Last Hope - Chapter 6: His Shadow

He was the older brother, the stronger one, and he was more charming and witty, more cunning, more heartless, and more vicious.
Veepo, Online Chat Group

Ayu: (1:01PM) Good news, guys! My neighbor isn't a vampire after all!

Nat: (1:01PM) Yay!

Haru: (1:01PM) See? I told you.

Ayu: (1:05PM) She's actually a nice old lady. When she heard that my mom was bedridden, she visited us and gave us some herbal remedies and, like an hour later, my mom was up on her feet!

Nat: (1:05PM) Wow! That's amazing! :D

Ayu: (1:06PM) So, I went over to hers and gave her some of mom's homemade gyoza as a thank you. She ate them all up!

Haru: (1:06PM) Nice. I'm glad to hear that.

Ayu: (1:07PM) She even showed me around her house. At first I was kinda creeped out because she had China dolls everywhere and I felt like they were watching me.

Nat: (1:07PM) Ooo! I like dolls!

Ayu: (1:08PM) Then she told me she was a doll collector, continuing the legacy of the women in her family. Some of these dolls were passed through many generations! The longer you hold on to them, their value increases. Some are so valuable that she could buy new cars and houses with them!

Nat: (1:08PM) So cool! I want to be a doll collector!

Riku: (1:08PM) Does she own a pink plastic flamingo in her front garden next to a white picket fence that's decorated in red roses?

Haru: (1:09PM) That's quite the detail.

Ayu: (1:10PM) Yes...

Riku: (1:10PM) By any chance, is her name Kokoro Tanaka?

Ayu: (1:10PM) YES! How do you know her?!

Haru: (1:11PM) OMG. Are you the old lady, Riku?

Riku: (1:11PM) No I'm not, idiot. I'm her grandson.

Ayu: (1:11PM) AHHH! Are you serious! That's awesome!

Riku: (1:12PM) That's weird you live right next to her. I never would've guessed.

Ayu: (1:12PM) You should tell me when you visit her! We can meet up and chill.

Riku: (1:12PM) Yeah, I'm down.

Haru: (1:12PM) Whoa! Hold on! Are you sure you want to meet strangers from the Internet?

Ayu: (1:13PM) Well, I don't really consider you people strangers. You're all my online friends.

Haru: (1:13PM) Yeah, but still... be careful. Riku is a bit of a weirdo. Lord knows what he'll do to you.

Riku: (1:13PM) Shut up, man. I won't hurt her.

Haru: (1:14PM) That's right you won't. Or else you'll have me to deal with [Punch emoji]

Ayu: (1:14PM) Aww, you're so cute Haru!

Riku: (1:15PM) Cute? Lol, no. He's an annoying toad.

Haru: (1:15PM) I could say the same about you.

Riku: (1:16PM) Anyway, do you want to hang out tomorrow, Ayu? I'll visit Baba around noon.

Haru: (1:16PM) So soon? Someone's eager. ;)

Ayu: (1:18 PM) Hehe, sure! I look forward to it.


Location: Killoran Household, Nakano, Tokyo.
Time: 12:50pm, 22nd January 2051.

Little Sharugo lay on the ground, curled up into a fetal position. He was crying like an injured kitten, as his body was trembling and hurting all over. His throat felt dry from screaming so much. Despite his screams, no one attended to him and that made him feel insignificant. His skin craved the comfort of his mother. He needed her scent, the movement of her body and the feeling of his feet leaving the ground for the safety of her arms.

Footsteps sounded the hall and a pair of black boots stopped in front of his small face. Through his teary vision, he looked up to decipher a stern-faced giant looming above him. His father.

Finally, he had come home.

"Why are you crying yet again?"

Diablos' tone wasn't very friendly, nor did he sound concerned for the toddler. He seemed agitated, spitting out his words in irritation. Sharugo had rarely seen him smile or heard him laugh. He was a man who was constantly stressed, angry at the world, viewing everything in his sphere, including his home, as a place of battlefield.

Sharugo tried to mutter out an explanation. "K-Kaito... he-"

"Oh, for the love of Christ, Kodomo! I don't want to hear his name leave your mouth anymore," Diablos snapped.

