≈ " my family tells an ancient legend about two great dragon brothers;
the dragon of the north wind and the dragon of the south wind.
together they have held balance and harmony in the heavens. "
you remember the first time you have to lecture your brother about his actions.
he is young and wild and without any responsibility and your father, while glad that genji is enjoying himself, insists you bring the hammer down on him. you're still young, just a boy and you're already pushed into the role of micromanaging the way people around you act. it is a tiresome thing, having what feels like the weight of the world on your shoulder; you resent genji for being so carefree, so foolish. he frequents places that a shimada should not frequent, distasteful dive bars and junk filled shops, there is no thought in his mind and you find him to be selfish in the way he carries himself.
in truth, you know you are jealous, in many ways.
he is all that you are not. you were born into the biggest criminal empire in all of japan, the shimada family is not one to be trifled with and even as a young boy, before genji was born, you felt the weight of that every day. you are not allowed to engage in the things genji does. you are to be responsible, doing such immature things are futile and there's no way your father would allow you to stain the reputation of the shimada family further than what genji already does daily.
you are around the age of eight when you have to scold genji for the first time and you remember crossing your arms over your chest, serious look in your youthful eyes--"father doesn't want you running around the temple, genji. it's immature and you could break something, consider your actions before doing so."
you find that every time you scold genji for something, your eyes dull. your gaze feels dead now.
you are only eight and you are your brother's keeper, and as you grow, genji follows a dangerous path. you are responsible for him, and you love him so dearly and you want to protect him but he continues to make foolish choices and you are left dealing with the aftermath of every action he takes. you wonder what it's like, to spend one night out on the city without fear and worry and responsibility hanging over your head like a dark storm cloud--there was one night you nearly thought about asking your brother to take you with him just for a few hours. but you are the heir to the empire, you have had that constantly spinning around your head since the moment you were born, you can't risk a few hours.
and so you let him go.
and he comes back looking like a mess, his hair always seems to be dyed a different color, the smell of sake is strong on his breath and you lecture him again. "genji...why do you insist on such things? surely there's a way for you to enjoy yourself and not be so mindless and..." you could go on, but there are nights when you simply help him to bed. you know your lectures are meaningless to him, but it's the only way for you to display how worried you are for your younger brother.
those nights are the ones that you sit beside him, staring out the window into the night and genji,...he's tired, and you speak to him of how much pressure your father is putting on you. you figure at the very least, it could put him to sleep. "in truth, i envy you, brother...but please take caution, i would be lost if you got yourself killed..."
you peer over your shoulder to look back at him, soft gaze in those dulled eyes of yours, and for a moment, everything seems like it will be alright. the two of you are strong, you are close, despite your differences, and sitting beside him in private never fails to relax your worries.
the nights genji stays in and the political climate of japan is changing, you appreciate that he's always there to stand by your side even to just listen to you rant on about how stressful everything is. you're expected to do everything, you're expected to not let an emotion cross your face, and genji has always said how expressive you can be. you try to hide it, you try to hole it up inside you, it's better to be stoic and expressionless to the public rather than let them see your emotional weakness--and you take a sip of your wine as you sit next to genji and let out an exhausted sigh.
"i don't know how much longer all this will last."
your father was getting older and with that, his health was declining. he was falling ill and the very thought of having to be in charge so soon--hanzo was in his mid twenties by then and yet it still felt like he was an unprepared child, there was no way he could take the pressure of running the criminal empire and it seemed like when hanzo needed his brother more than ever to rely on, genji wasn't there.
