Bifurcation

Chapter One

Krux had only once wished he wasn't an only child. He was twelve years old and complaining to his father that he was lonely, there was no one to play with in their home, why couldn't he have a sibling?

He never forgot the slap across his face, his father's harsh, whispered words: "For your mother's sake, never speak of such a thing."

Krux's mother had died in childbirth. Krux rubbed his aching cheek and stayed quiet.

Krux was eighteen, and his father lay dying in bed. Krux visited him when he had to and stayed far away when he didn't. His father passed alone, and Krux inherited all his mother's belongings, finally succeeding her as the Master of Time. He took his place among the other elemental masters, shrugging off their sympathy for the loss of his father, and continued his lonely life.

After the funeral, Ninjago went on as normal. The markets bustled. The children grew up. Elemental masters were rarely called upon to serve Ninjago, and the element of time was needed even less. Discontentment stewed in Krux's heart, and he did not make friends with the other elemental masters.

Krux was twenty-eight years old when the twins were discovered.


The two elemental masters were dragged out before the emperor. Maya was holding two young children to her chest, whispering soft words to try and soothe their wailing. Ray ignited his hands and glared at the guards with fists of flame, daring them to approach, goading them into using their heavy vengestone bludgeons.

Krux had no sympathy. It was a failure on the parents' part to hide them for nearly half a year. Twins would bring misfortune and misery to the family that born them–and twins from elemental masters? They would bring doom to the land.

"Your Majesty," Maya pleaded. "They're just children! They've done nothing wrong!"

The empress' voice is soft and kind. "I know, Master of Water. It is not their fault. It is never their fault. I will mourn them as if they were my own."

"You don't have to kill them!" Ray shouted. "This is wrong! They shouldn't die!"

"You know we must," the emperor said sternly. "Master of Fire, you have been loyal to Ninjago for many years. Why has this changed? Do you want to call upon dark forces to snuff out the light?"

Krux heard a quiet noise beside him. When he shifted his head, he saw Garmadon standing straight and stiff, his brother Wu beside him. Though they looked little alike, they were close enough in age that they had been mistaken for twins before.

"This must end," the emperor said. "Master of Time, step forward."

He didn't, not at first, thinking the emperor couldn't have possibly meant him. Then the Master of Metal nudged him in the side and Krux snapped out of it. "Yes, Your Majesty," he said, moving forward from the semicircle of elemental masters.

The emperor nodded at him. "For centuries, Masters of Time have been the keepers of order, ensuring that Ninjago continues as it has. Your mother had this duty as well."

Krux hadn't heard of this before, but as his eyes fell on Maya and her two, screaming children, he knew what was to come next.

The emperor motioned to him, and Krux moved to the foot of the throne. "Restore order, Master of Time," the emperor said, drawing his sword and holding it out to him. "Kill the twins."

"Yes, Your Majesty," Krux repeated.

He turned towards Maya and Ray. The children quieted and stared at him with wide eyes. Ray stepped in front of them and his wife, his fire blazing. Krux did not make friends with the other elemental masters, and as he met the anger in Ray's eyes, he knew the Master of Fire would not hold back. Krux concentrated his power.

Just as Ray prepared a fireball, his body froze, suspended in a glowing red aura. Time had stopped for him. Krux stepped around him and approached Maya and the twins. One of the children resumed wailing.

Maya took a step back. "So it's your duty to kill all twins, is it?" she said, her voice trembling. "Are you prepared for what that means?"

What an odd question. "I am prepared to serve Ninjago," was all Krux said in response. He raised his sword; he'd have to move before Ray broke out of the time-stop. "Which is clearly not the case for you."

Maya hugged her children close. "What if it was you?" she whispered. "What would you do then?"

"If I fathered twins, I would–"

He heard the Ray move behind him, and Krux spun around to block a blow that didn't come. Ray glared at him, then turned away to face the emperor.

"You may trust your Master of Time," he spat, "but you don't know everything about him, do you?!"

What was Ray saying? Krux thought back to the discontentment in his heart, drunken talks of how the emperor and empress weren't even elemental masters, why should they be in power? If Ray were to reveal Krux's ambitions–

He moved with the sword, but Maya caught him off guard and hooked her arm around his throat. "You will listen," she hissed, increasing the pressure until he struggled to breathe. "Don't think of using your powers. This is not something you can reverse."

The twins were both wailing again, almost directly in his ear. Krux grit his teeth and adjusted his grip on the sword.

Ray's voice rang out:

"The former Master of Time died in childbirth," he said. "But had she only borne one child, she would have survived! No, it was Krux's twin that killed her!"

Time seemed to stop once more, for Krux, for everyone. He heard the other elemental masters whispering. He broke out of Maya's grip–she almost seemed to let him go–and stared at the back of Ray's head.

"After she died," Ray continued, "her husband sent the younger twin away. Only my father knew, and he was the one to tell me." He turned to face Krux. "Have you ever wondered," he said, "why you only inherited half your mother's powers? This is why, Krux. This is–"

The emperor raised a hand. Ray fell silent.

Krux swallowed hard and realized what was to come. His hands glowed orange with his power.

Time shuddered and reversed.

The events flashed by as his body retraced its steps. When time resumed, Krux was standing with his back to Ray, holding the sword, advancing towards Maya and her twins. Ray had just broken out of the time-stop, and Krux turned around and dropped the sword.

