Thunder and Redness
Homepage: Save the Sugar
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
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.
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.
. ." 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. .
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
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.
a bit. I removed my arms, hoping that I didn't do something wrong.
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
Come, Charlotte. We have to take them
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
I-I have to go home anyway Mama needs help in
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.
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. . ."
to me!" I hissed.
I could see
it her face. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was twitching furiously.
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."
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, 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
"It was not
my father. . ."
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. . ."
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.
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."
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. . ."
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. . ."
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.
look past the devil inside they cannot look past the devil inside. . .
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.
father was grotesque and dishonorable. She wouldn't survive if her parents
had died. But I did. . .
. ." 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. . .
. ." 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
"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. . ."
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?
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.
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."
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."
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.
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
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