Charlotte Samurai Shodown
Fan Fiction
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Thunder and Redness
by Irene Trent
Homepage: Save the Sugar

Chapter 13

       By nightfall, as we continued traveling through the muggy woods on the bank of the Yoshino river, we reached the coastal town of Kochi. We did what we always did in a rest town: ate at an eating house, and rested in a nearby inn. It was pretty busy at night, and full of foreigners. I saw brown-skinned people and white people with brown and yellow and even red heads. Once I saw from behind a little urchin with shaggy black hair, dressed in a gray. My heart leapt for a moment, and I called out that familiar name. Then he turned around; he was gaunt and long-faced, with empty eyes. Not the round innocent, yet wise, face that I had known. 
       I kept an eye on the new man, Sogetsu. It was amazing how contrasting the brothers were. He was extremely silent-uncomfortably silent; he always walked with his hands behind his back. He stood just a hair shorter than I, and had a leaner body than his brother's. He wore cool blue colors, and his eyes were a cool indigo color. Even his hair had tints of indigo; it was smooth and shiny, tied up in the back. If let loose, it would probably fall all the way to his ankles. Kazuki's hair was more choppy and bright. He took such silent steps, and he would always walk near the back of the group, his face expressionless, his thin lips a straight line across his narrow face. He hardly exchanged word with any of us. He was more cold and aloof than his brother. But he seemed to watch us with those mystical eyes. I thought I was thinking too much at first, but he seemed to have his eyes fixed on Charlotte.
       I had decided to separate myself from the rest of them at the inn that night; I wanted to protect her from those icy-looking eyes, so I asked that Charlotte and I share a room alone. She seemed hesitant at first, but then she smiled at me with this spark in her blue eyes. She had this playful grin when we were children, and I even remember the spark in her eyes. Yet for some reason it seemed different from when we were children; I couldn't see what she was trying to make me understand. She gently took my rough, blistered hand in her smooth and dainty one, and led me into the room, still smiling. 
       The room was nearly dark because the sun was beginning to set. She lit a candle which sat on a long table, and a warm, dim light filled the room. It danced around, making the shadows move along-back and forth-and across the walls. I could see that there was one, large futon on the floor. It seemed very comfortable after a tiring walk. When I looked out the window, I noticed gray storm clouds forcing the daylight away more quickly. The crests of the sea rose and fell, gaining height with each swell. I gulped, knowing that bad things always happened during thunderstorms. 
       We changed into clothing more suitable to sleep in before we climbed into the bed. Even though we both shared it, it seemed rather large. We lay next to each other, about an arm's distance apart. She faced me, her head propped up of a pillow, smiling at me. The candlelight made the spark in her eyes seem brighter. She wore a white, lacy gown. It was very loose-fitting, but the neckline dipped down low enough for me to see part of her breast. For some reason I had my eyes fixed on it, wanting to touch it. I blinked my eyes and forced myself to look away from her chest. There was this strange feeling I had in my lower stomach, which passed quickly. I couldn't describe it, since I had never felt it before. It made me cringe a bit, yet I knew it wasn't a bad feeling. But when I looked at her, her eyes gleaming and her soft lips, the feeling came again. Quickly passing. 
       My eyes darted from her breasts to her eyes and back to her breast and then her lips, but that queer feeling in my stomach kept coming and passing and coming and passing. I closed my eyes and tried not to look at her, tried not to notice how the soft candlelight made her skin look so soft. I waited for it to pass completely. I tried to find out why this was happening to me. We have slept in the same bed as children, I tried to tell myself, we have even slept without any clothes on. It should go away. . . some thunder rumbled in the far distance. . .yes, that's it. It's the thunderstorm that's making me this way. I know I must hold her soft body and protect her from it. Yes, that's what I am feeling
       When I finally convinced myself of that I opened my eyes and looked at her. She wasn't smiling at me, but her face didn't seem angry. Her small mouth was straight. I saw that she had her arms across her chest, I couldn't see her breasts. 
       "Haohmaru. . ." she said, her voice soft and woman-like. She placed her hand upon my cheek. Her lips were pouted. "Is that what you-are you trying to. . ." 
