Thunder and Redness
Homepage: Save the Sugar
was another day at the seaside, and Charlotte and I were perched upon our
"special rock," a promontory that beetled out into the vast Sea of Japan.
It seemed so high, and the ocean hissed below. We thought we could see
the whole world from there. Of course, to a six year old, it appeared so.
I remember we'd take quite a climb to reach the top, and I held Charlotte's
hand so she wouldn't trip over her mounds of dresses. How her mother scolded
her for climbing in them. . .
always climb at sunrise, when our parents hadn't woken up, and bring some
food. Charlotte always smuggled some delicious French pastries from her
mother's pantry, and I usually brought rice cakes and tea. I never understood
why my people couldn't get along with the Europeans; I did. They
would always talk about doom and stuff. Of course, I had to be very careful
with her, for her parents didn't trust the Japanese.
Her father, Serge Cordeau, was a Catholic missionary, and he had come to
Gairyu Isle due to a special request from the radical Christian daimyo,
Shiro Tosikada Amakusa. The Tokugawa shogun banned foreigners from Japan,
but that loathed Amakusa hired European missionaries behind Shogun's back.
Amakusa purely despised my father, undoubtedly one of the most honorable
Samurai Japan had ever seen, after he successfully impeded his Christian
rebel armies. Father told me he would have been executed, but the Shogun
at the time was foolish. He allowed that man to become daimyo over southern
Kyushu, where the Christian rebels were, if Amakusa could force Shintoism
on the backward peasants. Of course, he gladly took that position and pretended
to rule as a true daimyo. He had his own force of Samurai and Ninja. But
he was tricky, smuggling missionaries and erecting secret churches. Amakusa
endowed Serge with gold and fortune for his efforts and had him purposely
stationed right next to my father. Oh, how Father hated that pious man!
I hated him too. Serge came to our home on Sundays and forced us to read
the Bible. We refused the strict doctrines of Christianity for the more
emotional Shintoism. He accused my father of countless sins, and was convinced
my mother was a concubine. He always thought we were devils, and I would
ask Father why, and Father would just tell me that a dishonorable man such
as Serge could never look beyond the devil inside himself. I didn't understand
what that meant.
I met and befriended Charlotte despite the conflict between our parents.
I first met her in my garden, across a small red bridge. She had golden
hair and big, blue eyes. She skipped over and asked me to play, and I ran
home to my mother, frightened. I had never seen something like her. Mother
smiled at her and told me she was a nice girl, and she always watched us
play near the sea shore. It was so innocent, for we had no clue about what
was around us. But I noticed that when she watched us, she had this sad
look on her face, and I wondered why she would watch something so sad.
Charlotte and I had our own happy world in the clouds, surrounded by a
bubble that nothing could break but time. . .and Amakusa. The memories
of the grotesque deaths of my parents flash before me like white lightning.
Charlotte and I planned to meet on our rock. It never occurred to me as
we splashed our tiny feet in the ocean that it would be the last day like
this. I would never see her innocence again. Her eyes were so innocent,
and her fair beauty seemed such a rarity. Of course, she was the only foreigner
I had come in contact with. Her lemon locks nearly blinded me at first
sight. She was such a radiant child, so full of life. . .
down onto Gairyu Isle below. It was so still. Not a soul had moved, not
a candle was lit. As she lay her head onto my shoulder, I listened to a
lone seagull cry above the sea, waiting for the perfect fish. Other than
that, the tranquil hissing of the ocean was the only sound. I watched her
delicately bite into a pastry with the most refined manner and wipe the
flaky crumbs from her lips. She offered me a piece, and I declined. For
some reason I wasn't hungry that morning, although I had no foreboding
of what would come in only minutes.
he came. It started with a light rumbling, and a blazing yellow light in
the far distance. It looked so mystical the way the radiance blended with
the indigo morning sky, making a magical purple color. All at once, a cherry
tree exploded with scurrying black birds.
