Samurai 7 Fan Fiction ❯ The Sword of the Soul ❯ This Far and No Farther ( Chapter 26 )

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

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AUTHOR'S NOTES: Like the quote in the summary goes, as I wrote this scene, I couldn't help but think of the Battle of Agincourt in HENRY V (for a wonderful visual retelling of this, go watch the Kenneth Branagh film). But, like in that famous battle, it's amazing what a good field position and archery can do. I was rooting for the farmers and the samurai all the way through. However, while I was watching it, all I could think was, “How the hell am I going to write Nasami in here?” I blurted this out the other day just as John walked through the living room, and he stopped to watch it for a bit. Then he said, “All actions in war are honorable,” and off he went into the kitchen, leaving me sitting on the living room floor laughing before I went into the study to start writing.
And while I haven't gotten much done on this story lately… for those who check out my LiveJournal (you can find more on my profile), there's LOTS of SAMURAI 7 goodness on there! Quite a few stories got written for the communities on there!
The music for this chapter came as a much later inspiration… but you have to admit, the song “O Fortuna” from CARMINA BURANA works really well here! (But I did just get the SAMURAI 7 score on CD, and it is AWESOME!)
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© October 16th, 2005 By Michelle N Travis
Chapter Twenty-Six: This Far and No Farther
The farmers stood in shock, and then, one by one, they began to laugh and cheer, shouting loudly enough to startle the birds from the trees.
“YEAH, YOU HAD THAT ONE COMING!” Kikuchiyo bellowed, laughing aloud with the farmers.
Several of them began to chant, “Kanna, Kanna, Kanna,” as they watched the wrecked Nobuseri ship smolder and burn, pinned to the ground by the ballista bolt like some bizarre butterfly in a collection.
“Wow, they did it!” Komachi cheered from the tree branch she had scaled to watch the battle.
“Awesome!” Okara agreed, perched on the opposite branch. Not for the first time did she wish she was old enough to fight with the others, but as she had to admit, someone had to stand back and provide the commentary.
Both girls started and turned to look down, and saw Kirara standing on the path, glaring up at them. “What are you doing up there? Come inside!” she scolded, gesturing them down out of the tree.
“But Sis,” Komachi wailed, “we wanna watch!” She resolutely turned back to look at the battle again with a pout. After going all the way to Kougakyo and back to bring samurai, there was no way she was going to miss all the fun. And she just knew that if she left Kikuchiyo alone, he was going to get himself into trouble again.
“It's a war,” Kirara said firmly, and then her voice dropped, trying not to think about what it might do to her little sister when the war actually came to Kanna itself. “And the war has only just begun.”
But even as the peasants dropped their bows and laughed at seeing the Nobuseri wounded so, the samurai stood silently and watched, watched how the Nobuseri began to regroup, watched how they prepared to deploy the Yakan soldiers. And they waited.
Moments later, Mosuke shouted, “Wait, look over there!” The peasants all turned to look and saw that the Yakan soldiers were fast approaching, charging in a mass toward the bridge that led to Kanna. All of them had their swords out, intent on wiping out the peasants for their insolence.
The farmers' courage vanished like morning mist as years of bending to Nobuseri rule nearly forced them back from the wall.
“Th-they're coming!” Manzo shouted in panic, and nearly turned to flee, but then the samurai were there, all holding bows in their hands.
“Stay calm!” Kambei ordered. “All archers, ready your bows!”
Instinctively, the peasants moved toward the rock wall as they had been taught, drawing strength from the samurai that stood shoulder to shoulder with them against the enemy. Kambei, Gorobei, Katsushiro, Shichiroji, and Kyuzo stood along with the peasants, holding their bows with the ease of years of use, their eyes automatically gauging distance, their fingers already imagining the drawing of the bowstrings, the release of arrows.
Days and nights of constant drilling with Kyuzo and Nasami now bore fruit, for the farmers stood tall, bows drawn and arrows nocked. On the rock wall in front of them were several bowls of the strange substance that Nasami and Shichiroji had made for them, and stuck into the ground were dozens of torches.
But Katsushiro looked around, puzzled, for there was one person not present that he would have imagined above all else would be here, but there was no longer any time to ask questions.
