Author's note: This is actually the life of a character in another, longer story I'm writing. This story was one... Show full author's note »
A True Grass“I’m sorry Blue, but you’re a disgrace to the Grass name.” That was my mother speaking to me when I was six. My parents were very harsh and I had a big reputation to live up to. Father had a very important job, he told me, though he never told me what it was. All the men in my family did something great and essential to society; thus, my need to be great.
I had a good education, large house, everything a child could want…but was I at all happy? No. Did I have loving parents? No. My mother hit me every time I didn’t do something correctly. Usually, it wasn’t even my fault. It was the same with my father. Whenever he took me hunting and I hesitated at the last second, causing us to lose the prey, he would point his gun at me and tell me that I’d never be a true Grass, that I’d never make a living for myself.
At this point, my father and I were sitting on a boat. When I heard him say I’d never be a true Grass for the second time that day, I looked into the water and stared at my distorted reflection. It showed just how pale and pathetic I was. I was nearly crying over something I heard everyday.
I felt the boat rock and heard a weak splash. Looking to my left, I saw my father wading through the water, abandoning me. When he reached the shore, he stood by my mother with anger in his eyes. Having been unable to swim or have the strength to pull myself a shore with the rope that attached the boat to a post on the shore, I was completely stranded in the middle of an old murky creek surrounded by mud and sinister trees.
“Have you nothing to say!?” yelled my father with rage in his hoarse voice. “Fool!” He untied the rope from the post on shore. I saw my life line fading into the murky depths of the river, forever sinking. The boat began drifting down the stream slowly. Staring at my parents, I realized what my fate was…death. Did my parents look the least bit sad? No. Father was smiling maniacally and Mother was staring back at me with relief in her eyes. She looked as though an immense weight had been taken off her shoulders.
I could think of only one thing to say, “I love you.”
Sailing down the river, Father laughing, forced me to realize that I did love them. They hurt and abused me, but in the end, I did love them. Why? That wasn’t something I was able to grasp at that age. My parents didn’t love me…why did I love them?
My parents were almost invisible now, yet I never ceased staring. I decided to stare until they disappeared. As they slowly, ever so slowly, faded away, my heart ever so slowly blackened. From there on out, I would love nobody. I would accept no one as my friend. I would talk to no one ever again. They would only disappoint me. I will survive without them, without anybody. This boat was not my death… it was my birth. For now until I die, I will only progress. I will only grow. Life starts now.
My parents had completely disappeared and I was left alone, as I intended. Turning to face what I was drifting into, I saw an ominous fog approaching. It was a thick fog. As I ventured into the bowels of the fog, fear set in. My senses were at their finest then. I was registering sounds I had never heard before. My ears heard the soft flow of water as the boat sailed slowly through it. My breathing was now audible, as was my heartbeat. The pulse of my heart was rapid. Out of control, I now waited for some form of startling sound that would deliver a rush of fear instantly.
Crunch! There it was. Too afraid to speak, I sat there, nervously awaiting another crunching noise.
Crunch! “Who’s t-there?” I called out. I didn’t expect an answer, but I got one.
“Whoa! Where’d you come from!?” a booming voice called out.
“Uh, just up the r-river. I’m a Grass,” I said, shivering with fear.
“A Grass? What’s your first name?” he asked, sounding calmer.
“Blue,” I answered.
“Never heard of ya. You Thomas’s kid?” he continued.
“Y-yes sir,” I said bowing my head, although he couldn’t see me through the fog.
“Patrick is my name, not sir. I knew your father. He knew my father, er, well he did until Iyashii killed my dad,” he sounded stern.
I gasped. “My father killed your father?!” I yelled.
“Yeah…about seven years ago,” said Patrick, “I won’t hold that against you though. Your father’s actions are not yours and I can tell you’re not your father.”
“How so?” I asked curiously.
“I’m on your property. Your Dad would’ve killed me on the spot!” he said sounding certain.
