Samurai 7 Fan Fiction ❯ The Sword of the Soul ❯ Samurai Uprising ( Chapter 28 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
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AUTHOR'S NOTES: From here out, I just LOVED this episode. Absolutely non-stop, in-your-face action, especially once the samurai start tearing up the inside of the Nobuseri ship and carving up the bandits. Amusingly enough, while watching that whole scene where Kambei shatters the door by focusing his chi, my husband turned to me (since by this point I was writing The Sword of the Soul) and said, “Well, I guess we both know who taught him THAT!”
I also love this episode because on the FUNimation DVDs, this is one with commentary from Chris Bevins (the voice director, and voice of Gozaku), Sean Michael Teague (Katsushiro), and R Bruce Elliott (Kambei), and listening to them is just great. (Hearing them do their own version of the dialogue between Tessai and Ukyo is hilarious…)
For all the fans of TSotS, I have two desktops available now for you guys! Both can be found on my LiveJournal (address in my profile) - one is of Kambei and Nasami; the other is of all the samurai. I've also added two animated banners for anyone who wants to promote my story (I love publicity, I should wear a sign that says “Will Fish for Compliment” or “Will Write for Affirmation”). And all of them are quite cool, if I do say so myself.
Chapter Twenty-Eight's music is the track “Hispanola” from the Vangelis score of 1492: CONQUEST OF PARADISE.
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THE SWORD OF THE SOUL
© October 16th, 2005 By Michelle N Travis
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Samurai Uprising
Everyone stopped, bandits and farmers alike, then they all turned to stare as Kirara approached.
“Water priestess!” Rikichi blurted out, startled to see her.
“What are you doing?” Manzo stammered as Kirara quietly knelt and bowed to the Nobuseri, ignoring the swords leveled at her and the other farmers by the Mimizuku.
“I have an offer for you,” she said at last.
“Priestess, what are you talking about?” Rikichi asked softly, not at all certain what Kirara was hoping to accomplish by drawing the bandits' attention to herself.
“I take it you are the girl who went to Kougakyo to recruit the samurai?” Sobei asked.
“Yes,” Kirara replied.
“What do you want?”
“I'm offering to give myself up to whatever fate you choose for me in exchange for my people's safety,” she answered, and all of the villagers gasped in horror.
“You want to trade your life for theirs?” The bandit looked at her skeptically, and Kirara nodded.
“That's right.” She took a deep breath, and went on. “You have a right to be angry, and I realize it might be satisfying to destroy this village. That would be the easy thing to do. But you Nobuseri were once great samurai, so you know a warrior doesn't always do what's easiest. If you allow yourself to be angered by mere farmers, you will show weakness and fear. You will have nothing distinguishing you from the merchants or the samurai. You'll be insignif-”
“SILENCE!” Syusai hissed, drawing his sword and leveling at Kirara before she could continue, and she froze, terrified that she had gone too far.
Syusai advanced, keeping the edge of his enormous katana pointed at the water priestess. “You think you can get what you want just by flapping your lips?”
As foolish as it might have been to provoke them in the first place, even Kirara was not so foolhardy as to try and answer that one. Instead, she kept her mouth shut and stared at the bandit's sword, trying very hard not to think about the fact that she might have goaded them into killing her.
For what felt like forever, the mental standoff continued - Syusai glaring down at Kirara, Kirara sitting and waiting for him to decide her fate, and the farmers watching helplessly.
At last, Syusai withdrew his blade, threw back his head and laughed. “I like that! Well, little girl, you belong to us now. Bring her to me.”
“Yes, lord,” chorused two of the Mimizuku, who flanked Kirara, lifted her to her feet, and led her away.
As Syusai and Sobei lifted the bushels of rice to take with them, Sobei looked down at the peasants in amusement. “Who would have thought you could appease our rage by making us nostalgic about honor?” Then, quietly chuckling, the two bandit leaders headed back to their ship, with the Yakan soldiers forming up behind them, and the Mimizuku guarding the captured samurai and Kirara coming last.
All the farmers could do was watch in terror, then at last, Rikichi sank to his knees.
“I hope you know what you're doing, priestess,” he prayed, his heart heavy with fear. Then the sound of footsteps approaching made him glance up, and he saw the Elder standing beside him, watching the Nobuseri ship leave with an implacable expression on his face.
“Elder?” Rikichi whispered, not even certain what his question was, or even if he did, that he wanted to know the answer, but the Elder was silent.
For a long time, none of the farmers spoke, or even moved - they just stared into the distance, watching the Nobuseri ship fly off into the distance with the captured samurai and the water priestess.
“Have they gone?”
All of the farmers turned as a figure emerged from the trees.
Nasami, clad in her armor and holding Mamorimasu in her hand.
“Yes, great samurai,” Rikichi said softly. “But they sent one of the Mimizuku to your family's holdings.”
