Samurai 7 Fan Fiction ❯ The Sword of the Soul ❯ True Identities ( Chapter 5 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
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AUTHOR'S NOTES: Five chapters are now up for your reading enjoyment! As of March 10th, there are still fourteen more to post…
Chapter Five finds us back with soundtracks again, this time to "Sorrow" from the anime KIDDY GRADE.
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 Five: True Identities
“NASAMI-DONO!” Katsushiro howled, shoving Kirara aside and lunging for his katana, Kirara and Komachi both screaming in horror. “NO!”
As the katana descended toward her face, Nasami desperately wrenched herself to one side, and the blade whistled down to slice into the ground inches from her head. She gasped as she saw her own reflection in the sword's gleaming blade, tangled in the long strands of her white hair. The samurai on top of her cursed savagely at missing her, and grabbed her by the throat with one hand while gripping his katana in the other.
Her eyes were drawn to a sudden movement at the edge of the square, and she spotted Gorobei and Kambei sprinting toward the group before coming to a sudden halt.
The two men froze at the sight of a samurai holding Nasami down on the ground, his katana impaled beside her head, and Nasami's leg covered in blood. But there was no way either of them could reach her in time, and they could see that Katsushiro was also too far away to reach the fallen samuraiko before her assailant could strike.
“You got lucky,” the dark-haired samurai hissed, yanking the katana out of the ground and preparing to strike again. “But you won't be a second time.”
Suddenly he froze, his eyes wide. His whole body went as still as a statue.
And Nasami's soft chuckle echoed across the square.
“Nasami-sama!” Kirara cried out, taking a step forward. “Are you all right?!” She moved another step closer and gasped aloud as she got a better look at the samuraiko lying on the ground.
Nasami had taken advantage of the near miss to draw a tanto from the folds of her obi and had braced the point up against the groin of the samurai on top of her.
Standing at the edge of the square, Gorobei began to laugh. “The more I watch this woman, the more I like her style.”
“Now is not the time to be laughing, Gorobei-dono,” Kambei rasped. “He could still kill her with ease.”
“And I'm sure that she knows it. But like a true samurai, she never gives up.”
Nasami and the assassin ignored them and the others.
“Go ahead,” Nasami said softly, raising the blade slightly and he flinched. Her face was pale and drawn from the pain, but she never took his eyes from his. “Strike me. You might even kill me, but I promise you, you won't come away unscarred.”
He growled in frustration, and she took full advantage of it by pressing the tanto even closer.
“Get off of me,” she whispered hoarsely. “The longer you sit there, the more pain I'm in, and the more my hand is going to shake. So unless you'd rather end up a eunuch for the geisha houses, I suggest that you move.”
For a long moment, they stared at each other, and he carefully dropped the katana and lifted himself away from her. With obvious effort, she pushed herself to her feet, picked up his sword, and stood with both the katana and the tanto held at arm's length.
“Nasami-san!” Kambei called.
“Don't worry, Kambei-san, I'm not going to kill him. Killing a man in cold blood is for cowards, not samurai.” She carefully approached the assassin, his katana and her tanto held at the ready.
“You know the old proverb that `live enemies make armies, dead enemies make graves,'” she said softly. “But I want you to live. And I want you to take a message back to Ukyo. If he comes after Kirara while I'm around, I'll bury this dagger somewhere that will make him even less of a man than he already is.”
“I will kill you for this,” the dark-haired samurai ground out between clenched teeth, eyes filled with hatred. “Wander where you will, then, Sasuraitsuru. But no matter where you go, no matter how far you roam, I will hunt you day and night until I find you, and I swear to you, by all that's holy, I will send you to Jigoku personally.”
Nasami ignored the threat. “It may be true that you will be the one who ends my life. But remember this, Hyogo-sama…”
The others started as the samuraiko addressed her assailant by name.
She limped closer, blood streaming down her leg. But she stood straight as she placed the very end of the katana against his chest.