His harsh tone startled his child whose little body flinched, causing a sharp pain to shoot up his spine. The boy cried harder, which in turn boiled his father's anger.

"Stop that howling! You're giving me a headache."

Sharugo had reduced his volume, but he was still whimpering like a puppy. The noise echoed around the hall, echoing around Diablos' tormented mind. Unable to contain his rage, the man punched the wall beside him.

"I said, SHUT UP!"

The toddler froze, his cry caught in between his throat.

"Do you realize that beyond these walls lies a war zone? We've already lost half of our family! You can't stay sheltered for much longer. One day, you'll have to face that world out there!"

The boy's lips wobbled in fear.

"You have to be tough! You can't break down like this. For God sake, if you can't stand up to your own brother, how can you possibly defend yourself from the real enemies here?"

Diablos turned his back to his son.

"Wipe those crocodile tears, Kodomo! From now on, you're fighting your own battles. Don't expect me to intervene in the childish feud that happens between you and Kaito. I don't have the time to spare for such nonsense. Be a real man and stand your own ground."

Diablos walked away without looking back. Tears hit the wooden floor in a constant stream, as the toddler broke down. He felt so anxious all the time in this gloomy household, especially after his mother disappeared. Nothing was the same again. He missed her so much. He missed her warm embrace, her friendly smile, and her flowery scent. He missed the way she would sing soft lullabies, and her homemade cooking that warmed him up inside. The pain in his heart was more unbearable than the pain that was shooting throughout his small, fragile body.

Just then, Ryuu Sensei entered the room carrying a box of supplies. The martial arts tutor worked closely with Diablos over the years. Occasionally he would come in and out of the Killoran household, like a wandering passerby. He was seen as a family friend and Diablos even encouraged his sons to call him 'Ojisan.'

When the tutor saw the distressed child on the floor, he set the box down and dashed over to the little boy, kneeling beside him.

"Kodomo! What happened to you?"

Sharugo kept sniffling, unsure of whether he should answer truthfully or not. He was afraid of eliciting the same reaction as his father had shown.

"Did your brother hurt you?"

The boy was surprised by Ryuu Sensei's question. Then again, the man was very observant, noticing the clear tension that existed between the brothers that Diablos often overlooked. Sharugo nodded slowly.


"He shot me," he choked out, "with his gun..."

Ryuu Sensei's eyes widened in disbelief.

"Was he firing red bullets at you?"

Sharugo nodded again.

"Come here, son. Let's have a look."

The man lifted up the toddler's shirt, only to see that his small body was covered with fresh pink bruises, resembling polka dots against his light-tanned skin. Some parts of his skin had specks of bright-red blood that oozed down his body. Ryuu Sensei tutted, shaking his head at the sight before him. He gave the boy's head a gentle pat.

"Worry not, Kodomo, I have some ointment that will heal you in no time."

The boy's eyes shifted to the side and became glazed with a fresh layer of tears. He bit his lip tightly in attempt to hide any sound that wanted to escape from his mouth. Ryuu Sensei's heart sank. He couldn't bear to see the child like this.

"Stiffen that upper lip, little man!" He barked. "I'm going to teach you how to defend yourself."

Sharugo blinked in surprise, as more tears streamed down his cheeks. "R-really?"

The man nodded and ruffled the toddler's black, shaggy hair.

"Of course! I'll teach you how to dodge those red bullets. If you're a really good boy, I might teach you how to catch them! Once I'm done with you, you'll never get hurt by one again."


Location: Dome Arena, Osako.
Time: 8:05am, 1st April 2060.

The Annual Bodhidharma Tournament was famously known due to its white Budou logo, seen in flags, on the wall, in the massive arena, and their merchandise. It was the most prestigious event in all of Japan, combining all 47 prefectures together to celebrate and showcase their finest martial arts skills. Stadiums were filled with chattering people and three judges, all of them were reputable grandmasters, were seated in the panel.

"Alright, boys! Don't be nervous! We've got this!" Ryuu Sensei said, giving his usual prep talk.