Nasami smiled grimly. “Well, too bad for him that he won't be reporting in to his masters any time soon.”
“You caught him already?” Gozaku said in disbelief.
“Of course,” she said, surprised he even had to ask.
Nasami flicked the blood from her blade in the ancient chiburi tradition, then resheathed the katana in the saya at her waist. “It's a well-known concept that `you cannot fight the enemy you do not know exists.'“
“I don't understand,” Rikichi said.
“First, we had to convince the bandits I was dead. After you did that, they stopped looking for me. Then the Nobuseri were so busy paying attention to all of you that they stopped tracking that Mimizuku just after they gave the order to head to the Kyuden. They never noticed he was dead before he ever left Kanna, more fools, they. And as for the rest of the bandits, well…”
She shrugged, and all of the peasants shuddered. “They won't be a problem much longer anyway.”
“I still don't understand why you didn't go with them,” Mosuke said hesitantly.
“Because I don't trust the Nobuseri any farther than I can throw them,” she replied, her eyes on the ship in the distance. “I will not leave Kanna undefended. So I will stay here until the samurai return.”
“But you're only one samurai!” Manzo stammered. “What are you going to do if the Nobuseri really do attack us?”
For a long time, she said nothing. At last, she turned her eyes to Manzo, who fell back from the coldness he saw there. “I'm going to kill them all.”
“In the meantime, I have an idea…” She thought for a moment, and then nodded to herself, gesturing to the rest of the men. “The Nobuseri are gone, so you can stop cowering. All of you, on your feet. Which four of you are the best archers?”
They looked at one another, and then four of them raised their hands. “We… actually shot the best during practice, great samurai.”
“Good. Go back to where the weapons have been stored and retrieve your bows and arrows,” Nasami ordered, and they bowed and dashed off. “Rikichi, go to the Mikumari's house, and bring back Shino, along with at least three other women, preferably young and strong. Tell Shino to bring her naginata with her, just in case, and mine.”
“Yes, great samurai,” Rikichi replied, bowing quickly, and then setting off at a run toward Kirara's house.
“So what's the plan, great samurai?” Gozaku asked after a few minutes, while Nasami stood and waited patiently for the others to return.
“Well, I don't have your experience with growing rice, but I'm fairly certain that most of you farmers harvest your rice at roughly the same time, correct?”
“Generally, yes,” Mosuke admitted, coming forward. “Of course, the exact day of harvesting may be different, but…”
“That much I understand. And we all know that Kanna is hardly the only village under the heel of the Nobuseri.”
“That's certainly true,” Yohei muttered. “All the villages in this region are plagued by those accursed bandits.”
Just then the four archers returned, bows over their shoulders, holding several arrows each. A minute or two later, Rikichi arrived with Shino and three other young women.
“Here you are, sensei,” Shino said, bowing slightly and handing the samuraiko a naginata.
“Excellent. Elder, if you would, please return to the Mikumari's house and let the women know we will be back shortly. Until then, they are to remain where they are. Everyone else, come with me. You four, keep your bows handy and an arrow in hand, all of you. And I want you all to understand this.”
She leveled her naginata at them and met the eyes of the farmers one by one. “If I tell you to stop, attack, run, or do anything else, you will do it and ask questions later. Are we clear on this?”
Everyone nodded and bowed.
“Wait, where are we going?” Manzo said, startled.
Nasami's eyes lit up as she turned her gaze toward the wreckage of the other Nobuseri ship.
The samuraiko carefully led the peasants across the remains of the fields on the far side of the canyon to where the Nobuseri ship lay, moving with no more sound than a ghost, the peasants cautiously following behind her. Abruptly she stopped, and held out a hand in warning to the farmers, who froze in their tracks. Then they stared in shock as a Yakan combat machine leisurely drifted past on guard.
“Don't move,” she whispered to the farmers. “Just wait for him to leave.”
Rikichi gulped, but crouched down out of sight, and eventually the Yakan moved past.
“All right, let's go.” Nasami took off toward the Nobuseri ship as quickly as possible, the peasants scrambling after her until they stood in the shadows of the enormous vessel. “Now, it should be… right… around… here!” She drove the end of her naginata into a panel, and with a slow hiss, the panel moved inward to reveal an open hatchway.
“Why didn't you just kill him, great samurai?” Gonzo asked her as she kicked the hatchway aside.
“Because you're supposed to be cowed, the samurai are supposed to be prisoners, and I'm supposed to be dead. Therefore, who could have killed him?”
Gonzo opened his mouth, then closed it again.
“Exactly,” she said softly, then she signaled to the four archers. “I want the four of you to stay here and stay hidden, and keep watch. As far as I can see, they've only assigned the one Yakan to keep watch. Do not attack him unless he gets suspicious and comes close enough to find you. You and you-” she pointed to the first two - “stay down here on the ground, while the other two are to climb up about twenty feet. If he attacks, take two shots each, then head back to the village as fast as you can and try to draw him off. He won't be able to navigate the canyon path as easily as you can on foot.”
