【Prologue: Two Years Ago】
When I first met him, he didn’t have anything.
He literally didn’t have anything with the exception of the clothes on his back, but the thing that caught my attention even more than that were his eyes: a pair of hollow, mirror-like pupils without a shred of any human emotion reflected in them.
「N-Nice to meet you. My name is Sakuradamon Aika.」
My older brother, who was raised by the head of our household from an early age. We were separated when we were still little, so I wondered what he must’ve went through to eventually end up like that. Meeting someone like him for the first time in my life was quite a shock to me, if I am to be honest.
He did not reply to my greetings at all. He just stared forward blankly like a machine without paying attention to anything. When someone greets you, it is a common courtesy to return the greeting back… I wonder if he wasn’t taught even that, the most basic of the rules of coexisting with others. I couldn’t… I didn’t want to believe that a human being could actually be raised with such blatant negligence. Even today, I clearly remember the anger and resentment that I felt towards our “mother” for making him that way.
…..My brother is my only family left in this world. Because our grandfather, who took us into his house and raised us after our mother disappeared was in fact just a distant family relative.
「Sakuradamon」… that name was probably just a pseudonym too.
Our real parents died long ago, most probably because they met this clan of assassin’s.
I didn’t ask for the specifics, but I didn’t have to do it. One glance at this brother of mine was enough to tell me everything that I needed to know.
They were murdered.
*Sigh* Well, there’s no reason to dwell too much on that now, since there’s nothing we can do about it anymore.
Most probably our father killed someone he shouldn’t have killed, and that was his punishment. I think that it was natural for him to meet his end like that. After all, no one who kills others for a living should be allowed to think that they are going to live a happy life with a normal family.
Knowing that such a cursed blood courses through my veins, I thought I won’t be able to forgive our father.
Now I have decided that I will never forgive mother for what she had done. This 「fake」 mother who raised my brother to be the same as the rest of them.
Anyway, that’s how my first meeting with my brother who didn’t have anything went down.
「Ekhem. Brother, my name is Sakuradamon Aika, your younger sister. Don’t you have anything to say to me?」
But even despite my repeated attempt at greeting him he remained cold and indifferent, as if I was just another pebble by the side of the road, unworthy of his attention.
Only then have I realized it. I am also going to be killed. By my own brother, who was now dead inside.
Knowing that, I felt like my legs were about to give in under my own weight. My whole body was chilled to the bone and my teeth began to clatter. My most important thing to me in this world….
…I felt like it was about to be violated.
I wanted to run away, but I couldn’t allow myself to run away. Because even if I was scared, this person was still my beloved brother. A pitiful brother who was taught to perceive other people as nothing more but pebbles to be cast aside as he walks forward on the lonesome road of a killer. A 「Killing Machine」 programmed to keep on taking the lives of others until he will break down and will be cast aside.
What was inside of me right now was sympathy for him rather than fear.
And also anger.
「That won’t do, brother.」
My voice was shaking, but nonetheless I steeled my heart and raised one finger into the air.
「When you meet someone for the first time, you have to greet them politely, or return the greeting it they have greeted you first.」
Following my finger with his eyes, one of brother’s eyebrow twitched noticeably.
At that time, I was certain that I’ll be able to do it. I had absolute faith in it.
「Now, let’s start this again. I am your younger sister, Sakuradamon Aika. Nice to meet you, brother.」
Finally a single sound left his mouth.
But he said nothing more after that. He won’t be able to live a normal life if he forgets how to speak, so first order of business should be ensuring that he won’t lose his voice. But in order to do that, we need to make one thing crystal clear.
「Listen up brother because this is important. Starting from today, you are no longer an assassin, do you understand that? No more killer training, no more “mother” forcing you to do it. You’re free.」
Brother’s body stood still like a statue, but after a while, ever so slightly… his neck bends in a barely visible nod.
「From now, I will be in charge of teaching you how you should live your life as an ordinary person. You will no longer be a killer, but just your average boy. Are we clear?」
This time it took even longer, but he was also able to nod, confirming that he understood what I was saying to him.
「All right, time for lesson number one then. When you meet someone, you start the conversation by saying 「Hello」 or 「Nice to meet you.」. If you’re sure that you’re going to be seeing the person you’re talking to quite often, you say 「Please take care of me from now on.」.」
Listening closely to my words, brother’s eyes were focused on my face the whole time. They were so empty that I could see my own reflection very clearly… no Aika, keep it together! Don’t think about unnecessary things, just focus on the task at hand.
I don’t know what “mother” wanted to achieve by destroying brother’s personality, and I don’t need to know. The only thing I need to know is that from today onward, my goal will be to repair everything that was broken in him until a new 「heart」 will sprout inside him.
「Next tell me your name. That is one of the most important thing for the sake of communicating with others.」
I felt really bad about it, but I didn’t even know such obvious things about my closest family member. Maybe he was told that he won’t be needing a name as an assassin, but it was exactly that sick mentality that I wanted to fight against. To help him become normal again, and to stop being afraid of him.
「Full name please.」
「Sakuradamon Jiro… Please take care of me from… now on.」
The wording was sloppy, but it was a proper greeting nonetheless. Greetings lesson cleared!
「Yes, I’ll be looking forward to living with you, brother.」
I reply to him with a smile.
That was the first out of many times time when a crack appeared in my brother’s iron mask of a face, and I wasn’t going to stop until it crumbled to dust completely.