Samurai 7 Fan Fiction ❯ The Sword of the Soul ❯ A Matter of Honor ( Chapter 8 )

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

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AUTHOR'S NOTES: I have only seen the first four Volumes of SAMURAI 7 on DVD (Vol 5 comes out in three weeks, which I intend to get), which is why things take so long to happen in my story. I'm trying to pace myself for when the next DVD comes out. AND I found the soundtrack on CD! Go me!
The music for Chapter Eight is "The Reprimand," from one of my favorite scores of all time, THE PRINCE OF EGYPT.
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© October 16th, 2005 By Michelle N Travis
Chapter Eight: A Matter of Honor
“Thank the Fortunes you're alright,” Nasami said breathlessly when she and Gorobei met up with the others back at Masamune's workshop. “Gorobei-san and I didn't have a chance to warn you about Hyogo and those machines.”
“Ha! They couldn't stop us!” Kikuchiyo's bold laughter rang around the workshop. “Even though the rice man nearly did get us all killed.” Heihachi blushed, and the big machine samurai slapped him across the back. “But it all turned all right in the end, right?”
Nasami turned to Kirara, who still looked rather pale after her near-death experience. “Are you sure you're all right, Kirara?”
The priestess nodded. “Just a little shaken, that's all. Unlike when I jumped from that pipe, knowing Kambei-sama would save me, this time I honestly thought I was going to be killed.”
Gently the samuraiko rested her hand on Kirara's head. “We have sworn to protect you and your village. None of us would have let you fall, even if it cost us our lives.” Her blue eyes met Katsushiro's. “You have taken a life, and now you have saved one. Be proud, Katsushiro-san.”
The young man started. “Proud?”
Nasami nodded. “From what they tell me, you could just as easily have died trying to save her, and yet you acted without any thought to your own safety. This time, you did not hesitate. Be proud of yourself.” She smiled. “But not too proud.”
Katsushiro smiled back at her, a little of the tension leaving his face.
Kambei turned to Gorobei. “I gather your earlier foray to the fortress of our enemies was informative?”
The street performer nodded. “We saw why Ayamoro's tolerance for samurai has taken a major decline - an Imperial envoy is here in Kogakyo.”
“Is that so?” Kambei mused, and Nasami and Gorobei both nodded. “I wonder what he's doing here?”
“Checking up on the city's progress, most likely,” Nasami replied. “And those two samurai, Kyuzo and Hyogo, are actually Ayamoro's bodyguards.”
“So, Nasami-dono,” Gorobei began mischievously. “I thought you said something while we were on our way to Ayamoro's castle… about fighting Kambei-dono?”
“You're right,” Nasami said softly. “I did.”
Kambei looked up, startled. “What?”
Then he saw the samuraiko holding the boken she had wielded the other night against Katsushiro.
“I haven't forgotten this morning,” she said coldly. “And while I put it out of my mind long enough to get on with the task at hand, I won't let it go any longer.”
“Great samurai, I'm sure that he didn't mean any offense,” Kirara began, but a look from Nasami froze her in place.
Kambei got to his feet, his expression grave. “You cannot deny who you are.”
“If you are that determined to see me only as Sasuraitsuru, then you will face me as such.” She picked up a second boken that Masamune had made and held it out to him.
He shook his head. “No.”
“You refuse!” she said in disbelief.
“I will not fight you using boken.” He drew his own katana and pointed it at the sword in her obi. “If you truly intend to fight me as Sasuraitsuru, you will do so using Mamorimasu.”
And Nasami smiled.

