Sibling rivalry and dangerous magic, all whittled down to a bite-size amount. Meet Ankoku and Kaimei, two twins with serious issues. [one-shot; complete]
Warnings: There aren't any real "warnings" for this story... I just figure it's probably best for me to point out that this is technically a side-story to an old work-in-progress of mine which I am still in the process of rewriting. No knowledge of the other story is required to understand this one, and this doesn't really spoil anything for the other story, either. I just feel the need to point out that this story takes place in a specific fantasy universe of my creation.
Summary: "Sibling rivalry and dangerous magic, all whittled down to a bite-size amount. Meet Ankoku and Kaimei, two twins with serious issues." I don't have much more than that to say; any other comment would begin to bleed into a summarization of ES.
Notes: Like I said, this is a side-story/companion piece to an epic fantasy I still intend to write by the name of "Elemental Shadows." This story was written in mid-March of 2003. I've gone through to proofread it and do some mild editing, but as with all of my writing, there has been no external editing or beta reading. Services of the sort would be appreciated. In regards to ES, once I've gotten farther with the rewrite, I may post new chapters here. If this story interests you, perhaps you'll check ES out when I get around to posting it.
First everything was dark. Well, not dark exactly, for there was such absence of light in the empty piece of nothingness that it was no longer merely dark. The lightlessness had gone beyond dark, and instead traversed a new realm of acclaimed darkness, with no shadows, no light whatsoever. However, this could not remain so.
Far off, a tiny flame flickered into existence. Against all the laws of creation, the tiny flickering flame produced light, yet it managed to cast no shadows. This would be impossible in the realm of mortals, but in the black realm of true darkness, it was completely logical. The shadow-less flame didn't /move/, exactly, but it seemed to shift from the edge of not-reality to the very center of things, all without passing through the space in between. The flame reappeared in the 'world,' and an event like lightning striking occurred directly afterwards, resulting in an instant transformation.
The darkness seemed to melt away, evaporating like water. Even without the darkness, what remained was not exactly light, for the flame present before had also vanished, like smoke. Circumstances had been inverted; rather than a complete absence of light, there was now an absence of darkness. In place of the flame, two figures stood in the center of the emptiness. The two were somehow shadowed, yet they cast no such shadows where they stood. They were also nearly identical, in fact, their differences numbered no more than three.
The first two were obvious to plain sight. The figure on the right was undoubtedly male, while the one to the left was female. Their clothing was to every appearance identical; it flowed around their dual forms, clinging to them. The outfits were nearly colorless; not exactly black, but the color of shadows. The other physical difference was the hair; the woman wore hers to her waist, where it drifted, unconfined, about her form. The male wore his trimmed short. Besides those two differences, the two could be reflections of one another.
The third difference was much subtler, and seemed to have no effect on the physical world. It was more their overall attitude that differed - their attitude in regard to one another most of all. Neither was entirely relaxed; both were wary. But the woman looked upon her companion with disdain, while he regarded her with suppressed rage. She was ice cold, he fiery hot; just as always. Then he spoke.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded, his voice tight with walled off emotion, yet controlled and somehow even.
"I'm not supposed to be here, Ankoku my dear?" she asked in response, her disinterest obvious. Whether it was feigned or genuine was not so clear.
"Of course not!" Ankoku exploded. Taking a moment to regain his composure, he continued. "Kaimei... You know as well as I that this place is my creation. Nothing was here when I began, and I expect nothing to remain whenever I leave. The only thing that should ever be present isn't a thing, but a person. And that person would be me."
"So your little creation scheme backfired," Kaimei stated simply, disregarding his logic. "I'm here now, and that's that. If you're through freaking out, I believe we have a different bone to pick, you and I."
"That would be...?" Ankoku hazarded.
"You had minor success with your creation scheme," was Kaimei's bland beginning, her tone indicating complete disinterest on the subject. "I believe I've had more success in my own... World. You call this place the black realm of true darkness, do you not? That's quaint. I've named my realm the dark realm of true blackness, and I'm sure you can forgive me for assuming that you've been abusing your talents. You have, haven't you? It's obvious."
When Kaimei didn't continue right away, Ankoku assumed that she waited for his reply. Calmly as possible, he complied. "Of course not." Ankoku succeeded in keeping his voice level, despite sounding incredibly cold. How could his own sister suggest that he'd do such a thing? Well, maybe he would do such a thing - but he wouldn't admit as much, not to her. Ankoku knew better.
