12. The Null (Page 6)

“… Are you a murderer?”

The man beamed proudly, “Yup! But I get paid to do it.”

“An assassin,” the boy breathed.


“Does that mean you travel around a lot?”

“Of course. I gotta go make a reputation for myself, don't I?”

“Have... have you ever met a man a tattoo of a tiger and a crocodile on his chest?”

The man jerked upright. “Why would you be looking for someone like that?”

The teenager was silent for a moment, collecting his thoughts, “I saw him in a dream.”

“A dream,” the words sounded foreign in the man's mouth, “Seriously?”

“My mother, she would have called that an omen. But I don't know whether it's good or bad.”


“I just need to find him.”

“Well, lucky for you, I know who you're talking about.”

“You do?”

“You're looking at him.” The man pulled a match from his jacket pocket and lit a cigarette, casting a dim glow over his unshaven face. Taking a puff, he opened his coat and showed the boy a detailed scene of a tiger and crocodile devouring a wild boar. “A few months ago, I went hunting while on a job in the Dolphin Isles of Imoterra. From my perch in a forest tree, I watched a tiger chase a hog towards a river, and I thought the hog was going to get away. But then a croc leaped out of the water and drowned the squealing creature, startling me so much that I nearly fell out of the tree! I was even more shocked, though, when the lizard dragged the carcass up to the shore, and together the tiger and the crocodile ate the pig. They'd been working together, like they’d had it all planned out. Weird, huh?”

“Yeah.” The boy stared at the flesh markings in awe.

Breathing more smoke, the man said, “You know, I always felt like that incident was some sort of sign, like the spirits of the cosmos were trying to tell me something. I felt connected to the tiger ─ that’s the alias I go by ─ but I kept thinking about that croc. What could it mean?” He looked at the boy, “How’s that for an omen, kid?”

The lad looked the man in the eye, “My grandmother is a psychic. She’d say that it means you need to find yourself a crocodile ─ a partner.”

“Hmm…” the man thought for a moment, “You want to be my crocodile?”


“Sure! You’ve got the potential for it, planning the murder of your baby brother and all… Say, what’s your name, kid?”

“Kosu,” the dark-eyed teen answered, “My name is Kosu.”

Hataru gasped as the scene evaporated.

“What?” she screeched, “That─ that boy was him? He was the assassin who’s been attacking us? How…? He killed his own little brother! How does someone become so… so corrupt?”

“That’s why I wanted you to see this, my dear. The more you know about someone’s past, the easier it is to understand their motives, what actions they might commit next and what they expect those actions to result in. That can be a very useful tool when you know that your paths will cross in the future.”

The End

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