Charlotte exclaimed. "The sunrise is early this morning!"
my head with skepticism. After all, the bright light came from the southern
direction. Then I began to get a bad feeling, and the food I ate felt like
rocks in my stomach. I felt this rumbling, which started slowly at first,
like the thunderstorms I was so scared of.
became more violent, and our rock began to tremor. I looked in awe as tiny
shards plopped into the rippling waters below. It was too dangerous on
this cliff; we had to get down. At first, I guessed that a volcano was
nearing, although I couldn't recall an active mountain. Yes, any minute,
lava would spew from the ground, and its fiery spit would destroy everything
in sight. Oh, even a volcano would have been better!
flames spread rapidly across Gairyu Isle, and then I heard the screams,
followed by a parade of black horses, mounted by samurai in durable, metal
armor shooting flamed arrow points at the homes with bows. It was no volcano.
at the grisly scene in horror. One by one, the wooden homes with their
paper walls crumbled beneath the flames and dissolved into black nothingness.
Children ran frantically around, searching for their mothers; some were
trampled to death under the hooves of the black horses. And their screaming
ended. One little girl in a pink kimono-who was a couple years older-wailed,
holding a small white kitten. I heard a loud pop from the distance, and
that girl crumpled to the ground; the kitten scampered away, it's snowy
fur tainted with blood. Those who had escaped their burning homes only
ran into the arms of merciless Samurai who hacked them into bloody pulps
with their swords. I saw mothers guard their children with their faces
in anguish. Their husbands who tried to stop the armies were decapitated,
and then I heard more loud pops, and more men and women and children crumpled
to the ground. The places where the coast was level with the water were
stained with blood, as the waves lapped up the carcasses from the shore.
I immediately searched the ground for my father, for he would have stopped
this! I expected him at anytime to rise and defeat those bad men! But he
on black horses came closer, and I could see that they had bows and were
shooting flaming arrows all around until nearly the whole coast was ablaze.
I could hear them screaming over the flame and cries of the people, waving
flags and banners of crosses and goblets and a man with a beard; I couldn't
understand why such kind-looking man would be on the flags of devils.
what they were saying: "Remember Shimabara!" They cried over and over again.
on, we have to get out of here!" I cried, grabbing her dainty hand, but
she wouldn't budge. She just stood there, frozen in awe. The army of black
horses was advancing near our homes, aimlessly hurling torches at them.
she cried, tears swelling in her eyes. She clung to me and looked longingly
at me, as if I could stop this massacre.
Charlotte, we've got to get out of here!" I kept telling her, but she seemed
deaf to my words. I could have left her, for the fire was closing in on
our rock, and the ground trembled below from the stampede. However, I had
remember my father's words: I was to never leave the side of my friend,
so I stayed with her and pleaded for her to move.
I kept crying, but it didn't sink in. How I wanted to curse her for being
a sudden, a torch had crashed right on our rock. Charlotte jumped in fear.
Her tiny foot entangled in the lace of her petticoat, and she slipped over
the cliff, releasing the most deafening scream.
I cried, looking out into the ocean.
I had lost her, until I looked below, and there she was, hanging from a
piece of rock that jutted from the edge. Tears streamed down her porcelain
face. "Haohmaru, help me!" she squealed, kicking her feet in terror. Her
dress had torn.
out my arm, beckoning her to reach it. Looking back, the fire from the
torch had expanded, devouring everything in sight. If I didn't get her
out of there fast, it would char our skins.
my hand!" I called to her.
small efforts to try and reach me, but she was far too low for my reach.
Looking into her eyes, I saw dire fear; looking at her delicate hands slipping
from the crag, I was nearly determined to save her from a watery grave.
If I were to let her die, then I could never face anyone again. It would
dishonor my father. I would have jumped off the cliff myself if she had
was gaining on us; it's crackling and hissing and roaring approached with
great speed, engulfing everything around it. I could fell its heat sear
my skin, and sweat dripped into my eyes, blurring my vision. Charlotte
was losing her breath, and her screams turned into rasps of pure terror.
I attempted to grab a nearby stick, but the fire voraciously devoured it
before I touched it. All hope plummeted. . .
a large figure appeared through the flames. I looked behind me, and the
tall figure of Charlotte's father stood before me like an ominous mountain.
