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

Chapter 15

       "Why are you talking to me, anyway. I must warn you that I am a fish boy," his voice was high-pitched and whiny like a preadolescent. "People make fun of me you know." 
       "That doesn't matter," she said to him, smiling. 
       "But-but I have gills behind my ears. And webbed hands and feet!" 
       She laughed a little. "Why are you so ashamed?" 
       "They think I am a mutant. . ." 
       "But does it matter what they think?" 
       "They say I am not human. . ." 
       "You are as human as any of us. You just have extra attributes that the people don't, and that makes them afraid. People are not very accepting of what it different. You must not worry about them and their thoughts. Just concentrate on being a good person." 
       If that was the case he would have a lot of work to do. 
       Why was he talking to her about this? And even then he wouldn't stop staring at her. I guessed that worked to my advantage, since they wouldn't notice me hiding behind that rock. He was trying to win her sympathy; after all, she felt sorry for everyone. Being a good Christian. Well, this was the last place in the world to be a good Christian. He was going to trick her or use her for something. And he was glaring at me; I could have sworn he was glaring at me! He wanted bad to happen to me! 
       I'll bet Amakusa's evil is still there, lying in him, and each time he stares at her he thinks about taking her from me. And he'll seduce her, or sacrifice her-to make me suffer another loss. Yes, that was why! That was why! 
       I wished that I had never let Kazuki come with us! Then Sogetsu would never come either. Are they both evil? No, no. Kazuki was a good kid-just wanted to save his brother and needed my help. But his brother still had evil in him-still serving Amakusa, wanting me to suffer! Wanting us all to suffer, but mostly me. He knew I wanted to kill him the most! He knew I would be the one to kill him I Haohmaru son of Akira, noble Samurai who served the Shogun as an honorable general and served Gairyu Isle with honor after he retired but died there when he came with his Ninja and his Samurai and trampled and shot little children and raped women like my mother-
       Why not rape Charlotte too? 
       "You are a very beautiful woman," he told her, "Very kind. Haohmaru is lucky to have someone like you." 
       She smiled. "Thank you. And you are a wonderful man, Sogetsu, no matter what others say. And I am sure someday you will end up with a beautiful woman. . ." 
       Gall embittered me. Was she turning towards him? I couldn't let it happen not to her not to her! Haohmaru is lucky to have someone like you. He doesn't mean it he means I will end Haohmaru and ravage you as well in honor of my lord Amakusa! It was coming again-a tidal wave-a tsunami far on the horizon waiting to crash. 

       I watched her she was wearing my haori and about to leave the springs yes leave Charlotte leave before he does something to you- 
       "Ouch!" she cried. 
       "What-what happened?" he ran over to her. He lifted her up onto the bank of the springs. There was a small cut on her foot. 
       The bruises I know he saw them he would convince them all that I did it. . . 
       "I-I think that I stepped on a rock." 
       "Oh, that's not good. Let me take care of it. . ." 
       She lie down on the bank waiting for him. He tore off part of his clothing and wrapped it around her foot. 
       "That better?" 
       She nodded. 
       "Here, let me check for some more cuts. . ." 
       "I don't think that I have anymore. . ." 
       He is going to do it leave Charlotte run get away before he does it go go go
       But she stayed there, letting him touch her leg and look for more cuts. He wasn't looking for cuts I knew that! 
       And then it crashed, hitting me with full force and I was drowning in its bitter taste in my mouth I could barely breathe I would stop him I would stop him that bastard servant you can't stop me this time Amakusa I know what you're up to you little serpent my head was flooding flooding and all I could see was red his hands were nearing her thighs I knew he was going to I knew it knew it knew you can't do this to me nor her you must die don't spread your evil I will stop you die die die 
       She screamed 
       When it left I found myself, my foot atop his chest. He was lying on the ground, helpless and defenseless. My sword was a hair away from slicing his throat. 
       "You bastard!" she cried, shoving me off. "What is wrong with you?!!" 
       I fell to the ground, my face next to her feet. 
       "You need to stop this Haohmaru before you kill us all! Don't lay another hand on him or anyone else you understand?!" 
       What had I done. It came again that demon. What had I done. . . 
       "I am sorry," I sighed and helped the man up off the ground. He was a bit shaken and stumbled a bit when he stood up. 