“Yeah, isn’t that the point of a killer? To, ya know, kill people?” he said, treating me like I was stupid. “Anyway, where are you?”
“On a boat,” I answered.
“Need me to pull you ashore?” Patrick asked.
“Yes, please. Thank you, Mr. Patrick,” I said bowing again.
“No Mister either! I’m not that old!” he snapped. Splash! Some water splashed my face and rocked the boat. Sure enough, there was the man I assumed was Patrick, swimming towards me. He latched onto the boat with his left arm and swam back to shore, dragging the boat and myself along. After he got out of the water, Patrick helped me out of the boat.
“Didn’t know you were just a kid,” he said as he picked something up. It looked like a pistol!
Patrick himself wasn’t exactly the man I thought he’d be. He didn’t look any older than 17 and was rather scrawny. His hair was light brown in color and he wore a big dark green cape. And more thing…he was generally dirty! Dirt smudges covered his face and clothes but he was also wet, which didn’t help him any.
“You’re dirty,” I said openly.
“Ha! Happens when ya travel!” he laughed, “So wanna tell me why you were sailing down a river?”
I looked down shamefully. “ My Dad put me on that boat.”
“That’s what I was afraid of. I’m real sorry. Someone your age shouldn’t have to deal with that. So let me tell ya this, if you come travel with me, you can start over!” he said generously, “Do you want that?”
“Yes, please,” I said, bowing. At the time, I had no idea that I had just made the worst decision of my life and that those words which broke my promise would change my life forever.
From that moment until tragedy separated us, I traveled with Patrick. He became my older brother and I his little brother.
I discovered that Patrick worked as a traveling part-timer. Whoever would hire him, he worked for, no matter what the job was. Since I was traveling with him, we needed more money. Most people wouldn’t hire six year olds, so I found other ways of making money. I had an unusual bond with fire, which came in handy. Performing on the streets, I twisted fire in every way and held it in the palm of my hand. The tips were unbelievable. I made more money in three days than Patrick did in a week. One day, after a long day of work, Patrick came to see one of my performances. It was my last performance of the day, my night show.
The night was cool and dark until I lit up my flames. As my fire illuminated the night, the crowd roared and cheered, begging for more. I never smiled while I worked, nor did I ever smile in general, but I did when Patrick came to see me. He had pushed his way to the front of the crowd. Patrick was grinning. Smiling, I put on my best show ever. My flames reached new heights and temperatures and for once, I enjoyed performing.
After the performance was done, Patrick came up to me. “That was massively impressive,” he said, grinning.
“Thank you,” I said, bowing.
“I’ve never seen you smile,” he said as he looked into the distance.
“I haven’t felt…”
“You were so cool!” shrieked some girl. Two girls approached us with excitement in their eyes.
“Thank you,” I said, bowing again.
“Oh, and you’re polite! Huh? Who’s this?” asked one of the girls. She was looking at Patrick.
“I’m his older brother,” said Patrick with a smile.
“Eeek!” they squealed.
“Well, sorry ladies, but we’ve gotta go,” said Patrick.
“Awww… at least tell us your names!” one of them pleaded.
“I’m Patrick Branson,” he said. He looked down at me.
“Oh, I’m Blue Branson,” I answered, although my last name was actually Boketsu.
“Patrick and Blue Branson, I’ll remember that!” one said as the two girls ran away.
“Using my last name now?” Patrick said with a grin.
“You are my brother,” I answered, returning his grin. Together, we walked off into the distance, meandering toward whatever town may appear.
Two years passed. I was eight then, nearing nine. Patrick was now 18. It was an autumn night. Rain and darkness coated the land. Patrick and I were on the road to nowhere again. We wandered blindly down a path.
Splash! “Someone’s here! Maybe a town’s nearby,” said Patrick quietly. Splash! “Hey! Is there a town nearby?” he yelled out. Splash! “Anybody there?” Splash! “I’m Patrick Branson and this is Blue Branson. Do you know if there’s a town nearby?” Splash!