The man hated my father; he hated me, and before rushing to his daughter's
rescue, he gave me an irate glare.
he cried, with his rich, French accent.
she rasped, kicking her feet.
over the edge of the cliff, and saw his precious daughter on the brink
of death: "Oh, sacre bleu! Charlotte!"
out his hand and grasped her arm; he was large enough. Serge hefted his
daughter up and over the crag to safety. "Oh, Charlotte, my dear. . ."
he cooed, tightly embracing her. She shook in his arms, still in shock
from the incident. Her cries were stifled by her profound breathing, and
she hyperventilated from the smoke. "Come, let's get out of here before
the fire burns us."
her out of the flames, and I tentatively followed. Observing them, I began
to think of my own father, and wishing his arms could have comforted me.
. .but he was somewhere else.
go of her father and looked at me, her hair limp and ashen, and her dress
soiled. Breaking into fresh peels of sobs, she ran towards me, but she
was suddenly restrained. Her father had grabbed her by the collar. Our
small bodies stood in the shadow of his wrath, and to make it worse, Charlotte's
spiteful brother Jean approached me. He folded his arms and sneered, backing
up his father. Serge protectively grasped Charlotte's arm and glared at
. ." he rasped, swelling with anger, "look at what you have done,
you spawn of the Devil! Child of Satan, you are!"
for he seemed so large in comparison. He continued his ranting, comparing
me to Christian demons: "Damn you! Damn you to Hell, you little
serpent! You fiend! Because of your father, our home has been burned
down, and you tried to murder my daughter. The light of God had shone upon
me since she had not fallen. . ."
she slipped!" I protested. "I would never try--"
boy!" he boomed. "You are a disgraceful child, and you and your father
and your whorish mother have done nothing but raise havoc!"
at what you've done, yellow filth!" Jean spat. "Look at what you've done!"
words stung my heart, and the words of dishonor to my father, my most revered
idol, and degrading my mother, made me cry. I knew, even at that age, that
my parents had done nothing wrong. They were good citizens, and Father
was one of the Shogun's most well-respected warriors. And, listening to
those petty Frenchmen made me cower and whimper like a battered puppy.
I wanted to run home to my father and away from their reeking bodies, but
when I attempted to run, Serge thwacked me on the back with his cane. The
pain shot through my body like a searing knife. I fell to the ground, sobbing.
you run home to that fiendish father of yours, you must confess your sins
to the Lord!"
man thrust his hand into the smoky air, then pointed to the ground. I would
never conform to that religion. My father wouldn't; my father would resist
until a bitter death. He was a devout Shintoist, who prayed daily to the
and lived harmoniously with nature. I knew he wanted me to the same. I
had to be brave; I had to stand up to them. There was no Lord!
shook my head.
move. "No!" I declared.
me again, this time in the leg. Oh, the pain was pulsing, and it hurt so!
In remembering my father, I knew I still had to stand my ground.
to Our Father, the Lord!!" he cried over the crackling of the dying fire.
The Lord is not my father!"
dare you insult the Almighty Father. In the name of the Lord, confess or
be damned, demon!"
name of my father, let me be damned!
my head in refusal.
narrowed, and he gritted his teeth. His body shook with rage. "You little
SNAKE!" he bellowed, and thwacked me again on the head.
around me disappeared in a black void: the fire, Serge, the ocean, Charlotte,
who was sobbing all the while. It encircled me, until I fell into a deep,
dreamless sleep. I crumbled to the ground.
awoke, I noticed a group of people standing around me. They were talking
about something, and their voices sounded muffled from the ringing in my
ears. My head throbbed with pain, and my vision was blurred. I placed my
hand to my head, and felt something warm and wet. When I looked, it was
covered in blood. The cane had made a gash on the right side of my head,
The world seemed to spin about me, and the familiar shapes of the people
and the mountains and the clouds were distorted images. They expanded and
contracted before me. It began to make me nauseous, and I vomited on what
I thought was a shoe.
you despicable animal!" Jean quickly drew back his foot. "He just
retched on my fine Italian boot!"
I realized where I was. The people standing around me was Charlotte's family.
They were discussing something. With time, I could make out their voices.
we must leave here now!" I heard Charlotte's mother demanded. "Look
what this man you worked for has done to our home!"
