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Not Brothers : 형제가 아님

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Loki found out too late, or perhaps too early, that there is a proper reason behind a spell being forbidden, sealed and hidden away.

 

It has already been five days. Five days since his brother shut himself in his room, not taking one step out of it and not letting anyone in.
Of course, in the past Loki had forgotten to eat or sleep, delving into books to study magic. It might not be an unusual occurrence, so perhaps there was no need to worry. Yet, even Aesir’s health suffered if one went on without food, and, worse, water.
So that evening, Thor excused himself from the banquet, put together a light meal that won’t be too hard on an empty stomach, and knocked on Loki’s door.
There was no response. Thor knocked with a bit more force.
“Loki? It is I, I know you are within, so open your door!”
If it were not for Loki’s magic, Thor’s heavy knocking would have shattered the door down yet there was no response from inside the room. His patience exhausted, Thor put down the food tray and grabbed Mjolnir.
“Loki, if you don’t open this door right away, I swear by Odin that I will break down your door, and the wall too, despite the lock spell and open the…"
With a small click, the door opened ever so slightly. Thor nudged the door with the end of his hammer, just in case, and the door opened without offering any resistance. Feeling incredulous, Thor went in. Within, Loki was sat on the floor in the middle of the room, his back turned towards the door.
As he imagined Loki reading or hurriedly writing something, Thor was slightly surprised.
“Um… are you okay? Are you not feeling well?”
Thor took a step towards him.
“Stay away!”
Loki shouted. Startled, Thor stopped. But he wouldn’t be Thor if he stayed back. In firm strides, Thor approached his younger brother and looked into his face.
Thor was shocked. Empty. Loki’s eyes at that moment could only be described thus.
“…What happened?”
Loki did not answer. He looked up to Thor with empty eyes.
“Thor…”
“Yes. I am here so do not worry.”
“My life is over.”
Thor didn’t know what to say to this absurd statement. Over? His life is? They had only just reached adulthood and had several thousand years ahead of them, so what was this crazy talk?
“What are you talking about?”
“I saw my future.”
Loki replied. Thor blinked.
“Your future? What do you mean, that is-”
Thor stopped talking and snapped his mouth shut. He remembered hearing about it. There was a spell that let you know what will happen in the future, but it was dangerous to both the caster and those around him, as well as being an evil method that causes huge disruptions, so it was strictly banned and disappeared in time.
“You cast it, that spell?”
“Why, did you think that a failure like me would not be able to achieve something impressive even in my specialized area?”
Stung by Loki’s sharp words, Thor stepped back.
“It was not my meaning to…”
“Anyway that does not matter, as I am already beyond help.”
Loki interrupted his words.
“Truly, forbidden spells are forbidden for a reason. Now I must endure the punishment for my ignorance.”
“Punishment?”
Thor approached Loki once more and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Do not worry, even if you had used a forbidden spell, surely father will not be so harsh in his judgment…”
“Father?”
Loki laughed, throwing back his head.
“Well? Let’s see, shall we? True, he does not need to bother himself and punish me; a useless chess piece can be thrown away, simply. What a shame that it broke before it could be put to proper use. Then again just leaving it will not make it useful anyway!”
Thor could not comprehend what Loki was saying. Disregarding Thor’s confusion, Loki continued.
“That’s why it was no use. No matter how hard I tried… Odin, that sly, greedy old man. Cold-blooded liar! Thief!”
“What, what are you saying!”
Thor grabbed hold of Loki’s wrist.
“Why are you slandering our father without any evidence? Do get a hold of yourself, brother. I do not know how the magic has affected your head, but…”
“Don’t call me that!”
Loki shook his wrist free and jumped up.
“That is a lie, that is all… it is all Odin’s lie. See? Thor, I am not your brother.”
Thor did not know what to say. All he could think of was that the spell to look into the future or whatever is a spell that deserves to be banned, surely a kind of magic that drives people crazy.
“I am not your brother.”
Loki said once more, like he is swearing an oath.
“I am not your brother, or Odin’s son. Nor am I a simple foundling. I am…”
Loki’s face crumpled, as if he would burst into tears.
“Will you promise me one thing first?”
“What, what kind of promise?”
He did not know what, but Thor felt that he needed do something, that he would do anything, to change this Loki back to the brother he had known.
“Don’t kill it before I finish my explanation.”
“…Kill it? What do you mean?”
Thor could not shake himself free from confusion. And Loki was driving him into it, deeper and deeper.
“The frost giant.”
“What?”
When the hated enemy was mentioned, Thor tensed at once.
Perhaps that’s what this was. He did not know how, but maybe a frost giant had sneaked in and cast an evil curse or a spell on Loki, making him mad. And maybe Loki had caught the culprit and was worried that Thor would kill the giant before he learnt the way to undo the spell from it.
