Samurai 7 Fan Fiction ❯ The Sword of the Soul ❯ On the Road to Kanna ( Chapter 17 )

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

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AUTHOR'S NOTES: This chapter was great fun to write, especially the whole scene with the four K's by the water. And well, it was time to bring everyone together again, anyway. Next stop, Kanna Village…
The music for this chapter, “Kou-Ga-Kyo,” is actually the first piece of music I used from SAMURAI 7! If you have recommendations for later chapter music ideas, please let me know! There's a lot of great music out there, I can't know it all!
Side note - I just saw the trailer for Volume 5, and the last two images are the most disturbing... what HAS Kambei gotten himself into?
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© October 16th, 2005 By Michelle N Travis
Chapter Seventeen: On the Road to Kanna
Kikuchiyo, Komachi, Kambei, and Katsushiro decided to take a short break, and were sitting near the stream relaxing in the sunshine.
Or, more truthfully, Kambei, Komachi, and Kikuchiyo were relaxing. Katsushiro was sitting a short distance away, arms folded, body tense, resolutely staring at the water, and pointedly ignoring Komachi and the big machine samurai.
From where she was sitting beside Kikuchiyo, making a small boat from a leaf, Komachi looked over at Katsushiro. “You still mad at us?” she called innocently.
“I'm not mad,” Katsushiro shot back, clearly still angry at her for teasing him earlier that morning. “I'm nothing. I'm just… watching the stream.”
Komachi wasn't fooled in the least. “If you're not mad, how come you're off sitting by yourself?” she asked meaningfully.
“I…” Katsushiro sighed, suddenly tired of carrying a grudge. “I'm just thinking.”
Mentioning the `T' word around Kikuchiyo was never a good idea, who was all in favor of the theory, `Act first and think later.' Idly scratching himself with a twig, he remarked, “You're a samurai, aren't you? How about a little less thinking and a little more doing? Ladies never go for the shy guys.”
Katsushiro's grudge was suddenly back in full force. “Look, we've been through this!”
Komachi, however, ignored him, and rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “Yeah, making her like him might be tough.” She glanced over at the young samurai. “Sis did say you don't smell like battle, after all.”
“Oh, yeah, you're screwed,” Kikuchiyo announced, waving one foot dismissively at Katsushiro.
The young samurai got to his feet angrily, aggravated twice-over by the teasing about Kirara and his own inexperience in war. “Since you won't drop it, why don't you tell me what the smell of battle is?”
Komachi smiled innocently. “I don't know, I'm just a kid. But I bet Kiku can tell you exactly what it is, right?” she said, looking down at her hero who was sprawled on the rocks enjoying the sun.
Kikuchiyo abruptly sat up, not willing to admit in front of Komachi and Kambei that he didn't really know what the scent of the battlefield was. “Huh? Oh, uh, sure. Of course.” He thought frantically, then announced, “Uh, blood, grease, swords, you know, some body odor, macho stuff!”
From where he sat, Kambei overheard the machine samurai's description and quietly chuckled to himself as he sipped some sake.
Kikuchiyo hurriedly went on before Komachi could ask any questions. “But anyway, that's not what you should be worrying about, kid.”
“No?” Katsushiro said archly.
Kikuchiyo leaned closer and lowered his voice. “Just think who she's with right now.”
That reminder did nothing to help Katsushiro's temper.
The machine samurai went on rubbing salt in the wound. “There's `Master Two Swords' with the whole mysterious tough-man loner thing girls go crazy for, and then there's Momotaro, who we already know is a romancer. Competition!”
Komachi flashed another winning smile. “And Sister isn't getting any younger!” she teased.
Katsushiro turned away in a huff. “That's ridiculous.”
Kikuchiyo flopped back down, confident in his assessment of the water priestess and her current companions. “Sure, say that now. By the time we reach the village, it'll probably be too late.”
“Can we just drop it?” Katsushiro shouted so suddenly that Komachi fell over.
Kambei finally decided to draw the young samurai's attention away from the touchy subject of Kirara and the other samurai. “Katsushiro, tell me. Why did you want to become a samurai?”
