Samurai 7 Fan Fiction ❯ The Sword of the Soul ❯ As the World Falls Down ( Chapter 50 )

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

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Note: Anyway, this chapter is the inspiration for the art piece "As the World Falls Down," one of five pictures I commissioned from an artist friend of mine based on scenes from 'The Sword of the Soul' and some of its companion tales. By the time this chapter is published, I hope to see the artwork for "As the World Falls Down" completed for it. (The rough sketch was just lovely...)
"As the World Falls Down" was the other chapter in which the music I wanted didn't quite exist, so I created another remix. Originally, I had reversed the music for this chapter and the music for the chapter that follows, but the more I listened to them, the more I realized that they needed to be switched around. This time, the music is courtesy of the John Williams score for "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." Go me.
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© October 16th, 2005 By Michelle N Travis
Chapter Fifty: As the World Falls Down
The farmers of Kanna were all gathered at the edge of the canyon, staring at the widened ravine and the wreckage of the Capital ship below them. More than a few of them were in tears, while several of them were embracing each other for having survived.
"Is... is it over?" Manzo asked, looking at the others, who were looking around them still in shock at their narrow escape. He dropped to his knees, his weapon slipping from numbed fingers.
"I think so," Mosuke said faintly. "For a moment, I didn't think we were going to make it..."
"I know," Gozaku agreed, his voice sad. "But then I saw Kikuchiyo-sama and Nasami-sama... standing there on the other side..."
"What was that... that Nasami-sama did, anyway?" Yohei wondered aloud, staring at the destruction on the far side of the ravine. "I saw her raise her sword... and then..."
Shino was kneeling on the ground, her face in her hands, surrounded by her friends who were trying to console the farm girl after the loss of her sensei. At Yohei's question, she looked up, tears on her cheeks.
"Sunlight on the rice," she said softly, her voice carrying in the stillness. "The wind blows free through Kanna... even kami -" her voice choked on the last word - "... die."
Everyone turned to look at her.
"What did you say?" Gozaku asked.
"A poem," Shino whispered, her eyes dark with memory. "It was a poem... what sensei was shouting. Like a prayer to Lady Sun. That was the very last thing sensei said before she..."
"She was right, though," Gozaku told Shino, coming over to rest a hand on the girl's shoulder. "Nasami-sama vowed that the Capital wouldn't cross the ravine, not as long as even one of the samurai still lived. She kept that promise, Shino, she and the other samurai. And... and I know it sounds strange, but... I think that's the way she would have wanted it to be."
All the peasants, every single one, bowed their heads in sorrow.
"I wonder... if any of the samurai survived," Yohei murmured, clutching his bow closer to him.
"Lay down your weapons," the Elder told them as he watched the smoke billow up from the canyon. "This war is finally over."

With a faint groan, Kambei shoved upward on the deckplating that had landed on him and Shichiroji, sheltering them from the worst of the damage. Both of them looked and felt as though they had been run over by the Capital before it had crashed into the ravine, but the cool breeze on their cheeks felt incredibly good at that moment. Together they had ridden the Capital right up to the edge of the canyon, slicing and hacking at everything they could find to try and disable the airship before leaping off the side toward the ground below. At first, neither of them had been certain they would even make it, for no sooner had they jumped than one of the airship's fuel cells had exploded, throwing off their jumps and sending them hurtling downward. Only quick thinking on Shichiroji's part had saved them, for he'd used his grappling hand to slow their fall enough to avoid breaking their necks.
However, they had no time to rest, for just then a huge Raiden appeared from the debris, shouting in defiance, but then the last of its power cells gave out and it collapsed with an almighty crash into the dirt and lay still. The two samurai watched cautiously, making certain that the bandit wasn't using its fall as a ruse, but after several seconds, it became clear that it was dead.