Kikuchiyo and Rikichi came running to the front of the ballista where Heihachi and his engineering team stood. “Here they come! This is going to be great!” the big machine samurai crowed. Rikichi only gulped, wishing he could share the samurai's confidence. It was one thing to strike at the Nobuseri from a distance, even if it was with a ballista. It was another thing entirely to engage the enemy up close.
The first wave of Yakan soldiers reached the bridge, knocking down the sign and advanced across toward the rock wall with single-minded focus.
Kambei leaned down, touched his arrowhead to the flammable powder, ignited it, and drew back on the bow.
“Fire at will,” he ordered, his voice cold, and with that, he released the arrow straight at the advanced Yakan soldiers. The other samurai did the same, and then the farmers followed their example. A hail of arrows slammed into the Yakan soldiers, stopping them in their tracks, while the operators flailed their arms trying to dislodge the burning missiles. But the powder did its work well, and the flames surrounding the arrowheads continued to burn, no matter how the soldiers tried to extinguish them.
With Kambei shouting orders and encouragement, the samurai and farmers fired again and again at the charging Yakan soldiers, slowing their attack with a wall of flaming arrows, but the Yakan kept coming.
“Where is Nasami?” Katsushiro finally called out over the chaos as he brought down another Yakan soldier. “With her archery skills, she should be here!”
“She is where she needs to be,” Kambei replied calmly, firing again and nocking a fresh arrow. Unlike the farmers, he seemed completely untroubled by the onslaught of Yakan soldiers, who were swarming onto the bridge.
Katsushiro cursed under his breath, but kept firing. In the back of his mind, he guessed that Kambei had assigned the samuraiko to keep an eye on the women and children at Kirara's house in case of a sneak attack by the Nobuseri, but to pull such a skilled samurai off the battle line…
Kambei, Kyuzo, and the other samurai continued to fire, as did the peasants, but soon the farmers, unused to the combined mental and physical strain of battle, began to waver. Manzo caught his hand on the bowstring and dropped it with a yelp, waving his hand in pain, while Yohei, Gozaku, and several of the others were panting hard from the constant draw and fire. But the samurai did not let up. Again and again they attacked, nocking an arrow just as the previous one left the bowstring in almost mechanical fashion, and yet their eyes were constantly moving back and forth, shifting their aim from target to target.
“We can't keep this up much longer!” one of the peasants cried in panic as the foot soldiers were about to reach the Kanna side of the bridge.
Suddenly Kambei lifted his voice in a commanding shout, filled with all the power he could summon. “NASAMI! NOW!”
For a single instant, the Yakan soldiers were so surprised by the shout that they slowed their onslaught.
Startled, Katsushiro and the other samurai glanced around, but saw no sign of the woman.
Then they looked over the edge of the wall.
Far below them, Nasami was standing on a rocky outcropping on the other side of the canyon, bow in hand, a torch shoved into the rocks beside her. The Nobuseri had been so busy attacking the farmers and samurai that they never noticed the samuraiko.
And she was smiling.
At Kambei's shout, she set an arrow aflame, nocked it, lifted the bow to her shoulder, aimed, and fired. The arrow raced through the air, straight into the underside of the middle of the bridge.
Where last evening, she and Shichiroji had carefully placed several large casks of explosives.
With a deafening roar, they ignited, and the entire bridge exploded before crashing down in flames. The peasants stared aghast as hundreds of the Yakan soldiers, unable to fly, fell past Nasami and plummeted down into the crevasse where they met their deaths on the canyon floor, while the samuraiko stood silently and watched the enemy die without a single word.
Kikuchiyo, however, was not nearly so restrained, and he leaned over the edge to shout into the crevasse, “Ya-hah, serves you right! Who's tough now, huh?”
Kambei, Gorobei, Kyuzo, Shichiroji, and Katsushiro stood by quietly and looked down into the canyon where Nasami was barely visible through the smoke billowing up from the ravine floor. Her eyes met Shichiroji's and her mouth twisted into a smile as the blond samurai flashed her a victory sign.
“For all their weapons, metal, and might, not one could endure a wall of fire and a hard canyon floor,” Gorobei pronounced softly.