       "Haohmaru didn't mean it. He acts this way sometimes." 
       "I was trying to protect you, Charlotte. I-I thought that he was going to. . ." 
       "He wasn't going to do anything! He was helping me! Just go away you jealous monster!" 
       I walked slowly back to the campsite. All the others had gone back to sleep. As I walked I remembered the pond and my ugly face and how I wanted to smash it. She was right. I was killing us all. I just wanted it to go away and stop flooding my head. At least my father died an honorable man, remembered as great and noble. If I died not from Amakusa, but from the redness-that would be the worst death possible. 
       Father please help me fight this.

       The next morning I woke up achy and swollen even though I had spent the whole previous day in the springs. It was that Sogetsu-no, I shouldn't think that way. He had liked her the same way I did; she was very nice, except when she screamed at me the night before. She must have been very angry at me. What had I become what had I become. . . 
       Exercise self-control and self-discipline Haohmaru-chan never let your heart leave your body or else your honor has already fled you 
       I stretched my arms and my muscles popped all through my back and shoulders. It was a wonderful feeling, but I still ached, so I decided to go to the springs one last time before leaving. The morning was still dark and the sky was purple; there were even a few bright stars remaining, and the moon was dim and incredibly high in the sky. Some birds chirped in the trees and the grass was a cool-green and damp with dew. I knew that at the first ray of sunshine Masashige would wake us all and we would have to leave. 
       It was very cold-even though it was dead summer in Kyushu-and my hair was wet since I sweated a lot the night before. I had trouble sleeping. She wasn't that angry at me because she had my wet haori hanging neatly from a tree. I went to pick it up and put it on because I was cold. It was not completely dry and it felt damp. 
       The springs beckoned. I could see them, the water cool-green like the grass, warm and bubbling. It would feel good on a cool morning. Steam rose from it and misted around the small pond, rising as high as the trees. I watched it until it dissolved into the purple air, but I had to hurry before Masashige woke up. 
       I was just about to remove my clothes and sink into the soothing waters until a pungent smell entered my nose. It smelled repulsive-indescribably repulsive. I could barely breathe it smelled so bad and made my stomach tighten painfully, nauseating me. That smell-it was very familiar to me and I couldn't remember for a moment what it was. Something had died. An animal? No-it must have been a really big animal. But when an animal died it didn't smell that bad. A human. It must have been a human. 
       The odor-I knew where I had smelled it before! A long, long time ago on a seashore in a home with a garden behind it with a small red bridge and inside there was the table and the taper and the broken porcelain and the blood and the knife in his back- 
       The sea and the fire and the blood and the screams and the awful smell moved and whirled around in my head and I felt so dizzy so weak in the knees. I collapsed on the ground and vomited. It left a bitter taste in my mouth. 
       I clumsily stood up and tried to find out where the smell was coming from. My heart beat slow and hard and pounded against my chest please don't let it be her please don't let it be her. Then I saw it. 
       Cham Cham's body hung from that tree near the rock where I spied on Sogetsu. She was suspended by a coarse, thick rope by the neck and was naked and barren. Her eyes were wide open and the suffering right before her end remained on her contorted face. Her body was infested with buzzing flies that were attracted to the laceration across her stomach. Maggots seeped from the wound. Her entrails spilled out on to the ground below. I heaved again but no galling liquid came out. 
       My knees were so weak I could barely stand so I gripped a nearby tree branch for support. I was going to faint I knew it. 
       Then I saw her legs. The insides of her thighs had been cut just like my mother's just like my mother's. I shook. He did this. 
       Why didn't you stay with us why you foolish girl 
       But she didn't deserve to die; she just came here and followed Galford on a trade route. Perhaps I had thought too harshly of her. Perhaps she had a right to complain. She had no reason to be killed and entangled with my problem. 
       "Haohmaru what happened?" Masashige called, running up behind me. "And what is that awful smell-my! What happened to her?!! Oh no oh no. . ." 
       He placed his hand to his head. "Oh, it is my fault! I should have watched her more closely. I'll bet that she was on her way to Nagasaki to find a ship back home. The poor girl! Just wanted to go with Galford. She was miserable here! Oh no oh no oh no!" 
       "But Masashige!" I explained. "It wasn't your fault! He killed her!" 