Katsushiro gaped, clearly not expecting that question, and especially not from Kambei. Komachi and Kikuchiyo both sat up, looking from Kambei to Katsushiro, waiting for the young man's answer. Katsushiro opened his mouth to reply, then looked confused, and closed it again.
“Well… why did you become a samurai, Kambei?” Komachi asked after a long awkward pause.
Kambei smirked. “Perhaps because I have a penchant for `blood, grease, swords, and body odor.'”
“All right, all right,” Kikuchiyo grunted, giving Kambei an obscene gesture for his barb about his earlier comment. “Not all samurai are like that. I can't see someone like Nasami doing the whole body odor and grease thing, especially not with that white hair of hers.” Then he paused, thinking of the samuraiko. “But I'd say she's got the blood and swords side of being a samurai down cold.”
“That's rude, Kiku,” Komachi scolded, poking him in the ribs.
“But it's true,” Katsushiro said thoughtfully. “After the way she cut down those assassins… it's like death means nothing to her.”
“Actually, if she were here, I think she would remind you that `life is only for the one who is not afraid to die,'” Kambei replied, slowly stroking the long locks of hair he'd taken from the samuraiko.

“Decisions, decisions, which way to go?” Shichiroji wondered aloud, as Kirara stood a short ways ahead of him, dowsing with her crystal to determine which path to take.
“The underground channel flows beneath both of these paths,” she said finally. “Either way should lead us directly to Kanna Village.”
But before she had finished speaking, Kyuzo gave her a look, and then began walking down the right-hand path. Kirara turned to him, affronted, and called out, “Excuse me!”
“Easy now,” Shichiroji said placatingly, “let's just go where he wants.”
Kirara, accustomed to being the one making the decisions, was not at all happy with that notion. “He chooses for us in silence, and expects us to follow?” She stayed where she was, glaring after Kyuzo. “Any hope I had of understanding this man is quickly fading.”
If he heard her, Kyuzo gave no indication of it, and simply kept walking.
The water priestess turned angrily to Shichiroji. “Let me say it again, I am strongly against him coming to my village.”
Shichiroji sighed, knowing that Kirara's pride and not her intuition was the reason for her bias against the other samurai. He glanced after Kyuzo, and smiled ruefully. “A samurai should be judged by his actions, water priestess, not by his words,” he chided her gently.
“Well sometimes words are needed,” Kirara said defensively. “You can't convey everything with a stare!”
An instant later, Kyuzo flattened himself against the cliff face, staring directly ahead of them.
“They're back.”
The ground ahead of them exploded in a shower of flying rocks and dust, and a Tobito combat machine came spinning at them. Before Kirara could even gasp, Kyuzo had his swords out, lunged at the machine, and promptly sliced it in half.
But even he was caught by surprise when the two halves each sprouted a head, arms, legs, and a wicked looking sword. They soared and landed, one on either side of him. Growling, Kyuzo lifted his swords in a defensive posture, glancing from one to the other, almost daring them to attack.
Shichiroji gestured to Kirara. “No offense, but you'd better sit this one out. Behind those rocks would be nice.” Kirara gave him no argument and dashed for the cover of the boulders, and the former pilot lifted his staff and charged into the fray.
The two halves of the Tobito powered up the lasers of their eyes and started shooting at Kyuzo, who easily dodged their attacks as he charged one of them. Both his swords flashed faster than the eye could follow as he bore down on his opponent. The other raced at him from behind, but as Kyuzo glanced behind him, Shichiroji's spear neatly caught it in the head, severing it in a shower of sparks. Shichiroji swung himself around on the staff, kicked the body of the Tobito several yards, and then grinned hugely at Kyuzo as he landed and charged after the remains of the second Tobito.
Kyuzo swiftly reversed his grip on one katana and brought it upwards in a vicious slash, slicing his opponent's arm off. But before he could finish him off, the Tobito drew its legs into itself and flew upwards in a cloud of dust, leaving Kyuzo on the ground staring up in frustration. Quickly it put some distance between itself and the swordsman, then landed heavily on the boulder behind which Kirara was hiding.
