I am the Strike of Death. The Blade of Crimson. Wrathful Rai. It’s a few of the things my prey…no…these poor fools announced aloud just now before I cut them in twain in this godforsaken place known as The Devil’s Desert. This desert always felt so compatible with me. An inhospitable wasteland filled with nothing but red sand, a few black cacti placed here and there, and the red mountain ranges in the distance. The hot wind blows my jet-black hair along with this raggedy old cloak of mine. The wind kicking up sand into my face, and this scar going across my eye from one of my old jobs. It’s a place devoid of life. Exactly how I feel inside…the reason why I strapped this Katana and .45 to my side once more.
I’ve been walking through the desert for weeks and my mind begins to take me back. It wanders to my assassin days. Keeps me sane walking here I guess. The hail of gunfire I would avoid armed only with a .45 and my katana, Bianca. I would leave the scene completely red with blood and mangled bodies. Sometimes Bianca and my .45 wouldn’t be in arm’s reach so I would have to use these calloused, powerful hands of mine. I would wrap them around my prey’s neck, and watch the life slowly drain out of them. I’d force them to look me in the eyes as they died. Once they lost their lives, I would stare into their eyes to see if there was any difference between living and death…and I saw none. The cold fire I felt inside…It felt right, it felt so- “STOP!” I scream aloud, “I’m not that person anymore! Focus!”
It’s mid-day and I finally reach The Angel’s Oasis in the desert. It has white palm trees and these trees let off a strange serene breeze around the vicinity of the oasis. This phenomenon was always eerie to my senses. How could it be so cool here? I quickly walk over to the Oasis, pull out my canteen, and fill it with water. I looked at my reflection and noticed my appearance. I hated the man who made me look like this. Tired and broken. He made the wrath I’ve tried to quell for years resurface. I clench a fist filled with inhumane rage. “He will pay for this”. Then something peculiar happens to my reflection in the water. It slowly warps into some demonic version of myself with black horns, pupil-less eyes, fangs, and a crimson red face. Its clawed hand quickly reaches out of the oasis and tries to pull me in. Once it’s inches away from my cloak’s collar I jump back instinctively. I peer back into the oasis and see my plain reflection again.
“I’m…I’m just weary, this desert plays tricks.” I pick up my dropped canteen, and continue my path.
It’s nighttime and from a distance I spot an old man who has lit a campfire in front of a red boulder. The nights get very frigid in this desert so a fire is a must-have if you wish to survive them.
“Hello traveler! How are we doing this fine night!?” The old man smells bad; I mean BAD. It’s as if he’s alive, but rotting. He’s wearing beat up black boots with the bottom tearing away from it, and a brown cloak like mine.
“What are you doing out here old man? It’s not safe. The sandstorms could suck the flesh off your feeble bones”. He laughs a sick laugh, “HeHeheHehe!! *cough, hack* that it could! I’m a wanderer just like you, I love to move about. Please, sit with me.”
I’m tired and I do need to rest. He already has a fire started…why the hell not? I just have to get past his smell. I sit Indian style across the fire from him. I unhook Bianca from my waist, set her to my side on the sand, and begin to warm my hands in front of the fire.
“The name’s Rai.”
The old man replies with his sick voice, “Ohhh, you mean THE Rai??? Rai the Wrathful, of the assassin group Red Heaven?”
My heart skips at the mention of that…irksome name. He should have no idea about who I was. This man…who is he?
“I’m not that man anymore. I swore an oath. I’m just a simple farmer who spends his days herding cattle. How do you know this information about me old man?”
“I saw some of those Red Heaven agents, talking vicious things about you walking past here, saying that no one who leaves Red Heaven lives to tell the tale *cough*. Tell me, why are you wandering here near their headquarters?”
I respond back quickly “To find the poor fool who took…a special something from me, and have a little chat with them”
The old man answers back “It’s funny, didn’t you say you were done killing?”
“This time’s different.” I reply sharply.
“How? I can see the fire in your eyes. You reek of blood. If you were truly done killing you’d be far more disturbed from breaking your vow than you seem now.”
I start to get irritated “What the hell do you know about me huh? Is it not right for a father to get justice for his daughter’s killer? Is my anger misplaced? Something happened to the only family I had and I want someone to pay.”
“Justice isn’t vengeance Wrathful One, and we can’t deny our nature. You are very arrogant as well I see. You’re trying to be above the men you left only to find yourself looking for a reason to kill, any reason, just like they do. Even going so far as to act like you care about this person you lost. As if you truly feel pain for them.”
My hotheadedness gets the better of me. My blood boils. I’ve lost my self-control, and to an old man at that. He knew just the right buttons.
