Samurai 7 Fan Fiction ❯ The Sword of the Soul ❯ Swords and Secrets ( Chapter 3 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

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AUTHOR'S NOTES: Well, I figured it would be best to get as many chapters up as possible (at least of the ones I have written already!
The music used as the inspiration for Chapter Three is "Projection Life," from the anime SPRIGGAN. It just so suits the Kata of Seven Swords that I had to use it... (and to answer the question now, yes, I studied kendo. However, the Kata of Seven Swords is my own.
Note for all the music hunting fans: the music for THE SWORD OF THE SOUL is available on the Multimedia page of my website as a Windows Media Player playlist file. Everything from Nasami's theme all the way through the latest chapter is now accessible. Enjoy!
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© October 16th, 2005 By Michelle N Travis
Chapter Three: Swords and Secrets
Kirara sat up abruptly, not even sure of what had woken her. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and peered around in the darkness of Masamune's workshop. As her eyes adjusted to the gloom, she could see the shapes of the others on the floor - Komachi, Masamune, Kikuchiyo, Gorobei, Rikichi, Katsushiro…
Kambei was gone. And so was Nasami.
Rising softly, she padded across the floor toward the open door that led to the small courtyard behind the workshop. As she approached, she could hear the two speaking in quiet tones.
“Why do you not accept Katsushiro as your apprentice?” she heard the samuraiko ask. “He's clearly willing to learn, and he already has great respect for you. You could do him no greater honor than to teach him.”
As Kirara edged closer to the door, she heard Kambei sigh. “It's not my place to train another man to die. I have seen a great deal of death, Nasami-dono, watched many of my men killed. I do not wish to watch anymore.”
“So instead you will lead him into battle untested and untaught. Hardly worthy, Kambei-dono.”
“I will not be leading him into battle,” Kambei protested. “I need real samurai for this battle against the bandits, experienced warriors who know how to fight, how to take orders, and…”
“How to die?” came Nasami's soft question. “First you neglect him, now you insult him.”
Kirara was shocked. How could the woman speak so disrespectfully to a samurai? She was even more shocked when Kambei laughed.
“You never cease to surprise me, Nasami-dono. Although I've met several samuraiko, I still cling to the mindset of a woman's traditional role. And yet, you… are like no samuraiko I have ever met before, either. Scholar and warrior, and yet so irreverent that it is almost refreshing, in a way.”
Nasami smiled and tilted her head back to look up at the stars. “Life is too short, Kambei- dono, to be too proper. `Live every day as though you have forever, live every day as though you have no tomorrow.' Or so one of my teachers used to say.”
“Why have you never married?” Kambei asked her curiously. “Surely your clan saw the advantages of having you wed, in the name of alliance.”
“I guess that every time my parents were ready to start finding me a husband, I was off on some new adventure, winning glory and honor for the clan and for the empire. As my fame spread, the quality of my suitors went up as well.”
Nasami shrugged. “I also never found anyone that I loved. Felt great affection for, yes… but love… no. But, romantic that I am, I hope that one day…” Her voice trailed off.
Kambei waited for her to finish, but when she remained silent, he asked, “What is it you hope for, Nasami- dono?”
The samuraiko's dark blue eyes were filled with longing. “I hope that one day I will find someone who looks at me the way Katsushiro looks at Kirara.”
“So you noticed as well,” Kambei said in satisfaction. “Now you understand the other reason I am reluctant to bring him to Kanna Village. She may not yet realize it, but it would devastate her if anything ever happened to him.”
“But don't you think it's because of those feelings that he wishes to fight? Sure, he can go on and on all he likes about bushido and the samurai's duty to protect, but I am convinced that young man would challenge the Emperor himself for one smile from her.”
The water priestess was suddenly intensely glad that she was hidden in the darkness, for her face was flaming red.

