Samurai 7 Fan Fiction ❯ The Sword of the Soul ❯ Samurai No Longer ( Chapter 13 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
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AUTHOR'S NOTES: Here it is, the moment that many of you have been waiting for - the rematch between Hyogo and Nasami. Knowing how canon goes, I was well aware of the fact that I couldn't have her kill him, but… when you think about it, after the end of Episode Eight when Kikuchiyo is captured by Hyogo and Kyuzo, you never see Hyogo wield a sword again, and he even wields that cannon of his one-handed. Hence I knew exactly how to write this chapter.
Oh, and because everyone wants to know... the music choice for Chapter Thirteen is actually two pieces from the same place, because of the drastically different tones of the two parts of this chapter. The first part is "The Rite of Destiny" from the game QUEST FOR GLORY V, while the second part is "The Rite of Justice."
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THE SWORD OF THE SOUL
© October 16th, 2005 By Michelle N Travis
Chapter Thirteen: Samurai No Longer
The katana came up with almost aching slowness, then arced downward and around in a wide circle. Dancing in a series of weaving strokes, it was sheathed for the barest instant before being drawn again. Each stroke was focused, each twist and turn executed with masterful skill. The blade gleamed with an almost supernatural glow, silently cutting through the air with graceful moves before at last coming to rest.
Nasami sighed and rested her forehead against the dull edge of the blade, her eyes closed wearily. Not even the long-familiar movements of the kata could calm her mind, even if she practiced until she was ready to drop from exhaustion. Her fingers curled instinctively around the pommel of her katana, her fingertips brushing the tsuba and the long locks of hair winding through it. “This cannot go on,” she whispered softly to herself. “It must not.”
The samuraiko straightened up and glanced over to see Kirara approaching her, hesitation apparent in her every move, and she smiled at the water priestess. “Yes?”
“I... was meaning to ask...” Kirara began, then stopped. Then she took a deep breath. “Can samurai marry?”
Nasami's smile widened. “Contemplating marriage, Kirara?”
The water priestess blushed a vivid shade of scarlet. “No! Well, yes, but... I mean...”
The samuraiko chuckled. “Have you asked Katsushiro yet? I'm sure he'll say yes.”
Kirara's blush deepened. “N-no... Not Katsushiro, great samurai.”
Nasami arched her eyebrows in surprise. “No?”
“Well... it's... it's...” Kirara fidgeted, and for an instant, Nasami went absolutely still, the brightness of her eyes dimming, and her smile turned slightly sad. There was only one other samurai that would have attracted Kirara.
“I see,” she said softly.
That was clearly not the reaction that Kirara was expecting. "You do?"
"I'm not blind, Kirara. I can see how much you admire Kambei-san, and he is certainly appealing in his own way. Between that and the fact that he saved your life, the attraction is understandable."
“But, can samurai marry?” Kirara asked anxiously.
Nasami nodded, sheathing her katana in a fluid gesture, but kept her fingers clutched around the pommel where Kirara wouldn't see them. “Yes, they may, unless forbidden to do so by their daimyo. In fact, many are encouraged to do so, to strengthen their own clans, or to forge ties to another. Many samurai marriages are arranged when the couple are but children.”
“But... what about love?” Kirara asked, wringing her hands, and Nasami's smile slowly faded away.
“Love and marriage rarely have anything to do with each other in a samurai marriage, Kirara.” She turned to look away, but before she could do so, Kirara was touched deeply at the sadness in Nasami's eyes. “All of one's devotion is owed to one's lord. It is believed that if one loves one's spouse more than one's lord, one's loyalty may be questioned, as can one's honor. There's a saying that `samuraiko who remain true to their lords find their names in history books, while samuraiko who fall find their names in tragic love stories.'”
“A marriage without love?” Kirara whispered, aghast. “How can a samurai marry and not be in love?”
Nasami stared out over the water, and Kirara's eyes were fixed on the samuraiko's back. So neither woman noticed the silent approach of Kambei, Gorobei, Shichiroji, Kikuchiyo, and Heihachi, who stopped a short distance away.
Nasami went on. “A relationship can be built on more than just love. Respect. Companionship. Trust. Affection. I have known many samurai who consider themselves happily married in relationships such as these.”
Kirara slowly stepped forward so that she was standing beside the samuraiko. “But you don't believe that.”
Nasami shook her head. “Not for myself, no.”
“Why not?” Kirara suddenly realized she was holding her breath, waiting for Nasami's answer.
Behind them, Kambei and the others did the same, watching the samuraiko intently.
Nasami did not move, but closed her eyes in memory. “Because I loved... and I did not know it until it was too late.”
Kirara's breath came out in a long, sad sigh. “Oh... great samurai, I'm sorry, I didn't mean...”
