Samurai 7 Fan Fiction ❯ The Sword of the Soul ❯ I Won't Let You Defeat Me ( Chapter 11 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
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AUTHOR'S NOTES: Combat has always been difficult for me to write, but even I have to admit, as far as this story goes, I'm doing a pretty good job.
And what better music to use for the clash between the two finest duelists in the Empire but John Williams' `Duel of the Fates'?
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THE SWORD OF THE SOUL
© October 16th, 2005 By Michelle N Travis
Chapter Eleven: I Won't Let You Defeat Me
Hyogo smirked. “Thought you'd never see me again, Nasami-san?”
“Well, I'd say it was more of a hope than a thought.” Her hand rested on her katana at her side as the dark-haired samurai stepped out of the shadows. “I heard three swords. Tell your friend to come out as well.”
Hyogo made a slight gesture, and Kyuzo also stepped out onto the road. His eyes narrowed thoughtfully as he studied the samuraiko, but he didn't say a word.
For a long moment, the three samurai stared at one another. Finally, Nasami broke the silence.
“So what happens now?”
The dark-haired samurai shrugged. “My lord has ordered the arrest of all samurai. Between that and your attack on a patrol of the Magistrate's guardsmen, we would be well within our rights to kill you right now. Then there's the little matter of your assistance of known fugitives. Yes, I think bringing back your head would be just what my lord would wish.”
“Give it your best try.”
“I don't see any of your friends here to help you.”
The samuraiko refused to back down.
He pointed his katana at Nasami. “However, killing you outright would be… boring.”
Nasami slowly drew her own katana and held it at the ready. “Of course… you'd rather make me suffer first.”
“Well, you did shame me. And I have sworn to see you and that other samurai bastard in hell. I will have this chance to restore my honor.”
The samuraiko laughed in his face. “How do you expect to restore what you never had in the first place?”
“Insolence!” he shouted, lunging at her. With a howl of rage, Hyogo's blade swept straight at Nasami, who deflected it with a loud clang. For a moment, they stood braced against one another, their blades locked, then with a deft twist, Nasami wrenched her katana free and forced Hyogo back across the bridge.
A single word from Kyuzo stopped him.
Angrily, Hyogo rounded on him. “Wait for what?”
Kyuzo stared into Nasami's eyes, and she gazed back at him unflinchingly. “She is Sasuraitsuru. You can't kill her.”
“Shut up, Kyuzo-dono, you don't know what you're saying,” Hyogo growled, taking another step toward the samuraiko. If I wish to, I'll fight her!”
“You'll lose.” The fair-haired samurai's voice was low and completely matter-of-fact.
Hyogo's breath hissed between clenched teeth, but as he watched Nasami, her attention absolutely focused on them, he realized he would not have the advantage of distraction as he'd had in their earlier duel. Then, Nasami's attention had been divided between the peasants, the assassins, and himself. This time, there would no be no such distraction. She was also more familiar with his skill with a sword, and he would not be able to pull the same tricks twice; she was simply too skilled.
He angrily stepped back. “Fine. What do you suggest?”
“Bring Tessai and the rest.”
“And what about you?”
“I'll deal with her.”
Nasami's eyes went wide in her face, as did Hyogo's, and he turned to the other samurai in surprise.
“What? You couldn't defeat an old man, what makes you so sure you can beat her!”
“You're hardly one to criticize, Hyogo-sama,” Nasami said dryly. “You couldn't defeat Kambei-san, either.”
Hyogo took a single step toward her, but Nasami raised her sword to point it at him. “Take another step, Hyogo-sama, and I'll kill you, I swear it.”
Without another word, Kyuzo slowly walked around Hyogo to stand between him and Nasami, his back to the other samurai.
“Kyuzo…” Hyogo said finally, and Kyuzo only slightly turned his head to look back at him.
The smile on the dark-haired samurai's face made Nasami shudder. “Make it hurt.”
For a long time after Hyogo left, Nasami and Kyuzo stood before each other, the only sound the soft rushing of the water beneath them.
“I have no quarrel with you, Kyuzo-sama,” Nasami said quietly.
“So why fight me?”
He deliberately moved into his stance, one sword held in an unorthodox backhand grip, the other held in a protective angle. Never once did his eyes waver from hers as she moved into a slight crouch, her katana held before her in both hands at a diagonal across her body.
“Good luck,” she whispered.
“And you,” he rasped.
Then they struck.
With an almighty ringing and a shower of sparks, katana met katana, but Kyuzo whirled to one side, slashing at Nasami with his other sword. She leapt backward to get past his reach, parrying his second attack, then slid her katana the length of his in a fierce stab. Instinctively Kyuzo leaned back to avoid the blade, and she pressed her advantage until he brought one of the swords around in a backhanded upswing toward her extended arms.
He was astonished to see Nasami let go of her sword long enough to pull her arms out of the way, then snatch up the falling blade as she rolled beneath his strike and past him. Kyuzo sprang toward her, bringing both swords together in a pincer strike, but Nasami swiftly blocked both strikes, then slashed at his head. He ducked in reaction, using one sword to block her strike, the other to drive her back.
