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"First our pleasures die - and then
Our hopes, and then our fears - and when
These are dead, the debt is due,
Dust claims dust - and we die too."

- Shelley

SHI : DESCENT

OSAKA, JAPAN
AUGUST 28
TH, 1958

Saki hadn’t seen Nagi for weeks, so he wasn’t optimistic about him showing up tonight. Still, he would give him the benefit of the doubt, as he did every night, and try anyway.

Yet as he pulled his way up over the gutters and onto the rooftop, there he was. Seated with one leg dangling carelessly over the side of the rooftop, Nagi clutched a green bottle with a label Saki couldn’t read. He’d seen bottles like that in his parents’ cabinets in the cellar once, and on occasion taken out at the dinner table. "Hey, little brother," Nagi called as he saw him come up. "Guess I’m early, huh?"

Happy to see him, Saki ran to his brother and hugged him tightly. "I-I didn’t think you’d show up!"

"Well after the funeral and all I" Nagi rubbed a hand over his face, then looking up at Saki. "How’s that girl of yours now? You seen her lately?"

"Every couple of days," he replied. Minya had been the only one who had been there for him after what had happened in June; the only one who had helped him try to get through it. "Her father has been taking her over even more since"

"That’s good, Saki," Nagi said, nodding. An expression Saki didn’t know what to make of came across his face. "That’s… very good."

It wasn’t the way he wanted to start a conversation, but there was something he had to ask. It was a question no one had answered for him. "Why did Father and Miko have to die, Brother?"

Nagi looked at Saki through watering eyes, taking another drink from his bottle before speaking. "You’re so old for your age. I act strong pretend to be all the time but you have always the strongest. Even now even after" Nagi wiped his eyes with an arm and stood up. "I can’t be here anymore. There’s something I have to do someone I have to see. I’m sorry." Hurling his now-empty bottle over the side of the roof to shatter against the driveway concrete, Nagi ran and leapt off the edge of the rooftop.

"Wait!" Saki called as he heard him running down the driveway. Nagi didnt turn around.

Saki had lost a father and a sister, and his mother had never been the same since their deaths. His world had already been turned upside down. The last thing he would do is let his brotherhis best friendslip away without at least trying to help him.

Thats what brothers did. They looked out for each other.

Right?

Quickly finding his way down the roof and back onto the balcony, Saki hoped Nagi hadnt gone too far yet.

 

"I love you, Shen!" Saki heard Nagi shout up ahead. "From the first time I saw you, the first time you looked at me—I’ve known it from the start."

Hearing the voice, Saki knew he had followed Nagi’s trail true, even after what had to have been nearly two miles. Running around the corner of the residence’s driveway, he ducked behind some shrubbery while he watched his brother confront the woman who had just answered her door.

"You are a kind, honorable man with a noble heart when you let it show," Shen spoke to him. "I know this. In time you will find a woman, if one doesn’t find you first."

"Y-you you don’t understand." Nagi didn’t seem to care one bit for her sympathy. He was in tears. "I I love you!"

Shen sighed deeply. It was clear to Saki that she didn’t mean to hurt Nagi. "My love, I am afraid, is only for Yoshi. I am sorry."

"N-no no, Shen." Nagi shook his head, his face becoming weaker, more vulnerable. "Please, don’t say that. You donít mean that. You’re the last hope I have left in this life!"

"I am sorry, Nagi." She wrinkled her nose then, noting aloud, "You have been drinking. You tell me these things drunk."

Nagi recoiled, offended. "Don’t go off thinking I’m drunk!" he yelled back. "I mean every word I say! I love you with all of my heart. You have to believe me!"

Shen winced, taking a step back. "Perhaps you should go."

"Damn it, no! Don’t do this to me!" As Shen began to close the door, Nagi reached out and grabbed her by her kimono, entering her house. The woman’s expression went from sympathy to fear. Saki couldn’t believe his brother was acting like this. "I need you—please! You donít know what Iíve lost these past days... my father... my sisteróI wonít lose you, too! Don’t you see that I need you? You must!"

Tang Shen winced, trying to wrench herself free of his grasp. "I cannot! Let me go!"

"No!" Nagi brought his arm back and slapped her hard across the face. "I won’t let you be so cruel—I’ll make you love me!"

Shen held a hand to her face where Nagi had struck her. "I beg of you, stop this"

Nagi slapped her again, throwing her to the floor with his blow’s force as he yelled, "No!" When he peered down at her, the woman now in tears herself from what Nagi was putting her through, he faltered, muttering, "I I can’t"

Shen’s eyes lit with renewed strength when a figure stepped into the doorway, a figure Saki could do little but watch approach the porch from his place of concealment. "Yoshi!" she cried, "Yoshi, help me!"

Hamato Yoshi, the only true love of Tang Shen.

By default, then, Nagi’s worst enemy.

"Shen!" Yoshi called to his battered beloved. Then he saw her. "What has he no"

The air went still as Nagi turned to look his enemy in the eyes. When their eyes met, Nagi reached down and picked Shen up by her kimono again, as if threatening to strike her with his fist. "Hah, Yoshi dog!" Nagi spat at Yoshi, the tears still in his eyes. Desperation and insanity crept into his voice as he continued, "If I cant have this wench… then no one will!"

Yoshi clenched his shaking fists.

Saki couldnt bear to watch what inevitably happened nexthe still couldnt believe what he had seen his brother do. Laying his head in his folded arms, Saki could only listen as the fight was carried out.

He heard Shen crying in the background, Nagi taunting Yoshi, and Yoshi shouting amidst the sounds of the trading blows. When Saki dared to look at the fight, he realized at once that his drunken, heartbroken brother was no match for the enraged Yoshi. After being beaten to his knees, the fight seemed as if it were over. But it wasnt.

"Damn you, Nagi!" Yoshi seethed. That was all he said. Then he was upon the fallen Nagi, throwing both arms around his neck, pressing his head against his body and twisting violently in a single motion. He could hear Nagi choking before he heard the unforgettable sound of bone snapping.

His brother fell limp from Yoshis grasp.

Yoshi, leaving his brother dead at his feet, walked off to help Shen. The man didnt give Nagi another thought as he went to the loving arms of his precious beloved. The authorities would call it self-defense. Yoshi would get off easily, if with any punishment at all. He might even be called a hero.

Saki didnt care. He had seen the murderer. He had seen his face. He had seen his crime.

Shrouded in the shrubbery of the Tang residence, on his knees and crying to no end, Oroku Saki made a silent vow to himself and his brothers soul that he would never forget the mans face. Never.

Tomorrow he would feel anger unbound, rage unparalleled, and swear vengeance eternal. But tonight, he could do nothing.

He had thought he would never know any hurt that could affect him as it had with his father and sister. He thought nothing could ever rival that hurt, that pain. He thought himself immune to whatever else life could throw at him. So sure he had been.

Saki was wrong.

 

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