn’t matter. My heart wasn’t hard anymore. And then I knew that nothing could ever harden my heart ever again, as long as Oneesan and I were together.
Now that we were together again, it would be easier to find Makoto. And one of these days all my promises would be fulfilled.
My hope was back again.
As for my vow of revenge to the world that gave me a hellish existence, that was still in my heart—asleep, until such time that I can be able to make it happen.
For two years, Oneesan and I were together. We lived in the mansion of the SZ together with Schrudich, this German kid who can read minds and who’s almost seven years older than me, Farfello, this Irish kid who can feel no pain and who was four years older than me, and Crawford, who can tell the future and who was twelve years older than me.
I became one of Crawford’s assistants, together with Farfello and Schrudich. The four of us formed what was known collectively as Schwarz. We were bodyguards of this big shot politician named Takatori Reiji. Our mission was to annihilate anyone who dares compete with him.
We killed people if it was necessary.
But that was fine with me. When I started living in the grassy clearing under the bridge, killing became as necessary and as essential as…as breathing. As living.
As for my Oneesan, she was there. She was my constant companion, spiritual adviser, teacher, friend, sister, and something like a mother.
Since we were siblings, we were always together. We were closest to each other’s ages, and sometimes Farfello and Schrudich joined us. Oneesan was the one who helped me relate with these two. As for Crawford, he wasn’t around often, but when he was home, he talks to me and explains things to me. That was his way of relating with me.
One of the best things my sister did for me when we were together for two years was putting my faith back in life.
She had told me what had happened to her those four years we were separated. Her sufferings weren’t enough for her to hate life, because according to her, life is not cruel. The world is not a cruel world. What makes the world cruel is the people that surrounds it. People are the cruel ones. But, just as there are cruel people, there also exist people who are the opposite of cruel.
“And Brad, Farfello and Schrudich, are examples of that.” She had added.
She was also the one who taught me how to use my powers. The first time she used it, she said, was the first time she ever killed anyone. In that sense, we were alike.
“Those who adopted me…I killed them using telekinesis. They were trying to force themselves upon me again. After that, I knew they planned to kill me because I don’t attract customers anymore. That was because anyone who uses me dies soon after. It’s like I was cursed.
“Anyway, I didn’t burn them down. But they were trying to use these ropes on me, and they had knives. I used those against them. I strangled them; afterwards I stabbed them several times. Then I left.” She said that matter-of-factly.
She was the one who explained to me why I felt so weak after I teleported.
“It’s because you’ve used up all your energy. The problem with us telekinetic is we have to use our powers moderately. If we use it too often, we get tired. If we don’t use it too often, we can get sick. However, if we don’t use it for a long time, our body can get used to it until eventually the ability disappears. Mother told me that it would come naturally for us to have those powers because she did. Remember?”
Yes, I remembered how Mother used to float Makoto and I in the middle of the ocean. We looked down in the water while she floated and watched the sea creatures swim.
The last of the best things my sister gave me was my hope. When I was by myself in that grassy clearing for three years, I gave up hope of finding them again. But when I found her, that hope came back.
Of course, Oneesan and I can still talk to each other through our minds. Schrudich said this was telepathy, similar to his power; the only difference was that this was two-way, meaning; only Oneesan and I can read each other’s thoughts.
And with this ability, Oneesan was able to teach me a lot of things.
For two years, my sister taught me a lot. Mainly, about life. Living with Crawford, Schrudich and Farfello made her a lot wiser, because, even if it seems strange to me, in their own ways, they have taught her a lot. And she shared all her knowledge to me. And though sometimes I don’t get some of them, I was nevertheless thankful.
Of course, one thing I would never ever forget was the fact that she made me change my outlook of the world entirely.
”The law of the world is not survival of the strongest and the cruelest. But you have to be tough, although tough doesn’t exactly mean you have to be cruel. Life is hard, but it isn’t cruel. The world isn’t cruel. You just have to know how to adjust. You have to know how to evolve as the world around you evolves.”
Her last words before she left for Germany went a little something like that. I think I mentioned it earlier. It was something I never understood, and neither did I try to ask her to explain it.
Before I turned thirteen, Crawford mentioned something to us about choosing which of us—Oneesan or I—would go to Germany and be the SZ and Schwarz’ out-of-the-country agent. We had to pass an exam. Oneesan and I took the exam, and of course she was the one who passed it. Unlike me, she had always been as smart as a whip—not just book-smart, but life-smart. I was just a regular kid back when we were young; she was the genius of the family.