“Yes, great samurai,” they chorused, their faces pale, and Nasami looked over at the remaining farmers.
“Follow me. Walk only where I walk, don't touch anything unless I say so, and keep your voices down.” With that, she vanished into the hatchway, and the others followed. Once inside, she moved to stand beside Shino. “I want you to stay here and keep watch as well,” she murmured, her voice low. “If the archers start shooting, stay hidden behind the door. If he follows them, fine, but if not, the Yakan will most likely come in here. If he comes in… deal with him.”
Shino's face was white, but she clutched the shaft of her naginata and nodded once. “Yes, sensei. I won't let you down.”
“I know you won't,” Nasami replied softly. “We will be back shortly.” She glanced at the other peasants. “Let's go.”
The samuraiko began leading the farmers up a long, spiraling staircase heading from the remains of the engine room up into one of the large corridors, and Nasami began to count under her breath as she climbed from landing to landing. When they reached a certain number, Nasami guided them down a corridor until they reached a door, then she waved the others back. Taking a firm grip on the naginata, she drew a deep breath, and then sliced downward as hard as she could, just to the left of the lock.
And with a loud clang, the door fell into the chamber beyond, as the peasants stared.
“I don't believe it…” Gozaku whispered, and Nasami's eyes narrowed, taking in the bundles of rice piled from floor to ceiling - almost a hundred of them.
“Believe it. The ill-gotten gains of the Nobuseri from a dozen villages across the countryside.”
“But how in the world did you know it was here?” Yohei blurted out.
“The day of the battle, after this ship was shot down, I came over here and scouted the entire ship, in case either I or the other samurai were ever taken aboard one of these things. I know how the Nobuseri think - they think they can never lose. And if they had just taken rice off another village, they would never stop to drop if off first before going into battle. I'd already checked most of the other space in this ship, and this is one of the few doors that was locked. Therefore, it was something worth hiding… or protecting. I didn't have the time to investigate then, but it was a very likely possibility. Now, to business. Each of you, take one bundle of rice for now. We will be back here again.”
“This is incredible!” Manzo said, his eyes wide. “We'll never have to worry about the bandits again!”
“Not so fast,” she warned. “Yes, we're going to take this out of here, but once it's been removed, you're hardly going to hide this that easily. Not until the bandits are completely destroyed. And second, we're going to send word to the villages around Kanna.”
“What for?” Rikichi asked.
“We're going to make sure that each village gets some of this. You're not the only ones facing starvation, and I won't have this rice hoarded when others are going hungry.”
“But they're not the ones who fought back,” Manzo said petulantly. “We're the ones taking all the risk-” He stopped as Nasami rounded on him, the very edge of her naginata touching his chest just over his heart. The other villagers just stared as the samuraiko glared at the terrified farmer, never taking her eyes from his, but then she lifted the blade away and turned her back on him.
“We've wasted enough time. Take one bushel each and let's get out of here.” Without another word, the peasants each lifted a bushel and balanced it on their shoulders with the ease of long practice, then they filed out of the ship one by one.
With a grunt and a curse, Katsushiro was flung into a holding cell inside the Nobuseri ship. Unable to strike back, he contented himself with glaring at the Mimizuku. In the next cells over, Gorobei and Kyuzo sat with their eyes closed, as though in meditation.
Meanwhile, up in the main control room of the Nobuseri ship, two Mimizuku were holding Kirara, along with Kikuchiyo's head suspended on a pike, while the Nobuseri leaders planned their next move. Kirara fidgeted, trying to get away from the two assassins without being obvious, but Sobei caught her at it.
“Don't get too cozy. We're delivering you to the capital.”
“Capital?” she asked in surprise, momentarily startled out of her efforts to get away from the Mimizuku.
“You sound surprised. You didn't think we were going to put you in with those samurai, did you? After all, sweet girls and sweet rice… they both fetch a high price.” Sobei's voice was smug, which was almost as bad for Kirara as the idea that she was about to be sold into slavery.
“So is that where you've taken all the other women you've abducted from our villages?” Her eyes were huge with the thought that Rikichi's wife and Honoka's sister had been taken that far away.
“You mean `saved,'“ he shot back. “They're in paradise now compared to the dungheaps they call home.”
“How can they possibly be happy when they're torn away from their homes and their families?” Kirara shouted, all of her fear forgotten in a wave of indignant outrage.
“You'll see for yourself soon enough,” the Nobuseri leader said silkily, and with that, Kirara felt as though the floor had dropped out from beneath her, until a portal window opened and she realized that the Nobuseri ship was moving down into the canyon. With a shriek, she fought against losing her balance, momentarily grateful that the Mimizuku were actually holding her upright. The ship descended, then lifted again on the far side of the canyon, and then rotated so that it was facing Kanna Village in the distance.