Her gasp caught its attention, and it turned its head to look at her even as she cowered behind the rock.
Kyuzo took full advantage of its distraction and charged, even as the Tobito turned back to face him and powered up its laser for a point-blank shot. But the samurai sliced its legs out from under it before it could attack, and it fell heavily toward the ground.
Straight toward Kirara.
As it fell, she felt time slow, saw its eye prepare to fire, and as desperately as she tried to be brave, she could barely resist the urge to scream. But in a flash, Kyuzo was there, bringing his katana up in a sudden swing that sent the head flying and the body straight to the ground.
However, as the head landed, whether by accident or malicious purpose, its face was aiming straight at Kirara, and with a loud whoosh, the beam shot straight toward the water priestess. Instinctively, Kyuzo thrust himself between her and the blast, and it seared its way painfully across his left forearm, drawing blood and sending a wave of agony through the samurai.
Seconds later, Shichiroji finished off the Tobito's other half with a quick slice and a loud explosion, and turned to see Kyuzo kneeling on the ground, using his right hand to stem the bleeding.
Kirara was staring at the samurai in distress. “You're hurt,” she whispered, trying to get a look at the injury, but Kyuzo refused to look at her.
“You knew they would come back eventually. That's why you wanted to fight before.” Shichiroji said flatly as he approached. He had been afraid this would happen, but neither of them could have made Kirara see that fighting earlier would have saved them the problem now. Kyuzo said nothing, sheathing his swords across his back and getting to his feet, but the former pilot knew he was right. “That was your line of reasoning, wasn't it?”
All Kyuzo did was begin walking once again. And all Kirara could do was follow.

“Take care now, ladies! Come see us again!” the acting troupe sang out as Rikichi, Gorobei, and Heihachi left the small town where they'd gone into temporary hiding after nearly getting caught by a passing patrol. But they no longer looked like two samurai and a farmer. Instead, all three were garishly dressed and made up as women - wigs, shaved legs, and all.
While Gorobei and Heihachi calmly walked along, Rikichi pulled the cart, bemoaning his fate the entire time. “Why me? I've never been so embarrassed… why couldn't I be with the normal ones?”
The street performer grinned. “Cheer up, man, you're stunning!”
“I never knew you had such nice legs,” Heihachi teased, but Rikichi only groaned and hunched even lower.
But their mirth didn't last long.
“Gorobei-dono, looks like trouble,” Heihachi said softly, pointing, where in the distance black smoke billowed and curled toward the sky.
After a while, they arrived at a village… or rather, the smoldering remains of one. Houses were destroyed, fields lay in ashes, and not a living soul could be found anywhere. Rikichi stared in utter dismay, seeing the future of his own village before his eyes. “This is the bandits' work, I'm sure of it. Another village wiped out…”
Gorobei discreetly sniffed the air, `scenting for danger' as he called it. “Fresh smoke,” he murmured to the other two. “They're still close.”
“Here we go,” Heihachi said softly, and they began walking through the remains of the village, heading for Kanna.
They got less than twenty feet when two Yakan combat machines appeared out of the smoke behind them.
“Travelers! Explain your presence!” one boomed, and all three men turned. Rikichi took one look and promptly fell over, cowering. Gorobei, on the other hand, immediately clasped his hands to his chest like a lovesick maiden, pitched his voice an octave higher and cooed, “Don't pinch me girls, I don't want to wake up! It's the real Nobuseri! Wow! I can't tell how big a fan I am! Your work is absolutely divine!”
It took Heihachi a moment to figure out where Gorobei was going with the idea, but once he caught on, he boldly stepped up to one of the Yakan shells. “How brutishly handsome! The strong chest, the booming voice! Oh, I think I'm falling in love!” he fluttered, resting his hand against the shell.
The two Yakan operators groaned aloud. “Oh. They're prostitutes.”
“Us?” Heihachi said indignantly. “No, we're nothing of the sort!”
“We're entertainers!” Gorobei said proudly, stepping up to the other Yakan. “The merriest troupe this side of the capital!”