“I HELD MY OWN DAUGHTER IN MY ARMS AS SHE DIED! You can’t possibly teach me of pain!!”. I take a deep breath, and regain my composure. I’m still not sure why I lost control like that, not knowing what came over me. The old man sits there, unmoved, and unshaken by my outburst. I ask “Are you saying I can’t live a good life?”
The old man coldly states “No, it’s not your nature. Whatever semblance of life you pretend to have had is gone. You know very well you’re pleased your daughter was murdered.”
Those words drill a hole through my skull. Why was this old man making me so furious? I loved my daughter, and the life we had. She WAS my life.
“Then I guess I’m already dead.”
I roll my cloak into a ball, rest it on top of Bianca, and without saying another word to the old man I lay down and fall asleep.
I awake to the strangest scene. There is no sign of the old man anywhere. No sign of the fire he lit, not his awful lingering smell, not anything. “Where did he go? There’s no sign of him anywhere. Wait a minute…why should I care? He was just some fool anyway. To hell with him.” I put back on my cloak and Bianca and continue my way. To gain justice for my daughter.
I finally arrived. I stand outside the headquarters of my hate with Bianca unsheathed in my hands. Staring at the physical embodiment of my wrath. The Tower of Red Heaven still looks the same. A concrete red cylindrical building with ten floors and one wooden door to get in. It stands erect out of the red sand. I slice the door in two with Bianca and begin to unleash my wrath upon my former colleagues. I begin to snarl like a mad beast when the action gets intense. I grow more savage-like. The cold fire within me begins to emerge again. A hand sliced off there, an arm there, a head or two there as I ascend the concrete stairs of the tower. I dodge the gunfire and blade slices with my inhumane reflexes. Their bullets hit nothing but air. Although my .45 does not. With my unerring eye, I hit the imaginary bullseye I placed in every assailant’s head in rapid succession.
After an hour of carnage, all my enemies have been slain. I can’t help but feel a tinge of happiness in my heart from what I just did. “They deserved this, nobody will miss them” I keep repeating with my voice shaking. There is a door down the final floor of the tower of Red Heaven. I open to find the leader of Red Heaven, Kaiser, sitting behind his desk laughing before I even fully open the door.
“HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! Hey old friend, you finally made it. Took you long enough.”
I’m in a full-blown rage now. The man who ordered the hit on my daughter is sitting right here and he’s just… laughing at me. Laughing at my pain, my loss, and my wrath. The veins in my head pop out from my anger.
I grip Bianca in my hand tighter and point her at him swiftly. “WHY THE HELL ARE YOU LAUGHING KAISER!?? WHY DID YOU KILL HER!?” TELL ME!”
I’m too impatient to hear the Red Heaven leader’s response. I dash at Kaiser with blood soaked Bianca aimed for his chest. The blade hits…air. He vanished and the next thing I feel is a kick straight to the center of my back. I’m sent flying into Kaiser’s mahogany desk shattering it. My entire backs aches…but my rage allows me to jump back up to my feet ready to assume my onslaught on this shade wearing monster of a man.
I yell “Tell me why you killed-”
“Oh now I can speak after you just jumped me? Fine. You know you were never that bright Rai. I didn’t kill your daughter…YOU DID!”
My jaw drops. I loosen my grip on Bianca and she hits the concrete floor. I drop to my knees with tears coming down my eyes and ask with a trembling voice “No…that’s not…But…how? I would never do that.”
“Oh but in your wrath, you did, Rai. I sent a squad to your house not to kill you, but to drug you. In all the confusion of the battle I had one of my men drug you with a toxin that induced your blind wrath, which disables your ability to decipher friend from foe. And I think you know what happened next. I wonder how your daughter felt when she realized her own father slayed her. We can’t deny our nature Rai.”
Those are the words the old man said to me. “Why did you say that just now?”
Kaiser responds “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I guess the drug is still causing hallucinations, or maybe not…who knows. Who knows how many people you killed or DIDN’T kill on your way here. I know how that twisted mind of yours works. You’re probably thinking why didn’t I have you killed? We can’t let natural talent like yours just vanish with the wind. So…with all the revelations out of the way I can finally say…Welcome back, Rai”.
I can’t breathe. My heart feels like it’s trying to get out of me. I’m in a cold sweat and my hands are shaking. I refuse to believe I’m losing it. I refuse to believe I killed my daughter. I refuse to believe I’m agreeing with the old man, I refuse to believe that I’m happy my daughter is dead. A smile spreads across my face. I reach out to shake Kaiser’s hand. I happily say with a smile –
“We can’t deny our nature. . .”