“Take a last look,” Sobei invited. “Soon your memory will be all that's left of this wretched village and its people.”
Kirara whirled around in horror. “But that's not the deal we made!” she cried. “You said you would spare them in exchange for my life!”
“I agreed to nothing,” Syusai said casually. “All I said was that you belong to me now.”
“And you call yourself a samurai?” she flung at him, but all he did was shrug.
“Samurai are a thing of the past.”
“Please don't do this, I'm begging you!” she pleaded.
The Nobuseri and Mimizuku ignored her, but suddenly the eyes of Kikuchiyo's helmet glowed.
Deep within the recesses of the Nobuseri ship, a mechanical arm shot up from inside one of the bushels of rice taken from Kanna.
In the holding cells, Gorobei scented the change in the air, and leaned forward. Twisting and contorting his upper body until it cracked and ached, he managed to free himself from his bonds, and with a wide grin, he got to his feet.
One by one, with weapons in hand, Kambei, Kikuchiyo, Shichiroji and Heihachi emerged from the stolen bushels of rice, gasping. Heihachi brushed loose rice from his clothes and his cap with a rueful grin. “Oh man, now I know how the rice feels!”
Shichiroji laughed at him. “With as much as you love the stuff, I'd have figured you'd enjoy it!”
“I do like rice,” the woodcutter admitted cheerfully. “In fact, after we finish up here, I could use a bowl or two!”
Kambei, however, was taking a moment to survey the room they were in, comparing it to the map that Nasami had provided all of them after her scouting mission the other day. Once he had everything straight in his mind, he was all business. “Heihachi, get to the engine room. You know what to do.”
“Sure thing,” Heihachi replied, nodding, and Kambei turned toward the door.
“All right, let's go.”
Testing the door, however, revealed it to be locked.
“Any bright ideas?” Shichiroji asked, leaning on his staff, but Kambei frowned in thought.
“A samurai's greatest strength is not found in his sword… it is found in his soul.” Nasami's words came back to him, and he smiled faintly to himself. “Well, Nasami, let's see if your words are true in a literal sense as well.”
He planted both feet, drew his sword, and turned it in his grasp so that the very edge of the blade was touching the doorframe. Closing his eyes, he focused all of his thought, all of his being on the blade, until it began to vibrate slightly, humming with power. The song of the sword grew louder and louder, until Kambei abruptly opened his eyes, and pushed with his soul.
The door shattered, to the astonishment of the dozen or so Mimizuku standing guard in the hallway outside.
They didn't get two feet when a figure in blue and red came swooping over Kambei's head - Shichiroji, using his naginata to pole-vault over the other samurai. “Sorry to drop in on you like this!” he shouted gleefully, knocking several of them aside, then taking on half a dozen on his own as Kambei and Heihachi charged into the fray.
Kambei raced down the corridor, slicing straight through a Mimizuku foolish enough to get in his way, but another stood guard at the door, laughing… but he stopped when Kambei lashed out with one foot, elbowed him in the face, whirled and brought his katana down in a vicious slash.
“HEIHACHI, GO!” he yelled, and with a quick bow, Heihachi lightly hopped over the bodies of the Mimizuku to head for the stairs.
“Hey, I'm already gone!”
“Us too?” Shichiroji asked as he straightened, and Kambei nodded. Then he turned to shout, “Kikuchiyo, let's move!” The headless samurai lifted his arms in a defiant gesture and blew steam in a silent laugh.
Up in the holding cells, one of the Mimizuku was taunting Gorobei, who looked as though he were fidgeting uncomfortably against the wall of his cell.
“Aww, what's wrong? Gotta go? Too bad you're just a lowly prisoner-” Abruptly he choked as Gorobei's hand shot through the bars and grabbed him by the throat. “You… bastard!” was all he managed to croak before he passed out, but Gorobei was fast enough to catch the keys off him before he fell to the floor.
For a moment, he studied them, then he dryly remarked to himself, “Well then, I guess it's time to earn my keep.”
In the cell to his left, he found Katsushiro seated on the floor, looking frustrated and disheveled, vainly trying to free himself from the ropes that bound him. Gorobei unlocked the door and peered inside.
“What's the matter? You haven't untied yourself yet?”
“Yeah, well, I didn't study circus tricks like you,” Katsushiro said defensively, still struggling to get loose. Gorobei just shrugged and stood up again, then he glanced over into Kyuzo's cell. The fair-haired samurai was seated placidly on the floor of his cell in the same cross-legged position he'd been in earlier, but this time his ropes were laid out in a neat circle around him.
“You've got to be kidding me!” Gorobei lamented, rubbing the back of his head. “No fun at all!”
To be continued…