He started simpering, Heihachi doing the same. Rikichi got out a single squeaky giggle before panicking and starting to crawl away.
He got about a yard before the two Yakan disengaged themselves from Gorobei and Heihachi. “You there! Crawler!”
Rikichi froze.
“Tell us your name.”
“I'm M-m-m-m-m-m-makaso,” he stammered.
“M-m-m-m-m-m-makaso, eh?” smirked one of the Yakan in derision. “Haven't heard that one before. Seems shy for a performer.”
Gorobei and Heihachi tensed as the soldier went on. “How do I know you're not fugitives in disguise?”
“Oh cut it out,” Gorobei said primly. “You bandy-wandy types are too much!”
“Then I suppose you ladies wouldn't mind giving us a little taste of your act?” the other Yakan asked. The three men hesitated… just a moment too long. “No? Last chance! Perform for us now or we take your heads!”
“Shall we?” Gorobei said in an undertone to Heihachi.
“Don't see much of a choice,” the woodcutter replied, and the two samurai started to reach into the folds of their dresses for the swords they'd hidden underneath.
But then a high-pitched laugh came from behind them.
“Oh, Nobuseri, you're so dreamy, you have Makaso nervous from love!” Rikichi got to his feet and turned around, a fatuous smile on his face. “Sure I'll dance for you!” He hitched up his sleeves, grabbed the hem of his dress, and struck a pose.
“Okay!” he shouted loudly, clapping his hands to establish the time, then before his courage gave out, he began to dance and sing.
Need to plant the rice, and harvest it by night!
The rice put on my skin makes it feel so nice!
The salt on my face and the sweat make it smooth!
And bending down in the fields makes my bottom strong, too!
He turned and shook his backside in a desperate attempt at a seductive dance, continuing to sing.
Everywhere you look, my skin is silky soft!
Peek under my dress, here, let me take it off!
The two Yakan raised their hands in surrender and backed away, while Gorobei and Heihachi stared in absolute disbelief, the mechanic quietly chuckling to himself.
Rikichi was still giggling nervously, and finally one of the Yakan spoke. “That's… quite enough… um… really. Just… put your dress back down, please?” They turned and left, groaning in disgust.
The peasant's legs finally gave out, and he collapsed in a shaking heap. Gorobei and Heihachi approached and crouched down beside him.
“We owe you one,” Gorobei said proudly. “Thanks to your bravery, we avoided a fight.”
The shock of what he had just done and their nearly fatal experience hit Rikichi all at once, and tears welled up in his eyes. “But… I mean… we could have…”
“Easy, man, you don't want your makeup to run,” Gorobei teased him, and suddenly Rikichi was crying and laughing all at once. A moment later, Gorobei and Heihachi joined in.
When the laughter finally died down, Gorobei got to his feet. “Well, should we get moving?”
“Yeah, we'd better hurry if we're going to catch up to the others,” Heihachi agreed, pulling Rikichi up to his feet. “And I don't know about you guys, but I have got to get out of this dress.”
“I wonder if this is how Nasami-sama feels, but in reverse,” the peasant mused.
Gorobei looked at him as Rikichi began pulling the cart once more. “What do you mean?”
“Well, she often dresses as a man, doesn't she? You'd almost forget she was a woman that way. But she looked a lot more comfortable in men's clothes than we do in women's clothes.”
“That's for sure,” Heihachi laughed. “When we get to Kanna, we'll ask her to wear one of these and see how it feels, that way she can tell us which is better.”

Kikuchiyo, Komachi, Kambei and Katsushiro stood staring up at the enormous boulder that Kirara had described, gleaming red in the sunset's glow.
“So this is Wing Rock,” Katsushiro remarked. “I see where it gets the name.”
“Yep, this is where we're supposed to meet,” Komachi chimed in from her perch on Kikuchiyo's shoulder. “Isn't it pretty?”
The young samurai glanced around, but saw no sign of the other two groups, or of Nasami. “Guess the others haven't gotten here yet.”