Whilst the instructor rambled on, Sharugo watched as the girls dressed in white judogi entered the spacious room. They walked alongside the arena, following after their female instructor. Amongst the girls, his eyes were fixed on one stunning beauty: Rita Akiyama. Her high, black ponytail swung fiercely like that of a horse's rear, and her cool-blue eyes shone with determination. For the longest time, he had noticed her and admired her from afar. She was a warrior, a fighter, an independent and powerful soul. She was the only girl that Sharugo had fallen for.

"She's hot, huh?"

Kaito nudged his brother, his eyes sparkling with mischief as he was checking her out too. Sharugo felt his stomach stir. He was dreading this day when his brother would eventually notice his crush. He didn't know how Kaito would handle a rejection because it had never happened. He was the older brother, the stronger one, and he was more charming and witty, more cunning, more heartless, and more vicious. He had girls falling for him left and right. Everybody knew who he was, or they were familiar with him, whilst Sharugo was always known as 'Kaito's brother'.

Rita looked over at them, sensing eyes on her. Sharugo gazed down at his feet, unable to make eye contact with her, as he felt butterflies in his stomach. Kaito, however, gave her a confident nod and wink. She looked away, rubbing her arm shyly and blushing. Sharugo felt sickened by her reaction. Normally she would ignore boys and their advances towards her yet, without even trying, Kaito had successfully caught her attention.

It was hopeless. Sharugo felt invisible next to him. He needed to somehow break free from being his brother's shadow.

"Pay attention, boys!" Ryuu Sensei barked.

"Don't let silly girls distract you from your main goal. Always keep your eyes on the prize. Always remember your objectives. Think with the head on your shoulder! We can't afford to lose when we've come so far! I repeat, pay attention to your objectives - nothing else matters."


Location: Minka house, Kasumigaseki District.
Time: 6:24am, 6th September, 2062.

As the morning sun shone through the glass window and lit up the gym, Sharugo began his usual routine of intense working out and training regimen. He was striking mercilessly at the punching bag, making it sway violently with every impact. He needed to become stronger, better and more deadly.

It hurt his esteem that Kaito's application for the United Special Districts was accepted, whilst his was rejected on account of being perceived as a 'liability'. He needed to change that. He needed to outshine his brother for once. He needed to avenge his parents and his only friend, Eiko, that he lost to the vampires. He needed to prove to everyone that he was more than capable of being the best agent in the history of Tokyo.

He took a moment to breathe and switch up his exercise, turning to bench press, back squats, dumbbells and pulling the rack. He mainly focused on building up his muscle strength and cardio. He kept at it until it turned noon. Then he went ham at the punching bag once again.

Right hook. Left hook. Jab. Jab. Punch. Elbow here. Roundhouse kick there. More taps. A pair of concerned, dark-brown eyes were peering at him. Ryuu Sensei had poked his old head through the door, watching his student.

Sharugo delivered a final blow, a power punch, that ripped the punching bag from the ceiling and sent it flying across the room as it crashed against the wall. He dropped his arms with an audible exhalation, before he collapsed onto the floor, sprawled out across his pool of sweat.

Ryuu Sensei tutted at the scenery before him, as he entered the room.

"Are you trying to kill yourself?" He questioned exasperatingly.

The teenage boy grunted in response, too tired to speak. He was still lying face-down on the floor, as the sunrays danced on his sweat-glistened back, boiling his body temperature. He enjoyed exercising nonstop for hours, making his toned body ache and tremble whilst his heart wanted to flee from his chest. Overtime, he learned to appreciate the pain, as he knew that he would grow and become stronger from it.

The old man shook his head, sighing in resignation.

"I keep telling you, this isn't healthy. You're overdoing it. Keep this up and you will really hurt yourself. You're pushing your body to its breaking point."

He walked over to Sharugo and placed a wrinkly hand against his messy, black hair, which was also damp with warm sweat.

"I know how much you want that job - Lord knows why - but I refuse to let you kill yourself before you even start it."

Sharugo closed his eyes and sighed. A secret agent! One serving the elite force, The U.S.D - a private organization that focused primarily on investigating supernatural cases and crimes, as well as keeping the natural law and order of society intact. He would be dealing with extraordinary creatures, so he needed to become faster, stronger, more agile, and more ruthless than all of his opponents.

