Samurai 7 Fan Fiction ❯ The Sword of the Soul ❯ The Revenge of the Eight ( Chapter 29 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
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AUTHOR'S NOTES: It took me forever to get into the groove for this chapter, but I finally did it, and I think it came out well! What helped was that after DAYS of looking for the right music, I finally found it when I went back to a soundtrack that I had rejected for an earlier chapter. (I went through every soundtrack I own, looking for good combat music… not easy with a music collection like mine!)
Now more than ever, I SO wish I could animate… you'll understand why when you read it (hint: Rikichi and Nasami).
Chapter Twenty-Nine's music (a `must listen' when reading this chapter) is the terrific “Morlocks Attack” from the remake of THE TIME MACHINE.
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THE SWORD OF THE SOUL
© October 16th, 2005 By Michelle N Travis
Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Revenge of the Eight
“Move in a little closer,” Syusai rumbled, and the Nobuseri ship turned slightly to provide a better view of Kanna Village in the distance.
“Please, Nobuseri, where is your honor?” Kirara shrieked. “You can't do-” Her words choked off abruptly as one of the Mimizuku standing beside her, at a gesture from Sobei, casually drew his katana and placed it beneath her chin to silence her.
“Shut up and watch,” Syusai taunted, relishing the look of open panic on the water priestess' face.
Far beneath the viewport, however, the samurai were far from idle. Guided by Nasami's information, along with Kikuchiyo's head sending information along to his body, Kambei, Shichiroji, and Kikuchiyo quickly made their way from one side of the Nobuseri ship to the other. A group of Mimizuku and Yakan were stationed as guards on the far side, but the samurai charged straight into them. Taken completely by surprise, the bandits counterattacked, but were able to do little to fend off their assailants.
Shichiroji in particular was enjoying himself, swinging his naginata around and taking on both Mimizuku and Yakan with glee. “Come on guys, you could at least try!” he shouted cheerfully even as he knocked out another Mimizuku, and Kikuchiyo's large sword carved a Yakan clear in half.
“Quickly, inform Lord Syusai!” one of the Mimizuku shouted to a Yakan, who turned and headed for the stairs. Kambei, however, spotted him leaving, and got Shichiroji's attention with a shout.
“I'm all over it!” Shichiroji called back, and hurled his naginata like a javelin. His aim was true, and the Yakan went tumbling into the darkness.
“Damn you!” the Mimizuku cursed, but Kambei brought his katana down in a vicious slice, then caught the bandit's katana in his free hand. He turned briefly to check on Shichiroji and Kikuchiyo, then called, “Come on!” and ran for the stairs, the blond samurai pausing just long enough to retrieve his weapon.
Heihachi, in the meantime, had decided to get down to the engine room as fast as possible, so he'd crawled into a Yakan shell, positioned it at the top of the spiral staircase, and rolled all the way down. As he tumbled out at the bottom, however, he was rubbing his head and ruefully wishing he could have left his stomach at the top of the stairs.
Up in the prison cells, Gorobei, Kyuzo, and Katsushiro were also making their presence felt, even as more of the Mimizuku assassins arrived to prevent them from leaving.
“Very clever!” one of the Mimizuku taunted. “But you are outnumbered, and you are unarmed-”
Gorobei immediately shoulder-checked him, snatched his katana away, leapt over the Yakan behind him, and yanked open the lid of the Yakan shell to dispatch its operator. Kyuzo was already moving like a red whirlwind, and in an instant had two katanas in his hand and was carving a swathe through the group of Mimizuku that surrounded him.
Katsushiro stood open-mouthed. “That was incredible, Gorobei-dono!” he whispered, but the street performer picked up another katana and threw it to him.
“Here. In case you feel like helping out.”
Katsushiro froze, staring at the sword as though he'd suddenly found himself holding a live cobra. Since the night he'd killed Genzo, he had not been in combat, had struggled even just to practice his kata, and all at once his heart was pounding and he couldn't breathe.
One of the Mimizuku, noticing his distraction, attacked with a shout and sent the young samurai flying into a wall, his katana skidding away along the floor while other Mimizuku closed in. Katsushiro landed on the ground with a grunt of pain, and when he looked up and saw five Mimizuku surrounding him, he flattened himself against the wall in panic. His breath came faster and faster, and in a sudden moment of clarity, he heard Nasami's voice.