He heard Maya gasp. Ray stared at him. "What are you–" he started, only to stop when Krux grabbed his collar.

"Where is my twin?" he hissed.

Ray's eyes widened. "How do you know–"

"Master of Time," the emperor said, "what is the meaning of–"

Krux hit him with a time-stop, then realized the magnitude of what he had done. The empress screamed. Cries rose up from the other elemental masters.

Maya grabbed his arm. "We have to leave now," she said. "Will you help us?"

Krux let go of Ray and ran.

He regretted dropping the sword when he saw the guards advancing with their vengestone bludgeons. Krux closed his eyes and focused, calling on all his elemental power could give him.

The entire room froze in time.

The effort drained him; Krux had to take a few deep breaths before he ran, bursting through the doors and down the hall, too fast for the guards outside to react.

His room in the palace wasn't far; he ran through the door, grabbed his money and a handful of valuables, and was gone before the guards caught up. He had to use his time-stop powers again on the guards when he got to the palace gates, and nearly crashed into Ray and Maya again in his haste.

"Wait!" Maya blocked his way, holding her children. Krux skidded to a stop and glared at her.

"Out of my way," he snapped.

Maya shook her head. "We don't have much time. Do you want to know where your twin is? Come with us."

Ray spoke up. "Maya, are you sure–"

"As certain as I can be," Maya said. "What do you say, Master of Time?"

Krux eyed the frozen guards. "Fine," he said, and they ran.


They took a small rowboat, moored just off the docks. No one noticed them as they haul their things onto it. "I can steer us," Maya said. "Ray, can you–?"

Ray took the children from her once he was safely in the boat. "Shh," he whispered when they started to cry again. "We'll be alright, don't you worry."

Krux sat down and watched Maya, who stood at the stern and raised her hands. The water pushed them out onto the ocean, slowly at first, then faster and faster.

"They won't catch us," Maya said.

"Where are we going?" Krux asked.

"There's a village near the peninsula," Ray said. "I know someone there. She's our best bet at staying hidden."

"What about my twin?"

Maya glanced back at him. "Before we find your twin, we need to make sure we're not caught," she said. "I promise, we'll find him."

"So you don't know where they are," Krux said. "How do you know they're a him?"

"Ray's father knew. He always referred to the child as a boy." They were far from the shore now, and Maya lowered her hands. The sea around them was calm. "What else would you like to know?" she said, turning to him.

Krux took a deep breath. "Everything," he said. "What happened? When my father…"

"It's not much," Ray said. "Why don't you row for a bit?"

Krux frowned, but Maya had used her powers to get them out of danger, and Krux wouldn't be much use with the toddlers. Maya took one of her children from Ray, and Krux shifted his position to take the oars and row.

"Your father came to mine soon after the birth," Ray said. "The baby wasn't even cleaned. Our fathers were friends for some time before that, but after your mother's death… well. Your father wanted the child to be killed. My father disagreed."

"How do you know he's alive?" Krux asked.

"All I know is that my father refused to kill your twin. What happened after that… we can make some educated guesses."

"Guesses?"

Ray shrugged. "The knowledge of what happened died when he did, but I think my father must have sent the baby away. It would have to be someone he trusted well enough to keep it secret, and there aren't a lot of candidates–though I didn't keep track of my father's friends."

Krux pursed his lips. "So you can't help me."

"The person we're going to see will have help for all of us," Maya said.

The baby she held reached for her hair. Maya carefully untangled the strands from her child's hand. "Oh, Nya," she said, "my sweet little Nya…"

"Nya," Krux repeated. "What's the other one's name?"

"Ling," Ray said. "Both girls. Don't know which one will get which element yet, but…"

"You said I only inherited half my mother's powers," Krux said suddenly. "Is that true?"

Ray blinked. "Did you not know?"

"No. I never knew my mother, and no one seemed keen on telling me much about her." Krux thought back to what the emperor said, about the Master of Time keeping order. "What other powers did she have?"

"Couldn't she speed up and slow down time?" Maya said. "She died before I was born, though, so I don't know for certain."

"From what I heard, the power was very similar to the element of speed," Ray said. "Just through a different… conduit, maybe."

While Krux listened to Ray, his eyes fell on the child. Ling stared right back, meeting Krux's eyes with a surprisingly serious gaze for a baby. He raised his eyebrows at her. Ling screwed up her face and started to cry.

"Oh, no, little girl…" Ray bounced her up and down. "It's alright, we're safe now… Maya, do you think they're hungry?"

"Ling was fussy last time I fed her," Maya said. "She might've not gotten enough. Here, take Nya."

They traded children, and Maya shifted position and unbuttoned her shirt. Krux watched until he realized she was about to breastfeed and quickly looked away, his cheeks flushed.

"We're going to be wanted criminals," he said. "Do you have any idea how we're going to get around without anyone recognizing us?"

"That will be our job," Maya said.  "Your job is to row."

Krux grimaced, but he didn't have much of a choice. They were all fugitives now, and Krux had no friends who could help him.

He thought about his twin. Who was he? A man with half the element of time–how did he stay hidden? Was he a man at all, same age as Krux, or had he been discovered and killed as a child?

Well. Krux supposed he would find out soon enough.

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