For years, Sharugo wandered through life as an empty walking shell. He often felt like he was missing something vital in his life. There was a nagging sensation in his heart that knew what he wanted, yet it seemed like a lost cause, that his repressed desire was merely unattainable. However, upon learning about the existence of this secret organization, Sharugo had felt a fire ignited within him. This organization had given his life purpose.

"Just remember this - you don't need to prove yourself to anyone," Ryuu Sensei said, making the teenager open his eyes.

"You're already exceptionally skilled, Sharugo."

It was the first time Ryuu Sensei called him by his given name. Usually the old man would refer to him as 'Kodomo' or 'Danshi', or on the rare occasion, 'Killoran-kun.' Sharugo looked up to meet his tutor's eyes. Then and there, he realized that he was all Ryuu Sensei had left on this earth, and Ryuu Sensei was all that he had. The old man pestered him because he didn't want to risk losing him.

Sharugo gave him a rare smile. Ryuu Sensei returned his smile. They didn't really know how to vocalize their sentiment, but their non-verbal cues expressed their gratitude for each other.

"Well, come on, get up!" Ryuu Sensei instructed. "I'll make you my delicious vegetarian burritos and honey-roasted brussels sprouts."

He lightly kicked the teenager's lifeless body. The old man wrinkled his nose.

"Goodness! Open the windows or something, it smells so..." he waved his hand in the air, trying to conjure an appropriate adjective, "funky."

Sharugo groaned, every part of his body shooting with agony as he hoisted himself from the ground. His arms threatened to snap off like twigs, and his legs felt like jelly, yet he was managing to stand upright. No matter what, he refused to back down. Nothing would stop him until he made his mark as the greatest agent in supernatural history.


Location: The Diamond Gala, Manhattan.
Time: 11:38am, 18th April 2069.

Ryuu Sensei was seated at the back of the room, holding a glass of red wine in one hand. This was not the type of place that he usually visited, but it was a pleasant change of atmosphere. Light chattering filled the gala, while delicate live piano music played in the background. Men were dressed in business suits or formal attire, while women wore beautiful dresses and cocktail gowns. Seated next to the old man was Professor Gellar, a university lecturer who had joined him at this charity fundraising event.

"How are you enjoying your stay in New York?" Professor Gellar inquired.

"It's lovely," Ryuu Sensei answered. Truthfully, he had felt homesick for a while, but the calming and romantic ambience of this gala soothed the emotional turmoil within him.

He hoped the professor wouldn't speak to him too much, as he wasn't confident with the English language.

"Where is Mr. Killoran?" Professor Gellar asked.

Just then, the door opened and a tall, dark and strikingly handsome man entered the room. He wore a black silk t-shirt and he swung his blazer casually over his right shoulder. Several heads turned to look at him.

"Speak of the Devil," Ryuu Sensei murmured in his native tongue.

Sharugo strode into the room like a man on a mission. Well, technically he was. It was the reason they arrived here at Manhattan, as he was on the hunt for Yuen Kyu, a dangerous Japanese convict that had fled here to hide.

The agent's muscles were slightly bulging through his t-shirt, which captivated the attention of many women. His brain registered these women as background noise, designed to distract him from his primary objectives. Over the years, he learned to block them, as if they were insects hovering around him. He walked past them, oblivious to their attention.

"Does he have a lady at home? He must be faithful to her," Professor Gellar remarked, wondering how the young man could ignore such temptations.

Ryuu Sensei inhaled sharply. It was at that moment that he felt a surge of regret slapping him in the face. He, himself, was an old man with no wife and no family. Most nights he wished for the company of a soft woman, which ultimately made him regret his decision to prioritize his career over love. Looking at Sharugo was like looking at a mirror. The young man was a walking product of him.

"What have I done?" Ryuu Sensei muttered, shamefaced.


Location: Minka house, Kasumigaseki District.
Time: 10:25am, 14th February 2072.

