Samurai 7 Fan Fiction ❯ The Sword of the Soul ❯ My Honor, My Heart, My Life ( Chapter 32 )

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

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Note: Which is harder? Never finding love, or finding it, and having to let it go? John always used to say that the hardest thing for Nasami to do as a samurai was to stand and watch something happen, but do nothing... And though I wrote and re-wrote "My Honor, My Heart, My Life" a dozen times, in the end, I knew that Nasami was doomed to repeat the events of her past, BECAUSE she is samurai.
(Note: the conversation Shichiroji remembers having with Nasami is a reference to Chapter Nine of my story "Dancing with Snowflakes.")
The truly ironic thing is... in spite of the fact that I hadn't seen the entire show... given what plot threads I had started way back when between Hyogo and Nasami (and his subsequent accusation against her), somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered if Kambei, truly caring for Nasami, would do something so brave and yet so stupid all at once for her. By the end of Episode 16, I knew I was right. By the time I got to the end of Episode 20, I just sat on the floor in front of the TV with my arms wrapped around myself, and I could not stop shaking. Yet another chapter where I cried as I wrote it...
The music for this chapter is the wonderful "Truman Sets Sail" from THE TRUMAN SHOW.
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© October 16th, 2005 By Michelle N Travis
Chapter Thirty-Two: My Honor, My Heart, My Life
"Are you out of your mind?" Nasami's shout echoed inside Rikichi's small house.
Kambei pushed his long wet hair back from his face as he made sure he had everything he would need on his solitary trek to the capital. "It has to be done, Nasami-san. And I will do it alone."
"What can you possibly accomplish, going to the capital alone?"
"I owe it to the memory of Gorobei... I stole his life away by bringing him here, and I will not rest until I have utterly destroyed those who have turned everything that we samurai believe into a mockery!"
Nasami's eyes narrowed, and she waved away his statement with a sweep of her hand. "This is not about justice, Kambei, this is about revenge. Do not think me so foolish to not know the difference."
He stopped, but didn't look at her. "Maybe so... but I will be the one whose honor is compromised for it. Not you, nor anyone else."
"But what possible reason could you have for going there? What?"
"I made a promise, to Rikichi and to Honoka, that I would rescue their loved ones. And so I shall."
"You did what?" The samuraiko was aghast, knowing full well what a samurai promise meant, but one look from Kambei was all the answer she needed, and Nasami groaned silently.
"I'm sorry... I didn't know." That much was true - Nasami had not been with Kambei and the others when Rikichi's guilt and fear had compelled his confession of his loss of Sanae, nor had she been present when they had learned of Honoka's duplicity in her efforts to save her younger sister.
Kambei nodded to show he understood. "I know. And thanks to the information that Kirara brought back from the Nobuseri, we know they are being held at the capital. So that is where I will go. And I will... convince the Emperor of your innocence."
Nasami's frustration came back in a sudden rush. "And what good will that do you if you get caught?"
"Then at least the Emperor will no longer seek you out as the murderer of the Envoy."
The samuraiko went cold, the blood in her veins turning to ice as her heart stopped within her.
"No..." she whispered at last, her voice low but filled with the absolute command that all true samurai possessed. "You cannot do this, Kambei."
"You cannot stop me." His voice was equally low, but equally commanding.
"You don't even know where the capital is!" she shouted in exasperation.
"That's true, I don't," he agreed. But he looked over his shoulder at her. "But you do."
Nasami froze. "What?"
Kambei did not look away from her, even as the samuraiko's face turned pale. For days, he had been racking his mind, trying to think of a way to find the capital when one night, the answer had come to him. "You've spent a good deal of time there, as I understand it. Especially given your family's ties to the Emperor's Champion."
"No, Kambei-san, absolutely not!" she said vehemently, clenching her hands in fists at her sides.
"Why not?" he shot back.
"You're not seriously expecting me to tell you the way to your own death!"
"That is exactly what I am expecting you to tell me, but I have no intention of dying."
"You cannot go by yourself," she protested. Making her faltering way across the room, she reached out her hand to stop him. "At least let me come with you!"
"No," he said firmly, resting his sword at his hip and turning to face away. "When we left the Shikimoribito's caverns to come to Kanna, you were the one who went on alone to protect the rest of us."
"That's because I was still being hunted as a murderer," she said through gritted teeth. "And I would not have endangered the group like that. But-" she raised her hand to stop him from interrupting, "don't tell me that it's the same thing. This is just suicide to go alone!"