“I have no life or death…”
“I make the tides of breathing my life or death…” he whispered as he had on that sunlit afternoon by the river, and he drew in slow and deliberate breaths as he had been taught, timing each inhalation and exhalation to the slamming of his heartbeat.
In the midst of his own struggles, Gorobei glanced over and saw the young man standing with his back to the wall, surrounded by assassins. “Katsushiro!” he shouted, but the young man stopped him with a single shake of his head.
“I don't need your help!” he yelled back, and without turning around, Gorobei neatly skewered another Mimizuku, grinning.
“So you're a samurai?” Kambei's question from their first meeting so long ago echoed in Katsushiro's mind.
“I…” he whispered, his eyes wide and his face pale.
“A samurai is one who brings death…” came the memory of Nasami's voice.
“I… I am… indeed…”
The Mimizuku lifted their weapons and slowly advanced.
“… A SAMURAI!” Katsushiro screamed from the very depths of his soul.
Lunging forward, he aimed a deadly palm strike straight at one of the Mimizuku. In an instant, the assassin's sword was in his hand, and the young man was moving without thought, lost in a red haze as time itself slowed and his katana moved with a life of its own. Within a handful of heartbeats, he had cut down three more of them, rolled to one side, and with an accuracy he'd never realized he possessed, flung his katana straight into the chest of a fourth. The bloodlust sang in his veins as he frantically searched for another target, and he threw himself at a Mimizuku who was trying to rouse one of the others, knocking him to the ground. Again and again he pounded on the assassin with his fists before finally grabbing his sword away and driving it into his body with a wild cry.
Time started again and the red haze vanished, and suddenly Katsushiro was staring at the blood on his hands and the katana he held. With a hoarse scream, he plunged the katana into the ground beside the Mimizuku's body and rolled off him, dragging air into his lungs in heaving breaths that were almost sobs.
Then he looked up and saw Kyuzo and Gorobei watching him. The street performer came over to stand over him, staring down at him with a strange mix of emotions on his face - pride, despair, disgust, concern. But in the end, he turned away, and murmured, “Let's go.”
Heihachi stood before the enormous gears of the engines, watching them turn and move, driving power to the ship.
“I gotta get the timing of this just right,” he murmured. “Hmmm…”
In his mind, he quickly did a series of calculations, and compared it to the timing of the gears. As his brain worked out the rhythm, he grinned and rubbed the back of his head, and started to sing the same goofy song that Rikichi had sung to distract the Yakan soldiers. Leaping up onto the nearest gear, he lightly danced from one to the other, twisting and turning easily in time to the song as the huge metal parts swung mere inches away from his body. However, while leaping off the last gear, he tripped and stumbled, nearly landing facefirst on the floor.
“Whoops!” he laughed, hopping from one foot to the other in a frantic attempt to gain his balance back. Then he laughed out loud and dashed over to the engine controls, and gleefully began reprogramming them. Circuits were shut down, power was rerouted, commands were disabled, all while his hands danced over the controls just as easily as he had danced among the moving engine gears. At last, he reached up to the lever that would reroute the power, and with a heartfelt “Here goes nothing…”, he yanked down as hard as he could.
The swinging pendulum driving the engine gears faltered, then slowed, then stopped.
In the main chamber, Kirara felt the floor shudder beneath her feet. Glancing outside, she saw that the ship appeared to be slowly descending.
The Nobuseri noticed it too.
“What's this?” Syusai asked. “We seem to be losing altitude.”
Sobei turned to one of the attending Yakan soldiers. “Take care of it!” he called.
“Yes, lord,” the Yakan replied with a salute, turning to head down the stairs. But moments after he disappeared, the Yakan came flying straight back up into the air with a sword stuck through him, then crashed into the floor.
Kirara gasped in surprise, and even the Nobuseri were startled. One of the Yakan, however, recovered his wits long enough to yell, “Show yourself!”
Clumping up the stairs came Kikuchiyo's headless body, and up on the platform, Kikuchiyo's head crowed out, “Hey, what took you so long?”
His body waved back cheerfully, ignoring the two Yakan that had started hitting him, then it quickly belted both of them aside and made a mad dash for the platform as Kikuchiyo yelled, “Come on, hurry it up there, body!”
A moment later, Kambei and Shichiroji emerged as well, and Kirara let out a joyful gasp. “Great Kambei, you made it!”
