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What comes next

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The dungeons were dark. Even if there were torches that lit the way, it still felt too dark for him.

He could not believe that his eldest brother had been staying inside this place for days now. He wondered if he could last as long if he was in his place.

But this was Osomatsu he was talking about. Someone like him would not die or give up easily. He should know. He had challenged his resilience before.

“To what do I owe this favor? My adorable snake of a little brother.” Osomatsu’s voice echoed underground, with his voice bouncing from the walls Karamatsu felt like he was everywhere.

“How did you know it was me?” Karamatsu asked, finally arriving in front of Osomatsu’s cell.

“Come on. I could tell how you walk even in my sleep. You’re my brother, last time I checked.”

Osomatsu sat on the floor, his back to the wall as he faced Karamatsu directly. The light of the torches barely reached him. Karamatsu looked at his brother’s eyes where the orange red flames reflecting from it was far from the gentle fires of the torches.

Karamatsu lost all sympathy upon seeing his eyes. With a gaze that burned like that, Osomatsu could stay an eternity inside his cell and still maintain the arrogance only a tyrant like him could have.

“Osomatsu. You know that any day now you would be executed in front of the public. I would suggest that you agree in seeing the archbishop to pray and atone for your sins.” Karamatsu found it hard to fight the images associated with these words. The idea of his brother’s shameful death still had not sunk in.

“Prayers won’t save me where I’m going.” Osomatsu instantly answered. Karamatsu looked down and clenched his fist.

“Ahh. So this is the price of my love?”  He said with a sigh and a shake of his head.

“If the suffering of your people is what you call ‘love’, then yes, this is the price you must pay.”

Osomatsu looked directly at Karamatsu, slightly offended by those words, “As much as I think that my people are important, it pains me to hear that you think I love them. I am talking about my love for you , you painful little shit.”

Karamatsu opened his mouth to retort, to argue, or just to say something; but he closed his mouth again when he came up empty. The thought that his brother loved him, despite everything, honestly made him happy.

“And sadly I still do love you my dear little brother,” Osomatsu’s eyes longingly stared at him, but only for a minute, because even before Karamatsu saw it Osomatsu’s eyes turned sharp once more. “That is why I ask you: What comes next?”

Karamatsu slightly cocked his head, “Huh?” The leader of the great rebellion got slightly confused from such a simple question.

“You’ve been freed of the evil tyrant Osomatsu, so… What. Comes. Next?”

Karamatsu straightened his stance, “I shall lead the kingdom and make sure the people would live in peace and prosperity. I will make sure that they are all happy.”

Osomatsu’s eyes widened. “Pfft-” Osomatsu then burst out laughing.

Karamatsu was confused again. Was he being insulted?

“Do you even hear yourself?” He laughed, “Do you know how hard it is to lead?”

Osomatsu lifted a hand to point at Karamatsu, “The ever so painful Karamatsu, ruler of Matsuno kingdom and all the kingdoms under it. AWESOME ! WOW !”

Karamatsu charged towards the cell only to be stopped by the bars. He gripped the bars tightly and through gritted teeth he said, “What is so funny about that?”

Osomatsu stopped laughing upon the sight of Karamatsu’s anger. Osomatsu leaned forward, competing against Karamatsu’s fierce eyes with his own ferocity.

“Oceans may rise, empires may fall, but it’s so much harder when it’s all your call...” Osomatsu’s voice felt poisonous as he whispered the words.

“Especially when you’re all alone in that throne...”

“I am not alone.” Karamatsu defended, “I have my allies, the royal advisors. I have the people.”

“So it’s really fine to not have your brothers by your side? As long as you have your silly little friends, the very thought of how you tore our family apart is now all behind you.”  Osomatsu’s voice suddenly rose and he knew that it was slowly becoming more and more futile to keep himself calm.

Karamatsu released the bars and looked down. He was ashamed. He was guilty.

“You turned Choromatsu against me! You lied to Jyushimatsu just to get to me!”

“The two of them are innocent. They did not know what I was planning. Please forgive them Osomatsu.”

“Totty died ! And god knows where Ichimatsu is… or if he is even alive!”

“What happened to Todomatsu was unfortunate—”

“Your own flesh and blood is dead because of you … and you can only say ‘it’s unfortunate ’.” Osomatsu could not believe his ears, “Who are you and what did those rebels do with my brother?”

Karamatsu could feel his legs weakening, but strongly he still stood there. He knew Osomatsu was a good speaker, he had controlled the land and tricked other kingdoms with that golden tongue before, Karamatsu knew better than to be swayed by his words.

“Osomatsu, I am only here to request if you want to ask forgiveness for your sins before it’s too late for your soul. We do not need to discuss these painful things.”

Osomatsu breathed in, held his breath for a while before letting out a long breath that almost sounded like a heavy sigh.

“I have no regrets. I will not ask for forgiveness for doing something I believe was right.”

Karamatsu was saddened to hear that. No matter how the wind blows, this mountain shall not bow down. Such pride. Such confidence. Things that Karamatsu looked at with utmost respect and admiration a long time ago.

“Then I’ll see you at the plaza, may the lord have mercy on your soul.”

“King Karamatsu!” He taunted, not willing to give his little brother the last word, “When your people say they hate you I shall be laughing from my grave… so don’t you dare come crawling back to me!”

Karamatsu then turned around and started to walk away.

Osomatsu then stood up and ran towards Karamatsu, only to be stopped by the length of the chains from the shackles on his ankles.

“Karamatsu!” Osomatsu called out and his voice made the walls rumble.

“What is it?” Karamatsu stopped walking but he did not look back.

“I have only one request, in order for my soul to be at peace.”

Karamatsu turned around, and without even seeing him Osomatsu could hear his brother’s movements.

“Before the blade of the guillotine reach my neck to end my life, I would like you to not falter and look right into my eyes. I want the bravery of  your treacherous eyes to be last thing I see before I die.”

“How sadistic of you.”

“Yes true, I am a sadist.” Osomatsu walked back and sat against the wall. The chains clanged against the brick floor announcing his movements to Karamatsu.

“But that would be the last time you’d be with me, and the last time I’d be with you. I do not want to leave you alone with tears in your eyes. I want to see the eyes of my strong little brother, the one that fought me and defied me. I want to see that strength and sincerity until my last breath.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes.”

Karamatsu slowly walked away while Osomatsu listened carefully to his steps as they slowly slipped away from his ears and into the abyss.




On the day of the execution, Osomatsu saw the eyes of his little brothers crying. Somehow he even thought he saw Todomatsu and Ichimatsu from afar, but that might be the thought of death playing tricks on him.

Osomatsu looked for Karamatsu in the crowd and he was pleased.

 

 

Karamatsu swore his brother’s smile never looked so peaceful before.