"Your still being hunted is the reason you're staying behind."
"Keeping me here still means that Kanna itself is at risk, or have you forgotten?" Nasami shot back.
"The others will remain here as well, to protect you, and Kanna as well," Kambei replied.
"You don't need to protect me, Kambei, I can take care of myself!"
"You will remain here, damn it," he shouted. "I will not put you in harm's way."
The thought that Kambei still lacked faith in her and her abilities, even after everything they had been through, cut through Nasami like the sharpest blade, and she dropped her hand and took an unconscious step away from him.
"Why are you so desperate to protect me?" she whispered, her eyes filled with pain. "Do you still not believe in me?"
Kambei groaned and rested his hands on her shoulders, then bowed his head. The irony of it all was almost enough to make him laugh, if it didn't hurt so much. Of all the samurai, of everyone in the world, for that matter, he trusted the samuraiko more than any other person alive, save Shichiroji... trusted her, believed in her... "It's not that, Nasami. I swear it. I swear it on everything I have ever held sacred in this life."
"Then why?"
"You wouldn't understand."
She rested her hands on his chest, staring up at him. "Then make me understand... anata."
The plea broke his heart, something he thought himself immune to after years of a near-meaningless existence. All at once, his mind was filled with images of her - standing in the courtyard beneath the stars, performing the Kata of Seven Swords, holding up the long tress of hair she'd won from him, stunning the villagers with a feat of archery, lying deathly pale after Hyogo nearly killed her...
"Because," Kambei whispered, every word torn from the depths of his soul, "for the first time in years, the emptiness within me has been filled, and I feel... alive."
His hands tightened on her shoulders as his body began to tremble. "I've already stolen Gorobei's life away. I cannot lose you, too, Nasami... not when everything you have done until now has been in the name of honor."
Slowly, silently, tears began sliding down Nasami's cheeks.
His voice shook with barely contained emotion. "I never thought... that I would ever feel anything again. But when I met you, all of a sudden, everything changed. When you almost died after your fight with Hyogo, I realized then that I could never stand aside and watch you die. I cannot bear to feel that emptiness again, but I would rather spend an eternity of emptiness inside than risk losing you."
At last, Kambei lifted his head to meet Nasami's gaze, and for what felt like forever, they stood there and stared at one another, all of the feelings that they had never been able to express there in their eyes for the other to see.
Nasami was silent, and as still as a statue. Before either of them realized what they were doing, they were in each other's arms, holding one another tightly as though protecting each other from the world around them.
"Please," he begged in a ragged whisper.
For a long moment, Nasami stayed in his arms, closed her eyes, and offered up a silent, desperate prayer.
Lady Sun, I love him... he is samurai, and I love him...
A single memory came forth, unbidden.
"He must be something special," Yoshio murmured, "if my little sister thinks so highly of a ronin outcast." Then he raised his eyes to hers. "You are in love with Shimada Kambei, aren't you?"
She could not make herself speak, but she nodded once.
The ghost sighed. "Does he know?"
Nasami shook her head.
"And your feelings for Mirumoto Kuroshin?"
She had never told Kuroshin of her feelings, and in the end, she had lost him without him ever knowing how she had loved him. And though she had kept her silence out of respect for Kuroshin despite the terrible cost... though everything in her cried out to tell Kambei how she felt, not to make the same choice that she had before... she said nothing.
And just as it had that long-ago day in Winter Court, just as it had the night her brother's soul had appeared, Nasami felt her heart shatter inside of her.
"I love you," she whispered silently, "but I am samurai."
So she kept her eyes closed tightly, listening to the beat of Kambei's heart, feeling the warm strength of his arms around her, carving everything about the moment into her memory for the long, empty nights to come. Then she straightened to her full height, squared her shoulders, and let the placid expression she so often wore as a samurai cover her features until there was no emotion there at all.
"I would rather die."
And without another word, she stepped away from the samurai, turned, and walked out into the rain, leaving Kambei standing alone.

Kirara came upon Nasami standing near the remains of the bridge, staring off into the distance. "Great Nasami, I wanted to make sure that you were all…" Kirara's words trailed off as she took in the samuraiko's appearance. Her eyes widened in shock at Nasami's heartbroken expression, the pallor of her face and defeated slump of her shoulders. "Nasami-dono, what… what happened?"
Nasami shrugged.
But for once, the water priestess would not be deterred, and she walked around to face Nasami directly. "You don't fool me," she said bluntly. "I think I know you well enough by now to say that."