“Clever trick, samurai,” Syusai hissed, his eyes flaring bright,” but now it ends!” Immediately several sections of the floor opened up, and from the lower chambers emerged five Raiden.
“Raiden squad, reporting!” they shouted in unison.
“They say you're quite skilled, but you're sadly outnumbered,” Syusai remarked, but all Kambei did was smirk, for as if by magic, Gorobei came crashing through the ceiling, sword drawn, and he landed hard on the platform just behind Kirara and her guards. With two quick slashes, he dispatched the two Mimizuku and snatched up the pole with Kikuchiyo's head, then shouted cheerfully, “Then let's even things up a bit!”
“Yeah, let's kick his big ass!” Kikuchiyo's head chimed in.
Syusai growled, then shouted, “KILL THEM!”
“With pleasure,” one of the Raiden replied, but no sooner did he turn to attack than his right arm was severed from his body, and he fell heavily into one of the other Raiden. “What the…?”
The wall beside him came crashing down, and riding one of the panels all the way to the floor was Kyuzo, swords drawn and murder in his eyes.
“KYUZO!” Syusai shouted, but all the fair-haired samurai did was growl and leap forward into the fray.
Gorobei, in the meantime, picked up Kirara and leapt down to a lower platform. “You stay right here,” he told her, and she nodded.
“Whatever you say.”
He picked up Kikuchiyo's head and jumped down into the thick of the combat where Shichiroji and Kambei were decimating the ranks of Mimizuku and Yakan. Grinning, he sprinted past Kikuchiyo's body and tossed his head at him with a cheerful “Heads up!”
“Yeah, funny!” Kikuchiyo remarked, grabbing his head.
Kyuzo was scything through Mimizuku one after another, whirling and twisting, until even the Mimizuku were giving him a wide berth. Kikuchiyo jammed his head back down onto his shoulders, felt the circuits link back up, and with a loud shout proclaimed, “KIKUCHIYO'S BACK! Oh, when I get my hands on you bandits, you're gonna…”
His words were cut off by a hoarse cry as a wild-eyed Katsushiro ran past him straight into the combat, skewering a Mimizuku straight into a wall.
“Oh, no… Katsushiro…” Kirara stared at Katsushiro in horror, her eyes filling with tears as she watched him cut down one Mimizuku after another, the bloodlust and fury filling his eyes until they seemed to consume him.
The samurai continued mowing down the bandits as Kikuchiyo shouted in frustration, “Hey guys, leave some for me!” He immediately dashed toward them, only to realize that he had no idea where his katana was. “Sword… sword?”
Sobei'd had enough, however, and he lifted his sword in clear challenge. “KYUZO!” he screamed, bringing the enormous weapon down with all of his strength. Kyuzo, however, merely turned and held his own katanas in guard position as the sword crashed down where he was standing.
“Kyuzo!” Kikuchiyo shouted in panic as he finally recovered his own sword, but a sudden metallic screeching made everyone turn, as Kyuzo sliced his way clear along the length of Sobei's blade, only to leap into the air and start carving up the Nobuseri leader, his blades flashing faster than the eyes could track.
“Kyuzo, go for his chest! It's his weak point!” Kambei yelled over the chaos, and Kyuzo nodded slightly to indicate that he'd heard.
“Cursed samurai,” Syusai hissed, leveling his huge eight-barreled cannon at Kambei.
“I hate guns,” Shichiroji sighed as Kirara gasped and Kikuchiyo hollered, “Look out!”
But as Syusai fired, Shichiroji leapt at his former commander and shoved him out of the way, so that when the smoke had cleared, a stray shot had only grazed Kambei's shoulder, while Shichiroji's mechanical arm had blocked most of the rest. The blond samurai smirked, then with a gesture, his mechanical hand shot out and lassoed the end of Syusai's cannon, pulling him into the air. He swung around with the ease of long practice, holding out his naginata, and shouted, “KYUZO-DONO!”
The fair-haired assassin took one of his swords between his teeth and caught hold of the naginata shaft as Shichiroji swung past. Their next swing gave Kyuzo enough momentum to slide straight past Sobei's defenses toward his chest, and even as the Nobuseri leader recoiled in horror, Kyuzo's swords were taking the huge bandit apart from the inside, and the bandit's mechanical body exploded as Kyuzo dove to safety.
Then the whole world seemed to shake as the lower half of the Nobuseri ship, its engines and navigation consoles unattended, scraped against the ground.