Sharugo rinsed his bothered face with cool water. He could feel his nerves getting the better of him. He needed to calm down. He gazed directly at the cabinet mirror. His reflection stared back at him with an indecipherable countenance. The longer he stared at his reflection, the more distorted it became. Despite the itching sensation of uneasiness, Sharugo allowed the world to fade away until it was just him and his reflection.

"How can you unite with those bastards when we've lost so much to them? They took our father, our mother, our sister, our aunts, our uncles, our cousins, and our friends," the reflection questioned with a look of distaste.

Sharugo gulped, as he tried to swallow down his guilt.

"I know... I want to put a stop to this madness," he replied.

The reflection punched the mirror with both of his fists, which made the glass bounce, as if he was trying to break free from the parallel dimension. Sharugo backed away from him slowly.

"SO END THEIR LIVES! End all of them! Make them suffer like they've inflicted onto us! Don't marry one, you pathetic tool!"

Sharugo shook his head.

"That's a dangerous mindset to have. One of the smartest men in history claimed that it was madness to repeat the same thing and expect a different outcome. This war been going on for 700 years and nothing has changed. In fact, it's getting worse. It's time we tried a new solution."

The reflection snorted. "Oh, and marriage is the answer, is it?"

Sharugo shrugged in uncertainty. How was he supposed to know?

"I'm beyond disappointed in you," the reflection spat out with a grave tone. "From now on, you're dead to me."

Sharugo's heart momentarily stopped. He had a flashback of a dark figure walking away from him. He reached his hand out, wanting to stop the figure, but his feet were firmly glued to the ground.

"From now on, you're dead to me."

The door opened and a burst of white light shone through. The figure went through the light and disappeared. The door slammed shut loudly, throwing Sharugo into empty silence. It was the last time that he ever saw him.

"From now on, you're dead to me."

Suddenly, the bathroom door began to knock furiously, snapping Sharugo out of his daze. Immediately, he put on his mask of coolness and detachment, which he used for the public sphere. He opened the door, only to see Ryuu Sensei gazing at him with concern.

"Are you alright? I heard you screaming."

"Yes, I'm fine. I stubbed my toe," Sharugo said smoothly. He pretended to look at his smartwatch. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to be somewhere."

With that, he took his leave. Ryuu Sensei watched him go. There was a stern look across his old face. He knew his student well enough to see through his act. The elderly man was worried. Worried for the young man and worried for whomever he would marry.


Location: Kamakura Manor, Kanagawa.
Time: 8:06am, 17th February 2072.

Ivy and ferns grew through the crevices of the old winding stone path, which led directly to the colossal structure. The mansion loomed proudly behind creaky iron gates, flanked by rows of skeletal trees crowned in crimson, swaying gently to the chilly wind. At its threshold stood the delicate marble fountain, the soft gurgling of the clear water melodic as it resonated in the surrounding silence.

Never before had Sharugo seen a mansion as glorious as this in all of Japan. A typical Japanese manshon resembled a larger and luxurious version of an apaato. Meanwhile, this mansion seemed like it was straight out of a poster magazine from the West - however it still managed to capture the modest and humble nature of Japan. Measuring nearly 5000 square feet, the two-storey mansion contained 8 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms and 2 kitchens.

"This is custom-built - exactly as I envisioned it," King Leandro explained, standing beside Sharugo as he eyed his mansion proudly. "It took me a while to claim this private property, ¥2.5 million per square meter! Still, I wasn't giving up without a fight. It's the perfect land, away from nosy neighbors, yet not too far away from the other wards. I was able to construct this beauty within half a year. Nothing short of spectacular, don't you agree?"

"It's beautiful," Sharugo replied, making the king smile. He looked over to notice his wife, Seraphina, glowering in the background. She was visibly irritated whenever he spoke, as if nothing he could say would please her.

For a brief moment, they locked eyes. Her facial expression changed. Even though she wasn't speaking to him, Sharugo knew what she was silently conveying to him: 'Bring it on, you asshole.' She barged past him, as she headed inside of the mansion. Her high, black ponytail was swinging fiercely behind her, which made the agent smile with nostalgia.

Here we go, he thought.
Published: 4/8/2019
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