Our reunion was of course, cut short, when she went to Germany. As it turned out, we were only together for two years—not even two years, for we were short several days. As much as that made me sad, things happened for a reason—Oneesan always says that, and I believe it. And so again, we were separated for four years. And in those four years she wasn’t around, a lot of things have happened to me, and these things overshadowed everything she’d taught me those almost two years we were together. As much as I tried to save everything she taught me, I couldn’t. No one could’ve done it. Four years was just too long compared to two years.
Now, it seems like I was back where I started—I was once again that hard-hearted eleven-year old who just came back from the grassy clearing below a bridge near a river outside of Tokyo, even though I was getting on for seventeen.
And looking at my sister, it seems like I didn’t know her at all.
She was like this tall, beautiful stranger who came in and entered my life out of the blue.
I guess the same goes for her—just as a lot of things have happened to me in a span of four years, a lot of things have happened to her too.
“Why did you call us here, Crawford?” Schrudich finally spoke. He looked over at me. I’m going to convince Crawford to adjourn this, kid, so you and Sugar can talk.
I glared at him. Sugar?
He grinned. Yeah. Sugar. That’s what I call her. Didn’t you know?
Obviously I didn’t.
“All right, Schrudich. Stop talking to Nagi. You’re clouding my senses.” Crawford said sternly. “I didn’t call you here for any particular reason other than to let you know that our enemies, Weiß has come back to Tokyo, for some reason. They were in Kyoto, but their operative has asked them to come back. And just in time. Our plans are just about ready.” He gave a sinister grin.
I frowned. The year before, those Weiß guys had the habit of popping in when they weren’t wanted and destroying our plans. They were an annoying bunch, those four. Not that they were any much for me anyway.
Especially that Omi guy who was our former boss, Reiji’s son. He’s strong, but heck, he’s no match for –me-.
Schrudich grinned. “Great. Let’s have some fun.”
Farfello just laughed.
“I thought those guys were through. Didn’t you four kill them?” My sister asked. She gave Schrudich a teasing grin.
“We couldn’t kill them. They were too strong for us.” I said sarcastically. Stop flirting with him, Oneesan.
She looked over at me. You’re finally talking to me? I was beginning to think I couldn’t get through to you.
I looked away. I was avoiding talking to you, that’s all.
She shrugged. Just take it easy. You looked like you were thinking of some pretty intense stuff there.
It was nothing.
If you say so.
“The building we were fighting in collapsed. It was more of a draw.” Crawford answered.
“So can we go?” Schrudich persisted. Get it together, kid. You look totally bothered.
I glared at him. I –am- bothered.
Why ever are you bothered? He said with an innocent grin.
Because you won’t stop flirting and playing footsie with my sister, that’s why. I retorted pointedly.
Why should I do that? She’s not complaining.
Are you looking for a body throw? I haven’t done any telekinetic exercises yet, you know.
Okay, okay. I’ll stop. Geeze.
“I’m ending this meeting the moment you and Nagi stop your chitchat and the moment you stop flirting with Futora.” Crawford said dully.
“Okay, okay. I’ll stop.” Schrudich said grudgingly.
As we left the room, Schrudich talked to me again telepathically. You and Futora should talk, kid. You two have a lot of things to catch up on. Four years is a long time. You two should get to know each other again.
Why? Kid, you’re family. As of now, she’s the only family you have. Treasure that. Some of us here don’t have families, in case you hadn’t noticed. You’re lucky you have a sister who loves you.
Kid, don’t think about what happened in the past. That’s over and done with. I know you’re thinking that you seem like strangers to each other since you were separated four years. Maybe that’s true, but you shouldn’t dwell on that. Fact is, you’re her brother, she’s you’re sister. Remember that. Cherish that.
Okay, I’ll talk to her.
She wants to talk to you too. She said she missed you.
I couldn’t help but smile. I missed her too.
No matter how much I try to say that we both have changed so much we seemed like strangers, that still doesn’t change the fact that we are siblings. She’s my older sister, and I’m her younger brother.
Schrudich was right. Instead of looking for what’s wrong, I guess I should try to see what’s right. And for the rare times it happens, Schrudich was right. Oneesan and I, we’ve got each other. As of right now, she’s my only family and I’m her only family.
And I should try to cherish that—what matters now is not how we seem like strangers to each other after four years of separation.
Instead, what matters most now is the fact that we’re family—me, and her.
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