In ancient and present times, there were cultures that belived superstitiously that twins were an ill omen and a sign of bad luck. They believed that one twin must represent good and one must represent evil. The twin dictated as 'evil' was cast out and left for dead, while the twin dictacted as 'good' was cherished of the family. Legend says that once such a pair was born to a high-ranking noble family. The family cared for their rank above all else, and were highly superstitious, they could not bear to have twins. The two sons were identical but for a crescent birthmark on the shoulder of the elder-born. They took it as a sign of his ill-being and left him in a forest shrine to be claimed as an offering. The younger son became the heir, the pampered son of the noble family. It is said that the elder son was adopted by a fisherman who'd come to make an offering. By chance, the fisherman's son unknowingly met his haughty twin on occasions where his adopted father would sell to the noble family. One day, the fisherman supposedly attempted to sell rotten fish to the noble-family, and he was cut down for the insult. The son became enraged and in a hasty attempt for vengeance, wound up stabbed himself and cast out with the refuse. The dying boy swore he would have his revenge and prayed to whomever would listen to let him live. The land deity to whose shrine the boy had originally been offered took pity on the boy and granted him life the only way he could, by infusing him with the essence of a demon. He informed the boy of his true identity, and permitted him to do as he would, for he was owed justice. The boy became a fearsome half-demon, and had his revenge upon that cursed family...
"Tonight's the night! With this, your king is reborn!"
The night air filled with shouts and cheers as the gathering of demons prepared to reach it's climax. A century's worth of fighting and waiting had finally born fruit and the demon known as Rinsai the Black prepared to take his place as a full-blooded demon, the unequivocal leader of his clan. Rinsai had been a model demon in all ways: he'd terrorized, plundered, and battled his way up the demonic ranks and formed a clan to rival even the highest demon lords. There was but one problem, Rinsai was only a half-demon, his other half was human. But that would change when the ceremony was completed and he consumed the heart of a full-demon under the light of the first full moon of the new millenia. There were other ways to create full demons, but none that would guarantee that he remained conscious of himself and that would ensure that his power increased. As a final measure, he'd chosen to take the heart of the one of the five high-demon lords. The act would brand him an enemy of the other clans, but once he'd transformed, he would claim the fifth lord's place with no one to challenge him.
The moon finally reached it's peak directly overhead, and the black-clad Rinsai held up his fresh prize towards the sky. He cast a glance over the motley crowd of demons gathered, hard-won and well-chosen companions who were in awe of his strength and cunning enough to overlook his half-human nature and choose him as their sworn leader. Tonight, he would reward their faith, he would take his place a demon lord and raise their ranks into the highest eshelons of demon-society. Tonight, his filthy past would be buried behind him, and all that his undesirable humanity had brought with it. Rinsai brought the heart to his lips and consumed it to the sounds of cheers. But those cheers were not to last...
"Why?" Rinsai raged before he again fell to his knees and coughed up more of the brackish, black substance that had been forcing it's way out of his body since the moment that he'd finished the heart some hours ago. He'd expected an ascencion, he'd anticipated power, and instead the changes in him had driven him to his knees in agony and caused his flesh to burn. He needed answers, and so he'd traveled to the cave of Galeth-Una, a sort of mystic and sage amongst demons. One who was notorious for his cruel temperament and savage ways, and who had through luck [or misfortune as some might see it] become indebted to Rinsai and a friend by default. "What went wrong?"
Galeth-Una was tall, even for a demon, and slender with beige hair to his waist and oddly slanted eyes the color of pale grass. There was a scar that ran the length of his left eye to his chin, and one split through his lips against his pale skin. Little was known of his past, but at present, he was a boogeyman amongst demons even as he was revered for his wisdom. He gazed down at the half-demon before him expressionlessly, aware as always of how utterly Rinsai had failed ever to fear him. The fact had annoyed him at first, but had grown almost endearing as had the boy himself, he found it more interesting than the constant pleading and trembling that he generally encountered. In a word, he found Rinsai refreshing, and there was the matter of Rinsai having saved his greatest treasure, his only child and daughter.
Long, slender fingers gripped Rinsai's chin, unconcerned by the black liquid trailing from the boy's lips. Rinsai blinked and tensed slightly before he settled and turned himself over to Galeth's ministrations. The older demon fought the twitch of amusement on his lips. Rinsai trusted him so easily, the halfling who by all accounts should have feared him the most. He supposed that even as a human, Rinsai must have been...different. "You ate the heart under the risen moon...and this was the result, correct?"