The samuraiko's bitter chuckle made Kirara's blood run cold. "Oh, I doubt it."
"Please, great samurai, what is it?" the priestess begged. "Tell me!"
With a long sigh, barely audible above the falling rain, Nasami's eyes met Kirara's. "I had a chance to change things this time, but instead... I... am watching my past repeat itself, Kirara."
"What do you mean?"
"Kambei has left. He's going to the Emperor's capital… alone."
"What?" Kirara gasped. "And you let him go?"
Nasami nodded slowly.
"I don't understand..." Kirara put one hand to her head, nearly reeling in shock.
Nasami shook her head, her long white hair blowing about her face, and resumed her staring off into the distance. "No... you wouldn't. You are not samurai."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Kirara asked.
"He said he would rescue Sanae, so he will do it. He said he would rescue Honoka's sister, so he will do it."
"Honesty and sincerity are two of the tenets of the code of bushido," Nasami explained. "Being samurai means when you say you will do something, you do it. You need not promise, or give your word. Just as he agreed to come to Kanna to defend it against the Nobuseri. As each of us did."
"That's just semantics," the water priestess said, waving her hands in frustration. "He couldn't have meant doing it all by himself!"
"Do you doubt me? Or do you doubt him?" The samuraiko's gaze was level, and Kirara was startled at the flame that seemed to burn in Nasami's eyes. "As for letting him go... I could not do otherwise. To do so would insult his courage, his honor, his word as a samurai, and my trust in him."
Nasami turned away once more, her hand resting on the pommel of her katana, her fingertips brushing the long locks of Kambei's hair woven through the tsuba. "Believe me, Kirara, letting him go alone was the last thing I wanted. But... we cannot always have what we want. We can only accept that which is."
"But... he doesn't even know where it is!" Kirara protested. "I was there, the Elder asked him, and he said he didn't know!"
"Did you really think that would stop him?" the samuraiko said quietly.
"Then how did he find out?"
Nasami closed her eyes wearily. "Figure it out yourself."
Kirara stood staring at Nasami's back, her mind grasping for answers, trying to make sense of it all. None of the farmers knew where the capital was, that much was certain. None of the samurai knew, or they would have said something about it.
The samurai...
“So you grew up in court?” Heihachi asked around a mouthful of rice.
Nasami nodded.
“Wow, it must have been beautiful,” Kirara said wistfully. “Surrounded by finery, never having to work, never going hungry…”
“It was a privileged life,” Nasami agreed.
"You... you know where the capital is," she whispered. "Don't you, great samurai?"
The samuraiko nodded without opening her eyes. "Yes."
And all at once, horror washed over Kirara like an icy wave.
"You told him!" she accused, her voice nearly a shriek. "Nasami-sama, how could you? Don't you even care?"
"I care." Nasami's voice was flat, but there was no denying the truth of her words. "Which is why I told him nothing."
Then it hit Kirara. There was one person beside Nasami who would know... or rather, one group of people, who also had long-standing dealings with the capital. Then she was scrambling down the cliff face, trying to reach Kambei before it was too late, leaving Nasami standing alone on the cliff, her eyes once again open, and filled with an ancient pain.
"I am sorry, my sister," she heard.
"I had to do it," she whispered. "I had to let him go, Yoshio."
"Even though you love him?" he asked, but she shook her head, and she turned to see the shade of her brother standing beside her.
"No, my brother... because I love him."
His face, so like hers, was somber, and he rested one ethereal hand on her shoulder, the only comfort he could offer the sister who had miraculously found love a second time... and had once again sacrificed it in the cause of being samurai.

Nearly out of breath by the time she spotted him in the distance, Kirara summoned one last burst of energy to cry out, "Great Kambei, wait!"
The samurai neither stopped nor looked back.
She opened her mouth to call out again, but a raspy voice from above her made her pause. "Let him go."
Kirara glanced up and saw the Elder standing on the hillside above her, looking after Kambei. A look of profound sadness on his face, he sighed deeply. "He still has much to do. This battle may be won, but the war is not."
The priestess turned to watch Kambei walk away until he disappeared from sight. Above her, the Elder sighed again, this time to himself.
"Yes, the war still goes on," he murmured, his voice lost in the sound of the wind and rain. "Both this war... and the one within his own heart."

"I would rather die."
