Big huge thank you to my friend Grace for having the patience to put up with me and kindly point out my mistakes. Please enjoy this chapter, y'all, and do tell me what you think!
A New Look On Life
The guards dragged the prisoner down the semi dark hallway and up several flights of stairs, until they reached a cell that was flooded with sunlight. Momentarily stunned by the sudden brightness, the prisoner didn't even realise that he had been left in his new cell until he heard the cell door close and he noticed that he was leaning against a stone wall. The wall was the only thing that was keeping the prisoner upright, but then, in a split second, he was no longer leaning against it, and he was falling. He sank to his knees, bent double from the fit of coughing that suddenly enveloped him. Falling over on his side, he lost consciousness just as his head landed on...something soft?
The prisoner's mind wandered to an event that he clearly remembered from his childhood. It was about fifteen years ago, ten years before he had been put in prison. He was ten years old, still living with his parents, his one-year-old sister, and his grandparents. It was early in the morning, the morning of his test. He had been learning ninja skills since he was four and this was the final test before his teachers would let him continue on to mixing magic with the skills he already knew.
The city of Onamo, on Liutang Island, Tekoa Province, is well known for its unique style of warrior. When children reach the age of four, they are sent to the Beginners School, where they learn all the techniques of the Ninja fighting style. If the students, after six years of brutal training, manage to pass the test, they move up to the actual Ninja Academy for six more years of training. A select amount of students, only those who have magic which is always a very small amount, go to the Ninja-Mage section of the Academy, for six years of training with magic. No other city on the entire continent of Efillen trains Ninja-Magicians; that style of warrior is exclusive to the city of Onamo.
The two teachers of the Academy sat at the far end of a rectangular arena, in perfect positions to watch and judge the student's performances. One of the Academy teachers was dressed completely in black: he was the Ninja trainer. The other teacher was dressed in dark red with black trimming: he was the Ninja-Mage trainer. The boy stood on the left corner of the front row of fifty students, desperately hoping he wouldn't be called first.
The first student
was called by the teachers, and the boy sighed as a girl on the other
end of the front row walked forward and bowed to the teachers. The
girl performed her routines perfectly, not missing a single move. She
finished, bowed to the teachers and waited patiently for a response.
The two teachers conferred among themselves for several minutes before the
teacher dressed in black stood up and held out a scroll to the girl. The girl accepted it, bowed and sat down in her original spot, the slight
hint of a smile on her face. The other eight students on the front
row performed their routines, only five of which received a scroll
and were allowed to sit down. The other three had failed and were sent away. The boy looked around him, only slightly showing signs of his nervousness.
"Xun Klahan." One of the teachers called out.
Ah, well, the boy thought, Here goes!
He stepped out of the group of students, walked to the center of the arena and bowed to the teachers. They both nodded in turn and Klahan's own routine began. After going through flawless move after flawless move, Klahan finished his routine and bowed to the teachers. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, the teacher in red stood up and presented Klahan with a scroll. The boy bowed and returned to his spot in the group, sitting down next to the other students who had also passed the test.
"It looks as if he's coming 'round, Arseni."
A calming, male voice broke through the fogginess of Klahan's mind, bringing him back to reality.
"It's about time, Dai!" A harsher, louder voice responded, "The kid's been out for three days!"
Klahan opened his eyes and sat up groggily, blinking rapidly to clear his vision. He found himself on one of two cots in the cell. To his left stood a dark-haired, stocky man whom Klahan assumed was in his mid-forties. The other occupant of the cell, a thinly built, arrogant looking man, was sitting on the other cot and staring at Klahan through a tangled mess of slightly greying blond hair.
"There's no need to raise your voice, Arseni." The dark-haired man stated before he turned to Klahan. "How are you feeling, lad?"
Klahan breathed in to reply and started coughing. Dai nodded in understanding and held out a wooden cup of some dark liquid to Klahan.
"Here, lad, drink this and you'll feel better."
Klahan obeyed, downing the foul-smelling drink in one gulp. As the liquid flowed down his throat, Klahan felt a coolness seep into his burning lungs, instantly easing the dry pain that had plagued him for so long. He handed the empty cup back to Dai, reveling in his new found health.
"Thank you would not be sufficient." Klahan told Dai quietly, "I am most grateful to you."
Dai shrugged indifferently, "'S nothing."
"You know very well that that's not true, Dai!" Arseni objected. He turned to Klahan, "You'll have to forgive Dai; he doesn't take praise very well. He goes and creates all these potions and medicines that heal people almost instantly and then he wants to take no credit for all his work." Arseni looked back at Dai. "It's a rather stupid philosophy if'n you ask me!"