That must be it, surely?
Thor nodded vigorously.
“Sure. I will let it live until you say it’s okay to kill it.”
Loki’s face crumpled once more like he’d cry, but he nodded.
“Good. So have you understood that I am not your real brother?”
He hadn’t understood it at all, actually. How could he understand such a preposterous fact?
“When Odin returned from the war with Jotunheim victorious, he brought something else other than the Casket of Ancient Winters as his trophy.”
“Then what else?”
“There was a little abandoned baby in the temple where the Casket was kept. It was a very small thing even by Aesir standard, let alone Jotun; perhaps that’s why it was abandoned.”
Thor did not want to know what that little Jotun baby did. He only wanted to know how to stop his brother from spewing words he could not understand and behaving in strange manner.
“By the way, all this is what Odin told me himself… will tell me himself. In distant future.”
Loki said this in nonchalant manner, as if he is engaging some entertaining small talk.
“So you can believe it as being true even if it is I who is telling you this. Well, actually he lied more than once or twice so it is quite hard to believe. Anyway, so the wise Odin, not knowing what kind of nuisance that baby will prove to be in future, simply took it home, just because he felt some pity towards it, or maybe because he thought he would be able to use it against Jotunheim in one way or another. Dear me, even if Odin can be excused, I don’t know what moth…… Frigga was thinking. Is it normal to take a baby from your husband who’s returning from a war, without any fuss, especially when you have a son of your own already?
“Loki, you, what you are saying, it’s as if-”
“I am a frost giant.”
Loki spat out the words.
“And, to be exact, a half-baked frost giant. An underdeveloped creature deemed unworthy of life and abandoned by its own parents. A cripple. I guess I should be grateful that he made me into an Asgardian prince, though I may be useless second son, shouldn’t I? I should feel ever so honored, and devote my body and soul to my king and my father, and be most loyal to him. So.”
Loki gritted his teeth.
“The Asgardian royal parents must have been terribly surprised and felt betrayed when I, rather than being grateful, attempted to kill their only son.”
“What are you talking about, who did you try to kill…”
Thor realized it by himself while speaking. The Asgardian royal couple had two sons. Unless Loki was talking about killing himself now, it meant-
“…I…? Me? You, me?”
“Yes.”
Ignoring Thor’s desperate wish, Loki answered swiftly.
“I tried to kill you. For I was jealous that you always were loved and praised by father and mother and everyone around you without making any effort, for I was furious that you were becoming a king as if it’s natural, pushing me away, when you are proud and thoughtless and have no kingly considerations and feel no sense of responsibility!”
Loki burst out laughing like he was crying.
“At first I did not wish to kill you. At least believe this, I did not wish to be the king. I just wanted to be recognized as having a right, just like you, to be the king, and even be a better king… I only wanted to stop you being crowned at first. Only for a little while, to prove that I can be a better king than you, and make father see that you are not ready to be a king yet. But…”
Loki hung his head and looked down at his hands.
“But while you were exiled from Asgard, I found out that I am not their son, nor a prince, but only a hidden card in the sleeve which may be used against Jotunheim at some later date and… after that.”
Loki looked up and lamented.
“I could not let you live, who pushed me into such despair.”
“………Loki.”
“And I also wanted to destroy Jotunheim, the source of my despair.”
Loki carried on, not letting Thor respond any more.
“Surely that is fitting? Asgard and Jotunheim have fought and hated and wished the other’s destruction for a very long time. Fath… Odin even went far as to steal their essence. I thought Asgard would be happy if they were destroyed. Also.”
Loki paused for a moment. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“I am a frost giant. If I cannot be loved as a worthy son no matter what I do, because of my race, then would there be a stronger proof of my loyalty and love than to exterminate my race, my source?”
Thor could not say anything. Surely this Loki was mad, but the special logic of the mad held some power of persuasion.
“But… how? Even numerous wars cannot kill all the Jotuns…”
“There is a way.”
Loki kept cutting Thor off every time he tried to speak, as if intentionally.
But Thor had no time to get angry at such things now.
“By using Bifrost… I will not tell you the details. Even if I explain, you won’t understand and knowing it will do you no good anyway… Even at your worst you were never a monster like me, but still, there are things in the world better left unknown…”
Loki gritted his teeth and swallowed his tears.
“So. Where was I? Ah, yes. And Odin let me know for sure that rather approving me, or at least understanding where I am coming from, made sure to let me know that everything I did were just as worthless and meaningless as all the things I have been doing until then, and made it clear that he did not see me as his son.”
Loki looked up towards the ceiling with empty eyes once more.