Nasami opened her eyes and turned to look at Kirara, and the priestess was shocked to see that her dark blue eyes were glistening with tears.
“For a samurai, to love is to be forever at war with yourself.”
Then as Kirara and the samurai watched, the samuraiko drew her katana, and began her kata once again.
Later that day, Komachi came running to find Nasami, her little feet flapping as she sprinted toward the samuraiko.
“Nasami-sama! Nasami-sama! You have to help Kiku!”
Nasami turned from where she had been investigating some of the tunnels branching away from the Metal City to look at the child. “Why, what happened?”
“Kiku decided to try and be all brave and stuff, and he went after those bandits that were here before!”
“What!” Nasami said in alarm. “He went by himself?”
Komachi nodded, and Nasami sighed. "So why are you telling me this, and not the other samurai?"
"I did!" Komachi protested, waving her arms. "But they all just groaned and didn't listen to me, and I know that you'll help! Besides, I know you like Kiku!"
"And how do you know that?"
"Because they're always mean to him, and you're not."
Nasami's mouth curved slightly at Komachi's backhanded praise.
“Fine, I'll go after him. Which way did he go?”
The child took her hand and began leading her along the shoreline to the tunnel that the Nobuseri and their machine escorts had used earlier. “He told me to go back and not to worry, but you know how much trouble he gets when I'm not there!”
“That's for sure,” the samuraiko said wryly as she approached the mouth of the tunnel. “Now listen to me, Komachi-chan, I'm only going as far as the exit to look around, and then I'm coming straight back. While I'm gone, I want you to go back and tell the others that Kikuchiyo isn't back yet and I'm going to scout up ahead for a bit.”
Komachi looked up at her with wide eyes, and Nasami grinned. “Don't worry about me, I'll be fine, and so will Kikuchiyo-san. Now hurry up, and no sneaking after me like you did after Kikuchiyo!”
The child turned and headed back to Honoka's house where the other samurai were planning the rest of the journey to Kanna Village, and Nasami headed into the dank tunnel alone.
Cautiously she felt her way along the tunnel wall, carefully testing each step, her swords sheathed to allow her to use the wall for handholds. When she was about twenty yards from the entrance, she heard several voices, and an abrupt stream of loud swearing.
"Let go of me, bastards! And stop sticking me with those swords, you're scratching my paint!"
Softly she chuckled to herself, recognizing Kikuchiyo's distinctive voice, and carefully came up beside the tunnel entrance.
As she peered around the edge of the tunnel, she saw Kikuchiyo, tightly bound in a cocoon of rope, being dragged off by one of the Nobuseri. Standing at the foot of the bandit was Hyogo and Kyuzo, watching impassively as the machine samurai was lifted up into the Nobuseri's traveling fortress, cursing the entire way. For a moment she stared at the enormous bandit, searching out vulnerable strike points, gauging places to attack, estimating the range of its weapons, and looking for blind spots in its guard. Then, silently, she drew her katana from its sheath and stepped out of the tunnel, waiting for Hyogo and Kyuzo to figure out she was there.
It didn't take long.
Kyuzo's eyes flicked to her, and Hyogo whirled around to see the samuraiko standing calmly, sword in hand, her back to the cavern entrance.
“You!” Hyogo cursed. “Don't tell me you've come all this way to rescue that pathetic machine.”
“No,” she replied.
Hyogo drew his own sword while Kyuzo turned to fully face Nasami.
“So why did you come?” Hyogo asked.
She slowly dropped into her stance, never taking her eyes off the dark samurai.
"And here I thought that samurai didn't believe in murder."
"If I believed in murder, Hyogo-sama, I'd have killed you long before now. I certainly have enough reasons to wish you dead."
"So what's stopping you?"
"Death is too good for you…"
The dark-haired samurai's eyes narrowed. “Kyuzo-dono… go with the Nobuseri and wait for me. I want to kill this woman, and I don't want you getting in my way.”
Kyuzo shrugged and started walking after the Nobuseri carrying Kikuchiyo, while Hyogo also took his stance. For a long time, they stared at one another, neither saying a word.
“I look forward to killing you,” Hyogo said at last, his eyes filled with a dark glee.
“You are welcome to try,” she shot back, and in that moment, they struck.
With a ringing clang, the blades clashed, but Hyogo immediately twisted his katana to stab past her guard again and again. Nasami quickly backpedaled, turning her own sword this way and that to deflect each stroke as he forced her back toward the cavern. She swiftly turned away, dropped down to a crouch in mid-turn, then completed the movement by slashing at Hyogo's legs, beneath the arc of his attack. With surprising grace, he leapt up so that for an instant, he was standing on her sword, and he brought his own katana down in a sudden slash. With a gasp, she somersaulted forward beneath him and rolled to her feet as he landed lightly.