A sudden clatter had their hands going to their swords once again, when Katsushiro surged out from beneath the debris. "Come out, Nobuseri! Where are you?" he shouted in fury, whirling around, his katana in hand. His eyes were huge in his face, his entire body twitching and shaking from the rush of adrenaline that was coursing through him.
"I'll kill you! I'll kill you all!" he screamed, but suddenly a hand reached out and caught his wrist, stilling his wild swings.
"The Nobuseri are dead, Katsushiro, and the Capital is no more," he said softly, staring down at the young man.
For a moment, Katsushiro stared up at Kambei with unseeing eyes, and then his knees gave out and he sank to the ground, shaking, drawing in fast and shallow breaths.
"You did well today, Katsushiro," Kambei told him quietly, looking down at him. "You should be proud of yourself and your skills."
Katsushiro, however, did not look at him, the memories of what he had done in the Capital still too fresh in his mind.
"Does this mean... I can stop living now?" he said, his voice faint, and Kambei started in surprise. "You said you needed me to keep living until this job was done. But the Capital has been destroyed, and the bandits are all dead. So... what use is there for me now? What reason do I have to go on?"
Kambei did not speak, but his gaze was caught by the sight of Komachi and Kirara standing by the bridge, staring at the devastation that had so nearly destroyed their homes and their lives.
"There is your reason, Katsushiro," he murmured, and the young samurai lifted his head and followed his gaze.
Shichiroji sighed and returned to Kambei's side from where he had been making a quick search of the battlefield, looking for other survivors. Of all of the samurai, he knew in his heart which one Kambei had hoped had survived the whole ordeal, but there was no sign of Nasami. "I couldn't find her," he told his former commander, his voice hoarse. "I'm sorry, Kambei-sama."
"But it appears we have survived yet again," Kambei said quietly, staring at the destruction around them.
"Yeah, I guess we have," Shichiroji agreed, also looking around them.

Standing near the ravine, Komachi was clutching Kikuchiyo's scroll to her chest, her eyes huge in her face as tears spilled down her cheeks.
"You were the first person who ever accepted me as a samurai... who believed in me. So I want you to have my most valuable possession. Keep it safe for me, and I'll be back for it. I promise."
She tried desperately to hold back her tears, to be strong, but as Kirara approached and took the girl in her arms, Komachi began to sob, and Kirara along with her.
"He... he promised!" Komachi wailed at last. "He promised he'd come back!"
"I know, darling," Kirara wept, stroking her hair. "I know..."
"How could he... leave me behind?" The girl's sobs were punctuated by gasps and sniffles, "He never... even... said goodbye!"
Kirara's only answer was to hold her little sister tighter.
Before them, beside the remains of the Zankanto, all that was left of the big machine samurai was his boots.

From far below them came the faintest sound of shifting rock, barely audible above the crackle of the flames and the last echoes of the explosion.
Then a hand appeared, clawing its way toward the light.
Sobbing in pain, Nasami dragged herself out from beneath the boulders and rubble that had landed on her. Her armor was shattered in a dozen places, her face and body covered in bruises, burns, gashes and blood. She lay on her side, gasping in deep breaths of air and coughing up blood, trying to shut out the pain that racked her body. One hand flailed on the ground beside her, moving back and forth as though searching for something, but then, drawn by some deeper instinct, her fingertips brushed away some of the smaller stones and dirt to reveal Mamorimasu beneath the debris, and her fingers curled around the pommel and dragged the sword toward her to clutch it to her chest.
As she twisted her body to try and stand, however, she was unable to hold back a cry of agony as she felt the bones of her hip and pelvis shift painfully inside of her. Gritting her teeth, she pulled her saya from the obi at her waist, slid the sword back into its sheath, forced herself to roll over onto her stomach, and began to drag herself along the ground by her hands. Inch by inch, she pulled herself along toward the path that led up toward Kanna Village, ignoring the pain that raced through her body, and the chilling numbness that was spreading upward from her feet and legs.