“Don’t lie. That boy is a Grass, a killer!” yelled a deep, husky voice. Patrick gasped and suddenly stopped in front of me. Bang! Patrick fell backward and landed on the wet ground.
“Patrick!” I yelled. Dropping to the ground, I saw that Patrick had a hole in his chest. The hole was surrounded by blood. He was grinning. “Don’t die! Please don’t die, Patrick! Please!” I sobbed.
“Never… give up… Keep… walking,” he said as his eyelids slowly closed. “Don’t… forget… you’re a… Grass.” He was dead.
“Grass… your turn.”
“No…” I muttered.
“I said no, you scum!” I charged at him. Then, I heard a set of footprints running beside me. Looking to the right, I saw a lion… a fire lion. The flames flowed throughout this lion like an ocean of fire. Running faster than I was, the lion leaped towards the man, sinking its teeth into his neck. I heard his neck snap. The man let out an agonized yell, falling backward as Patrick had. His head splashed into a puddle and blood seeped into the water, turning it dark red. Stunned, I walked over to the dead man.
His face was ashen and his eyes had frozen open. Mouth agape, he was the true picture of despair and agony.
“You didn’t have to kill him,” I said quietly to the lion. The fire simply extinguished. I was alone again.
After Patrick’s death, I did as he said and kept walking. I walked endlessly, sometimes for days without eating anything. I did not work or perform. I just walked forever. Or at least I thought I would until I met a dark man and his devilish brother.
I had stopped to rest after a full two days of walking and had made a fire. Instinctively, I did tricks with the fire. Having focused so much on the fire, I didn’t hear the footsteps behind me.
“Interesting. You touch fire, yet it does not bite you. That’s quite a talent,” said a man behind me. Startled, I whirled around. There stood a tall man in a black suit. He had short black hair and was slightly pale. I thought he was a vampire at first. Patrick had told me about vampires.
“Who’re you?” I asked sternly, thinking he was going to attack me like the scum had.
“Pardon me! You see, I am renowned in most places, thus, I sometimes forget to introduce myself. I am Adam Sousui. May I interest you in my circus?” he said in a cultured tone.
“What’s the pay?”
“My, you’re straightforward! There is no pay, however…” he said.
“Then I am not interested,” I interrupted.
“…However, you get free food and shelter for as long as you’re with us,” Adam said with a smile.
“Mr. Sousui, when can I start?”
“Immediately, after you show me what you’re capable of,” he answered.
I put on a show for him, twisting and turning fire. He looked impressed. Once I finished, he began clapping.
“Excellent work! Tell me, what is your name?” Mr. Sousui asked.
“Do you have a last name?” he asked with his gentle smile.
“Oh my…” he said, surprised, “No wonder you’re a refugee! Poor boy, you’re probably being hunted! Come.”
Mr. Sousui took me back to what would likely be called circus campgrounds. Many tents were set up, some better than others and a lot of bizarre people were milling about. I saw a man with four arms, a lady carrying a plant of some sort, several goats, and a man with long black hair approaching me. He looked a lot like Mr. Sousui, minus a few inches of height.
“Who’d you find this time, Adam?” he yelled with a big grin. I could tell right then and there that this man was a loud man.
“His name is Blue,” Mr. Sousui answered. “Blue, this is my brother, Scott Sousui.”
“Hel--,” I began to say.
“Wow! You’re a small fry!” Scott shouted, squatting down to my height. “How old are ya?”
“--lo,” I finished. “I’m eight years old, sir.”
“Sir? Ha ha ha! I can tell you’ve been hanging out with the old man!” he laughed.
“Old man?” I asked, confused. “Do you mean Mr. Sousui?”
“Yeah! You’re what, in your sixties now?” Scott joked, jabbing his elbow into Mr. Sousui’s side.