“I've had enough of you!” Syusai bellowed, leveling his cannon at Kambei again, but part of the ceiling collapsed and landed square on his gun arm, knocking the gun harmlessly aside.
Levels below, Heihachi was running like mad, screaming in panic as the engine room exploded into flames behind him.
One of the lower extensions of the Nobuseri ship disappeared in a burst of fire and smoke, and the farmers of Kanna watched in amazement and horror as the ship began to tilt forward precariously.
Syusai, however, had not given up on killing Kambei, and he managed to recover his weapon and aim it at Kambei once more. But the samurai charged at the bandit, reversing his grip on his katana, and shoved the sword straight into the barrel just as Syusai fired. The backlash blew out the cannon, but Kambei was thrown halfway across the chamber and slid across the floor in pain.
“Great samurai!” Kirara shrieked in horror, but then the platform she was on shuddered and tilted, and she was pitched screaming toward the floor far below.
“LADY KIRARA!” Katsushiro howled, diving for her, and with the last of his strength, he hurled himself across the room and caught the girl as she fell. She collapsed against him, sobbing as her composure finally snapped.
His mechanical body damaged and sparking, Syusai turned to study Kambei. “You… in the Great War, who did you serve?” he asked the samurai, but Kambei placidly stared back, his hand clutching his shoulder where the shot had grazed him. “From your tattered appearance, you must have fought on the losing side!”
Kambei still said nothing, but just smiled calmly at the bandit leader.
Just then, Heihachi came sprinting out from the lower levels. “Everybody, move!” he shouted over the noise, just as an explosion sent him sprawling forward to the floor.
“Heihachi!” Shichiroji called, starting forward, but the mechanic waved him back.
“Get out of here, she's gonna blow!”
Kambei was on his feet in an instant, calling orders. “Shichiroji, find us a way out of here!”
“Sure thing!” He ran toward the viewport and swiftly assessed the landscape.
“You should get moving as well,” Kambei told Kikuchiyo, who barged past him with a “Hey, don't need to tell me!”
Bracing himself in the open space with his naginata, Shichiroji could see a tree growing out of the mountainside, and fired his mechanical hand at it to lasso it and pull it down like a makeshift bridge. Kikuchiyo came up behind him and planted one foot on Shichiroji's naginata to hold it in place, as Kyuzo, Heihachi, Kirara and Katsushiro fled across the bridge to safety.
“We did it!” Kikuchiyo crowed, but Shichiroji shook his head.
“Not quite yet!”
“Oh! What do you mean?”
“You're the anchor, big guy!” Shichiroji explained, then he glanced over his shoulder. “KAMBEI-SAMA!”
Kambei had reclaimed his sword and was staring implacably at the bandit leader who lay wounded on the chamber floor.
“Samurai relic,” Syusai rumbled in disgust, but Kambei just bowed.
“I am indeed a samurai,” he murmured, then he turned on his heel, and leapt over Shichiroji and Kikuchiyo. “We're done here!”
“Take your time there, Kambei!” Kikuchiyo called, and he lifted his foot and pulled Shichiroji to his feet.
“Let's move!” the pilot shouted, and together, he and Kikuchiyo dashed across the tree, but behind them, the Nobuseri ship gave a mighty shudder as it hit the cliff face, throwing both of them forward into the cliff face, and then the ship descended into the canyon with an almighty crash, a booming explosion, and a smothering cloud of black smoke while the samurai and Kirara clung desperately to the cliffside.
As the smoke cleared, Shichiroji was revealed to be hanging slackly in Kikuchiyo's grip, the big machine samurai having driven his katana into the cliff and grabbing the back of Shichiroji's coat. The pilot gave a heaving sigh. “So, this is it, huh? This is how it all ends for Shichiroji? Hanging off the side of a canyon? I must be losing my touch!”
“What, you want me to drop you or something?” Kikuchiyo laughed. “`Cause I will!” But Shichiroji immediately began to thrash around indignantly.
“Whoa, hey, come on! Let's not do anything rash!”
Near Kanna, the farmers and the samurai were not the only ones watching the wreckage of the Nobuseri ship smolder and burn.
“It would seem that we have been deceived.”
“So it would appear. We should have known better than to believe those wretched farmers.”
“What do you mean?”
“That is the work of samurai. Somehow they managed to escape and are turning everything upside down.”