       I couldn't understand her. She had been happy and smiling, then she covered her chest to protect herself, and then she looked sad and wistful. 
       "What do you mean?" I asked her. 
       Her white face began to turn red, and her lips began to twitch again. She never said anything, though. Instead she laughed a bit and shook her head. "It's-it's nothing important." 
       She moved closer to me and lay her head on my chest. I could feel her golden hair; it felt soft on my skin and it smelled nice and fresh. Her soft arm was draped over my body. From the window I saw a flash of lightning and one loud roll of thunder after it. I could feel it softly jostle the table, and the slowly dimming candle teetered a bit. I wrapped my arms around her slight waist. The feeling came again; I had to protect her. 
       She flinched a bit. I removed my arms, hoping that I didn't do something wrong. 
       "I'm sorry. . ." 
       "No-it's not that. I just-fell down some stairs back home. . ." 
       My mind drifted. I remembered her as she bathed in that river, seeing her exposed body and watching the water roll of her smooth skin like she was some statue. I couldn't stop looking at her; I couldn't breathe and my heart was beating. Then she turned around and I saw the horror-the black and blue blotches on soft flesh, and long, red scars racing across her tender, female body- 
       I didn't have to think twice before knowing who did it. That fanatic father of hers. I just knew he did. After all, he had no compassion for suffering children-especially yellow children. And undoubtedly his own as well. She feared him. I remembered, the sound of the ocean flooding my mind:

Come, Charlotte. We have to take them off
I don't know. My father said it was bad to take your clothes off.
Why? Don't you take off your clothes when you change into your night clothes?
Yes, but Father said it was bad. He said that I should never take them off in front of anybody. Not even me. That is why I am not allowed to have a mirror in my room.
Don't you want to go swimming?
Well, yes but. . .
But what? You have to. You don't want your clothes to get all wet do you. You know your mother will be mad if you do.
I know, but I just can't Haohmaru, I just can't.
Yes you can.
But I'll go to Hell if I do.
That's silly there's no hell to go to my father said so.
I-I have to go home anyway Mama needs help in the kitchen-

       I felt the pain again when I was young. It screamed through my head and nearly killed me. And I'll bet that if I could see my own back, I'd see the lashes he gave me before sleeping with her on that night with the storm. 
       "You fell down some stairs. . ." I repeated. 
       She nodded her head. "Yes," and chuckled, "we all make mistakes. . ." 
       I may not have been as intelligent as she, but I knew very well she was hiding something. I knew fear-she didn't want to admit it she didn't want to admit it; her father, the seemingly holy priest the righteous man, was unholy and unrighteous behind walls, beating his child his beloved Charlotte, a poor innocent girl. She didn't just come here to see me- 
       I glared at her for being a liar. 
       "Well. . .you were pushed down stairs." 
       "No I. . ." 
       "Don't lie to me!" I hissed. 
       I could see it her face. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was twitching furiously. 
       "It's nothing really. Just a few bruises. . ." 
       I grabbed her shoulders, glaring at her. "Don't try to pretend!" 
       I shook her I was so angry. 
       "You know what I mean, woman!" 
       "It was nothing. Nothing at all." 
       "DON'T LIE TO ME!" 
       She shrank back for a moment and balled up her fists and covered her chest and started shaking, breathing very heavily. Her lips were trembling. 
       Don't cry don't cry, I prayed over and over in my head, I only want the truth don't cry please don't- 
       "SO I WAS ABUSED!" she screamed. A loud clap of thunder sounded. It was I who shrank back. Her voice was raspy and heavy, and her eyes were red. 
       "It was him, wasn't it!" I growled, the red boiling inside me like hot lava. "Your father. Your bigoted father!" 
       Her voice was much quieter and lower. She gripped my hand tightly before she began to speak; she was crying softly, having to face the agony of reliving her pain. 
       "It was not my father. . ." 
       I couldn't understand who else would have-except if they-the redness. . . 
       I shook my head and shuddered, locking my arms. I would not move them they would be locked forever when she was near-
       "Well. . .who was it, then?" 