       "But how do you know." 
       "Oh you should know more than I! You were there!" 
       "I just found out about this Haohmaru so don't imply that I did it!" 
       "I never said you did. You saw what they did to my mother! Look at her legs." 
       "That is right!" he gasped. "Amakusa told his Ninja to cut her from the inside before we-it must have been one of his Ninja! Oh, if I only I had. . ." 
       "You did the best that you could." 
       "Aren't we all doing our best." 
       "It is starting to smell out here," I stated. "Come. Let's bury her before the others wake up, and when they do we'll give her proper funeral." 
       We used large sticks to dig through the dirt, which was soft and easy to move because it was damp from the morning dew. 
       "Oh, Haohmaru, this is just terrible." 
       I nodded, concentrating on digging. 
       "You know what this could mean?" he continued. "He's going to start killing us off. If he is using Ninja assassins, then he'll probably kill one person a night. They usually don't kill many people at a time-unless they poison our food." 
       "He's only trying to scare us," I said gruffly, pounding my anger into the dirt. "The man is a coward, using Ninja to kill us. My father told me that Ninja assassins were commissioned by cowards; a true brave man could look his enemy in the eye before killing him. . ." I began to laugh, but there was nothing humorous. It was so unbelievable that it made me laugh that such a thing had happened. "Father was killed by a coward." 
       "Amakusa is a coward," he replied. "He abused us Ninja. A Ninja is like a whole other world that most people don't know about. It is a world that exists in the shadows of the glorious Shoguns and Samurai and Geisha. We have major wars between clans that you don't even know about, and masters who are just as powerful as the Shogun himself. My family is a long line of Ninja blood-good Ninja blood. I had made a terrible mistake when I joined him, thinking that it would bring me honor. I was fifteen years old-fifteen. What is a Ninja anymore anyway; all we're reduced to are assassins and thieves. For money-not for honor. We are merely people of the night who prefer to live in secrecy, who avoid the outside world." 
       "Amakusa must have paid you Ninja well, neh?" 
       "Hai. I was desperate. I had an ailing father, my mother had died, and my sister was maimed. She died when I was twelve; my father died soon after. I needed to find money to pay for a doctor as well as the honor a man feels when serving his lord. But the corruption in the day world eats at me. Ruthless killing of good men we don't know-potential friends maybe-and for what? To prove some point? Or for money and riches? The money I sought was for survival," he shook his head. "I sure was desperate." 
       "I'll tell you what," I said, thrashing at the hole in the ground. "Amakusa may kill me and he and his swarm will eat away the entire land, but at least I will have looked him in the eye. I'm not afraid of him. The worst that he could do is kill me. To die in battle with him would be an honorable death." 
       Both of us untied what was left of Cham Cham from the tree and placed her gently in the hole we dug. I began throwing earth over her as she lay peacefully in the ground. At least there she could be protected from her mortal foolishness. When the others had awoken we prayed for her to have good fortune in the afterlife and to realize her frivolousness. As much as she had irritated us, we were saddened by what happened. Except me. It only made me angrier. It was getting powerful-very powerful.

       By midday on our journey it was unbearably hot; each day it got hotter and hotter as we progressed to Amakusa Jo, where I knew he was waiting for us. He knew it would be a long journey there-all the way from Northern Honshu. If he didn't kill us, the journey still would. He had to make it most difficult! I stamped out my anger by crunching dead leaves on the ground. And the heat was making me more angry. I was surprised we had lasted as long as we had. 
       We rested by a small stream to get a drink and ate some berries before we set off again. My body was aching; there was a part of me that wanted to turn away and just let him do it-kill off everything. It would have been so much simpler. 
       "I am really sick of eating berries. I want meat, you know." Galford sighed. 
       "I can roast you something," Kazuki replied. 
       "Sure, if you can find anything. What sort of animals would live in this heat?" 
       "Lizards, snakes-those kinds of animals." 
       His face turned pale, "I think I will stick with berries." 
       "What would be nice is a good pint of beer," Sieger said. "Back at home. I sure miss it. But I can't go back now. I don't think there is much like it here, though." 
       "Sake, possible. It's a rice wine." I told him. "Very good. . ." 
       "Oh, and bread," Charlotte said. "We haven't had that in a while either. Then we could at least have jam and bread." 