“We will finish what they started. Prepare to raze Kanna Village to the ground. No survivors.”
“Great samurai!” The panicked cry went up all over Kanna Village, and Nasami looked up from where she was supervising the storage of the rice she and the farmers had taken from the wreck of the Nobuseri ship.
“What is it? What's wrong?” she asked in alarm as Rikichi, followed by several of the other farmers, came running for her as though hell itself were chasing them.
“Bandits! The bandits are coming!”
Her eyes narrowed. “How many?”
Gozaku was gasping for breath. “At least thirty Yakan, fifteen Mimizuku, and five Raiden that we saw!”
“Well, well, well,” the samuraiko said quietly. “It seems that the Nobuseri aren't as stupid as they appear at times.”
“What do you mean?” Yohei stammered.
“They're reinforcements. If my guess is correct, the Nobuseri were planning to destroy Kanna anyway, and the ones on their way here were to make sure that you were all dead and then take whatever was salvageable.” She turned to Gozaku. “How long until they get there?”
“They'll be here in less than ten minutes!” he replied.
Nasami closed her eyes for just a moment and drew a deep breath, then she released it, opened her eyes, and began shouting orders to all of the farmers within earshot.
“All of you, listen to me! I want the women and children to head to the water priestess' home! Those of you storing rice, drop what you're doing and grab your bows! I want every single archer in this clearing in three minutes! And if anyone sees Shino, I want her here, and I mean right now!”
Accustomed to obeying the samurai's instructions without question, the women immediately gathered their children and headed once again for the Mikumari's house, while most of the men ran for the hut where the weapons were stored. Shino arrived a few moments later, drawn by her sensei's shouts, carrying her naginata.
“What are we going to do, great samurai?” Mosuke yelped in panic.
Nasami looked at him in mild surprise. “You have to ask? We're going to fight.”
“But how?” Rikichi protested, his eyes huge. “You're the only samurai here! The only true swordsman! There's no way we can do this!”
“Then allow me to put this into terms that farmers can understand,” the samuraiko said softly, and drew her katana. She turned to the farmers and met their eyes, one at a time. “The next person who says this cannot be done will die by my hands, not the Nobuseri's. Are we clear?”
Every single farmer went white, but Nasami did not look away.
“Good. Let's go.”
The Nobuseri arrived at the outskirts of Kanna Village, and stopped in surprise.
Standing arrayed against them in a line were at least three dozen farmers armed with bows, arrows nocked. About twenty feet in front of the farmers was a woman with long white hair, wearing armor and wielding a katana. Standing just behind her and slightly to her left was a peasant girl holding a naginata at the ready.
“And what do we have here?” the Raiden leader boomed in a rumbling voice.
The samuraiko leveled her katana at the Nobuseri in a clear gesture of challenge. “You will not enter Kanna,” she called out. “Leave now, or be cut down.”
“Samurai filth, who do you think you are?” one of the other Raiden hissed.
“Who am I?” she repeated, taking a step forward. “I am the one who is going to destroy you absolutely. I am the one who is going to end the miserable lives of every single bandit who dares advance on this village while I live. I am the one who is going to use your remains as a pyre to warn anyone against taking what is not theirs.”
“And you think you can do all that by yourself?” the Raiden leader said in clear amusement. “You are one, we are fifty.”
“I am one,” she replied softly, taking her stance as her katana gleamed in the late afternoon sun, “but I am samurai.”
“Kill her!” the leader shouted, and with that, the Yakan foot soldiers and Mimizuku charged.
“FOR KANNA!” the samuraiko shouted, raising her katana, and the farmers lifted their bows to their shoulders, drew back the strings, aimed, and fired. A wave of arrows slammed into the attacking bandits, momentarily slowing them, and in that instant, Nasami leapt forward into their midst. Moving and twisting like a dervish, she cut down enemy after enemy, ignoring the arrows that rained down around her.
“Nasami-sama!” Rikichi yelped, but the samuraiko barely spared him a glance over her shoulder.
“Keep firing, damn you!” she yelled. “Don't worry about hitting me, be more concerned with hitting them!”
“Cursed samurai!” one of the other Raiden shouted, advancing forward. Nasami whirled around, cleanly decapitating another Mimizuku, and took a defensive stance against the Raiden, but the Yakan and Mimizuku around her moved in to press their advantage.