Dai just shrugged again.
"So, what's your name?" Arseni pressed.
Klahan hesitated, still not completely sure that he could trust these men.
"Cassian." He replied after a moment, "Cassian Kolanus."
Arseni's blue eyes opened wide, "Cassian Kolanus?? You mean the Cassian Kolanus? The Shadow of the Brotherhood?"
Cassian chuckled softly; amazed that he could even do that without coughing, "Yes, Arseni, I was the Shadow of the Brotherhood."
"Was?" Arseni raised a blond eyebrow. "What do you mean 'was'?"
"It's a long story and not one that I am willing to relate at the moment."
Cassian's voice held such a note of finality in it that Arseni knew he would hear no more on that subject. The brief moment of silence was suddenly broken by Dai.
"Kolanus is not really your surname, is it?"
Cassian started in surprise and shook his head. "No, it is not."
"Why do you use it, then?" Dai's voice sounded strangely accusing and Cassian wondered what the older man's problem was.
"I needed a surname name and my grandfather's worked out fine for what I needed."
"Your grandfather's?" Dai's expression clearly showed his surprise. "Who is your grandfather?"
"Why do you want to know?" Cassian was suddenly suspicious. He knew nothing about Dai, or Arseni for that matter, and he certainly did not appreciate people prying into his personal affairs.
"Because I think I know your grandfather."
"If you know my grandfather, as you claim," Cassian challenged, "then surely you would know his name."
Arseni laughed, "He's got you there, Dai!"
Dai frowned at Arseni and looked back at Cassian, "I want to hear it from you."
"So that I can know if my suspicions are correct."
"His name is Cayden Kolanus."
Dai smiled knowingly, "It is as I thought."
"Wait a minute!" Arseni interjected, jumping to his feet and staring wide-eyed at Dai. "That means–"
"Don't say it, Seni!" Dai turned on his friend, the look in his dark brown eyes silencing Arseni immediately. "Sit back down and don't you dare say a word!"
Arseni obeyed and sat back down on his cot, his blue eyes still wide with sudden understanding. Cassian looked from Dai to Arseni and back again, his grey eyes showing his confusion.
"I don't understand the significance of my grandfather's name."
"That will be explained, Cassian."
The way Dai said his name, made Cassian wonder all the more about the older man. It was as if Dai knew that Cassian wasn't his real name, although Cassian hadn't mentioned anything on the subject.
"I told you that I know your grandfather, correct?"
"Then tell me this," Dai looked at Cassian speculatively, "How many children did your grandfather have?"
"Two. A boy and a girl."
"And that girl is you mother, am I right?"
Cassian nodded again, still as confused as before.
"Your mother's name is Lawan." Dai stated, rather than asked.
"How do you know so much about my family?" Cassian whispered the question, surprised that this man, who was a stranger to him, could know so much. Cassian never spoke to anyone about his family, and the fact that Dai knew so much made Cassian marvel.
"I will explain." Dai replied, "But, in order for me to give a complete explanation, you must first answer my questions."
Cassian looked away from Dai and stared at the cell door, thinking. He never completely trusted anyone, especially people he had only just met, but there was something innately familiar about Dai, something that made Cassian trust him, though he couldn't name what exactly it was.
"Alright," Cassian said after a moment of silence and looked back at Dai, "I'll answer your questions."
"Did your mother ever tell you what happened to her older brother?"
"All she ever told me and my little sister was that my uncle left Grandfather's home at a rather young age to go traveling and exploring the rest of the continent." Cassian paused, "Why? Do you know something about my uncle?"
Dai smiled, "You could say that. I actually know him quite well."
Arseni suddenly made an unintelligible outburst, causing Dai to glare him into silence once again.
"What is my uncle like?" Cassian asked Dai eagerly, "I have never met him."
"That is not true." Dai said quietly, "You have met your uncle once and you have seen him twice."
"What?" Cassian was incredulous, "When?"
"How old were you twenty years ago?"
"I was five years old. I had just begun my Ninja training at the Beginners School in Onamo."
"Ah," Dai nodded in understanding, "No wonder you don't remember."
"Your uncle's visit. He visited your mother and the rest of your family while you were at the School, so you never met him then, but you did see him. He was standing in the crowd at the initiation of new students the year after you started your training. You saw him, you even made eye contact, but you were never told who he was."
"How–" Cassian left his question hanging and shook his head, "Never mind. Just, never mind."
