A Samurai's Dreams
by Fei Kisaragi
Chapter 2-----Lost Little Girl
Haohmaru slashed upward. His sword struck the Ronin's with a bone shattering force that sent him staggering.
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"Give up Horagai?" Haohmaru said with a sneer.
Horagai snarled. "Never! No one defeats Horagai! No one! Especially such a weakling like you!"
He charged at Haohmaru, pointing his sword's tip at the Samurai's stomach. He roared, his sandals snapping bamboo underfoot.
Not taking his eyes from the Ronin's, Haohmaru pulled back and made ready for a mighty blow.
"Senpuu Retsuzan!" The mighty warrior swung his blade with such speed that it tugged Horagai into the air with a gust of wind.
"Aarrggg!" He struck the ground with tremendous force. His wooden body armor snapped with the impact, sending splinters into the air.
Haohmaru sauntered up to the fallen man and placed his foot on his stomach. With a chuckle, he placed the tip of his blade at Horagai's neck.
"How about now? I'm still accepting surrenders!"
"I would rather die before I bow to you!"
Grabbing a stone from the ground, the Ronin smashed it into Haohmaru's knee.
Haohmaru stumbled backward in pain. He knelt grasping his leg and groaning. "Ha! That will teach you to defy the mighty Horagai!"
The samurai glared at his opponent in rage. Blood had begun to show on his leg. No doubt the knee was broken. ‘Better be extra careful now. Even the slightest injury can lead to defeat.'
Drawing himself up, Haohmaru shouldered his sword and locked his gaze with Horagai's.
Time stood still.
Both warriors watched the other, not blinking, barely breathing, just waiting for the other to make their move.
A butterfly slipped through the warm air, gracefully swaying and dipping between the tall bamboo. The sun shone down between the leaves, casting light upon the forest floor. The Butterfly landed on the end of Haohmaru's sword, then they moved.
Both men charged toward each other, then only meters away they lunged into the air, bearing their sword down on the other. Steel grazed steel, then all was still again.
Horagai landed first. He spun to see Haohmaru drop to the ground opposite him, and turn. He smiled, then the world went black.
Horagai let his sword drop onto the ground, followed by the right side of his body. Two wings glided down to the ground.
Haohmaru replaced his sword in its scabbard and bowed to his departed adversary. "Was all my work for naught? Or am I too damn good?"
A sharp pain made Haohmaru wince. His whole leg was almost covered in blood.
"Arrrggg." He moaned limping away.
Mursaki was only about a two-hour walk from the wood where Horagai now lay, and Haohmaru was greatly looking forward to it as he headed out. Despite his injury, which was now cleaned and bandage, he was making good progress.
‘That's the third time this month. The third time some nobody tried to become a somebody by sending me to the next life.'
The road to Mursaki was a quiet gravel path carved by merchants brining their goods from the neighboring town by cart. Deep ruts had been carved into the ground, and they had been filled in with dust and gavel over time.
The wind played with his long black hair, tossing it around his face, causing him to brush it away. Birds sang ancient songs only known to them and the spirits that dwelled in the forests.
This set Haohmaru's mind at ease, helping his forget the terrible battle that had taken place moments earlier and the pain that throbbed with every heartbeat.
Walking into the edge of town, aromas of fresh fruit and meat, made Haohmaru's stomach growl.
Mursaki was alive with mid-day activity. Restaurants were casting out streams of sweet smelling air, tempting all who walked the streets. Women haggled over fish and cloth, children ran in between shops, wielding wooden swords.
The village was very good sized, with close to two thousand people regularly living there. The Daimyo was a kind man, who made sure that his people were safe and well protected. Under his rule, the town boomed, and remained booming for more than twenty years.
Finding a friendly looking restaurant called the Tigers Paw, Haohmaru meandered in. A fat Chinese leaned behind the counter and smiled when he came in.
"How may I help you gentile?"
"I want some rice, any bread if you have it, and some fruit."
The man disappeared for a moment then returned.
"We will be happy to fill your order. That will be one gold piece."
Haohmaru slung his jug from his shoulder and placed it on the counter. "I ah, need this filled too."
The Chinese smiled. "That can also be filled. Two gold pieces."
Haohmaru dug the last two coins out of his pack and tossed them on the counter. The Chinese bowed, scooped them up and once again disappeared out back.
Haohmaru found a clean table and sat. He placed his gear on the floor and waited. It had been a long time since he had eaten Chinese, or indoors for that matter. He, as well as his stomach, was looking forward to this meal.
Soon a beautiful young woman glided out from the kitchen and placed Haohmaru's food in front of him. She bowed, winked, and returned to the back room.
For a moment he just stared at the back door, wondering what the wink had been for. But his growling stomach, reminded him of the delicious food that she had brought.
He ate rice smothered in a sweet and sour sauce, fish dumplings and freshly sliced fruit. It was a pleasant yet rare occasion when the wandering Samurai had a chance to eat so heartily.
Paintings of beautiful young girls and dramatic battles covered the restaurant's walls. The Chinese owner with a pointed beard, whistled a old lullaby while he washed glasses and plates.
As he ate Haohmaru noticed his plate was off level. Lifting the side, he found a small piece of paper under it. ‘Now how did that....? The girl! Was this what the wink was for?'
There was a small bell the hung over the door that jingled when the beaded covering was disturbed. It sounded like one of the bells in an elaborate music box that Haohmaru had once seen in a Shogun's castle.