Rinsai's face instantly scrunched up in anger, and he seemed on the verge of another bout of shouting as he'd engaged in when he arrived, so Galeth placed a finger on his lips to silence him. "The ceremony was performed correctly then. And the heart was of highest quality...it stands to reason that the cause for failure was you."
Rinsai's anger did not abate as he jerked his head away from Galeth. "Me? How could it have-" his words were cut short as he coughed up more of the black liquid. "What is this? What ails me?" he demanded, even as he clutched his throat in pain and spat the liquid remainders to the ground. In contrast to Galeth's pale looks, Rinsai had black hair tied in a short-tail at the nape of his neck, tanned skin, and fierce green eyes flecked with curious traces of gold. A trait of his human blood-line, no doubt, and uncommon for the people of the region. He was shorter than Galeth, but broader, with the body of a young warrior rather than that of an old mystic.
Galeth considered Rinsai a moment before he beckoned him to come forward and follow him. "The ceremony could not be completed, and so instead of making you a full-demon, it poisoned you as a half-demon. It will pass." Which was not to say that it changed nothing of him, already lines of black had began to tinge under Rinsai's eyes, and the points of his ears had sharpened. He was an incomplete product, still a half-demon, but having gained something from the attempt despite the failure. Galeth had never encountered such a being, and held no expectations for the outcome, but he was certain that he could divine the reason for the failure at least.
"I don't understand!" Rinsai seethed as he rose and followed after Galeth into his cave. "I did all that was required. What did you mean that it was me? What did I do wrong?"
"I do not think it was your doing, but be patient long enough for me to look before you continue haranguing me." There was a slight chide in his words, and Rinsai fell silent at that, wise enough not to test Galeth's so far generous patience. The older demon motioned for Rinsai to sit as he waved a hand the several lanterns in the room lit. The cave had several 'rooms' and another level below, and it was a level that Rinsai would be glad enough never to visit again. While he trusted Galeth and considered him a friend, he couldn't deny that Galeth was...a fearsome demon in his own right. The underground portion of his home was reserved for the workings of that aspect of Galeth. On his singular visit to that place, he'd seen a demon who'd crossed Galeth and become one of his 'experiments'...it was enough to make even a demon retch.
Galeth began to collect bottles and supplies and cast various amounts of the substances into a small bowl. Rinsai peered at it curiously before he found himself grabbed by the hair and his back firmly smacked. His protest was cut short as he coughed up again, and the liquid went into the bowl as Galeth intended. Rinsai was released and found his hand to be the next target as Galeth slit Rinsai's finger and let his blood drip into the bowl. When released, Rinsai jerked back and narrowed his eyes. "You enjoy that too much." he accused.
Galeth simply smirked faintly in reply as he muttered a few words and spun the contents of the bowl by twirling his finger above it. Smoke began to pour upwards from the bowl and as he moved his hand, the contents continued to spin on their own. Galeth inhaled the smoke and as he looked to Rinsai, his irises had blended into the whites of his eyes. "Galeth? What is it?"
Galeth's gaze flicked down towards the bowl as the last of the smoke cleared and an image shown inside. The face of a young human boy, with short-black hair and the clothes of a nobleman. The image then changed to that of boy grown to a young man, he lay facedown, dead.
Rinsai's eyes had fallen to the bowl's contents the moment Galeth's did, and his eyes widened before his teeth clenched and he hissed. "What is this?"
Galeth studied the bowl before the image in the water faded and he murmured. "Now I understand.."
"What? What is it? What does that have to do with this?" Rinsai seemed agitated again, a hatred kindled in his eyes.
"In order for you to become a full-demon, you must surrender your human soul to the demonic essence entirely. You cannot be a true demon with any trace of your soul left as human."
"So what?" Rinsai demanded. "I offered my soul!"
"No, you offered but a part of it. The half of your soul which you possess, the other half of your soul lies with another."
Rinsai froze suddenly as he considered those words and a horrible realization dawned on him. But the possibility was too outrageous, too unbelievable, too cruel. "Explain your meaning." he said lowly.
Galeth glanced up to Rinsai finally, and his eyes had returned to their typical coloring. "When you were human, you were born as twin. Twins share a single soul, and so the half of your soul carried by your twin remains human. If you wish to become a demon, you must alter that soul as well...and to do that, you would have to claim that soul for yourself."
"I am not a twin! However I was born...it doesn't matter! That thing was no twin of mine!"