       Her hand gripped mine tighter, and I held her closer for protection. There was a rumble of thunder in the distance. It was not quiet, and lasted for a while. I could hear the rain start to drip onto the roof. The night began to darken as the candle dimmed, providing only enough light to see her face, but her blue eyes penetrated the oncoming darkness. 
       "His name was Marcel. . ." she began, her voice very shaky, "Marcel DuPointe. But I suppose you wouldn't understand his reasons unless I gave you some of my history- 
       "I-I used to love a man, named Pierre, who was a great swordsman and was known throughout the country. He was tall and limber-very handsome-he didn't mind the fact that I was taller than most women. And he encouraged me to learn fencing. He opened a new light for me and had found a place for me in a society that didn't welcome me. . ." she chuckled a bit, "I hate to flatter myself, but I was too intelligent and skilled at fencing to find a place. No matter how smart I was, the men would never speak to me as a colleague; the women would never view me as a female, even if I didn't have these attributes. They would still think I was too tall and my eyes too cold. At times I could not classify myself as neither male nor female. But Pierre was certainly was different, for he spoke to me. Me, and not as a social symbol. 
       "I knew for certain that I would never fit the ideals of a true woman, so I tried my hardest to be as masculine as possible. I bound my breasts and wore men's clothing. I cut my hair short. Pierre didn't mind. He told me I was strong. And we had a very strong relationship. We discussed many political and philosophical issues. He met my father's moral standards-as long as I remained a virgin before marriage. The only dissent was that my mother believed the fencing kept me from being "a lady", but she accepted it. They were all positive that we would marry and anticipated the wedding. 
       "But then he became deathly ill, with pneumonia. I stood by his bedside as much as possible, praying for him to recover. My father even came by and prayed for him. And each day his condition worsened, and he would cough up blood and run high fevers. I dreaded the day, knowing it would come. And it did-one rainy, dreary day, he took his last breath. They informed me that it was a peaceful death, but inside I felt torn apart in a thousand pieces. I didn't know what to do with myself I was so lonely, as if I lived in a black room without any light. . ." 
       I couldn't help but feel compassion for her, for I too had felt the blackness-the black monster that bore deep inside me and tore me, showing nothing but ultimate despair and hopelessness. . . 
       I placed my hand on her shoulder and moved closer. She continued. 
       "After his death, I was mournful for weeks, refusing to eat. I became very, very thin and sickly-certainly I didn't want to leave the house. I knew for sure that once he had died, no one would marry me. So soon after I devoted most of my time to books. Endless books, reading everything in our library, even if it was the most dull of dull books, I still read it. I would go to Jean's bookstore and read as much as possible. My mother especially was concerned with my condition. I could feel it in her eyes as she stood there in the doorway, watching me read, sitting in that red chaise by the window. My father-he didn't mind at all. He didn't want me to marry anyway, knowing that someday I'd lose my purity. He relished the dry intellect that I had become, without passion. 
       "So one day, as I was reading peacefully in the study, minding my own business, there was a knock at the door. I remember being very irritated and I walked into the door, throwing a robe over my nightgown; many days I went without dressing up. When I opened the door there was a large man who stood in front of me, dressed in formal attire. He stood with his back straight and his nose up. I noticed in his left hand he held a piece of paper. I inquired the reason why he would come to my house and disturb me, and after clearing his throat he told me that there would be a ball at the grand home of Marcel DuPointe, and he asked that his Madame Charlotte DuPointe would join him. 
       "I was confused, and very wary. I had never known a Marcel DuPointe, much less married to him. I told the man 'How dare you address me so.' And besides, even if I was his wife, why would he send me a written invitation to come to a ball? I felt impure inside, as if I were composed of mud and dirt. I realized why my father refused marriage. But I wasn't officially married to him! Then the man seemed awfully inquisitive. I wished that he would leave. I declined, rather rudely, protesting that I was not married to any man by that name. He told me that he would return at ten that evening and take me. I slammed the door and returned to my book." 
