The adults were always talking about his brother.
“Goodness, Tenzen’s ability is remarkable.”
“It’s like he’s a fierce god, a veritable prodigy.”
“A weapon like that is only seen once every hundred years.”
“Surely the name of Akabane will spread across the land”
And as always, that conversation turned in the same direction.
“On the other hand, Raishin…”
“He’s already 12, but still shows no interest in puppetry at all”
“I heard his talent is mediocre at best, but he doesn’t have the desire so nothing will come out of him.”
The gazes in the boy’s direction were cold. They were full of disappointment, contempt, and even a bit of pity.
Those adults must have found him repellent somewhere in their hearts.
Feelings of worthlessness. Shallow pride. Aspiring to be like the absolutely talented elder brother. And also, jealousy. Those emotions surging within the boy, he ran from the practice hall.
The father was strict, but was a man who knew the importance of waiting. He would patiently wait at the practice hall for the son who was completely unmotivated.
However, there were limits to his patience.
Frequently visiting the dojo in town, occasionally staying over, not returning home- for three years this continued, until one day, when the rabbitear irises were in bloom, his store of patience finally ran out.
“Show me what the strength of the martial arts you’ve been learning all these years.”
Summoned to the practice hall, the father summoned 3 puppets, and the boy was kicked, beaten, and thrown about the hall. The painful ordeal went on for an hour. By the time it was over the boy couldn’t move his hands or legs.
The martial arts that he had used to strengthen his body was useless before his father’s puppetry.
He thought if he could thoroughly beat that into him, then the son’s feelings towards puppetry would change. However, the son was not the sort who would just quietly go along with it.
His lower body sore, he heatedly yelled at his father.
“Father. I’ll say this clearly. I will never become a puppeteer in this life!”
Unmoved by his declaration, the father silently looked down at the boy.
His gaze was as harsh as Mount Fuji in winter. With eye power that could control numerous puppets, he stared down fiercely at the boy, and said in a dead serious tone,
“This is a house of puppeteers. Those who do not engage in puppetry do not belong in this place.”
“… Thank you for your guidance.”
His ultimatum was met with an equally provocative declaration. With his hands and knees on the floor, the boy bowed towards his father and departed from the practice hall. He returned to his room and began packing his belongings. Wrapping some spare clothing and his futon into a bundle- suddenly he noticed that his mother was standing in the doorway, with a troubled look on her face.
“Are you serious about leaving? Where are you going to go?”
“Don’t worry. The instructor already told me “Come to the dojo!”, so I’ll be fine.”
“So stubborn. Like father, like son.”
She let slip a small laugh. Smiling like a mother indulging a spoilt child, she said nothing further, but helped him to pack.
And then, bringing him out to the main entrance, she suddenly mentioned,
“Your father told me to tell you this: “Don’t catch a cold out there.””
For an instant, he felt something warm, and his tears unconsciously leaked out.
Even if he had been antipathic to the place all these years, and it held nothing but dreary memories, he had lived here for 12 years. Throwing away his family and leaving was a very painful thing to do.
However, sniffling and crying now would be galling, and didn’t suit him. Hurriedly waving goodbye to his mother, he feigned a carefree attitude as he left his house without turning back.
As he stepped out of the gate, just as he was taking his first steps, someone was anxiously chasing after him.
It looked like she had ran out in the middle of lessons. Out of breath as she caught up to him, the person clad in black was none other than his younger sister.
Her eyes were a deep black, and unlike her elder brothers, they were round, and had a gentle look to them. His sister’s eyes were now moist, and her voice had a pleading tone to it.
“Brother… Are you really leaving the household?”
“I’m more of the sort who eats swords and jujitsu holds for breakfast. It agrees with my stomach more, you see.”
He was bad with gloomy moods, so he tried to put on a frivolous attitude.
“A dog cannot hope to fly in the sky. However, you are different. Unlike me, you possess the ability to soar high in the heavens.”
“That’s not true! I’m sure even you-“
“Become a fine puppeteer. One that can even surpass our elder brother Tenzen.”
Whatever his younger sister was going to say, she stopped.
She knew how unshakable his decisions were, and how stubborn he was.
Her eyes trembled and her shoulders shook like she was trying to endure something.
And then, unable to hold on any longer, she clung to her brother’s back.
That sensation seemed so realistic, Raishin awoke with a start.