Josephine, this man has provided us with a decent living. He has made us
wealthy. Why, when we return home, we will be as rich as the nobility!"
. .but look at what he's done! He has ruined this town, our home, and murdered
Haohmaru's parents! Our daughter was nearly killed!"
Amakusa, it was. . .that ghastly child! And besides, if it wasn't
for Amakusa, we would be mere peasants! And you won't be able to
by that expensive tea set from Africa you've always wanted if we quit Japan
staying here any longer with that diabolical man! Our family is too important!
I'm taking the children and going back to France!"
you go back an indebted country with a selfish king who leeches our money
to buy for himself! I'm staying here!"
he's awake!" Charlotte cried.
up, rubbing my sore head. She ran over to me and gave me a hug.
are you okay?" she asked.
. .my head hurts. . ." I whispered.
sorry, Haohmaru. . .I'm so sorry."
my father?" I whimpered. "I want to go home."
at me, and that look I never forgot. Her face turned pale, and her blue
eyes glossed over in tears. I saw her white lips tremble as she whispered
those cold words. "Haohmaru, your-your parents are dead."
into tears; I, however, was in shock. I couldn't believe it at first; it
seemed so unreal.
they. . .really?" I asked her.
nodded her head.
a sudden, I felt the most utter loneliness I'd ever felt in my entire life.
The world seemed empty and barren, without any reason to live. I fell to
the cold ground in despair and howled at the sky with anguish, feeling
like I was falling into a deep, black pit of nothingness that I could never
escape. I wanted to scream as loudly as I could I wanted to pound my fist
into the ground. The despair took over, and I wanted to do something beyond
humane. The familiar shapes of the seaside whizzed by me into an orange
blur swallowing me up I was falling, falling into the blackness and redness
swirled around me and I had to get out I had to!. It made me want
to do something insane! The confusion and anguish flustered me! I had to
escape from it! Even when I held my head in my dirty hands for a sense
of stability, thinking that would make the world stand still and become
clear to me, I felt like I wanted to run somewhere.
the redness for the very first time in my life.
ran over to me, choking me with her plump arms. She mashed my face into
her large bosom, repressing my sobs. I broke free from her arms and ran
towards that cliff, trying to escape the chaos around me I had to get away
from there before it swallowed me please don't let it swallow me up like
it did my father I have to get out someway somehow so I ran and I ran and
ran towards the cliff I had to get away I had to get away and end it all
I had to break through that tangled chaotic world and I wanted to run,
run, run and jump over the cliff the very cliff that Charlotte nearly fell
and her mother quickly pursued me, as if they knew what I was about to
do. They couldn't stop me! They couldn't! I had to do what I had
to! Living in this world had no meaning without my father. Quicker and
quicker I ran towards the edge. The hissing ocean beckoned from below,
a choppy bed of spikes.
don't do it!" Charlotte cried, dashing towards me.
bleu, child, you mustn't!" her mother called, just behind her daughter.
She was obese and out of shape. Her face was already red and beaded with
reached the edge. This was it. I prepared myself for my final leap.
stop!" Charlotte cried.
nothing you can do," I told her.
as I was about to jump, she said something that brought my inhibitions
you are invited to live in France with us!" she smiled.
around and looked at her. She appeared so full of hope.
felt shameful for what I was about to do. I could imagine my father standing
over me, scolding me. It would have not been something he wanted me to
do. Then I remembered the vow I had made to him: that I would become a
legendary Samurai as he was. No way could I fulfill that in France, a country
that would scorn me anyway.
walked away from the edge and towards her.
. .I can't live with you in France. I made a promise to my father. . .to
become a Samurai, and I won't break it."
at me, and stomped her foot. "I hate you, Haohmaru!" she cried, and ran
in awe. How could she have said such a thing?!
trying to curse her, but I was so enraged at the series of calamities that
I choked on my words. Instead I hurled a rock in her direction, but she
had walked out of its range, and I missed.
at that time that I just wanted to break my bonds with all people. It seemed
that each person I loved turned away from me. The rest of my family had
died from tuberculosis or fish poisoning, and my parents were all I had
left, and then they were gone. I loved Charlotte, but she spat on me for
declining her offer. So, in protecting myself from hurt, I made all efforts
to avoid people. People were trouble; wherever there was people, there
to set out on a journey. Gairyu Isle was unlivable. It lay in ashes. .