“You may be stronger than I am, faster than I… maybe, just maybe, even better than I…”
She suddenly moved, and for an instant, her companions thought she had stabbed him through the heart. But then they realized that she had resheathed the samurai's katana neatly back in the saya hidden in his trench coat.
“… but you have to sleep some time.”
Nasami took a limping step backward away from Hyogo, and he turned to leave. But as he reached the far end of the square, he glanced back over his shoulder to see Katsushiro and the others quickly moving toward her.
He smiled coldly, then turned and vanished into the crowd.
“Nasami-dono! Thank the heavens you're all right!” Katsushiro gasped in relief as he, Kirara, Komachi, and Rikichi approached, the farmer having been revived thanks to Kirara's care and Komachi's nagging. “I thought for sure that he was going to kill you when he had you trapped on the ground like that!”
She shrugged as Kambei and Gorobei approached. “It's not the first time I've faced him, and it probably won't be the last either.”
“You know him, great samurai?” Rikichi asked, rubbing the lump on the back of his head with chagrin.
“We… we've met.”
To Rikichi's astonishment, she saw the samuraiko's mouth twist in a hard smile, made even more eerie by the faint scars that lined her face.
“But he'll come after you!” Kirara whispered, wringing her hands in concern. “And he said that he'll never stop hunting until you're dead!”
“You showed great courage and determination, Nasami-san,” Kambei said, resting his hand on her shoulder. “Thank you for protecting Kirara and the others.”
For a moment, she leaned into his touch, but as she lifted her head to smile, her eyes drifted shut and she collapsed to the pavement, unconscious.
“Her injury!” Kirara cried. “Kambei-sama, quick, we have to get her back to Masamune-sama's workshop immediately!”
“What happened to her?” the white-clad samurai asked the group as Gorobei lifted the samuraiko into his arms. “We could see the blood…”
“She and that other samurai were beating each other up, and she was doing a good job, too!” Komachi said, waving her arms around. “But then that man stabbed Nasami in the knee with his sword!”
“What!” he said in horror, glancing at Nasami, and he could see the armor and fabric around her left knee were soaked with blood, in addition to the other injuries that Hyogo had inflicted upon her during their duel.
Katsushiro looked at Nasami lying unconscious in Gorobei's arms. “Sensei… will she be all right?”
Kambei's face was grave, and he remained silent.
Gorobei, on the other hand, glanced back at the young man. “It's hard to say, Katsushiro. Nasami-dono has clearly survived some life-threatening injuries, but I don't know if that luck of hers has finally run out. At best, that samurai worsened her limp even further. At worst… she may never walk again.”
“What did that man call her? Sasuraitsuru?” Kirara asked, trying desperately not to think about Nasami's injury. Gorobei nodded. “What does that mean?”
“It means that he knows who she really is.”
“Who she really is?” Rikichi repeated. “You mean she was lying to us?”
“Not exactly, no. But when one goes on a musha shugyo as she has, one leaves behind most things that could identify one as belonging to a certain clan or family. However, in her case, three things point to who she was before she gave all that up.”
“And they are?” Kirara asked, curious in spite of herself.
“Well, for one thing, very few samuraiko, especially of her age, have white hair.”
“Her hair doesn't appear to have been dyed, though,” Katsushiro said, puzzled. “In fact, it looks as though it's her natural color.”
“But she's too young for her hair to be white!” Rikichi protested.
“Some say there's a reason for that. Then there are her tattoos. Many samurai tattoo the symbols of their schools on their sword arm, to remind themselves where they come from.” The peasants nodded, remembering the samuraiko standing in the light of Masamune's workshop, naked to the waist, tattoos vividly inked into both of her arms.
“And then there's that.” He looked at the katana that Komachi had retrieved from where Nasami had dropped it during her fight with Hyogo and was carrying along with great dignity.
“Her sword?” Katsushiro also looked at the katana, its blade gleaming in the afternoon sun.
“Indeed. That katana that Komachi is carrying is well over a hundred years old. It is one of a pair of famous swords, one with a long and distinguished history.”