“FOR SENSEI!” Shino screamed, following Nasami into battle, swinging her naginata as she had been taught, disarming Mimizuku and Yakan soldiers alike as they swarmed around Nasami.
“FOR SANAE!” Rikichi yelled, nocking a fresh arrow, as did the other farmers, and this time their arrows were directed at another of the Raiden, who fell back against the onslaught of arrows. Nasami launched herself into the air, and as she fell, she methodically took apart the Raiden that had challenged her as the farmers' arrows finally felled their target. As soon as her feet touched the ground, she was moving again, scything her way through the remaining Mimizuku and Yakan.
“Samurai whore!” the fourth Raiden shouted. “How dare you defy us?” He lifted his sword, but he was not aiming at Nasami.
Instead, he turned and prepared to kill the farmers where they stood.
“NOOOOOO!” Nasami howled, breaking off her attack against the last of the Yakan and Mimizuku to attack the Raiden before the blow could fall. But no sooner did she turn than one of the Mimizuku lifted his own katana and stabbed viciously at her vulnerable back.
“Sensei!” Shino screamed, concern for the samuraiko overriding any sense of self-preservation, and she swung the naginata with all of her might, carving the Mimizuku in half. Nasami, in the meantime, snatched up one of the Mimizuku's katanas and flung it straight at the Raiden's head, blinding him as the blade connected with his eyes. He let out a mechanical shriek of pain, dropping his sword, and Nasami cut his legs out from under him, then cut him neatly in half.
“For that,” the Raiden leader said, his voice harsh, “I will kill all the peasants first, and then you!”
Faster than even Nasami could react, he brought his katana down and the peasants scattered as the earth trembled from the force of the blow. Several of the farmers fell, others tumbled out of the way while still more dragged their friends away.
Rikichi, however, had been so overwhelmed by the sight of the bandit leader that he had frozen, and had narrowly avoided being sliced in half. He crouched on the ground, frightened as he had not been since that day in the Shikimoribito caverns and a Raiden had turned his attention to him.
And the Raiden leader lifted his katana once more. “You… yes… I recognize you. Foolish peasant, you so eagerly courted death before, so I will give it to you now!”
Rikichi stared up at the Raiden, paralyzed in terror at the sight of the enormous blade poised to come crashing down. He couldn't run, couldn't think…
Then the sword descended, and he instinctively closed his eyes.
The blow never landed, but suddenly there was a deafening scream of fury and an almighty clang. The farmer's eyes opened wide in disbelief at the sight of Nasami standing over him like an avenging angel, her katana braced over her head where she had deflected away the blow.
“If you want him, you'll have to go through me,” she hissed through gritted teeth, staring up defiantly at the enormous bandit. Her arms trembled with the effort of keeping the sword aloft, but she did not lower her weapon.
“G-great samurai,” Rikichi whispered, but Nasami ignored him.
“Get out of the way, little girl,” the Raiden growled at her, pressing down harder on his katana and forcing the samuraiko to her knees, but she refused to yield. Abruptly he lifted the sword and again swung it downward, but again she blocked his attack, crying out in pain as the force of the swing nearly crushed her into the ground.
“I said YIELD!” the Raiden shouted, but with a supreme act of will, the samuraiko rose to her feet and lifted her head to meet his gaze directly.
“The hell I will, you Nobuseri bastard!”
She twisted her katana so that the Nobuseri's sword slid harmlessly to one side, leapt up onto the blade and ran straight along its length.
“Damn you!” the bandit shouted, drawing back his weapon in an attempt to make her fall, but no sooner did he raise the sword than she sprang into the air, her katana flashing in the sunlight, and beheaded the Raiden in a single perfect stroke. As his body exploded, she was thrown to the ground, landing in a crumpled heap, her katana embedded into the earth beside her.
“Sensei!” came Shino's cry, and she dropped her naginata to rush to the samuraiko's side. Rikichi was hot on her heels, the other farmers close behind him. For a long moment, they feared the worst, but then Nasami stirred groggily and stared up at them.
“Told you…” she murmured, her faint laughter mixing with the smoke and flames that tainted the field around them.
“Why did you do it, great samurai?” Rikichi asked her, crouching beside her and helping her to her feet. “I mean… you could have been killed, defending me like that!”
“That is what… samurai are for,” she said, wincing as she held her ribs. “But we should go and greet the other samurai. They should be arriving shortly… and we have much to tell them.”
To be continued…