Samurai 7 Fan Fiction ❯ The Sword of the Soul ❯ Samurai vs Samurai ( Chapter 4 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
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AUTHOR'S NOTES: And on and on it goes…
The inspiration music for Chapter Four is one of the few non-soundtrack tracks in here - the piece is TIKAL by E. S. Posthumus (you may have heard their music in the trailers for SPIDERMAN).
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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THE SWORD OF THE SOUL
© October 16th, 2005 By Michelle N Travis
Chapter Four: Samurai vs Samurai
“You say that she can perform the Kata of Seven Swords?” Gorobei thoughtfully rubbed his chin after hearing Kambei's story of the events of the previous night. “Well, can't say I'm too surprised. The stories about that young woman abound. Still, I wish you had woken me, that I would like to have seen.”
Kambei was quiet as he walked alongside the other samurai, his mind elsewhere, until Gorobei elbowed him in the ribs with a laugh. “Come on, Kambei-dono, don't look so distracted.”
“Tell me, Gorobei-dono, what stories have you heard about her in the city?”
Gorobei shrugged expressively. “You want what I've heard or what I think is true?”
“Either would work.”
“Well, you've already heard how she beat a samurai twice her size in a duel. If even half the rumors are true, she's received offers of marriage from the sons of three different daimyos, spoken to several ghosts, saved the Emperor's son from a kidnapper, punched out a prominent merchant, led the defense of a city against an opposing army three times its size, killed the commander of an army for treason, and fought in more duels than even I could count. Oh, and her sword is magical, or so `they' say.”
“That wouldn't surprise me.”
“You've got to be kidding,” Gorobei said in disbelief.
“Not after seeing her perform that kata,” Kambei said, his voice pensive. “If I'd had soldiers like her with weapons like that under my command during the Great War, the outcome might have been very, very different. Then again, maybe not.”
“Because in her soul, she is not a soldier. Though I've no doubt in my mind she could lead an army with skill, her heart does not long for war.”
They walked in silence for a short while, then finally Gorobei asked, “You think a great deal of her, don't you?”
“Well, she is a highly skilled samuraiko,” Kambei replied, his eyes sweeping the area for likely samurai to join them. “She would make a valuable addition to the battle before us.”
Gorobei hid a smile. He had not only meant his question to ask whether the former commander held Nasami in high regard… but also that she was on his mind quite often. And if Kambei's behavior today was any indication, Gorobei would have bet that Kambei was thinking of something other than Nasami's warrior skills.
The water sparkled in the city fountain as Kirara's dowsing crystal hung poised over it. The water priestess' eyes were closed as she cast her mind back toward her village, taking in the villagers laboring in the fields, the new well being dug… and the slowly drooping stalks of rice. She opened her eyes and sighed.
“The rice will soon bend their heads, great samurai,” she said respectfully to Nasami, who stood off to one side, watching her commune with the water. “We do not have much time left to find the other samurai that Kambei-sama needs.”
Nasami looked thoughtful as she walked with Kirara back toward Masamune's workshop. “Five more…”
“I have faith in Kambei-sama's wisdom,” Kirara said quietly. “He knows what we will need to defeat the bandits, and I have no intention of leaving until we have all the samurai we need.”
“Mmm… pity he won't consider taking Katsushiro with him,” Nasami replied with a sidelong glance at Kirara, whose cheeks turned a becoming shade of pink. “Then you'd only have to find four.”
“Are you so certain that you won't join our fight, Nasami-sama?”
The samuraiko shook her head. “I still don't know… when I meditate at night, searching for my path, I still see too many possibilities to know which one is the right one. And I still have one more day. After that, we'll both know.”
“I just wish I understood,” the water priestess said hesitantly, “why Kambei-sama won't consider bringing Katsushiro. Can you explain, great samurai?”
Nasami considered the question for a while. “Well, one does not wait until the moment of a duel to learn if a sword has been forged properly. And your fight against the Nobuseri will not be an easy one. It would be a great risk to bring an untrained warrior into battle, and a great burden on Kambei-san's soul if anything were to happen to Katsushiro as a result.”
She glanced down at the dowsing crystal that swung loosely in Kirara's hand. “And didn't you say that your own dowsing crystal didn't choose him?”
Kirara also looked down at the crystal. “Yes… he didn't have the scent of battle.”