Chewing on a slice of apple, Haohmaru looked up at the bells jingle.
‘Oh no. Why today! Why now!'
Genjuro Kibagami entered the Tiger's Paw and walked right up to Haohmaru's table. He pulled back the second chair and sat down.
Haohmaru snatched the note from the table and without reading it, stuffed it into his pack.
With Kibagami, you could never tell his mood. And Haohmaru was in no position to play guessing games. With his leg injured, a fight right now could be fatal. Pretending not to notice his rival, Haohmaru kept on eating.
Both Samurai sat, face to face, not uttering a word. Locked in a verbal battle, waiting for the other to make the first move.
A large breeze slipped into the restaurant, disturbing the bell and pushing Genjuro's hair around.
"Some one is looking for you." Genjuro said at last.
Haohmaru didn't look up, he only passed the plate with some rice, one dumpling, and two pieces of fruit toward Genjuro.
Had this altercation happened only a few years ago, a younger Kibagami would have smacked the plate across the room.
However with age, come wisdom, and Genjuro finished the meal with out complaint.
"Oh? And who might that be?"
Genjuro looked up from his last piece of fruit and frowned.
"No one I know. Some kid. Says he has a message for you from some European girl or something."
Haohmaru's heart froze. ‘European girl? Could it be......? No it couldn't. Could it?'
He tried not to look surprised. "And where might I find him?"
"He's at the town square now. He said he would wait there until dawn."
Genjuro pointed down the dirt street. "Then lets go see him shall we?"
Haohmaru returned the plate to the Chinese and gave the young girl who had brought it to him a wink back. She was helping stir some soup in a huge pot, and noticing the return gesture, blushed.
‘Women. Wonder what that note says?'
He snatched up his gear and freshly filled jug and walked out of the Tigers Paw, followed by Kibagami.
"Are you the Great Haohmaru?"
"Depends on who's asking."
Upon reaching the town square, the two Samurai had stumbled upon the young messenger.
He was no older than 19 at first look, but Haohmaru noticed something in his eyes that made him look a lot older. Something Haohmaru saw in himself, every time he bent down to drink from a stream or looked in a fountain. It's a look that is left upon a person who has seen death.
He had the usual street clothing for a warrior, a little tattered here and there, some places needed repair.
Long red hair sprouted from his head and was cropped behind his head in a ponytail, and deep penetrating brown eyes peered out from under his brow..
He also carried a katana in his left hand. The handle was made out of bone, as well as the scabbard. Both beautifully carved with figures and scenery. Dye had been injected into the bone, adding splashes of color to the story it depicted.
"I'm asking. I have a message from a friend of yours. She said to give it only to a Samurai named Haohmaru. Now is that you or not?"
Haohmaru noticed that the young man was very tired, and had black rims around is eyes. He seemed in no mood to continue with the word game they were playing.
"That's me. But a better question is, who exactly are you?"
"Yoroi." He said a length. "I am Yoroi."
Yoroi sat the katana down and removed his wakizashi. For a heart beat, Haohmaru thought he was going to attack him, but he removed the blade and began to shake the scabbard.
A small tightly rolled gaiden fell out, with a red royal silk sash tied around it. He palmed the gaiden and held it out to Haohmaru.
With nervous hands the Samurai took the gaiden, and with some hesitation, slipped off the band.
I pray that this letter reaches you in time. I haven't but a moment, so I will try to explain as quickly as I am able.
Deciding that staying home was too boring I recently set out to find childish adventure. I wanted to see you, so I set sail to Japan. But I never made it. My ship was attacked just off shore and I was taken captive. At first I thought it was Pirates, but soon I was taken to him!
I am now a prisoner of Amakusa Shiro Tokisada. I know not what his motives are, but I beseech you to hurry. I have given the man who carries this letter instructions on how to find me. Please Haohmaru, hurry! Time is of the essence!
Haohmaru rerolled the letter and closed his eyes. ‘Oh no.'
"What is it Haoh?" Genjuro asked from behind him.
"What about her?"
He didn't answer. He only turned on his heal and began to walk away.
"Ah, wait just a moment!" Yoroi said stepping forward in front of the two Samurai. "This lady said you would pay me fifty gold pieces for delivering this message and I want my money so I can be on my way."
"Fifty gold pieces?!" Haohmaru gasped turning his attention toward Yoroi. "I don't even have one gold piece! I'm sorry kid, but you've been miss informed."
Yoroi's eyes opened wide for a moment, then he scowled in rage. Snatching up his swords, he stomped off into town. "Samurai! Think they own the whole damn world! Cheap bastard! I almost get killed bringing him that and what do I get!? Nothing!"
"Smooth." Genjuro said turning toward his rival. "You sure have a way with..... Haoh?"
Haohmaru wasn't there. As Genjuro looked up the road, he could see the Samurai walking away, limping slightly, still clutching the gaiden in one hand.
"Hmmmm. This could be interesting." He pulled a Hanafuda card from his pocket and began to chew the edge. "Very interesting indeed."
He bent down and picked up the sash that had held the gaiden. He examined it and smiled. "So. That's the game. Very ingenious." He stuffed the sash into his belt and headed after Haohmaru
As the last rays of daylight slipped away behind the hills, Genjuro Kibagami made up his mind. His time for revenge, was now!
Chapter 3-----Do I know You?