Komachi looked down at Katsushiro, and said teasingly, “What's the matter? You're still worried about Sis with those other samurai, huh?”
“For the last time, no!” he shouted, but a sudden falsetto cut across his words.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” From behind a palm frond came Gorobei. “The troupe of merry travelers have arrived!” he announced, and Heihachi and Rikichi popped up from behind him, laughing. Katsushiro and the other stared wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
Kikuchiyo was the first to get his wits back about him, and laughed. “Hey, you guys look pretty good!”
Komachi frowned down at the machine samurai. “No offense, Kiku, but I don't think you have very good taste.”
Kambei closed his mouth and smirked. “Looks like your journey was a… strange one, but I'm glad you're safe.”
“Any word on the third group yet?” Gorobei asked, dropping the high-pitched voice he'd been affecting as a woman, and Kambei shook his head.
“Bandits are in the area,” Heihachi admitted, “we had a run-in with them ourselves.”
“Sensei, I can go look for them. I'll be careful,” Katsushiro promised, and Kambei agreed. But as the young samurai turned around, he saw Shichiroji standing in the shadow of Wing Rock. “Shichiroji-dono!” he blurted out. “Where are the others?”
“Well, we made it to the rock a little ahead of schedule, so, uh…” he tilted his head to indicate that they should come look. The group walked over to where he stood and peered around, and Kikuchiyo burst out laughing. “Oh, ho, ho!”
Kirara and Kyuzo were sitting back to back, with Kirara stitching up the samurai's sleeve where it had been torn in the attack. Kyuzo waited patiently for her to finish, and with a flourish, she stood. “All done!” With a bow, she presented the coat back to Kyuzo. “Thank you for saving my life, great samurai,” she said respectfully.
“Thanks for the stitch,” he replied, shrugging into his coat.
“I'd say our journey went well,” Shichiroji said cheerfully, and he and the others turned to leave. Katsushiro, however, remained behind, sadly watching Kirara.
“Yeah, I guess so.” But then Kikuchiyo grabbed him by the collar and dragged him off.
“Come on, we've got work to do!”
“Has anyone seen Nasami-dono?” Shichiroji asked as they prepared to finish their journey to the village.
“We haven't,” Kambei replied.
“Neither have we,” Rikichi answered.
“I wonder where she is,” Kirara said, her voice betraying her worry. “You don't think she… she got caught?”
“Fear not, Kirara,” came a voice from above her, and the entire group looked up.
Nasami was seated at the top of Wing Rock.
“Nasami-sama! What are you doing up there?” Komachi called.
“Oh, nothing really. Just enjoying the sunset, resting my knee… and keeping an eye on the sentry that the Nobuseri have posted to watch the pass to Kanna,” the samuraiko called back, carefully finding handholds and footholds as she climbed down the rock. “After as much as he's had to drink, it's not surprising he didn't see any of you, but you might want to be a bit more careful when you try and enter Kanna itself.”
“Very observant of you,” Kambei said with a smile. “Any trouble along the way?”
“Well, I was attacked by this vicious samurai who tried to jump me from behind,” she said cheerfully. “But that was easily dealt with.” She stopped short when she saw Heihachi, Gorobei, and Rikichi dressed as women. “You three, on the other hand…”
“It's a long story, but suffice it to say that we ran into a patrol,” Heihachi laughed.
“As did we,” Kirara added. “But Kyuzo-sama and Shichiroji-sama defended us.”
“Yet you managed to evade two separate Nobuseri patrols to make it here before us?” Katsushiro said in wonder.
“Kyuzo-sama isn't the only stealthy one around here, you know.”
“So the Nobuseri have posted a watch for us,” Kambei mused. “I wonder how much they really know.”
“Not enough,” she replied seriously, but then she grinned. “After all, one should `be more afraid of an army of sheep led by a wolf than an army of wolves led by a sheep.'”
“So the peasants of Kanna are sheep?” Rikichi said to Nasami in disbelief while they moved into the woods to avoid being seen as they approached Kanna.
“Actually, in that outfit, I don't know what to call you, Rikichi…”
To be continued