“It's certainly a well-crafted blade, Gorobei-dono, but…”
“Look closer, Katsushiro. Do you see those kanji stamped into the blade?”
The young man and the farmers all looked at the katana again. In faint but exquisite kanji, they saw a single word.
“Mamorimasu…” Kirara murmured. “What does that mean?”
Kambei's voice was low, an almost resigned sigh. “Defender. The sister sword of the katana Sememasu. Sememasu is held in honor by the family of the Emperor's Champion, while Mamorimasu is the famed katana of Sasuraitsuru.”
The water priestess looked at the ex-commander, surprised at the tone of his voice. She was even more surprised at the look in his eyes as he stared at the white-haired samuraiko. Emotions roiled there just beneath the placid surface - respect, pride, sorrow.
“And… Sasuraitsuru?” she asked hesitantly.
Kambei's eyes were fixed on the white-haired woman. “A samurai from a family of great wealth and prestige. A samurai skilled enough to perform the Kata of Seven Swords. A samurai who risked dishonor to save another samurai's life, but championed her enemy's honor when it was questioned. A samurai who could cut down her commander for treason, but would give her last rations of rice to a starving peasant child.”
He reached out, and with surprising tenderness, touched her pale hair.
“A woman with a mind for battle, and a heart for romance, who earned the nickname Sasuraitsuru, or `Wandering Crane.'”
In the shadows of Masamune's workshop, they worked to heal Nasami's injury. Masamune and Kikuchiyo had both been horrified when the group had entered, Nasami unconscious and bleeding in Gorobei's arms. It was not until they had removed her armor that they saw the extent of the damage that Hyogo had done when he'd thrust the katana into her knee. Masamune had taken one look at her wound, and immediately thrust an unfinished blade into his forge.
“Kambei, get that fabric away from the wound. Be careful not to pull too hard when you do, and do what you can to clean the area around the injury.”
Kirara smoothed the white hair away from Nasami's forehead, alarmed at how cold she was and the absolute pallor of her face. “Kambei-sama…”
Without looking up from his work, Kambei nodded. “Nasami-san is in shock. She's lucky she's not dead right now, but if we don't do something fast, she will be.”
“What are you doing?” Komachi asked Masamune as the metal became a glowing red.
“We have to stop that bleeding,” he said matter-of-factly, not looking at the child. “Kiku, take the little one outside. Kambei, Gorobei, you'll have to hold Nasami down.”
The machine samurai stood without a word and lifted Komachi up, ignoring her kicking, and Masamune drew the blade forth and approached Nasami.
“You can't be serious!” Kirara said in horror, and Masamune turned to her grimly.
“That stab wound is too serious to bandage, and a tourniquet will almost certainly cost her that leg. While this is more painful, cauterizing the wound will at least allow her to walk again. I hope.”
Without another word, he placed the red-hot blade against the wound, and Nasami let out a blood-curdling scream of agony. Her whole body convulsed, struggling under the combined weight of the other two samurai, but they refused to let her move away, even as the heated blade made her flesh sizzle.
Kirara turned and bolted outside, and Katsushiro could hear her retching in the courtyard, even as she sobbed. He gave her a few moments to try and compose herself, and then, with a last concerned glance at Nasami, he left the workshop as well.
At last Nasami's screams subsided as she again sank into unconsciousness, and Masamune, Gorobei, and Kambei worked to bind her wound again, the two samurai filling the mechanic in on what had happened in the square. Finally they finished, and Gorobei and Masamune stood up and washed their hands in the water the mechanic kept for cooling swords.
“Will she survive?” Gorobei asked softly, wiping his hands on a rag.
“With that wound, and how much blood she lost, it's anybody's guess.”
But when they turned back around, they saw Kambei still kneeling beside the pallet where Nasami lay, his head bowed, eyes closed, holding her hands in his.
Into the silence that had followed the samuraiko's anguished cries and Masamune's remark, he was whispering five words over and over.
“I won't let you die…”
To be continued…