Samurai 7 Fan Fiction ❯ The Sword of the Soul ❯ Escape from Kougakyo ( Chapter 10 )

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

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AUTHOR'S NOTES: That people actually keep reading it never ceases to amaze me.
Chapter Ten's music was another one of my "I was looking for this and found it when I stopped looking" pieces of music- "Escape from Mantua" from ROMEO AND JULIET, Vol 2.
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© October 16th, 2005 By Michelle N Travis
Chapter Ten: Escape from Kougakyo
Nasami made her way rapidly through the city streets of Kougakyo to the highest point within the city, her senses alert to anyone following her. She routinely dodged down side streets, moved through shadows, and made unexpected turns until she reached one of the observation points of the city. From there, she carefully perched and peered down into the streets, watching as patrols of guardsmen and flying machines moved through town, chasing and arresting samurai or talking to informants. She quietly cursed to herself when she saw the additional men manning the checkpoints in and out of the city as she turned her gaze west.
And went pale.
Twenty guardsmen and at least thirty flying machines were heading in the direction of Masamune's workshop.
"No…" she breathed. "I won't let you get to them."
She drew her katana, leapt down from the observation point, and started running.
"You're sure they're samurai?" a guardsman was asking a local informant not far from the mechanic's workshop. The beggar nodded and pointed toward the alley where Masamune's workshop was located.
"Saw 'em comin' and goin', all from the old mechanic's workshop. More each day."
"Excellent, form up and we'll apprehend them," the leader of the patrol said with approval. But he didn't get two steps down the lane when a howling war cry filled the air.
"What the..." The others turned and had barely an instant to register a figure standing above them at the top of the stairs, katana in hand. Suddenly it sprang down at them, swinging the katana and slashing at them. In a handful of heartbeats, their assailant had taken out at least six guardsmen and almost a dozen machines.
"A samurai!" one of the other guardsmen yelled as the swordsman's katana cleanly sliced another one of the flying machines in half, while the operator inside tumbled to the ground in a dead faint.
But this samurai was like none of the ones they had captured or chased so far. Those had been men still clinging to dreams of power and prestige or dissolute wastrels no longer even half the warriors they once had been.
This one moved with all the power and strength of the samurai in their prime during the Great War, skills still just as honed, speed still just as fast.
"Who the hell IS this!" the leader shouted over the chaos.
The swordsman suddenly turned to strike at another guardsman, and he was astonished to see that it was actually a woman, with long white hair and pale blue and silver armor.
Realizing that their foe was a far superior one than the samurai they'd encountered before, the guardsmen pulled closer together, much more cautious now.
"All samurai will be taken, dead or alive," one of the remaining men growled. His eyes rested on her long hair. "Even if you are a woman."
Amazingly enough, she smiled, but it was a cold smile, showing the absolute confidence in herself that only true samurai ever possessed. "Don't let that stop you from trying."
The guardsmen charged.
For another several moments, her deadly dance among the patrol continued, and then she turned and dashed back up the stairs.
"GET AFTER HER!" their leader screamed, urging on those still on their feet. "Five of you, get to that workshop and capture those other samurai!" As they sprinted after her, he was dimly aware that the ones she had attacked were groggily stirring. Part of his mind was absolutely fascinated by her skill - to have disabled that many guardsmen without killing a single one...
Nasami ran through the streets, dodging through crowds and around obstacles as though they weren't even there. Her breath was coming fast, her heart was pounding, but never once did she even think to slow down, because every minute she ran, every guard she drew off, was more time and fewer pursuers for the rest of the group. From time to time, she glanced behind her and saw that the guardsmen were still in pursuit. Instinctively she turned and ducked down an alleyway, sheathing her katana as she did so, the patrol close behind her, but suddenly two flying machines appeared in front of her to block the other end of the alley. They drew the enormous swords they carried and held them before them, clearly intending to skewer her if she didn't stop.
"Damn you, I don't have time for this!" she shouted, and to the patrol's surprise, she increased her speed rather than slowing down.
Leaping into the air, she planted her hands firmly on the tops of the machines, pushed herself off, somersaulted, and landed on her feet like an acrobat.
With the machines between herself and the guardsmen, she shot past the gawking passersby and disappeared into the crowd, her laughter echoing in the guardsmen's ears.