He let his gaze wander around the cell, taking in the brightness, the cleanliness, the spaciousness. It was heaven compared to where he had been for the past five years. Five years. He shuddered at the thought, and lowered his head into his hands. Five years wasted in a god-forsaken, pitch black, hole in the ground. Five years that he could have spent learning and teaching, along with all the other members of the Brotherhood. Five years he could have spent with his friend, the only one who truly understood him. She was probably married by now, settled down with her own family, her own children, she had always wanted to do that. Family! The thought snapped Cassian back to reality and he jerked his head up, grey eyes boring into Dai.
"You said that I saw my uncle twice. You already told me the first time, when was the second?"
That incredibly annoying smile! Cassian thought, But, why does it seem so familiar?!
"What is your uncle's name, Cassian?"
Cassian's black eyebrows scrunched together, as he tried to remember.
"It started with a 'D', if I remember correctly."
"Your memory is good. It's Daichi."
"Dai–" Sudden recognition dawned upon Cassian. "You?! You're my uncle??"
Daichi Kolanus laughed at his nephew's reaction. "Yes, I am your long-lost uncle."
"I don't believe it took you so long to figure it out!" Arseni could no longer contain himself, "You're the Shadow of the Brotherhood, for crying out loud! You're supposed to notice these things!"
Cassian was speechless. Completely oblivious to Arseni's outburst, he sat staring in surprise at Daichi, his...uncle.
Daichi looked at Cassian, ignoring Arseni's continual commentary which contained phrases like, 'kid should've known' and 'what do they teach at academies'.
"Why did you change your name, nephew?"
"When someone joins the Brotherhood of Coolen," Cassian explained, "and becomes a prominent member, as I did, they are requested to take on an alias, for their own safety. This was even more important for me, since I was nearly the highest ranking Member."
"What made you choose the name 'Cassian Kolanus'?"
"Cassian was one of Grandfather's old friends, as you know, and the surname of Kolanus is new to this continent and, therefore, not well-known."
Daichi nodded, "I see. You said you were nearly the highest ranking member of the Brotherhood. Who was above you?"
Cassian smiled an elusive smile, one that Daichi was sure was rarely used, "Timothy Coolen and his younger brother, Augustine, were the only Members of higher ranking than I."
"Wait just a minute!" Arseni interrupted the conversation, glancing back and forth between the other two with an unbelieving look on his face.
"What's wrong, Seni?" Daichi asked.
"Am I to understand that this young man is the Cassian Kolanus, the third highest Member of the Brotherhood, and that he is also your nephew?"
"Yes." Daichi and Cassian replied simultaneously.
Arseni stared at the ceiling, "What is this world coming to?!" He suddenly scratched his head, thoughtfully, "But, I still don't understand how one of the most prominent Brothers ended up in a stink hole like Kaj Prison."
Cassian's black eyebrows shot up in interest. "Is that where I am?"
Arseni's jaw dropped. "You didn't even know where you were?!" He spluttered, incredulity written all over his face, "How could you not know?"
Cassian shrugged, "When I was arrested, in Tymon, I was blindfolded for the entire length of the journey, until I was inside this prison. I had no idea where exactly I was, but at that point I didn't really care."
"Why were you arrested, nephew?" Daichi inquired.
Cassian looked away, staring at nothing in particular, "It's a long story."
"We have nothing better to do."
"Wait." Arseni looked at Cassian with a scrutinising gaze.
"What now, Seni?" Daichi asked, impatient with his cellmate.
Arseni ignored him, icy blue gaze still fixed on Cassian. "What's your real name?"
"Xun Klahan. Why do you ask?"
Arseni shrugged, "I was just curious. So, should I call you Xun?"
Cassian laughed, lightly, "No, Seni. Xun is my family name. My father is Xun Bao, my mother is Xun Lawan. If you were to use my real name, you would call me Klahan."
"What do you mean 'if'?"
"My real name is only reserved for my family and extremely close family friends."
"For my family's safety." Cassian explained, "If I had any enemies who figured out who my family was, they could use that to get at me. On every area of this continent, besides my hometown, I use my alias. It's just better for everyone that way."
Arseni nodded, "Makes sense. I'll call you Cassian, then."
"Thanks, Seni. I'd hate for something bad to happen to my family because I was careless."
Daichi put a hand on his nephew's shoulder. "We understand now, Cass, and, personally, I don't blame you. Now, about your story."
Cassian smiled that same elusive smile again, "It's more like a tale of woe, rather than just a story."
Daichi smiled back and Arseni laughed.
"Just get on with it, kid!"
Coming up next:
Chapter Three A Tale of Woe