“He's lucky… that is one scent that no amount of cleansing will ever remove.” Nasami's hand tightened on the pommel of her katana.
“I should know.”
Katsushiro, Rikichi, and Komachi moved along one of the lower levels, occasionally pausing to speak to one of the samurai they encountered along the way. Time and again, they were brushed aside, ignored, or outright insulted by the samurai until Rikichi was ready to give up, Komachi was ready to cry, and Katsushiro was ready to scream.
“This is ridiculous! How can they possibly call themselves samurai?” he growled in frustration as he walked, Rikichi and Komachi trailing disconsolately behind him.
“And our supply of rice is dwindling. I'm concerned, great samurai… if we run out of rice, how can we convince any samurai to join us?”
“We'll find a way,” Katsushiro declared. “Somehow. But we can't give up.”
Rikichi sighed heavily and stopped walking. “Maybe we were never meant to come here… maybe it was our fate to be constantly at the mercy of the bandits.”
The young man turned around and glared at Rikichi. “Don't say that. Kambei-sensei will find a way to defeat the bandits, and then you can go back to living your lives in peace.”
“Yeah, don't say that, Rikichi! Kambei might be grumpy, but I'm sure he and Sister and Kiku will find a way to beat those bandits good!”
In spite of himself, Rikichi smiled and nodded, and the two men continued walking toward the center of town where they were to meet up with the others, Komachi skipping along ahead of them.
“Look, it's Sister!” Komachi exclaimed as she saw Kirara and Nasami approaching, and dashed ahead to throw her arms around her older sister's legs. “So did you see everybody back home in the water?”
“Yes, I did,” Kirara said with amusement, but then her smile faded. “And the rice is nearly ready to bend. Our time here is running out.”
“But we already have five samurai!” Komachi said brightly, and the priestess looked at her in confusion.
“We only have two, Komachi, you know that.”
“Uh-uh, we've got Kambei, and Gorobei, and Kiku, and Katsushiro, and Nasami! That's five!”
“But Kambei-sama already said that Katsushiro and Kikuchiyo would not be coming with us, and Nasami-sama hasn't given her answer yet,” Kirara gently reminded her little sister.
The child waved her hand in a dismissive gesture as only children can. “He'll change his mind, you'll see… and he'll see that both Kiku and Katsushiro are just as good of samurai as he is!”
Katsushiro was touched by the child's faith. “Thank you, Komachi-chan. I am honored by your praise. And I'm sure that Kikuchiyo-dono would agree.”
Nasami glanced around. “Where is he, anyway? Still at Masamune-san's workshop for repairs?”
The young man nodded. “After our battle with Ukyo's men, his body needed some additional work, so he stayed behind.” Then he grinned. “I think he's also badgering Masamune-san into improving on his previous work… something about beating Kambei-sensei.”
Nasami and the others were laughing when suddenly the samuraiko whirled around, her hand on her katana.
“Great samurai,” Rikichi stammered as Nasami's katana leapt into her hand, “what is it? What's wrong?”
“We've got company, that's what's wrong,” she snapped, shoving Kirara and Komachi behind her as eight men stepped out of the crowd to surround the small group. “Katsushiro, keep on an eye on the peasants.”
“I can fight, too, Nasami-dono,” he protested, taking a step forward, but she froze him in mid-step with a glance.
She turned her eyes to Kirara, Komachi, and Rikichi.
“But they can't.”
Nasami turned in a slow circle to study their assailants. “What do you want?” she called out in clear, ringing tones.
“We're here for the farm girl,” one of them hissed. “The young lord has not yet given up on having her join him in his court.”
To the farmers' collective horror, Nasami smirked. “The `young lord' is nothing more than an effeminate, overgrown, spoiled brat who should have been turned over his father's knee years ago.”
The eight assassins growled and drew their weapons. “How dare you speak that way of him!” one shouted.
“Why not? Honesty is, after all, one of the seven virtues of bushido. Look at me - I'm more of a man than he is, and he's more of a woman than I am.”
“Nasami-sama, please don't,” Kirara begged. “Please don't get into a battle on my behalf.”
“This is hardly a battle, Kirara,” Nasami replied, all humor gone, lifting her katana to a guard position. “This is a cowardly abduction.”