       "Around that time my family was eating dinner. It was the usual-my father and brother scrutinizing the people less fortunate and talking of sin. My mother tried her best to dissuade them from that attitude, but they were just to stubborn to listen. Whenever I tried to speak, she was the only one who listened. Then, the clock chimed the hour; it was ten o'clock. And right when the clock sounded there was a knock at the door, and I remember dreading that it was that man. 
       "And he stood there, stocky as a brick house, he back straight, his nose pointed. My mother answered the door, and with her genuine hospitality, let him come it. He formally introduced himself to my family. My father returned a cold glare and asked what he wanted. The man told me that Marcel DuPointe had invited me, his Madame DuPointe. . ." if she had spoken more forcefully she would have spit, "to a ball at his home. My father glared at the man, demanding why he would call he daughter such a name. And he merely replied, 'Oh, we have been married for quite some time now. . ." 
       "My father's icy glared turned to me-his condemning eyes. He went on and on, degrading me, calling me a sinner, accusing me of infidelity to Pierre. . ." 
       I scowled, remembering when he said those things to me. "He thinks everyone is a sinner."
       Then the words my father once told me, that I couldn't comprehend when I was six, also entered my mind; I could understand it. 
       They cannot look past the devil inside they cannot look past the devil inside. . . 
       "They believe that they are the only ones who are not sinners," I told her, "but how can they see the real truth when it is blocked by a stone wall of evil?" 
       She shook her head, "It is denial," she flatly stated. "My father would seem a poor Christian if he-or any member of his family-engaged in immoral behavior." 
       "Ha!" I spat. "There are other religions besides Christianity. What is a religion when you worship the mortals more than the gods anyway?" 
       She shook her head, "It's only for the good of our family. Our country is starving. The king is ostentatiously wealthy while the masses beg for bread in the streets. My father's missionary work and my brother's bookstore are how they maintain a comfortable lifestyle for all of us. And if any of us had been caught sinning, he could lose his job; we'd not be only beggars, but shunned beggars." 
       I shook my head in disgust at the way they lived. They sacrificed the right things for the wrong things. One day Father gave me some money, and he told me to hold it in my hands and not spend it for five years. He did that every week. I never disobeyed my father, except one time I bought a large bags of sweet food and a kite with a silk string. I saw a boy who lived nearby who had one. I thought Father would love the new kite, but he was angry at me. I thought I had spent my money well. I liked what I bought. He told me that an honorable Samurai spent his money only on survival and not toys or sweets or silk or any sword that shone more than what I had, even if it had a golden hilt. Only for survival. And he said that whenever he saw a man with a silk kimono with a woman who had too many combs hanging from her hair, he knew that that the silk was thin, revealing something grotesque or dishonorable they were trying to hide. 
       Certainly her father was grotesque and dishonorable. She wouldn't survive if her parents had died. But I did. . . 
       "Oh, Haohmaru. . ." she sighed, "my life has been harder than you think. . ." 
       I touched a strand of her hair, wanting to know what golden hair felt like. It was very soft. She continued.
       "My poor mother stood there with a look of shock on her face. I tried to convince them otherwise, but they didn't seem to believe me. My father demanded that I dress up and go to the ball, never to return to his home again. My mother tried to protest, but he shoved her out of the way. He looked at me and pointed to the door, screaming for me to leave. He and my brother both. . ." 
       She began to cry, and I realized that I had drawn her very tight against me. I patted her back softly. I didn't want to aggravate her bruises. I couldn't imagine a father throwing his child out. If my father was alive. . . 
       "Oh, Haohmaru. . ." she continued, "As soon as-as we left, he grabbed a strong hold of me. I tried so hard to break free, but he was just too strong. I cried for help, but he-he covered my mouth. No one could hear me. It was late, and everyone was asleep. He managed to drag me to his 'ball', a small hut on the outskirts of Paris. It was a simple home, but he shoved me in and locked the door. I-I tried to escape. . ." her voice began to break, "running out the door and screaming, but-but he grabbed me by my arm and pinched my cheeks so I couldn't talk. He said one message: that I would never escape, and he would burn me if I ever did." 