“I gave him everything I could, but all that held no meaning to him… Oh, yes, I did try to kill Thor. Thanks to that Thor was able to shed some pride and stupidity and became someone worthy to be a hero, but since it was I who first committed unpardonable sin, I guess I should understand why Odin wanted to throw me away like a worthless piece of trash. Of course. The All-Father is always right. It is fitting that Loki, a frost giant and a monster, evil and full of jealousy, gets all the contempt.”
Loki hung his head. His shoulders shook. This time, finally, he could not hold back his tears and his followings words were tinged with weeping.
“So, what should I do? I, who has become aware of this monstrous truth, what should I do now?”
Thor did not know how to answer this at all. Let alone answering, it was overwhelming to just understand and accept all the facts Loki had poured out.
Loki says he is a frost giant.
Loki says he tried to kill him.
Father has abandoned him,
he is weeping. Loki is.
Thor tightly hugged him.
After stilling for a moment, Loki pushed him away.
“I have no need for your pity. Especially not pity for a fallen foe!”
“But… but we didn’t even fight yet!”
Then Thor had a brilliant idea.
“Yes! We didn’t fight yet, right? You didn’t try to kill me and didn’t try to destroy Jotunheim and all that didn’t happen yet, so you can just not let it happen!”
Thor took hold of Loki’s arm.
“You asked me what should you do? It is simple. You just have to not do all the things you have seen in the future. Isn’t that right? Then that kind of horrible future will not happen.”
Indeed, Loki was smiling at him now. Thor sighed a sigh of relief. Loki reached out with a hand and stroked Thor’s hair and flexed his fingers into Thor’s hair. As he felt Loki stroke his scalp, Thor relaxed completely and was just about to lean into Loki’s touch, when that hand grabbed his hair and yanked.
“Argh!”
Thor took a step back. His hand that touched his head was smeared with blood.
Loki glared at confused Thor who had strands of bloody hair in his hand.
“It must be so happy to be such an easy-going moron like you!”
“What… why?”
“I will try to explain in a way even you can understand, though I am not sure it is achievable.”
Loki spoke softly, so soft that it was frightening.
“I told you that you were exiled from Asgard, didn’t I?”
“Why?”
“Your coronation was ruined because some frost giants sneaked in. Straightway you said you will claim war ‘as the king of Asgard’, and Odin said you aren’t a king yet and there will be no war. Furious, you invaded Jotunheim with just your friends.”
Loki stopped for a moment and frowned.
“Anyway, you tried to war with Jotunheim and in that process fought with Odin and called him an old fool and so you were exiled to Midgard until you learnt humility and true honor. Stripped of your power, position, Mjolnir and everything else.”
If this was a trick, Loki would have been proud of that look of fear on Thor’s face for the rest of his life.
“Actually, it makes me wonder at his motive, seeing how he let you alone when you argued for war then suddenly saying you aren’t ready when you called him an old fool, you know? Well, I guess killing a few Jotuns is not a big deal from an Asgardian point of view.”
Loki murmured bitterly.
“At least my method was wiser than yours, in my opinion. The aim was the same, but at least I chose a method that did not drive our Asgardian warriors to war and to their death, you know? But you, you simply wandered for a few days in Midgard and returned as a hero when Mjolnir moved again. What about me? Why is it that I, who chose a method more beneficial to Asgard, didn’t even get a chance to be forgiven?”
Loki knew that there was a lot he distorted or did not tell Thor. Though Thor’s exile to Midgard was self-inflicted, it was a heavier crime to let frost giants into Asgard, and even if Thor matured and benefited from it, it did not justify what he did to harm Thor.
Yet, even now, when he closed his eyes, it was as if he could hear ‘No, Loki,’ from the future.
“Why?”
Loki asked, as if to himself.
“Why is it that you are always praised and I get thrown away? Is it because it is honorable to bash the heads of frost giants with your own hand with a hammer, and cowardly to kill them safely from afar in Asgard? Why is it brave to kill dozens, and villainous to kill them all?”
Thor did not know what to say. It was wrong, something was wrong, really, but he was unsure as to how to say so.
“Do you know what is the worst?”
He did not know. He did not want to know. If there was something worse than this, Thor really didn’t want to know.
“It is not that I am a frost giant, a monster, one of those who we thought of as our enemy all our lives. That is bad, but worse than that is that I ‘do not know’ ‘why’. Also.”
Loki closed his eyes again and lamented.
“As long as I do not know that, I really will commit such acts.”
Thor was completely lost for words. He did not know what to do, what he can do; he did not know anything. He didn’t even know how long it has been since he felt this exhausted.
Loki glanced at him with a tired expression on his face.
“It’s okay now.”
Thor was relieved by these words, despite this situation.
“Really?”
Loki frowned at Thor’s joy.
“Yes. …So you can swing Mjolnir now.”
Loki heaved a sigh looking at Thor, who was once again pushed into confusion.
“We talked about it, that you won’t kill me before I tell you it’s okay to?”