At the workshop, Kambei and the others had not been idly wasting the time that Nasami had bought them. Thanks to the samuraiko's efforts, of the original twenty guardsmen and thirty machines that had been sent after the samurai and peasants, only five guardsmen and two machines still remained. Kikuchiyo had barricaded the door, and then the group had traversed a narrow series of tunnels in order to arrive at the old elevator train.
While Masamune and Heihachi worked frantically on the engines, Kambei and the others watched while keeping their eyes on the sliding door of the freight depot.
“We must hurry, sensei,” Katsushiro urged. “That door won't hold the guards off much longer.”
“Patience, Katsushiro,” Kambei said softly. “All things happen in their time.”
All the same, he turned and climbed up into the train to check with Heihachi and Masamune. As soon as he saw that they were ready to go, he ordered the others inside, quickly tied up the mechanic, and chucked him out of the car just as the door crashed down.
“Looks like I've gotta buy us some time!” Kikuchiyo shouted cheerfully as Heihachi climbed up onto the gears. Swinging his enormous sword, he kept the guardsmen at bay long enough for Heihachi to get the train moving, and with a ringing laugh, he jumped off the ledge to land on the descending train. “See ya, suckers!”
Cursing, the guardsmen sent up a flare, which Katsushiro's anxious eyes tracked as it blazed into the sky.
“You look worried, Katsushiro,” Kirara said. “What's wrong?” She turned and glanced out the window to see another flare race up into the night sky. “Oh… I see, they're warning the other guards about us and where we are, making it easier to catch us.”
“No, that's not it.”
She glanced at him in surprise. “You mean you're not worried about us getting caught?”
“I'm worried about Nasami-dono,” Katsushiro said quietly, his mind filled with images of Nasami single-handedly fighting groups of guardsmen and flying machines while trying to make her own escape from the city. “Going up against who knows how many guards alone… and what happens if she sees that signal flare and tries to come help us? It's bad enough we're being chased, but we'd be leading Nasami- dono right into their hands.”
“I know,” the priestess replied. Her eyes met Komachi's, and she saw that the girl was just as worried-looking as they were. “I don't know if I could have done it, drawing off guardsmen just to give us a chance to escape. Especially if they don't care if the samurai are alive or dead.”
“What will happen to her if they catch her, great samurai?” Rikichi asked Kambei, who rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
“Well, as she said, it is entirely possible that her identity will protect her from most of the Magistrate's wrath. However, the fact that all samurai are under suspicion, and especially if anyone learns she knew who we are and didn't turn us in, these are things that may make things… difficult for her.”
“Will… will she die?” Komachi asked fearfully, her eyes enormous in her face, as Kambei picked up Heihachi's mechanized crank and started climbing the ladder. Then, without turning around to look at them, he sighed.
“I don't know, Komachi-chan. I wish I did.”

The wreckage of the train smoldered and sparked in the night air, the heavy smoke of explosives still tainting the breeze. Out of the smoke moved a slender figure, carefully making its way through the debris. Then it stopped.
“No… in the name of all that's holy…”
Nasami stared at the wrecked train, turned back to where the tracks had been destroyed by explosives, then back at the remains of the elevator train. A small part of her mind, the part that kept her going when all hell broke loose around her, was relentlessly calculating the train's speed and the damage that would have occurred as a result of the crash. “That train must have been moving at nearly full speed when it jumped the tracks…”
All she could imagine was the peasants screaming as the train derailed, the samurai frantically trying to help them escape, the whole thing crashing down…
“NOOOOOOO!” Her scream was one of defiant rage and the beginnings of grief, and suddenly she was on her knees, throwing pieces of debris aside as she searched for survivors, any hint that perhaps they had lived, had escaped. Jagged shards of metal cut her hands and knees as she overturned the remnants of the train.
“Kirara!” she cried. “Komachi! Kambei-san! Gorobei-san! SOMEBODY!”
She desperately searched the passenger car, the engine car, even the gear pallet above, hoping against hope that she would not find what she so dreaded.
“That hurt.”
Nasami straightened and turned, as pale as a ghost. “K… Kikuchiyo-san?” she whispered.
The machine samurai emerged, shoving a large sheet of metal off of him with a loud clang and a curse, and she scrambled to her feet and ran over to help him up.
“My God! What happened!”
“The damned cowards blew up the tracks to keep us from getting away. Guess captured wasn't good enough for them anymore, so they went for dead.” He started rummaging through the wreckage for his sword, idly tossing enormous fragments out of the way as he searched.
All at once her knees gave way and she sank to the ground. “No… Kirara… Komachi… all of them…” She buried her face in her hands.
“Oh, they're fine. Including the sprout.”
Her head came up, her eyes filled with a wild hope. “They… they made it?”
Kikuchiyo nodded. “Yeah, Kambei came up with a plan to have them all jump to the platform as the train went by. Had this weird idea of using a smokescreen so those guards wouldn't see them escape. I had to slow the train down so they could get off, but those stupid flying things just wouldn't leave me alone long enough to jump with them. So I told them to go on without me… hey, what the hell are you- get off!”
The samuraiko had leapt to her feet with a shriek of laughter and had thrown her arms around Kikuchiyo as far as they could go.
“You saved them! You saved them!” she laughed over and over, relief racing through her with an almost painful rush.
“I… saved them?” Kikuchiyo said, his voice soft with wonder. “But… it was Kambei's plan… and Heihachi was the one who got the train moving…”
“But you were the one who slowed it down, and you were the one who stayed behind until the very end to make sure that the others were safe!” she said, leaning back to look up at him. “That is true courage, Kikuchiyo-san, something to be honored!”
“Yeah… yeah, you're right!” he said, brightening. “So, Nasami-dono, what do you say we ditch this dump and get moving?”