≈ " but the two brothers argued over who could better rule their land,
their quarrel turned to rage and their violence struggled dark in the skies until the dragon of the south winds struck down his brother
and fell to earth, shattering the land. "
life is not like the stories that your father used to tell genji and you. there is no rhyme or reason to what happens, do you believe in fate? it seems a time like this, a time of peril and confusion, there can be no use believing in such childish things. you don't know where genji is. all you know is your father is gone. ill and weak, he passed away and it was as if high tide swept you off your feet and pulled you deep into the ocean's riptide, because there was no time for you to mourn. no time for you to even really understand what had happened, you were suddenly in charge of the shimada criminal empire and all of those years working towards this massive responsibility still didn't seem to be enough to prepare you properly.
genji always teased you, he always told you that you were so princely, so proper and eloquent, sophistocated and there was truth in that. but that's putting it positively. he also meant it in a way you know that hints at how arrogant you can be, how entitled, how you look down on other people at times, and even with the good aspects of your personality, you still don't know how you are going to be able to manage handling your father's death in front of millions of people. you look at people and feel sick to your stomach, you can't even let the smallest amount of weakness slip because you know people will take it as a chance to try to tear down the enterprise your family worked so hard to build up.
you still don't know where genji is.
it's not that you don't want the power of being in charge, either, but this wasn't the way you wanted it, and you had no hope of it happening so soon. as demanding and controlling as your father was, you can still remember how soft his voice sounded late at night when you and your brother were children, and he read you bedtime stories. those times when he didn't seem like a crime lord, he seemed like a father, he seemed like he loved his children. but now he was gone and without genji here, you were alone. truly alone.
you remember your father telling you once, "if you sit by the river long enough, bodies of your enemies will float by." as a child, it scared you to think of it, you strayed away from the river, and as you grew up you came to realize the weight of his saying. you wondered if that was why your father passed away when he did, you wonder if the responsibility of having so many deaths hanging over his head, so many people counting on him and also being destroyed by him--the heart holds heavy burdens, but there has to be a limit to how much someone's heart can take.
the funeral seems to be too long and too short all at the same time. genji shows up, and it feels too brief. you almost wished he'd stayed away. you almost wished he'd disappeared, that he fled and ran away finally for real. not because you didn't want to see your brother, no, because more than anything you did. you wanted him there, but in the same breath, if he was halfway across the world, maybe you wouldn't have had to 'take care of him'.
you remember looking over at him at the funeral, stoic expression painted expertly on your face even though inside you felt ill and weary and lost. he had always been your responsibility, but before now, you had your father protecting him as well. he was disappointed in his younger son's actions, and despite his counsel's disapproval and insistence that he get rid of genji for the betterment of the shimada clan, there was no way they would go against the voice of your father who commanded so much respect within the underground.
they don't respect you as much. you can hear their voices in your head as you look over at him at the funeral, and you wonder if they will go against your wishes ans take matters into their own hands. you wonder if that's worse.
but matters are expected to stay within the shimada family and as genji vanishes after your father;s funeral, you head back home and all you can hear is the voices of everyone around you, genji must be taken out of the shimada family, he must be taken care of, he's going to continue to ruin the reputation and without your father to hold onto it, the shimada clan will be destroyed. all he worked for will be ruined because of your brother-- the words never leave your head and they're all you can hear for what seems like years. in truth, you don't know how long it was until genji was coming home, and by then, you were commanded to kill him.
≈ " the dragon of the south wind had triumphed, but as time passed
and he realized his solitude, the sweetness of victory turned to ash. for years, the bereft dragon’s grief threw the world into discord. and he
knew only bitterness and sorrow. "
you hate yourself more and more with every arrow you send hurling at your brother.
you feel like a monster, you call out to the dragon spirits that only the shimada clan can control and you feel wicked and corrupt and disgusting and you can't even look at the damage you've done. you are guilty. you are evil. you don't even want to hear anyone's voice, you don't want to look in anyone at shimada castle's face, you want to erase time, you want to run away with genji and leave the world the two of you have known behind, you want the weight of the world to be off your shoulders for once, you just want to be able to breathe but you can't anymore. genji can't anymore. genji won't, anymore...
for the first time in a long time, you weep.
you hole yourself away in your childhood home, you sit in genji's room and stare at the walls. you are a disgrace of a human being and you can't forgive yourself. for your whole life, you will never forgive yourself. because genji was good. he was friendly, he was kind and easy to get along with, he made you smile without even trying, he lit up a room when he walked into it and driven by the madness and insanity of the shimada clan you struck him down and you have never felt so utterly hopeless.