"I... will... not... give... up..." she gasped, digging in with her small hands and continuing to pull herself along. The muscles in her arms burned with the effort, as she dragged herself across the mud.
Then her fingers closed around red fabric, and she froze in horror.
"No... No, oh no..."
Desperately she crawled forward and shoved debris aside until she had uncovered Kyuzo's body.
"No, please..." the samuraiko begged, lifting him into her arms and shaking him, even as her eyes filled with tears at the sight of his body riddled with gunshots, blood trickling from his mouth. "Not Kyuzo... oh, blessed Lady Sun, no..."
Heedless of the blood and her own pain, she cradled him to her and rested her cheek against his fair hair, rocking back and forth as she would a child, weeping openly.
"It can't be," she whispered, then all at once, she was screaming, her pain and anguish and rage overwhelming her all at once. "NOOOOOOOO!"
While walking back to Kanna Village, Katsushiro had heard Nasami's scream echoing up through the canyon. Racing down the winding path to the canyon floor, he dashed over to her, but he stopped when he saw her holding Kyuzo in her arms and sobbing.
"Nasami-dono?" he said again, carefully approaching her, and she looked up at him through her tears, relief spreading across her face.
"Katsushiro... you're alive..." she said hoarsely, still holding Kyuzo to her. "Thank the heavens... I was so afraid that you and the others wouldn't make it out before the Capital went down..."
Her eyes moved past him, searching for the other samurai, but there was no one else. "W-where is everyone else? Are they all right?" When he didn't speak, the samuraiko's face paled beneath the dirt and the blood. "Katsushiro, please... tell me! Are they all right?"
Katsushiro said nothing, his eyes on the samurai in Nasami's arms. Three times now, he had watched a fellow samurai die, men he considered his friends and companions. Guilt threatened to smother him - Gorobei had been killed protecting Katsushiro and the other samurai, then Katsushiro hadn't been fast enough to save Heihachi's life, and finally his own desperation to save Kambei had directly resulted in Kyuzo's death. Unable to look Nasami in the eyes, Katsushiro turned away and stared into the distance.
When Katsushiro didn't answer, Nasami's face went absolutely white, and closed her eyes and turned away, resting her cheek against Kyuzo's hair once more as fresh tears spilled down her face.
Katsushiro turned back to her and took a step forward, but a sense of absolute inadequacy filled him, and he realized that nothing he said or did could take away the samuraiko's grief, so without a word, he turned and fled.
"But I fear that this time, the cost will be higher than even you can pay, my sister."
How? How can it be greater than the cost from before? I felt as though my soul had been rent in two, my heart in shattered fragments."
But you still had your honor, and you still had your life."
The memory of Yoshio's words rang painfully through Nasami's mind as she held Kyuzo to her. Somewhere in the back of her thoughts, she knew that she should keep moving, continue trying to reach Kanna... anything to keep from thinking about the fact that Kambei was dead. But it was just entirely too tempting to remain where she was, to let the cold and the emptiness consume her, and she realized that her brother had been right. Now, she had nothing - not her honor, not her heart, and depending on her injuries, not even her life.
Once before, Nasami had lain on a battlefield like this one, weakened and dying, and she had implored Amaterasu to let her die and join the man she had loved. Now here she was again, in much the same state, but it seemed that this time, Lady Sun had seen fit to answer her prayer, and exhausted, she lay Kyuzo's body back down and stretched out beside him as best she could to wait for death.
For a long, long time, Nasami half-knelt, half-lay in the mud at Kyuzo's side, when she became aware of a hand resting on her shoulder. Dully, she turned her head to look down at it, thinking Katsushiro had returned, or maybe one of the farmers had arrived to investigate the wreckage.
But the samuraiko's eyes became enormous in her pale, drawn face when she saw the delicately inked tattoo on the back of the hand that rested there.
"Odd... I would never have guessed you were hiding these. But I suppose I'm not the only one with walls, am I?"