Mr. Sousui sighed and said, “Please don’t give the child the wrong idea, Scott.” He looked down at me as well. I felt like I was surrounded by trees.
“My name is Blue. Although you probably can’t even hear me!” I said stubbornly.
“Why wouldn’t I be able to hear you?” Scott asked with a confused look on his face.
“Because you’re twenty feet tall!” I shouted.
“How can you be sure it’s not because you’re twenty inches tall?” Scott smirked.
“It’s a combination of the two. If you weren’t so tall, you’d be able to hear, but if I weren’t so, er, you get the point,“ I answered, stopping before I called myself short.
“Polite and intelligent. You’ve struck gold with this one, Adam!” he said, jabbing Mr. Sousui again. “Well, I’ve gotta go! Show in three days and I’m quite busy.” He ran off.
“It’s a shame he had to leave,” said Mr. Sousui sarcastically. “I’ll show you where you’ll be staying.” He led me to a black tent. All the other tents were blue or red.
“Why is it black?” I asked suspiciously.
“Because your roommate hates sunlight. You’ll be staying with a boy who is about your age. His name is Erik Lionheart. I hope you like birds, Mr. Boketsu,” said Mr. Sousui. “Erik?”
“Yes?” came a voice inside the tent. The voice sounded weak.
“Would you come out for a minute?” asked Mr. Sousui.
Something rustled in the tent and I heard a bird squawk. Then the tent opened. A boy stumbled out of the tent and closed it quickly. He had dark brown hair and a scar ran vertically down his right eye. “Who is this?” he asked, looking at me. His scar made him look sinister.
“His name is Blue Grass. He will be joining us as of today.” Mr. Sousui explained.
“Hello, Blue. I am Erik Lionheart,” he bowed. “It is an honor to meet a Grass.”
I bowed. “It is nice to meet you as well.”
“Blue is your responsibility, Erik. I trust you can take care of him?” Mr. Sousui asked seriously.
“Good. I’ll be off then,” said Mr. Sousui. He turned around and headed towards another tent.
“Come, Blue. Let’s escape the sun’s putrid rays,” Erik said, leading me into the dark tent. I followed him into the tent. When I got in, I realized that I could stand upright without scraping my head along the top of the tent. That was one of the few plus sides to being a small fry. Small fry… stupid Scott.
After my anger had settled, I noticed that my surroundings were completely full of birds! How was I supposed to sleep with this aggravating squawking?
“I apologize for the noise. They get excited when they meet someone new,” explained Erik.
“When I get the bird flu you are paying for my medical bill,” I said. A bird flew towards me and landed on my shoulder. It was an immense raven that took up almost my entire shoulder.
“Ha ha, I guess Akuma likes you!” said Anei. “Akuma was the first friend I ever had. How about you? Who was your first friend?”
“His name was Patrick. We weren’t related by blood, but I considered him my older brother,” I answered solemnly. “He’s dead and gone now though.”
“Oh.” He looked down. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault. Anyway, why did you name this bird Akuma? Doesn’t Akuma mean ‘demon’?” I asked. I looked at Akuma and frowned. Why me?
“When I met Akuma, he was up in a tree, staring at me with his piercing eyes. He looked demonic and so I named him Akuma,” Erik explained.
“Of course… So, tell me, what exactly goes on around here?” I asked curiously.
“Well, we wake up, have breakfast, converse for a little while, then practice for the show. You probably won’t be in this coming show, since you just got here, but knowing Scott, he may put you in this show anyway,” Erik clarified.
“Does Scott run the circus?” I asked.
“Heavens, no! If Scott ran the show, it would a recipe for disaster, mayhem, chaos, disorder, confusion, havoc, I could go on. Anyway, Adam manages the circus. Scott is the ringmaster. He performs. In other words, Scott is an actor, Adam is the director,” he said.
“I see. Who all participates in the show itself?” I asked nosily.