       "At first I never knew why I was chosen to undergo this torment, but I found out soon enough. It was mere envy was what it was. Ever since the first day Pierre taught me how to fence, he had been watching in the shadows, jealousy and bitterness eating at him. I remember a time when I had a duel with a man, and he was masked, and so was I. He was very skilled, but I won with ease. I unmasked myself, but the man that I fought ran away, and I never knew who he was. 
       "It was him, Haohmaru, it was him." 
       "So you were a skilled swords-woman," I stated, awed that a woman could defeat a man. I never thought it was possible, "but the man was a coward. A man is a coward to run from a fight, and if he has lost, than he must fight again." 
       "But he did!" she protested, "He came back with full and bitter vengeance. I may have been a strong fencer but without the sword I was vulnerable." She fists were balled and she pounded the pillow. "I am a woman, God dammit! And that will be something you will never understand! My father told me that we are cursed. Cursed in France, cursed in Japan-everywhere! Ever since Eve had bitten into the forbidden apple, God had made sure we'd always be second best! That our minds would be bound and our bosoms be prominent! That we'd be nothing more than symbols of sin! That every month we'd bleed to bear the agony of child birth and die afterwards! And to be subject to worst most base most inhumane crime that can ever be committed. . ." 
       I couldn't understand some of what she was saying, but I knew she was angry. And I knew she was trapped and she realized it. I'd never heard a woman speak out against her place. In my country she was to serve her father as a child, her husband as a wife, and her sons as a mother. And I didn't know what would happen if she ever did. 
       "What if you were a girl, Haohmaru?!! What if you were a girl?!!! 
       She was screaming like a wild animal. I tried to subdue her, but she wouldn't listen to me. What if I was? My father always wanted a son my son my son my son 
       I could have been a girl, my mother teaching me to arrange flowers or serve tea. I shuddered. Where was the honor in that? 
       "Sometimes I wished that I'd let him burn me," she said, her voice calmer, "but after a while the abuse didn't hurt. He'd beaten me into the docile animal he wanted me to be-in every way possible. It was two months before I could escape. Yet at first I had hopes of escaping and after I knew that wasn't possible, I knew and accepted that was the way I was to die. And I thought that he had taken everything from me. 
       "Yet one wonderful day, there was a knock at the door. Marcel had been moving me farther and farther south into the countryside, where no one would find me. Hearing that knock I somehow it would help me escape, despite the fact that there were cuts and lashes and bruises all over me, and I-I'd-well, I walked to answer the door. Marcel threatened to hurt me and whip me, but I didn't care. It wasn't like he never did it. The man at the door was Sieger. He was a big man with kind eyes. He begged for refuge because he was escaping from King Frederick of Prussia, who was a military tyrant who needed him for his army. Marcel spat in his face and told him to leave, but I made sure this man would stay. I just knew that he would be key to my escape. 
       "Marcel was seething when I persistently offered to let the man stay. He was so mad that he hit me with a horse whip. I knew that the man would be appalled, and I looked at him-begged him-for help. I started to cry, not because of the pain, but because I desperately needed his help. I was too weak to fight. Sieger thought that I cried because of the pain, and he angrily told Marcel to stop hitting me, for I was a lady. But Marcel wouldn't stop. It didn't hurt; my back had become callous after so many whips. But each whip angered him. When he tried to intervene, Marcel tried to hit him with the whip, but he managed to catch it with this wrist, and it wrapped around like a black snake. Sieger grabbed the whip and started hitting Marcel with it. I sat in a corner and watched with awe, but I admired the man's strength. He had much more power over Marcel, who couldn't fight back. Then he began to strangle him and squeezed harder and harder until I could hear the bones break, and he fell to the floor like a limp rag. Even though it was grotesque, I was grateful for his ending my misery. He helped my from my feet, and we introduced ourselves. 