As the wreckage of the bridge crumbled into the canyon, and the last of the echoing rumble faded away, the samuraiko slung her bow over her shoulder, tossed the torch into the ravine, and then scaled the wall of the canyon until she was standing on the Nobuseri side of the crevasse. For a moment, she looked back over her shoulder at the samurai on the other side, then she grinned and vanished into the trees.
Heading straight for the Nobuseri forces.
“Where in the world is she going now?” Katsushiro blurted out, taking a step forward, staring open-mouthed across the ravine.
“Watch and see,” Kyuzo said softly.
The peasants, however, took advantage of the break to drop their bows and sink to the ground in exhaustion, panting and groaning as they rubbed aching muscles and wiped the sweat from their eyes. Even with all of their training, and their years of labor in the fields, the relentless pace Kambei and the other samurai had set had nearly caused many of them to collapse.
“None of the samurai even broke a sweat,” Gozaku said breathlessly as he looked at them enviously.
But Yohei was spooked as he knelt and studied the samurai, who were quietly watching the chaos on the other side of the canyon, bows canted against their shoulders, their faces calm even as the scent of burning metal, electronics, and flesh wafted up from the canyon floor. “Just… killing as if it were nothing,” he whispered, remembering the look on Nasami's face as she had watched the Yakan soldiers come crashing down after collapsing the bridge. “And watching it all with those cold eyes.”
A few minutes later, an explosion rang out from the other side of the canyon, and the peasants once again leapt to their feet just in time to see a division of Yakan soldiers that had been kept in reserve vanish in a ball of flame.
“What the-” Gorobei said with a start, pulling out his binoculars to peer at the other side of the canyon just as another explosion detonated in the rice fields, knocking a Raiden clear off its feet.
“Now do you understand why Shichiroji requested her assistance during the preparations?” Kambei asked the street performer, smiling coldly to himself.
“You've got to be kidding,” Gorobei laughed as the remaining Nobuseri ship and the few Yakan soldiers left began retreating toward the mountains. “And Nasami routs the big bad bandits… I knew I liked that woman for a reason.”
“Great samurai, are you saying that… that's Nasami-sama doing all of that?” Gonzo asked in disbelief, and Kambei nodded.
“B-but how is that possible?” Manzo stammered.
“That's right,” Gozaku said softly. “Those trenches Nasami-sama had us digging a couple of weeks ago. She must have used those trenches to bury explosives in the rice paddies.”
Gorobei glanced sidelong at Kambei. “And I thought such tactics were forbidden.”
“What is that saying Nasami is so fond of? `All actions are honorable in war…'” Kambei shrugged. “Besides, the explosives she is using are much cruder than the ones used in the war, and as such, the damage she is creating is much less than it could have been… after all, she had less to work with. But the end result is the same, and that is what matters.”
“I am so glad she's on our side,” Shichiroji said, rubbing the back of his head with his mechanical hand as he laughed, just as another explosion caused even further chaos among the ranks of the Nobuseri.
Just then Kikuchiyo came charging down the path to approach the samurai by the rock wall. “Ha! Seriously, you guys were awesome!” he shouted cheerfully, but in a single instant, Kambei's katana was freed from its saya, and with a swift attack, he cleanly sliced Kikuchiyo's head from the rest of his mechanical body.
The peasants recoiled in horror, and Manzo practically fell over in shock as with slow, cold deliberation, Kambei held his stance before slowly sheathing his blade. Then slowly, he straightened and turned to look over his shoulder at the frightened farmers.
“Bring me a rope.”

“Elder! Elder!”
Mosuke ran toward the center of the village, where the Elder stood in the open clearing, watching the smoke drifting up toward the sky from the destruction that had been wreaked earlier. Even as Mosuke approached the older man, another booming explosion echoed through the air. Then he came to a stop, gasping for breath at having run the whole way from the rock wall.
The Elder did not turn around, but continued to watch the smoke impassively.
“The first wave of bandits was stopped…” It was a statement, not a question, and Mosuke nodded, looking down at his hands, which were still shaking at the thought of what he and the other farmers had done.