“Let’s see… there’s me, John, Ana, Scott, Tei and Sophie. I specialize in mass bird performances. John can transform into a wolf. Ana can control plants. Scott can do astonishing card tricks. Tei has four arms and Sophie can manipulate air,” Erik rattled off.
“So, what can you do?” asked Erik curiously.
“Do you have a match?” He handed me a match and I lit it. His eyes were glued to the flame. Cautiously, I placed the match in my left hand. I allowed the fire to spread throughout my hand. Soon, it spread to my lower arm, then my upper arm. Having sensed the danger, the birds scrambled, but the demonic bird on my shoulder stayed, glaring into the fire with its sinister eyes. Erik was also staring into the fire, completely mesmerized. I put my hand on my upper arm firmly, on the edge of the fire, and slowly ran the hand down my arm. The flames extinguished as my hand engulfed them. Erik’s jaw dropped.
“H-how… did you… do that?!” he exclaimed. His mouth was still wide open. I almost smiled.
“Honestly, I’m not quite sure how I do it. Fire just doesn’t burn me. Here, you try,” I said, reaching out to give him a match.
“No, no, no, no, no!” Erik shouted as he fell backward suddenly. I walked over to him and looked down with a confused expression. “Fire and I don’t exactly mix…” he said.
“What’s the story behind that?” I asked, suspecting something.
He sat upright and I sat down on the floor with him. “My house caught fire when I was six. The fire trapped my parents inside and killed them.”
“Were your parents good to you?”
“Yes, they were very nice,” Erik answered.
“You’re lucky. My parents hated me. Dad tried to kill me. He also sent me down a river. That’s when I met Patrick. I traveled with him until he died. After he died, I was really depressed. All I did was walk. Usually, I wouldn’t eat for days. I had stopped to rest when Mr. Sousui found me. Then, I ended up here,” I explained.
“That stinks,” said Erik quietly. “Do you know why your parents hated you?”
“I never really thought about it… but I guess they thought I was useless,” I answered.
“They would’ve known that you would grow up to be a good man, though, because you’re a Grass,” he protested.
“I’m not a true Grass, though. Or at least that’s what they told me,” I said, sounding depressed.
“I’ve just met you, but I know that you’ll be a great Grass,” Erik said, smiling.
“Hmmm… I don’t know why they hated me,” I said.
“If you really want to find out, ask Adam. He’s read a lot about people’s backgrounds from books. He’s almost always reading, so he probably knows something about your past as well,” suggested Erik.
“Maybe I will…” I pondered.
“He lives in the big red tent. Even a blind man couldn’t miss it,” Erik instructed.
“Alright, thanks,” I said as I left the tent. I stood outside, looking around, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the daylight. Lots of people were scrambling around. There were more people than Erik had mentioned. Perhaps they were stage hands? Wandering around, I searched for this tent that was supposedly in plain sight. I couldn’t find it. Awkwardly, I stopped walking and stood in the middle of the panic. Still no tent. Well, there were plenty of tents, but not the one I was looking for. Erik had said to look for a big red tent. He made it sound like a palace!
“What are you looking for?” somebody behind me asked. I turned around sharply. A woman stood in front of me. She was no older than 18 and long black hair bound in a ponytail. She smiled.
Before I had a chance to answer, I spotted something behind her. It was red, big and tent-like. “That’s it!” I yelled, pushing her out of the way and charging toward the tent. I stopped just short of running into the tent, breathing heavily.
“Whoever is outside, do come in,” Mr. Sousui called. I entered the tent and looked around. Mr. Sousui was sitting on the floor, reading a book. Books were quite plentiful in this tent. Like Anei’s birds, they were everywhere you looked. “Ah, Blue! Is there something you need?”
“Yes, there is,” I said, sitting down. “Do you know anything about my past or my parents?”