The samurai pressed forward again, lifting both blades over his head, then brought both of them down, one a second after the other to make it harder for her to parry and then counter-attack. Nasami responded by raising her own katana to take the brunt of the attack, and Kyuzo forced her to her knees from the weight of the blow. Abruptly she stopped resisting, and he was temporarily thrown off-balance by suddenly falling forward, and the samuraiko took the moment's reprieve to tuck in her legs, brace them against his chest, and send Kyuzo flying over her head. No sooner had she gotten to her feet than she also swept the katana downward, but even as Kyuzo whipped one of the blades around to deflect her attack, she dropped to one knee and stabbed forward past his guard. His breath hissed through his teeth as the katana sliced painfully across his ribcage, but he kept her from skewing him through the heart by leaning closer to her, getting inside of her guard just as she did to him and backhanded her across the face while still holding his katana. With a curse, Nasami rolled into an upright crouch and swung the katana in a wide circle to force Kyuzo backward out of range.
His eyes went wide for a moment, recognizing the attack for what it was.
She nodded as she got to her feet.
"You know the Seven Swords." It was a statement, not a question, and she nodded again.
And oddly enough, he smiled.
This time she went on the attack, using one sword as quickly as he used two, their blades moving in an elegant dance of thrust and counter-thrust, attack and defense. But no matter how hard each tried, the other always managed to block or evade, and it quickly became apparent that they were nearly perfectly matched in skill.
Slowly Kyuzo advanced off the bridge until they were both standing again on the road. For a moment they stood there, then they began to circle one another, katanas at the ready.
Again he attacked, and she brought her katana up to block. It felt like forever, his swords braced against hers, neither one of them yielding. Their faces were barely inches apart; she could feel his breath on her cheek and smell the blood soaking his trench coat, while Kyuzo was intensely aware of the heat of Nasami's body as she stared him down.
“You're good,” he said.
“But not good enough.”
Then with the speed of a striking snake, he brought both swords down toward her to drive her further back. But the instant the swords were parallel to the ground, she leapt straight up, braced her katana against his, and lashed out with her feet. As they connected with his face, Kyuzo let out a grunt of pain as he staggered backward, and she vaulted over him to land behind him. Shifting the grip of the katana in her hand, she spun around and brought the katana up hard to crack against one of his swords, sending it flying to embed itself in the road.
Barely pausing, he took his sword in both hands and attacked her with a flurry of strikes, forcing her back across the bridge and right up to the city gates. Nasami threw herself to one side, but Kyuzo caught her across the right arm with his katana, opening a deep gash, and Nasami bit back a cry of pain. But she dove past him, snatched up his other katana, and also held it at the ready.
Suddenly behind her she heard voices, and a quick glance back showed that Hyogo was returning with Tessai and a patrol of guardsmen and flying machines. She looked back at Kyuzo.
“I won't let you beat me,” she whispered. “I can't.”
His only reply was to stare at her.
“Please, Kyuzo-sama, this is pointless.”
“Our lord wants you captured. Hyogo wants you dead.”
Her voice trembled, but her grip on the swords was unwavering. “And what do you want?”
“I don't care.”
Then Nasami changed her hold on his katana and threw it straight at him like a javelin. The samurai easily dodged it, but then he realized that she wasn't throwing it at him.
She was throwing it at the gate.
Just as the sword embedded itself into the wood, Nasami was running right along behind it, lightly sprang into the air until she was standing on the sword, and vaulted up onto the top of the wall. As Kyuzo made to follow her, she put her fingers to her mouth and let out a loud and complicated whistle, the same one she had made the night that the Envoy was murdered.
Kyuzo froze, staring up at the samuraiko atop the wall. “So it was you on the cliff.”
“Why warn us?”
"The Seventh Sword." She held up her left hand, palm forward, so Kyuzo could see the long scar that ran across it. “Because I'm samurai. And so are you.”
His grip on his sword tightened, but he didn't move. Both of them ignored the group of men that was coming down the path to the gates. Kyuzo advanced to draw his other sword out of the wood, and with a deliberate gesture, he yanked it free, never once taking his eyes from hers. Then at last he bowed his head slightly.
And as Hyogo and the others reached the bridge, Nasami leapt down the other side into the city.
“Kyuzo, you fool! Why in hell did you let her go?” Tessai was practically ranting about the samuraiko's escape.
Kyuzo's stare was implacable.
“It doesn't matter,” Hyogo said, although his own anger at Kyuzo was palpable. He was, however, partially gratified to see the blood on Kyuzo's sword as the other samurai carefully cleaned it and resheathed the blade. “She'll lead us right to the others.”
“We'll have to get inside first,” Ukyo drawled, and Tessai beat against the gates. But when they refused to open, Kyuzo scaled the wall, disabled its defense system, and opened the doors for the patrol.
As Hyogo walked past him, he leaned close to the other samurai and whispered, “Mind you, I'm not going to forget about this.”
Kyuzo ignored him.
As the patrol and the samurai made their way through the city, the populace stared at them and their weapons in dismay. One man, however, made his way straight toward the group and eagerly bowed.