“You realize that you two are being completely foolish about this,” Gorobei said a few moments later as Nasami and Kambei stepped into the courtyard behind the workshop, holding their katanas. Both of them ignored him.
“First strike, or first blood?” Nasami asked softly.
“Not to the death?” Kambei countered, and she shook her head.
“I have absolutely no desire to kill you, nor you, me, I should think.”
“They why do it at all?”
Her eyes were angry, and yet, Kambei was surprised to see a deep sadness beneath her anger.
“Because it must be done.”
They both took their stances. The others gathered near the doorway, afraid to make a sound, watching as the two samurai stared one another down, their swords poised, their focus absolute.
For a long time, neither of them moved, grey eyes locked on dark blue.
“Is it true that you've never lost a duel?” Kambei asked suddenly.
“No. I lost one. Only one.”
Then they lunged at the same instant, swords sweeping straight at one another, fierce kiai shouts echoing around the courtyard. Kirara gasped and buried her face in her hands.
In a moment, Nasami and Kambei were each standing on the opposite side of the courtyard from where they had started.
“You've got to be kidding me,” Gorobei breathed in amazement.
“What… what just happened?” Katsushiro whispered as the two samurai stood there, neither one of them moving.
“I don't know, it happened so quickly that I couldn't see anything,” Rikichi stammered.
Kirara removed her hands and looked at Nasami and Kambei standing there, facing away from one another, their hands at their sides.
“What is it? What happened?” She looked from one person to another, but all were staring in incredulity at the two samurai in the courtyard.
“That has got to have been the most perfect duel I have ever seen,” Heihachi said reverently.
Then Kambei turned around, and Kirara saw that his katana was again back in its saya.
“A neat trick, Nasami-san, resheathing my sword in a single instant.”
Nasami glanced back at him over her shoulder. “No more so than you doing the same thing to me.” She also turned around, and the others could see that her katana also rested in its saya once again.
Then her eyes widened when she saw what Kambei was holding in his hand.
A long tress of white hair.
“It would appear that you have been defeated again, Nasami-san,” Kambei said quietly, about to turn away.
“I don't think so, Kambei-san.” The samuraiko's voice was filled with barely contained laughter.
He turned back in absolute disbelief as Nasami held up her own hand.
She was holding a long tress of brown hair.

“That was unbelievable!” Hours later, over dinner, Katsushiro was still raving about the earlier duel, his green eyes enormous in admiration. “I've never seen anything like it in my entire life! Two absolutely perfect strokes in the space of a heartbeat!”
Nasami was seated on her pallet, working on something with her katana, and she chuckled. “Relax, Katsushiro, and eat your rice, before you pass out from hyperventilating.”
“He's young, let him be, Nasami-dono,” Gorobei said with quiet amusement. “You forget, such skill in swordplay hasn't really been seen by most since the Great War, and almost never from a woman. A little hero worship every now and again isn't a bad thing.”
“What are you doing, great samurai?” Kirara asked Nasami in curiosity.
Nasami held up her katana, and the girl saw that samuraiko had woven the long locks of hair she had captured from Kambei around the intricate carvings of the tsuba of the sword.
“What's that for?” Kikuchiyo asked as Masamune oiled the joints in his arm. He nearly squashed the mechanic flat leaning over to look at the sword more closely.
Heihachi answered for her, his mouth full of rice. “It's traditional for samurai to keep some reminder of those they have fought, especially in a duel. If the fight was a particularly grueling or closely-matched one, they will carry it with them in the hopes that the other samurai's honor and skill will guide them.”
Nasami nodded. “As I told Kambei-san earlier, I only ever lost once. However, I have nearly lost on several occasions.”
“And what have you kept from those times where you nearly lost?” Kikuchiyo asked bluntly.
“Kiku!” Komachi scolded the enormous samurai. “Now you're being rude.”
“For one, I have these.” The samuraiko's smile was grim, and she lightly touched her face where the scars crisscrossed it.
“What about you, sensei?” Katsushiro asked the older samurai. His eyes went to Kambei's sword, and was disappointed to see that Nasami's hair did not grace the weapon as his did with hers.
Kambei looked away. “I do not carry such reminders with me, except in my memories. That is enough.”
“Well, at least we know for sure that we've recruited an excellent samurai,” Gorobei said with his usual dry wit. “Anyone who can hold her own against Kambei-dono is someone I'm glad is on my side.”
The others laughed and settled in for the night, and even Kambei smiled as he stretched out on the floor.
But long after the others had gone to sleep, the samurai lay awake, staring into the darkness. In his mind, he relived the duel over and over, remembering every second from the instant he had set foot in the courtyard to the moment he had seen his own hair in her hand. He had fought in hundreds of battles and duels over the course of his life, but apart from Kyuzo, he had never dueled against a samurai so highly skilled. And as with Kyuzo, there was no doubt in his mind that Nasami could have killed him if she'd wanted to.
From within the folds of his white robes, he drew the long plait of hair he had stolen from Nasami, and stroked the shimmering length thoughtfully.
“You were right, Nasami,” he whispered to himself. “You are more than just the legend Sasuraitsuru.”
He replaced the white plait where he kept it near his heart.
“And more dangerous.”
To be continued...