“Yes, they were,” he whispered. “We killed them. We shot them down with our bows and arrows.” A small part of his mind could hardly believe what he was saying. Peasants did not rebel against the tyranny of the Nobuseri. Peasants did not take arms against the Nobuseri. And peasants certainly did not win against the Nobuseri. And yet… and yet…
“And did you make the bandits suffer?” the Elder asked, still not turning to look.
Mosuke's eyes were haunted by the memory of what they had done, and he sank to his knees.
Killed heaven knows how many bandits within the ship when the ballista bolt had smashed through it.
Shot down countless more with their bows and arrows.
Sent untold numbers to the bottom of the canyon where they met with a terrible and violent death.
And standing quietly, watching it all, were the samurai.
“Yes, they suffered horribly!” he blurted out, shocked into speaking the truth.
He was shocked even more at the sound of rasping, satisfied laughter coming from the Elder.
At last, the Elder's laughter ceased, and he finally looked over his shoulder at Mosuke. “That's as it should be.” He knew, after all, that the fate the Nobuseri had in mind for the farmers of Kanna would be far, far bloodier, savage, and vindictive.
Scrambling forward on his hands and knees, Mosuke reached out to take the hem of the Elder's cloak in his hands, clutching at him as though begging for help… or absolution… or mercy.
“But Elder, you know the bandits will never give up! They'll be back! What'll we do then?” He was practically tripping over his words as his courage finally failed him, without the heat of battle and the strength of the samurai to bolster him. “We may have won this time, but how can we stop them again?”
“Mosuke…” the Elder began, but the younger farmer cut him off.
“Elder, I really think we made a big mistake here-”
“MOSUKE!” This time there was no mistaking the fierceness in the Elder's voice, and Mosuke gulped. It was that same fierceness he and the other villagers had heard when Kambei had called for the farmers of Kanna to band together, that same defiance that the Elder had shouted to the skies until all of the villagers followed his example.
The Elder turned to look once again at the smoke curling along the horizon, and Mosuke's eyes followed his gaze.
“You want to live, don't you?” the Elder asked softly.
“Yes, of course,” Mosuke began, and then he nearly fell over when the Elder rounded on him, his eyes filled with the same resolve that Mosuke had seen so often in Rikichi's eyes… in Shino's… in Kirara and Komachi's… and in the eyes of the samurai.
“Then fight, Mosuke, FIGHT!” the Elder shouted.

“What a damned disgrace,” cursed a Raiden, driving his sword into the ground in frustration as he surveyed the damage and tallied their losses. “We attack them head-on and this is what it gets us!”
“The farmers have been taught to wield bows,” another Raiden said bitterly, but they knew that was hardly an excuse. He and the other Nobuseri were still stinging from the triple attacks from the peasants… first the ballista shot, then the arrows on the bridge, and finally the sabotage tactics in the fields.
Sobei stood quietly and surveyed the carnage in the rice fields. Huge chunks of the paddies had been blown to ashes from casks of explosives hidden in the rice, and then there was the smoldering wreckage of the bridge where the Yakan soldiers had been so decisively destroyed. This went way beyond what the farmers were capable of, even with samurai assistance. This was also far beyond what just training with the samurai could do. This was undeniable proof of samurai treachery, taking the battle straight to the Nobuseri with that damnable honor of theirs.
There was no doubt about it. The seven were here.
“Quite a declaration of war,” he mused almost thoughtfully. “They must think they'll get away with defying us.”
Syusai was not nearly so casual about the whole affair. They had come here to make an example of Kanna, and instead were driven back by a handful of ronin and a pack of villagers. This went beyond just dealing with farmers and their insolence. This was now a matter of pride. And in such matters, you did not waste time dealing with the insignificant.
“Forget the farmers…” he hissed. “I want the samurai.”
Sobei nodded. “I agree.” But something nagged at him in the back of his mind as he continued to stare at Kanna Village in the distance. Samurai using saboteur attacks? This had to be the actions of the samuraiko Hyogo had mentioned… and if she was in Kanna Village… small wonder the farmers and the other samurai were so confident.
“So, Sasuraitsuru, you have come to Kanna,” he said softly, lifting his enormous katana and pointing it toward Kanna Village in a silent challenge. “But your honor won't save you this time…”
To be continued