“I found them!”
“Where?” Ukyo asked eagerly.
“They're at the Firefly House,” the informant replied, his eyes greedy in the light of a nearby inn.
“And have you seen a woman dressed as a samurai?” Hyogo's eyes burned with an almost unholy glee at the thought of catching Nasami again, especially after Kyuzo had wounded her sword arm.
“A samuraiko? Pale armor, white hair, pretty?”
“That's the one.”
“Yeah, she was heading toward the Firefly House as well. At least I think she was. And for a little extra, I'll take you right to them.”
Hyogo's only response was to draw his katana, and the informant quickly decided that this deal was wasn't worth the effort, so he turned and tried to run, but Tessai reached out and grabbed his arm, twisting up behind him.
“The Firefly House?” Tessai asked quietly.
“It's a teahouse and geisha establishment,” the leader of the patrol said. “It's nearly impossible to miss.”
“A geisha establishment?” Ukyo said in horror. “And to think that my Kirara is in such a place!”
“Take us there,” Tessai told the informant.
Kambei and Shichiroji were sharing a bottle of sake and idly relaxing in the courtyard of the Firefly house, watching the fireflies dance while the others got some well-earned sleep. The white-clad samurai was filling Shichiroji in on all that had happened since the end of the Great War, and Shichiroji shook his head in amazement.
“You were lucky to get out of Kougakyo alive,” he said, sipping his sake and looking at the other samurai.
“We had help.”
“Really? What'd you do, bribe a patrol to look the other way?”
“Not exactly, no,” Kambei admitted. “Another samurai helped us escape.”
“Hopefully he made it out of the city as well. Kougakyo is no place for a samurai to be right now.”
“It was a woman, a samuraiko named Nasami.”
Shichiroji frowned in concentration. “Nasami… the name sounds familiar…”
Kambei sighed and drained his cup, then replied, “And what about the name Sasuraitsuru?”
His former mate spat his sake out in surprise. “The Wandering Crane? That's who helped you?”
“The very same.”
“How in the world did you find her?”
“She's one of the samurai that the peasants have hired.”
Shichiroji let out a low whistle. “Incredible… not only is she one of the deadliest swordsmen in the Empire, but she's supposed to be beautiful as well. Is it true?”
He wasn't sure, but he was fairly certain that Kambei was turning slightly red. “Well… Nasami-san is attractive, certainly. And she possesses a certain… charm.”
The blond samurai grinned wickedly. “I see… yeah, if half the stories are true, she'd be just your type, Kambei-sama.”
Shichiroji laughed as Kambei glared at him.
“However, to buy us time for us to get away, she single-handedly attacked a patrol to draw them off…” His voice trailed off.
“You're kidding,” Shichiroji managed in disbelief, and Kambei shook his head. “Well, I hope for her sake that she has more lives than a cat, because she's going to need them to escape the guard patrols.”
“And that's not the only problem... there are also two samurai are after her, both in the employ of Ayamoro.” Kambei unconsciously touched the scar on his neck. “Both are skilled swordsmen, and one will stop at nothing to kill her. But Nasami-san is nothing if not resourceful.”
Shichiroji looked thoughtful. “This bodyguard of Ayamoro's who wants to kill Nasami-dono… what's his name?”
“Hyogo, I believe.”
“Dark hair, pale skin, wears glasses, good swordsman?”
Kambei nodded, and Shichiroji chuckled.
“If it's the same one I'm thinking of, it's small wonder he wants her dead.”
Kambei studied his former mate. As the manager of the Firefly House, Shichiroji was privy to a great deal of gossip. “And why is that?”
“Well, rumor has it that an assassin was present at the Emperor's court to try and kill one of Nasami's companions. Nasami was at the time slated to duel another samuraiko, Keisaiko, for dishonorably killing Nasami's older brother. The assassin poisoned Keisaiko's sword, and even though Nasami won the duel, the poison nearly killed her. Then the assassin killed a diplomat and tried to frame another of Nasami's friends. Nasami and her companions eventually exposed the assassin, who was subsequently executed before the entire court.”
He poured himself another drink, and then his eyes met Kambei's over the rim of the cup. “That assassin was Hyogo's sister.”
Kambei nearly choked on his sake, but quickly regained his composure. “I can see the reason behind the grudge.”
“Yeah, well, even though Nasami and the others clearly had the law on their side and were justified in executing her, Hyogo hates her for it. You see, he was there, but because his sister was careless enough to get caught, he couldn't intervene.”
Suddenly shouts outside drew their attention, and Kambei instinctively reached for his katana. “A patrol…”
“They can't know that you're here,” Shichiroji protested. “No one saw you arrive.”
Then a piercing whistle split the air, and Shichiroji was on his feet as it was repeated twice more. “What the hell was that!”
Gorobei and Heihachi came awake in an instant at the sound, also reaching for their swords.
Shichiroji glanced over and was astonished to see Kambei smiling. “Kambei-sama…”
“I knew it,” Kambei said with quiet satisfaction as Shichiroji's geisha companion Yukino came running, with Kirara right behind her. “I just knew she'd make it.”
To be continued…