. all except for my home. I figured that before I left, I needed some resources;
however, knowing that my dead parents lie in that house, I was reluctant
to enter. The sun was rising higher into the sky, and tiny rays peeked
through the smoke. I didn't think the sun would ever shine on this town
again. On my way to the house, I tripped upon an charred corpse. I yelped
when I saw its empty whites of his eyes sunken deeply into his skull (assuming
it was a man).
just didn't seem the same; it was just merely a house. It looked the same
as always, but it wasn't home to me. It was more like a cemetery. All had
become silent; the breeze ceased its blowing, the gulls stopped their raucous
caws, and not a voice was heard. I felt as I were the only living thing
in the world.
inside and removed my shoes. It was dark. I walked very slowly towards
my room until I stepped on something damp. I withdrew my foot, which was
covered in blood. My heart let into my throat. That was the blood of my
mother and father. I sobbed more, and fell into the puddle of blood, which
covered my right cheek. It was still warm. Feeling that blood filled me
with rage, all directed at Amakusa.
you!" I cried, shaking my fist in the air. "Damn you to the Christian
trickled from my parents' bedroom. I slowly followed it. The shoji screen
was nearly closed. I slid it open, closing my eyes at first but then opening
them to the most detestable sight I'd ever seen.
had been stripped of all her clothing, which lay at a heap beside her.
There were slashes on her breasts and on the insides of her thighs. She
was probably raped. My father lay on his back, with a knife plowed into
his back. Both their bodies were cold and stiff. They lay next to the low
table they had in their room, and there was a taper. Smoke still spiraled
from the wick, as if it had died just as they. I saw shards of porcelain
scattered across the floor, and a greenish liquid spotted the tatami mats.
They had been having their morning tea. At first, the sight of them was
shocking and grotesque, so horrible for a young six-year-old to see. I
figured that they'd been murdered by Amakusa's Ninja; they struck fear
in the hearts of all that weren't Christian. But then, I felt I had to
avenge them, and they had no right to die. Just looking at them angered
me, and I wished that it was Amakusa lying dead with the knife in his back.
knife that lay in my father's back, there was a piece of paper tied to
it. I slowly unraveled it, and read the scrawled note:
Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the
stubble, and as dry grass sinks down into the flame, so their root will
be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected
the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One
didn't quite understand what the note meant, but I knew it's message was
mean. 'Fire' and 'rottenness' and 'dust' were bad words. Oh, I would stop
that bastard! I would stop him for sure! I would find him and kill him!
I crumpled up the note and hurled it against the wall. I would put an end
to that evil Christianity.
I noticed another note, right next to my father's limp hand. I picked it
up and read it:
Fulfill your destiny, Haohmaru. . .
filled with tears.
Father. . ." I said aloud.
of the note had one long, stray ink mark that cascaded down the page. There
were a few spots of his blood at the bottom. I put it in my pocket to treasure
it forever. I still have that note.
said I would fulfill my destiny. I decided to leave this place. I couldn't
be reminded of this and I didn't want to face any people. I found a large,
brown sack, and stuffed all of my father's clothing into it, as well as
many books, money, and his diary (for encouragement). All the stuff I had
accumulated had made it quite heavy. Then I looked in the corner of the
room, and saw his legendary Fugu blade leaning against the wall.
the most beautiful katana I had ever seen, and Father was going to give
it to me when I turned fifteen, but he was gone now. I picked it up very
carefully. The sheath was made from black lacquer, and it refracted the
light perfectly with its smooth finish. It got its name from Fugu, a delicacy
of raw puffer-fish. The puffer-fish contained toxins in their glands, and
if not extracted well, these toxins could kill quickly. And with his blade,
my father killed his enemies as quick as the Fugu killed those who ate
it. It felt so heavy in my frail arms. When I looked at my distorted reflection
in the black lacquer, I could have sworn I saw my father staring back at
mustering all my essentials for travel, I set out on the journey. All alone.
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