Far ahead of her, following the road that led out of Kanna, Kambei walked with single-minded purpose. He ignored the rain, ignored the wind, ignored the voice pleading behind him for him to come back. But as he headed north, try as he might, he could not stop thinking about Nasami.
"I would rather die."
Her last words to him echoed in his mind, drowning out all other sound, all other thought. Almost mechanically, his feet carried him along the road, toward the desert, the storm howling around him. He was oddly grateful for the storm and the rain, for they hid the tears on his face as he left behind the only woman he cared for.
"I would rather die."
"I won't let that happen," he whispered, clenching his hands into fists and blinking back his tears. "I would rather die."

Hours later, Kikuchiyo and the other samurai found Nasami sitting by the waterfall, her knees drawn up to her chest, her long white hair loose around her shoulders. Even as the rain streamed down around her, she seemed unaffected by it. She stared straight ahead, lost in her thoughts, staring northward.
"Nasami-dono?" Heihachi said softly. "You shouldn't be sitting here in the rain like this... you'll become ill, and then where will you be?"
The only indication that she heard him was a slow shake of the head.
Shichiroji sighed and came to crouch down next to her. "Don't worry, I'm sure Kambei-sama will be fine. But sitting here won't do any good, and you know it."
All she did was shake her head again.
"Please, Nasami-dono, what's wrong?" Katsushiro pleaded. It was almost painful to see the proud samuraiko so lost in her sorrow. "Why are you shutting us out?"
Her silence cut all of them like a blade, but they could see tears slowly sliding down her face.
Shichiroji and Heihachi looked at one another helplessly, then at Kyuzo, but all he did was shrug.
"She loves him."
Kyuzo's statement shocked all of the samurai, but Nasami's only response was to bow her head, her long hair falling to hide her face.
"She what?" Kikuchiyo whispered.
"She loves him."
"You mean... Kambei-sama?" Shichiroji asked, and Kyuzo nodded.
The other samurai stared at one another, but suddenly everything made sense. Kambei's overprotectiveness, Nasami leaving them behind to travel alone, the remarkable closeness between the two, and most recently, the samuraiko's moment of absolute despair beside the waterfall, where Kambei had sent all of them away to face her alone. It had been right there in front of them, and yet none of them had seen it.
Shichiroji looked back at the samuraiko, his heart sinking as he remembered a conversation between himself and the samuraiko one moonlit night...
"So I guess then the question is, what's stronger? Your honor... or your heart?"
That's not fair."
But that's what it all comes down to in the end, Nasami. When the time comes... which will you choose?"
I... I don't know."
"Oh, Nasami," he whispered, his own heart aching. "Does anyone else know about this?"
Kyuzo answered instead with a shake of his head.
Katsushiro stared at Nasami, remembering the night at Masamune's workshop when she and Kambei had spoken in the courtyard. Even then, the connection between the pair had been obvious. And then there was Kambei's almost bitter reaction to Katsushiro's accusation while travelling to Kanna...
“So how is what's going on with you and Nasami-dono any different?”
Kambei turned around to Katsushiro with a look on his face that the young samurai had never seen before.
Raw, nearly uncontrolled bitterness.
“The difference, were it any of your business, Katsushiro, is that unlike you, I am not hiding behind a lie.”
"Sensei feels the same for her." Katsushiro's voice was barely a whisper as the truth slowly dawned on him. "But he is a samurai..."
"And so he left her behind," Heihachi finished somberly. "And because she is samurai... she let him go."
Shichiroji in particular was kicking himself for not having realized what had been going on between his friend and the samuraiko.
“`A certain charm?' Don't you have eyes? Or maybe you haven't realized that by not saying anything, you've spoken more clearly than you ever could have with words.”
I didn't realize that you gave up being samurai to become a matchmaker.”
What are you afraid of, Kambei-sama?”
Then, with surprising tenderness, Kikuchiyo knelt down beside Nasami, and startled all of them by drawing the samuraiko into his arms. Yet even then, she did not relax into Kikuchiyo's arms, but held herself as stiffly as before.
"You once told me," he told her, "that 'I know that you're angry because you feel powerless…', because I was stuck on the whole being samurai thing, and forgetting about me. Remember?"
At that, her head came up, and she lifted her gaze to meet Kikuchiyo's, and nodded.
"You're always so proud, so strong," he went on. "Living up to this legend of yours. But like you told Kambei before... underneath all of that... you're still... Nasami."
He carefully lifted a hand and stroked her long hair. And with that, she finally gave in to her tears, and the machine samurai held her tightly as she cried.
To be continued...