"Even if you say so, you cannot change what is. And that boy is your twin. If you wish to become a demon, you must gain his soul and then surrender it to your demonic essence."
"He's dead! You saw that yourself!"
Galeth lifted a brow as he regarded Rinsai, flushed and enraged. He knew more of Rinsai's past than most, but clearly there was knowledge that he lacked. This...twin of Rinsai's was a sore point, to be sure. "Then he has entered the cycle of reincarnation and will be born again, sooner or later. When that time comes, you must find him and take his soul if you desire it."
Rinsai glared at Galeth as if that would somehow produce a more desirable outcome, and then spat. "How would I claim his soul anyway? I can't just yank it out of him, unfortunately, soul-stealing isn't one of my powers."
"Some demons make a contract to take souls...fulfill the boy's wish in exchange for his soul, that is way...or if you made the boy love you dearly enough to offer you his soul..." Rinsai's noise of disgust made it clear what he thought of that choice. "Or trick his soul from him. Win his confidence and make him offer it by mistake...there are also artifacts and demons that function the same, but that would be troublesome to hunt them and attempt to gain their complicity."
Galeth made it sound so damned easy. "And if he isn't born for centuries? What then? I have only a half-demon's lifespan."
"You are eager to look for ways to avoid this outcome." Galeth studied Rinsai this time. "Are you attempting to protect your twin soul?"
Rinsai sneered. "Don't insult me. I killed him myself, him and his damned family."
"Then if you could take his soul to make your own complete, erasing his existence, you would do it?"
Rinsai seemed to hesitate just slightly as it was phrased in that way. It seemed that he hadn't considered what taking the soul would do to the one he'd taken it from. But his eyes hardened as he said firmly. "Of course I would."
Galeth considered that reply a moment before he nodded slowly. "Then I will make you sleep."
"I will place a spell on you and keep you safe here within my domain. You will not awaken until the boy is reborn. You will not age, nor die. If you want to become a full demon, then this is your path. But as you noted, it could take centuries, while many of your companions will likely yet live, their feelings for you may change. You will not have the same place in that new world, and it may be far different than when you left. What say you, Rinsai?"
Rinsai's eyes widened at that knowledge. "I...No, I can't..." His clan, though small and unruly, was the closest thing to a family he'd ever known since becoming a demon. He was proud of them and what they had accomplished, he enjoyed his world and the position of awe and fear that he held in it.
"Then you will never be a full demon."
"There are other ways-"
"-None that would suit you. And you know this. Choose Rinsai. Will you remain as you are the rest of your days, or grasp what you've been seeking?"
Rinsai thought of his companions, of his second-in-command Jirochi, who was like a brother to him, and Setsura, like a sister. The rest of his companions, friends and comrades he'd hand-picked one-by-one, they would live for centuries unless forcibly killed...but what if he outslept them? Was it worth it? But if he never claimed his rank as a full-demon, wouldn't he be disappointing them anyway? And die far before them? The risk of the attempt outweighed the result of doing nothing, did it not?
"Give me a day to speak with them. And then...and then I'll...return to you."
"Think about it, Rinsai." Galeth said softly. "I will not judge you if you choose to remain as you are. Go and speak with your clan, and make your decision."
"Thank you, Galeth." Rinsai said, grateful for what the other had done, and now offered to do. Galeth was offering to aid his dream and consign himself to the duties of a caretaker for an indeterminate period. And he didn't doubt the other's word for a moment.
"I owe you Setsura's life...that is a debt I can never repay, you never need thank me."
"Ever stubborn." Galeth murmured, and he watched as Rinsai chuckled half-heartedly before he took his leave of the mountain-side.
Rinsai's mind raced with the decisions before him, the future and present, and the past he so despised. The sight of that hated boy in the water had boiled his blood, and the thought that his future hinged on that unworthy brat sickened him. But worse was the thought of leaving his true family behind to chase a dream that might again end in failure. Did he owe it to them, or to himself, to continue?
What could he choose...?
Well, thanks for reading if you made it this far! I'm trying to write legitimate books, but I've got the attention span of a wall so they're on back-burners. After reading a great deal of manga, I was inspired to start writing this story and I'm excited enough about it that I might be able to keep it going. I'll try not to do so much of a manga-esque writing style, but I make no promises and this will certainly have a Japanese flavor. Enjoy, and leave me verbal hugs if you feel so kind! That definitely inspires me to write and makes my day. XD Thanks! ~Witchy.