After what felt like forever, they finally arrived at the road that made its winding way down to the Village of Respite. Even from this far away, the sounds of music and laughter could be heard echoing up the mountainside.
“So what is this place anyway?” Kikuchiyo puffed as they started down toward the city.
“A place where rank and power mean nothing,” Nasami replied. “Samurai, peasant, merchant, magistrate, it doesn't matter. The Village of Respite is, as its name implies, a place where such things are left at the city gates, and for a while, you can relax.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“You and me both, Kikuchiyo-san. Only one thing… don't go waving that sword around, or you'll get tossed out. Just keep things low-key until we find the others. Agreed?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said dismissively, and she came to a stop in front of him, glaring up at the big machine samurai.
He looked down at her. “What?”
“I mean it, Kikuchiyo. If the others escaped, the last thing we need to do is attract the guards' attention.”
“I thought you said none of that matters here!” he protested.
“Traditionally, yes. But do you honestly trust Ayamoro and Ukyo to respect the rules of a place that defy their authority?”
He scratched his head, then shook it. “Not really, no. Fine, I'll be good.”
As they rounded the last bend before the gates of the village, Nasami suddenly stopped again and glanced around.
“What now?” Kikuchiyo asked, but no sooner were the words out of his mouth when a patrol of Ayamoro's men came out of the gates.
“Hide!” Nasami hissed. She shoved Kikuchiyo off the road and hid with him behind a large boulder.
“Damn it, are these guys everywhere?” Kikuchiyo rumbled.
“Given the ingenuity of the samurai we know, I didn't think the guardsmen were so foolish as to give up that easily.”
“And your next bright idea?”
She watched the guardsmen split up to patrol along the canal that wound its way around the village, and her eyes narrowed thoughtfully.
“Can you swim?”
“Good, thought so, let's go.”
They carefully moved to where they could enter the canal out of sight of the gates, and slowly started swimming along the city walls.
“We should enter the city separately,” she whispered, her voice barely audible above the flowing water. “That way, even if they do suspect something, they won't catch us together.”
“Sounds good to me.” For a moment, Kikuchiyo nearly gave Nasami a heart attack as a too-curious guardsman got yanked into the canal along with them, but Kikuchiyo was then out of the water and over the wall before the guard could raise the alarm.
“You big idiot,” she muttered, cautiously emerging beneath the bridge that led directly into the village gates. For a while, she rested there, catching her breath and letting her clothes dry out. She heard people making their way across the bridge as the hour grew later, then she heard the clunk of the gates shutting for the night. Finally she decided it was safe to enter the city, so she stepped out from beneath the bridge, when the metallic whisper of swords being drawn stopped her dead in her tracks.
Nasami's hand instinctively went for her katana as at the edge of her vision, she caught a glimpse of long black hair, and of a lithe figure in red.
A lazy voice drifted out of the darkness.
“Good evening… Sasuraitsuru.”
To be continued