“That’s what I’m reading about right now, as a matter of fact! You see, your entire family line has hunted creatures called demons. Demons are people with extraordinary abilities. People like my brother, who can do unbelievable card tricks or people who can turn into wolves like John. Neither my brother or John are demons, but you are. Only those who have endured extreme sorrow become demons. Now, demon hunters are people who despise demons. They have one goal and one goal only: to kill demons. With your entire family line being renowned demon hunters, it is natural that your parents would hate you. Do you understand?” Mr. Sousui explained in an excited tone.
“I guess.” I muttered softly, my head facing the floor.
“You’re a demon, Blue!” Do you know how many people will pay to see a demon? Millions!” Mr. Sousui shouted happily.
“So, I’m just an advertisement to you?” I asked angrily.
“Essentially, yes,” he answered back in his normal, calm tone.
At that, I got up and left. I went back to the tent I shared with Erik and explained the whole story to him. Erik was appalled. We spent the rest of the day and the following day contemplating this. We couldn’t understand why Mr. Sousui had said that. Then came the day of the performance.
I was scheduled to perform and did as Scott had told me. Scott had gained permission to use a local auditorium for the show. The show itself was unimportant. What happened after the show was the tragic part.
It was raining heavily when we left. Puddles were everywhere. Erik and I were helping to load everything into the trailer when I heard a gun go off. The noise echoed through the night. We all glanced in the direction of the startling gunfire. I thought the attacker had missed his target or simply shot into the air as a warning, but I was wrong. Tei, the four-armed man, shook slightly and then fell to the ground, splashing in a puddle. Blood seeped into the water, turning it dark red. I froze, remembering how blood seeped into a puddle when I killed the man who shot Patrick.
The gun went off again, killing one of the workers. He also fell into a puddle. This time, everyone reacted. People ran in every direction possible, running into other people and falling down. Those who fell were shot and killed. I saw Scott run towards the attacker, who was now walking closer. BAM! Scott was dead. BAM! Ana, the plant lady, was dead. BAM! Another worker killed. BAM! John fell to the ground. BAM! A third worker fell. I couldn’t take it anymore. I sprinted toward the attacker, rage in my eyes. Hearing footsteps beside me, I looked over and saw the fire lion who killed my previous attacker. It leapt forward, sinking its teeth into the attacker’s neck, delivering the fatal blow. Slowly, the attacker fell to the ground, causing a final splash and then total silence. The lion extinguished, and I stood gazing down at the dead attacker… Mr. Sousui.
“Blue…” I heard Erik say from behind me. I turned around. Tears filled his eyes. “You are a demon… why did you kill him!? That monster belonged to you, didn’t it!? You’re a monster, Blue, and a heartless one at that! Mr. Sousui was like a father to me!”
I hesitated, not knowing how to respond. Tears filling my eyes, I ran away from the circus. Most of all, I ran away from Erik. I couldn’t ever face him again, knowing that Mr. Sousui had been a demon hunter, not the man Erik thought him to be. I didn’t stop running for at least twenty minutes. I couldn’t stop. My legs wouldn’t cease running until they gave out. I fell into a puddle and lay there. Eventually, I fell asleep in the cold water that stung my skin.
As I woke the next day, I saw a town. I must have run there. The sun was shining bright and all was quiet. Then I heard the shifting of feet and a pondering, “Hmmm…” Startled, I jumped to my feet, which gave out at the attempt, and I crawled away from the noise hurriedly.
“What are you doing out here, boy?” the visitor asked. He was an old man who’d been squatting and watching me.
I didn’t answer him, remembering the promise I’d made years ago.
“I see,” he chuckled, “You promised yourself you wouldn’t talk to anybody, because they’d just disappoint you. Though judging by your expression, you’ve broken that promise. Am I right?”
I didn’t respond.
He chuckled once more. “Come with me to my mansion, Blue. I train demons. Many others of your kind, including myself, are awaiting your arrival. My name is Shukun Kagi.”
Mr. Kagi and I walked to this mansion of his and entered the realm of demons. That, however, is a story for another day.