“Lady Kirara?”
She whirled around and saw Katsushiro standing there, hand resting on his katana. She immediately pressed her hand against his mouth to stop him from speaking, and tilted her head to indicate the presence of Nasami and Kambei in the courtyard. The young samurai nodded and stepped beside her to glance outside.
“What are they doing?” he whispered.
“Just talking,” Kirara whispered back, trying very hard not to think about what Nasami and Kambei had said. The thought that he had heard what the two elder samurai were saying was enough to make her blush even more.
“What about yourself, Kambei- dono?” they heard Nasami ask softly. “Have you never been married?”
“No. I loved a woman once, but before we could marry, the Great War called me to battle. When I returned… she was gone.”
“Dead?” Nasami asked in quiet horror, and Kambei nodded. “I'm so sorry.”
“Don't be.”
“Is that why you keep everyone distant?” Katsushiro and Kirara both started at Nasami's blunt question. “Because you're afraid of losing someone else?”
Kambei stared at the samuraiko sitting beside him, her eyes intent on his face. “You are remarkably perceptive for one so young. Even if your hair is as white as the winter snow.”
She shrugged, but she never took her eyes from his. “Even when I was a child, my sensei used to say that mine was an old soul.”
Kambei chuckled sadly. “You almost make me forget, Nasami- dono …”
“Forget what?”
“The emptiness within me.”
Kirara and Katsushiro watched Nasami hesitantly place her hand on Kambei's shoulder, but Kambei turned his face away. “There must be something in this world that could fill that emptiness. The quiet wisdom of the sages, the solace of a geisha's arms, the purpose of bushido…”
“I am nothing more than an empty shell, a remnant of a man who has lived long beyond his purpose.” The hollow sadness in Kambei's voice raised goosebumps on Kirara's skin, and she saw Katsushiro's jaw tighten as he swallowed hard.
“Are you a seer, Nasami-san? An oracle?” Kambei whispered hoarsely, and Nasami was touched by the change in the honorific. “We only met yesterday and already you have learned more about me than most others do in a lifetime.”
“I am only a student of human nature, Kambei-san,” she replied. “So much of my life has been spent observing people, to understand them for the purpose of making me a better warrior, that it spilled over into other aspects of my life. But it was never my purpose to offend or to invade your privacy.”
But to their surprise, they watched as Kambei lifted his hand to cover the samuraiko's where it rested on his shoulder.
“I would ask a favor, Nasami-san,” the older samurai asked quietly. “It is something I have wondered since I watched you with Katsushiro.”
“What is it?”
He turned back to her at last. “Perform the Kata of Seven Swords for me. Show me that most difficult and most beautiful of kata. I wish to see how a samuraiko performs the dance of the sword.”
For a moment, Nasami was silent, and Katsushiro and Kirara found themselves holding their breath as they waited for her answer. Then, without a word, Nasami rose to her feet and moved to the center of the courtyard.
“The Kata of Seven Swords,” Katsushiro whispered. “I knew Nasami-dono was a skilled swordsman, but to be able to perform that kata…”
“What is it?” Kirara whispered back as Nasami drew her katana from its saya.
“According to legend, it is a kata that a samurai who had reached enlightment developed, to reflect the seven tenets of bushido - honesty, courage, compassion, courtesy, honor, sincerity, and loyalty. Each stance is meant to embrace that quality, but the kata is terribly difficult. Like the code of bushido, it is deceptively simple, but the control behind it is incredible, something that takes years to learn. The focus must be absolute, the intent behind the kata pure.”
In the center of the courtyard, Nasami stood motionless, her eyes closed, her hair slowly blowing in the night breeze.
“Very few samurai are taught the kata, and even fewer master it. How Kambei-sensei knew that Nasami-dono knew the kata is a mystery…”
Her katana was still in her hands as her whole body seemed to draw energy toward it. Then she opened her eyes, stared directly at Kambei, and moved.

In a single, fluid gesture, but with almost breathtaking slowness, she brought the katana up to parallel the upright line of her body, her head bowed in respect. In that moment, it seemed as though the katana was an extension of her body, something she was absolutely intimate with and wielded with not only confidence, but reverence.
“Courtesy…” Katsushiro breathed as Nasami gracefully pivoted and brought the sword down, curving to swing it back upright, holding it over her head with both hands, pointing the sword at the stars with her head thrown back. Her eyes shone in the darkness, and Kirara would have sworn that she could hear the katana whispering in the samuraiko's hands.
As Kambei watched her intensely, the samuraiko suddenly arced the katana downwards in a near blur of a slash, dropped to one knee, and stabbed forward, then slid into an upright crouch and swung her whole body, including the katana in a wide circle before bringing the katana back into a guard position.
Her eyes again locked on Kambei's, Nasami moved the katana in a classic textbook series of slashes and defenses, but effortlessly switching from her right hand to her left and back again. Her guard was perfect, allowing no moment of weakness or vulnerability. Katsushiro was in awe of her focus, and was suddenly and painfully aware of how much he still had to learn.
She swiftly resheathed the katana and sank to her knees, her head and body lowered in a bow of respect, but no sooner had her forehead touched the cobblestones than the katana was in her hand as she struck at an invisible target directly behind her. Before any of them had realized she had drawn the sword, she had raised herself to one knee, the other poised for her to stand, the katana held in one hand defiantly poised before her.
Rising to her feet, Nasami again switched the katana to her left hand, wielding the sword in such a way that the blade always faced outward and was held parallel to the ground as she swayed like a reed in the wind. Then she took the katana in both hands and pointed it toward the ground.
Nasami's eyes met Kambei's a third time, and then she seemed to pull everything into herself, her feet close together, her body arching slightly backward, her eyes closed. Holding the katana in her right hand, she brought the blade up so it was horizontal across her body, and to the horror of Kirara and Katsushiro, she wrapped her left hand around the naked steel as though restraining the sword. Tears spilled from behind her closed eyes, but even as they saw blood trickle down her wrist, she made not a single sound.
“She cut herself?” Kirara gasped, barely remembering in time to keep her voice down.
“It is the most difficult element of the kata,” Katsushiro said, deeply moved by the samuraiko's performance. “But it is also the element of bushido that someone like Nasami would believe in most strongly. It is the element that will make a samurai fight for a village, bleed for a peasant, and die if she must.”
Kirara could not take her eyes off Nasami, standing in the courtyard, still holding the katana's blade in her bare hand as blood dripped down her palm. As disturbed as she was at seeing the samuraiko in pain, she had never seen anything in her life so beautiful as the look on Nasami's face as she and her katana had danced. “And that element is…?”
To be continued...