       "I let him stay that night, and I fixed him something to eat. He began to tell me about his escaping from Prussia, and the austerity of King Frederick and the army and the absolutism. He laughed and told me God gave a large body to a man who didn't want to fight-at least, not for something he didn't believe in. I just knew by listening to him that he didn't want to return to Prussia. And, since I could finally think for myself again, I wondered what I would do with myself. I certainly knew I couldn't return home. My father would only scorn me-especially after what happened-after-well, I wouldn't return home the pure daughter that he wanted. No, he'd been waiting for me to do something sinful, to look at me in order to justify his righteousness. I missed my mother, but I-I just didn't want her to see my father's cruelty." 
       "And there we sat-lost people-with no where to go. Since we were both tired, we fell asleep. I fell into a deep sleep, allowing a dream to decide where we would go. I had fallen asleep in an am chair, and I woke up in the middle of the night. I walked over to Marcel's corpse, which looked pale and ghostly in the moonlight. I couldn't believe that he was dead, so I walked closer to him and leaned over. Then an arm reached up and he grabbed me by the neck, very strong. He was trying to choke me, and I couldn't breathe. There were these bright colors swirling around, and I just thought I was going to die, but then out of nowhere I saw a sweep of silver. His arm was severed completely, and the grip on my neck loosened. I felt a presence-a warm presence-and when I turned around, I called your name; I knew it was you. You answered; you were just a shadow, but I knew it was you. You brought me closer-and you started to kiss me. It was a delightful dream until Sieger came and woke me. You were gone and the sun was out. When I awoke that morning, the first word I said was 'Japan'. 
       "He was baffled at first, but then I told him about it. I told him about when I was there nineteen years ago, and that I met you, and the terrible thing that happened when you were six. It seemed so far away and exotic, a place where no one would ever dream to find us. He seemed eager to go as well, convinced that King Frederick had never heard of such a place-the farthest east one could go, the exact place where the sun rose in the morning. But I was most exited to see you, Haohmaru. I somehow knew that you were alive. So, later that morning, we bought ourselves a nice boat; we weren't far from the sea. With Sieger's sailing expertise, and a map, we found our way here-right to Gairyu Isle." 
       Her recount was finished. I had listened as hard as I could, trying my hardest not to interrupt. The redness came-just a tint of it-when she talked about her father and his cruelty. Had she lost her parents too? Her ground to stand upon? What models had she to grow up with-a poor, sensitive mother, a crass, bigoted brother, and a narrow-minded, evil-smelling, selfish father. Why should I even question her on why she wouldn't return? They lived in selfishness, pure selfishness! Her eyes were sad and longing, awaiting a response from me, glassy and lustrous like glazed porcelain; they were very beautiful. She was not cold she was not cold, I told myself not a product of Amakusa. How could her background produce such a fine person? Such a brave person-brave enough to speak against her status, to become a woman with a sword. If she's have been a man, she'd be a revered figure, allowed to walk through town with three swords. 
       I sighed. She, despite what had been given to her, had already transcended many barriers; turning her back on selfishness and greed-the very deadly sins her father would rail about when I was six: 
       Let me tell you about King Henry the VIII! From a country far, far away that you ignorant heathens would never know of! The man had been a great ruler-but an abhorred, rotten human being! The man ate and ate like a sow and slopped up everything! He became large and round in his middle-so round that his legs would not support him. And an ulcer developed, red and disgusting, dripping with yellow pus-the same color as your skin. But he kept on eating, and the ulcer worsened, and then he died. . . 
       I shook my head, cringing at the hypocrisy of it all. And I believed her now, pitying her that she had not recognized it when she was young. She tried to be a virtuous human being because he wanted her to be, but he was more foul! He spread his religion with a lie! Surely he berated King Henry for eating too much food, but it was all the same! He was eating money, its metallic poison fused with his blood. 
       I could not hate her anymore, as I had believed she'd led a life of riches and luxury. She was intelligent and beautiful-intelligent enough to realize the lies! I could view her as a human being, with equal pain and suffering. Not as a woman dressing in men's clothing, or a spoiled child who snubbed my ways. I had been wrong-I had been proved wrong; the tall, cold figure that stood before when I met her again bled like I. 
       "Have you-have you ever been angry. Truly angry?" I asked tentatively, preparing to tell her something that I had never told anybody. "So angry that you see nothing but redness?" 

Chapter 14

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