“You dare to call a samurai cowardly?” came a low voice, and a man with long black hair and glasses stepped forward. From within the folds of his long trench coat he drew forth a katana that he handled with confidence, and Nasami's eyes narrowed.
“If you have to hide behind a bunch of thugs, then yes, I think `coward' is exactly the right word.”
“Just for that, I'll deal with you last.” He made a small gesture with his free hand, and then he and the eight assassins leapt at the peasants at the same time.
“NO!” Nasami shouted, slashing at the samurai with her katana as he lunged past her, forcing him to break off his attack. He twisted in midair and landed in a crouch, facing her, his pale face contorted in a scowl. “You will deal with me NOW.”
“Get out of my way, little girl,” the dark-haired samurai snarled. But Nasami was already moving, taking advantage of the assassins' distraction by bringing her katana down with vicious force and carving straight through one of the assassins reaching for Kirara, then swinging around and beheading a second while Katsushiro sliced at two others. Katsushiro's two opponents glanced startled at the samuraiko as she dropped to the ground, lashed out in a classic foot sweep, and brought a third assassin to the ground before burying her katana in his chest.
Kirara grabbed Komachi and made to run, but two of the other thugs grabbed the girls and started dragging them away while the last one brought the pommel of his sword down on Rikichi's head, knocking him unconscious.
“Let go of me!” Kirara screamed, struggling frantically, while Komachi started to wail and tried to bite her captor. “Nasami! Katsushiro! HELP!”
Nasami and Katsushiro both turned at the sound of her cry, but the dark-haired samurai forced Nasami back with a series of well-aimed slashes, while the two assassins remained between Katsushiro and Kirara. Nasami cursed and sprang at her opponent, then leapt up, planted her feet on his shoulders, and vaulted over him like one of the Imperial acrobats toward Katsushiro's foes. As she landed, she drew her wakizashi from the obi around her waist and buried it between an assassin's shoulderblades.
“Katsushiro!” she shouted, but the young man was already going after Kirara and Komachi, his face pale but determined.
“Let them go!” he ordered, trying to sound confident, but the assassins turned and held the girls before them as shields.
“Katsushiro,” Kirara pleaded, “help Komachi, don't worry about me!”
The katana trembled in Katsushiro's grasp, but he tightened his grip and thought about what Nasami had told him the other night.
Bushido is embodied in the blade, waiting to be demonstrated in the hands of its bearer.
The young man suddenly felt a wave of calm come over him, and time seemed to stand still. The katana in his hands felt as thought it was moving of its own volition, twisting and striking without thought. He was dimly aware of cries and shouts, but he kept his mind firmly focused on the blade.
Suddenly he felt as though he had woken from a deep sleep, and blinked his eyes. And then he nearly threw up when he saw what had happened. Kirara and Komachi both stood unharmed, their eyes wide with shock. Both girls had watched in disbelief as Katsushiro's eyes had changed, the sword in his hand gleaming as with two perfect strokes, he had killed both of their captors before either of them could stop him.
“Katsushiro…” Kirara whispered, swaying on her feet in shock, and then Katsushiro dropped his katana and was holding them both.
“I'll kill you for this, girl,” the dark-haired samurai hissed as Nasami neatly disposed of the last remaining assassin. “And I swear to you, it won't be pleasant.”
Nasami laughed in his face.
Slowly the two circled each other, katanas in hand, testing each step to make sure their foot was secure. The trench coat he wore made it difficult to gauge his body language, but the armor she wore was a better defense. Both of them were breathing heavily, and his dark eyes narrowed as he took in her slightly limping gait, and suddenly he smiled.
He moved at her suddenly, then whirled to one side. The samuraiko turned to follow the motion, but with a vicious stabbing motion, he crouched down and drove the katana straight into her knee, and she screamed in agony. Twisting the katana with savage cruelty, he yanked it free and stepped back, then knocked her to the ground. Before she could try to stand, he kicked her katana out of her hand, and then abruptly was on top of her, his katana raised and pointed at her face, prepared to thrust.
“Nasami-sama!” Kirara cried, and Katsushiro turned in horror.
“Coward,” Nasami spat in his face. Even facing certain death, she refused to look away, her dark blue eyes staring straight into his. “You know nothing of what it means to be samurai.”
“I told you,” he said softly as he drew the katana back to strike, “don't call me `coward.'”
The sword flashed down.
To be continued…