Hardly daring to let herself hope, she turned her head to look behind her at the samurai who was standing there, covered in blood but still very much alive.
"Kambei?" she whispered, disbelief and grief and hope all mingled in her voice, and he nodded, kneeling down beside her.
Oblivious to the physical pain that racked her body, she turned and fell into his arms, sobbing his name. Tears ran freely down Kambei's face as well as he held her tightly, burying his face in her long hair.
"I thought you were dead," she wept, clutching his robes in her fists. "Oh, God... I wanted to die..."
"Never," he rasped, stroking her hair and pulling her closer. "I'll never let you go, love... I swear it by everything I hold sacred in this life."
For an instant, the samuraiko froze, then she moved away long enough to look up at him. "What did you just say?"
"I left you behind, and I never told you... And for all I know, I may lose you again for telling you, but... I promised Kyuzo-dono, just before he died, that I would tell you I..." He reached up and gently brushed the back of his hand against her cheek, never taking his eyes from hers, and Nasami went absolutely still. "I love you, anata."
Nasami stared at him for a long moment, then she reached up and pulled his mouth down to hers hard in a fierce and desperate kiss, her tears mingling with his.
"Oh, God... Kambei..."
For a few minutes, everything became gloriously incoherent, until they both heard a low chuckle nearby.
"Well, it's about time that somebody came to their senses around here."
Immediately Kambei and Nasami broke apart and turned to see Shichiroji leaning on his staff nearby, a wide grin on his face. Despite her tears, Nasami laughed in relief at seeing the blond samurai alive and well.
"Oh, for the love of... I finally get him to loosen up and you show up! Don't you have somewhere else you have to be?" she called out, reaching down and throwing a handful of mud at him.
"Nope, but don't feel the need to stop on my account," he said cheerfully, and Kambei chuckled.
"Your timing is impeccable as always, Shichiroji."
Getting to his feet, he reached down to pull Nasami up as well, but when she cried out in pain, Kambei let go of her, and she nearly fell facefirst into the mud. "What's wrong?"
"I..." she winced, lying on her side and pressing her hands against her pelvis. "I can't walk."
In a flash, Kambei was on his knees beside her again, with Shichiroji on her other side, checking her legs for injuries.
"Great samurai!" they heard, and all of them turned to see Rikichi standing on the path, with Komachi, Kirara, and Sanae close behind him. The four villagers came running down the path, skidding to a halt at the sight of Shichiroji and Kambei, but then their mouths fell open at the sight of the samuraiko.
"My God," Rikichi whispered, dropping to his knees beside Kambei. "I was certain you were dead when you went up against the Capital with Kikuchiyo-sama."
"She's not out of danger yet, Rikichi," Kambei told him somberly, while Kirara, Sanae, and Komachi stared with wide and worried eyes. "I'll need your help to build her a litter and carry her up to Kanna."
"Of course." Rikichi leapt to his feet to salvage what they needed from the wreckage around them, while Komachi and Sanae helped.

As Shichiroji carefully took one of Nasami's ankles in his hand and moved it, however, she cried out again, and he heard a distinctly unpleasant clicking sound.
"Nasami, I'm sorry, this may hurt," he said, and cautiously, with help from Kambei and Kirara, he turned the samuraiko onto her side. Gently he placed one hand just below her stomach, the other in the small of her back. As his fingers probed, he was horrified to feel that her hip had been dislocated. Moving as carefully as he could, Shichiroji felt for the bone underneath, and his breath caught in shock as he felt not one solid bone, but several fragments.
Her pelvis had apparently been shattered, and as for her spine...
His eyes flashed to Kambei's, and he saw that the other samurai had just realized the exact same thing.
"What's wrong?" Kirara asked, catching the glance that passed between them, and wondering suddenly why she felt so cold inside.
"Can you feel this?" Kambei asked Nasami in concern, digging his fingers into the muscles of her calves, then just above her knees. Her eyes wide with horror, Nasami shook her head.
To be continued...