Hyogo tried to take advantage of her momentary pause as she got up, but she was faster than he, and she very nearly caught him off guard with a lightning-fast backward thrust. Only by staggering backward was he able to dodge the blow, and she laughed out loud as she repeatedly drove him back with several slicing attacks.
“What are you laughing at!” he shouted angrily, stabbing ferociously at her face, and her laughter was abruptly cut off as the edge of the blade caught her across the cheek, carving a narrow gash that slowly began seeping blood.
“Be grateful,” he smirked. “At least no one will notice under those other scars all over your face.”
She growled and swept her katana down with all her strength, nearly taking his arm off in the process. As he threw himself to one side, she ripped the saya from her obi and slammed it across the back of his head, pitching him forward. As he stumbled, trying to catch his balance, she lunged forward, twisted around, and backhanded him across his face with the saya, catching him right in the mouth. He stumbled and fell, spitting blood, and Nasami followed up by driving the sword downward in a sudden stab, aiming for his knee. His eyes went wide as he realized that she intended to cripple him as he had done to her, and he rolled backward just as the blade passed through where his knee had been a second earlier.
Nasami recovered her own balance just as Hyogo got to his feet, and for a moment, the two warily circled one another. Growling, he lifted one hand to wipe the blood from his mouth.
“Leave it there,” she taunted. “It looks good on you.”
“Shut up,” he hissed, feinting to the left then attacking her open right side. Only a lithe twist of her torso kept the katana from skewering her through the heart, but he still opened a long gash across her midriff, and she bit back a gasp of pain. But she wrenched her mind back under control, and as he passed close enough to her to feel his breath on the back of her neck, she brought her head back to smash it straight into the bridge of his nose, and blood sprayed from the impact. He howled in pain, and she pivoted and decked him across the cheek with the guard of her sword, opening a long gash on his cheek like the one he had given her earlier. Hyogo blindly swiped at her with his katana, but she easily deflected the attack away and drove the edge of the pommel into his shoulder, nearly dislocating it and sending him reeling. As he got his feet back under him, she turned again and brought her sword back into a guard position.
“You call yourself a samurai,” he rasped as blood streamed down his face. “What happened to that much-touted honor of yours, brawling like a common street performer?”
"'All actions are honorable in war,' or did you forget?"
She attacked again and again, constantly forcing him to move to avoid the flashing blade. No matter where he turned, Nasami always seemed to be there.
"If you were that good of a swordsman, you should be able to defeat me, and here you are, struggling just to keep up," she mocked.
"If you were that good of a swordsman, you shouldn't hesitate to truly strike," he replied.
Nasami's mouth tightened, and her eyes narrowed. “Is that so?” she said, her voice low and dangerous. “Then allow me to show you what a samuraiko can do.”
Faster than even he could follow, she leapt forward. He dropped to one knee and stabbed straight at her abdomen, but with the grace of a dancer, she whirled, lifted the katana over her head, and brought the sword down with all of her might.
Not at Hyogo, but at his sword.
And with a clear, ringing crack as loud as thunder, Mamorimasu cleaved straight through Hyogo's blade and shattered it.
In the very next instant, she twisted the sword in her grip, sidestepped behind Hyogo to his other side, swung the katana around to build its momentum, and then brought the dull edge of the blade down against Hyogo's outstretched left forearm. And he screamed as he felt the bones give way.
All of a sudden, Nasami was standing above him, her bloody katana pointed straight at his face. He glared up at her, but with no sword and one arm broken, there was no way he could defend himself, and both of them knew it.
With a practiced move, Nasami flicked the blood off her katana and re-sheathed it, then turned to walk away.
Then she turned to look over her shoulder, first at him, then at the broken sword lying in the dust. She turned back, and bent down to pick up the two halves of his sword. “If you had truly been samurai, your sword would not have broken.” Then she started walking away again.
“Where… do you think… you're going?” Hyogo choked out, clutching his broken arm.
She looked back at him in surprise. “I would say that this fight is over. Unless you think you can defeat me with one arm and no weapon.”
“I'll kill you for this, I swear,” he hissed, getting to his feet at last, but as he did so, Nasami was suddenly right in front of him, the point of his broken katana poised directly over his heart.
“You tried to abduct an innocent woman, attacked my friends, and almost killed me. Your sister caused my brother's death, tried to assassinate me, murdered three honorable samuraiko, and nearly killed the Magistrate I was serving at the time,” she said softly. “I should kill you right now. A single thrust, and you would be dead at my feet.”
She abruptly stabbed forward until the edge was an inch from his body, then she stopped.
“But that would make me no better than you… or your sister.”
Slowly Nasami stepped back and lowered the katana, then she turned and walked off in the direction that the Nobuseri had gone.
“Give Yashiko my greetings,” her voice drifted back to him. “When you see your sister in hell.”
To be continued…