you are nothing without your brother.
every day feels too long, every night feels too long, you entertain the thoughts of 'what if's', and every year on the anniversary of your brother's death, you go to the temple and you sit there for hours. burning incense, you try to think on the good memories, but it hurts too much. you honor your brother too much to do anything otherwise, though, and really, though he was a disgrace to the crime family, he was a better person than anyone involved. surely better than you. a million times better than you. if he was in your position, there was no way he would've committed such an act. how could you profess that your love for your brother was greater than your love for anyone else if you were willing to kill him to allow your family's empire to continue? was his death worth a lifetime of sadness and loneliness?
you don't sleep much anymore. his face is there anytime you close your eyes...you try to honor him in any way you can, now. it's not much. and you don't really know what else to do, you've never been like genji, you've never been impulsive or irresponsible, you've always done what everyone else wanted and expected you to do.
but what do you do now that you feel nothing but lost anymore?
≈ " one day, a stranger called up to the dragon and asked “oh dragon lord,
why are you so distraught?” the dragon told him, “seeking power, i killed my brother. but without him, i am lost.” the stranger replied, “you have inflicted wounds upon yourself. but now, you must heal. walk the earth on two feet as i do. find value in humility, then, you will find peace." "
you betray the shimada family.
you leave, you leave it in the hands of those who lead you to kill your brother, you want nothing to do with them anymore, and they send assassins to kill you nearly every chance they get.
it is on the eve of the anniversary of genji's death that you are met with another assassin. you sit, back to him, and you can hear him approach. "you are not the first assassin sent to kill me, and you will not be the last."
"you of all to come to shimada castle, the den of your enemies."
you are tired of these assassins approaching you like they know everything. you don't fall for it, and you grab your bow and spin around, shooting an arrow in the assassin's direction. "this was once my home, did your master not tell you who i was?"
"i know who you are, hanzo. i know you come here every year on the same day, you risk so much to honor someone you murdered!'
this fool........"you know nothing of what happened!" another arrow goes flying and the assassin expertly dodges it--silently you're thankful that the shimada clan is finally sending more skilled assassins to try to kill you. in truth, you'd beg for death now if it were the honorable thing to do.
"i know you tell yourself that your brother disobeyed the clan, and that you had to kill him to maintain order. that it was your duty."
"it was my duty, and my burden. but that does not mean i do not honor him!"
"you think you honor your brother genji with incense offerings? honor resides in one’s actions."
he doesn't deserve to say genji's name. he doesn't deserve to. how dare he speak your brother's name--it sends fire to your stomach and you are more angry now than you've been at someone else in a while. the two of you, caught in a whirlwind of arrows and swords, both summon dragon spirits and suddenly you find nothing make sense. you've called out your own spirits, and no one outside of the shimada family can do the same. no one else can control the dragons.
the assassin deflects your attack with his own spirit and suddenly there is a dangerous calm and you fall to your knees. "who are you?"--and suddenly he's darting towards you and his katana is at your throat and you tell him to do it. he's won, fair and square. you want to die, you want to, please, just do it, just let me go--
"no. i will not grant you the death you wish for. you still have a purpose in this life, brother."
you don't know if your brain can process this. "no, no...my brother is dead." and the assassin takes off his mask and you see eyes that are so familiar and yet so different all at once and your heart leaps in your chest and you show more expression in those few moments than you ever did when you were growing up in the public eye. "...g-genji?"
≈ " the dragon knelt on the ground. for the first time he was clearly able to see the world around him, and he became human. the stranger revealed himself as his fallen brother, reunited, the two set out to rebuild what they had once destroyed. "
"what...have you become?"
"i have accepted what i am. and i have forgiven you, now you must forgive yourself. the world is changing once again, hanzo. and it's time to pick a side. "
anger is still burning hot inside you and you are so confused and conflicted and the world is changing again, and he's right and you don't know what to do, you don't know what he means, you don't understand what he's saying--"real life is not like the stories our father told us! you are a fool for believing it so!"
"perhaps i am a fool to think there is still hope for you. but i do. think on that, brother."