"Oh, I know you'll confess eventually," Kaimei went on airily, despite Ankoku's short protest to the contrary. "That part is important, but not most important. I only now wonder why you keep this place so secret. It's not like there's even anything to hide... But I understand. This place is so hidden so that no one discovers how naÃ¯ve you still are. No one but me, that is--"
"'This place' is mine," Ankoku cut in, his voice searing-ly hot once more. "And I'm not naÃ¯ve - you just think so because you're so damnably unaware yourself."
"Ankoku, Ankoku," Kaimei chanted, her tone openly condescending. "You only dig yourself deeper into this pit you've created for yourself. Speaking of pits... Just look at this place. There's literally nothing. Nothing but dark emptiness, and you. Not the most appealing place to stay, I must point out.
"I do excuse your lack of taste - and refinement. Take my own home; examine it - for comparison purposes. You would think a black realm would be full of the color, as this place is, but that is not the case. True blackness isn't so much an abundance of the color black as it is the absence of the color white. The resulting color scheme is dark, as the realm's name implies, but not so tastelessly colorless as this. But what does that mean to you? Nothing. You've always preferred to hide in the shadows, rather than come into the light, the open. This place is perfect for you. One endless shadow - and nothing else. You'd never have to face the light. You're pathetic, you know?"
Ankoku had already been steaming, but that was too much. It was one thing for his sister to insult the world he'd tediously brought into existence. Calling him pathetic was just too much to bear.
"I'm /not/," he hollered, trying to sound dignified as well as angry. However, he failed quite miserably, coming off more like a child throwing a temper tantrum. "Take it back, Kaimei," he demanded, tone dangerously cold once again. "You'd better take it back, sister-dear."
"What, still stewing over the 'naÃ¯ve' thing, dear brother?" Kaimei teased maliciously. "Or did I anger you in my assessment of this rat-trap of yours? No, wait; I know what it was. You didn't like being called pathetic, did you? Oh, I understand how you must feel. It's just so hard to face the truth sometimes..."
"No." A single cold word escaped Ankoku's lips, spat out harshly. "No," he repeated again, more softly, forcing Kaimei to strain her hearing. "Not this time, Kaimei." Ankoku thrust out one arm, his right, shadowy folds of what must be a cloak falling away from the arm as he held it straight out. Carefully rotating his wrist, Ankoku turned his palm from the ground towards the sky, without rotating the arm. Meanwhile, he made several passes before his chest with his left hand. Above his right, a tiny red light began to flicker into existence, growing slowly. Its coloration deepened as it grew, starting with bright red and shifting through a myriad of darkening reds as it approached the reddish-brown of old blood.
"Not this time," Kaimei echoed, her voice finally sounding serious. "I'm sorry, brother," she continued. "I shouldn't have thrust such insults in your face, but you've only proved me right, and I believe I'm right on more counts than one. You have been abusing your powers, and you were willing to use and abuse them again, just now. Using them over something as trivial as an unkind word against your honor. That's wrong, brother - dangerously wrong. Even I know that.
"This time, I don't mean to be overly hurtful, but you are more naÃ¯ve than you admit. Tell me, Ankoku, what might happen, as a result of your abusing these powers we share? You don't know? Just as well - I'm not the one to explain it to you. But don't flaunt this power merely to find out what happens. Trust me, brother... You don't want to learn that way."
Ankoku continued to glower at her, half-clenching the fingers of his right hand into a fist, the ball of bloody light still perched above the hand. Rather than answering with words, Ankoku swung his right arm around until it was pointing directly away from him, lowering it until it was just below shoulder height. He smiled at Kaimei, the half-grimace full of feigned sadness and violent need.
Kaimei's brow creased, her eyebrows drawn together. Rather than frowning, she smiled, her expression containing genuine sadness.
"I'm sorry again, brother," were her soft words. "I forgive you now for consequences I know you do not yet expect. Good luck in overcoming them. And dispose of that thing - properly."
Straight-faced, Kaimei inclined her head at the fiery mage-light Ankoku bore. The sad smile returned for only a moment, and then Kaimei waved sympathetically, before slowly fading from sight.
Ankoku cursed, half under his breath. Angrily, he cast his conjured ball of flame into the darkness, where it exploded into fiery not-light. Turning, he began to stalk off, but before he had gone a dozen paces, he, too, vanished from the world.