That struck Thor more heavily than all the other blows he had swung until now.
“For your information, there are no other frost giants hiding here.”
“But, but, that means, you are, to you, I am, I am to,”
“Surely this isn’t a suitable time for grammar practice?”
Loki regarded Thor, who was just opening and shutting his mouth now, unable to say anything, with unemotional eyes.
“The rest of my life is like living hell.”
Loki declared.
“The hatred and jealousy I will experience, ah… the disappointed look Odin will give me, the contempt of everyone, loneliness, despair… those would be unbearable by themselves then I know them all already.”
“Still, if you change from now on…”
“Change what? Change what I am? From now on, should I abandon magic and forget all I know and swing a sword or a hammer and don’t think and drink all night at the banquet and shout boisterously and laugh and grow a beard and… let’s see, should I change the color of my hair, too?”
“Loki, that is not what I mean…”
“If I do so, would that make me Aesir? Would I be no different from others?”
Loki stood up and gripped Thor’s shoulders.
“Wake up, Thor. I am Jotun and that cannot be changed. It disgusts me too, but I cannot escape it. Tis the same with the way others see me. And I also have pride, too, I don’t want to beg and ask for bits of affection that is showered upon you by getting rid of myself completely.”
Loki hung his head once more.
“It is because I am myself that no one trusts nor understands nor loves me. Fa… even Odin. Even when it is he who made me thus. If it was going to be like this, he should not have taken me in, should have left me for dead, which was the natural course…… A life unloved and not needed by anyone is really, really horrendous……”
“I love you!”
Thor pulled out the last card he could.
“I love you and I need you. So please don’t say such horrible words…”
“Love me? You? Thor Odinsson loves a frost giant? Surely you jest.”
Loki took a step back.
“Ah, yes. You do not fully realize it. Is that it? You still think I am only playing tricks.”
“No, no, that isn’t true! I am also serious and…”
Loki stood tall and straight and opened up his arms like when he casts a major spell.
“Originally, I would’ve liked to show it to you at the weapon vault, but I guess this would be enough.”
Before Thor could ask him what, Loki’s appearance changed. His bare hands began to turn blue from the fingertips. His pale face, nearly white, tinged with blue and the markings commonly seen on frost giants began to appear. Thor could not tell if sudden chill he felt was due to the falling temperature, or his chilling blood.
When Loki opened his eyes, the pupils were scarlet, darker than sunset.
“Lo, Loki…”
“In future, Odin took me to the Casket of Ancient Winters and let me put my hand on it. Obviously I am such a weakling that I cannot keep my own appearance without such help.”
Thor felt his breath catch. It was Loki, looked and sounded like Loki, but the changed color, the only thing that was changed, made him so different.
Loki took a step towards Thor and reached out with a hand. Startled, Thor took a step back. It was only after he avoided his brother’s hand that he realized what he had done wrong.
When Thor approached Loki again and tried to take hold of his hand, Loki had already took a few steps back and widened their distance.
“Do you see now?”
Loki said.
“It is the way that satisfies both of us. I get to escape the living hell, and you get to eliminate a frost giant, a betrayer and biggest enemy in Asgard’s future. Now, Thor, it is something you must do at some point. If you do it early on, that makes everyone that much happier. Come on. Don’t you want to spare a mother the pain of losing a child?”
You sneaky bastard, thought Thor. How can he be so dirty, mentioning mother at a time like this when he said he was not a son of theirs and that he didn’t consider Frigga as his mother.
“This is how mother loses her child!”
Thor cried, feeling his heart tearing apart.
“You, you are my brother, you are Odin and Frigga’s son! Your skin being blue does not make a difference! Don’t try to make me commit fratricide!”
“I told you, we aren’t just unrelated by blood, we aren’t even of the same race! You killing me won’t be fratricide. Odin will understand. He doesn’t even consider me as his son!”
“I don’t want to!”
Thor finally spoke his heart, the final truth.
“Whatever you are, whatever you do, I think of you as my brother! Even if you aren’t I don’t want to kill you or hurt you, I don’t want to. I don’t!”
Loki seemed to be disheartened by Thor’s cry, so very similar to a child’s outburst. He was silent for a long while, then he nodded.
“Yes. I must have lost my mind for a moment, trying to persuade you with reason.”
To Thor, it seemed like Loki had lost his mind in other ways too, but he waited for Loki’s next words as it seemed as if Loki had recovered a little of his usual calm.
“It is true that a hero needs a villain. You need me, to trample and stand upon and shine.”
Thor opened his mouth. He had no such thoughts.
But before he could say a word against it, Loki twirled his hand lightly, and Thor fell on the spot and lost consciousness.

 

It was next morning when Thor woke up. He was lying on Loki’s bed alone and his brother was nowhere to be seen.