       "Well, I retrieved these from a tea field back on Shikoku," Masashige stated, fumbling around in a small bag. He pulled out some dried leaves. "It's not much, but we could have something a little different." 
       "You're a genius!" Kazuki exclaimed. 
       The talk of food made me very hungry. I wanted a large meal that would hold us until the evening. Then we wouldn't have to make anymore stops. 
       "Why don't we stay here and eat something," I declared. "I'm going to catch some fish in that stream over there. Kazuki start a fire, and the rest of you can look around for things to eat. Steal if you have to." 
       "Well. . ." Galford replied, "but I'm too hungry to do anything." 
       "There are some wheat fields around. Maybe I can get some bread." Masashige said. 
       "Just do whatever it takes," I told him. "I am starving."

       I wandered downstream looking for some fish to eat, but unfortunately all there was were small minnows. I even looked behind rocks, where the fish would hide from the heat, but still there were none. I saw one fairly large one and chased it farther down until I lost it, panting when it got away. We needed food badly; I was so hungry I could feel my stomach cave in and my bones about to poke out of me. 
       My dagger was out, ready to stab a large one out of the stream-if there were any good enough ones. The stream got deeper and deeper as I traveled, and I hoped that there would be more fish. There were no shady places around as I found I was surrounded by a wheat field that seemed to span infinitely. The wheat grew nearly as high as I-some even higher. There was not a cloud in the sky to hide the oppressive sun. 
       I collapsed to my knees they felt so weak, I felt I was deteriorating right there. It took so much energy to crawl over to the stream and get a small drink of water. I looked at my face. It was sad-so tired and worn and old-looking. I was twenty-six years old. Then I splashed some water on my face to cool me off. 
       I'll be able to get up I told myself I'll feel better and can catch food. They are waiting and they are hungry. . . 
       I thought of them dying out because I could not return because I was dying out. Galford Kazuki Nakoruru Masashige Charlotte-skeletons. . . 
       All of a sudden I heard the faint rumbling of a horse through the wheat field. I ignored the dry feeling in my mouth and listened as it came closer, wondering if they had anything to eat. Or was I so hungry I was imagining things, but each second it galloped closer and closer. I heard the horse neigh. 
       Then I saw the long stalks of wheat begin to part, making way for the horse. There was more than one horse; it sounded like three or four. What if they weren't even men, but just some wild horses? And if they were men, would they be evil men? Would they be generous and share food with us? I hoped that there would be men, and even if they were hostile I had enough in me to take them. After all, I always had enough energy for a fight. 
       Through the high stalks came a brown horse with a black mane, a white blaze down its face. It seemed vibrant and healthy despite the heat. Atop it I noticed a man, but I couldn't see him until they approached. There were a few more horses behind him, a white one, a black one, and a gray spotted one; all had men amount. They were heading right for me. 
       I closed my eyes I was so tired and waited for them to trample over me. The ground moved violently below me, shaking as if there was an earthquake. 
       "Woaaaaa there," I heard a man shout. The voice was right above me. "Are you alright?" 
       "Is he dead?" I heard another voice say.
       I opened my eyes again and encountered a blinding flash of sunlight. I squinted and looked up. The silhouette of a man atop a horse was dark against the bright sun. As my eyes adjusted, I stood up and looked at the man in front of me. 
       He was a Samurai-possibly a general-who stood sat stiff and erect atop his horse. He didn't have on a helmet but he wore shiny, golden armor which blinded me as the sun reflected off of it. His face was long and his chin jutted out. He had a neat, trimmed mustache on his face and his hair was in a neat queue. By his side I noticed the sword and the dagger. Their sheaths were made of lacquer, as was my Fugu Blade, but they had engravings of dragons on them-very ornate. The man looked about my age-somewhat like my father-and very honorable and brave and commanding. I looked at him and saw a ghost-the man I would have become and not this hungry failure. 
       "Who are you?" he asked, his voice commanding. He had a firm grip on the reins of his horse. 
       I bowed to the man. "I am Haohmaru, son of Tomura Akira, who was a noble Samurai who died years ago. . ." 
       "Akira-sama?" he asked. 
       I nodded. "You don't happen to have any food do you?" 
       "You are son of Akira? The man who helped impede the Christian rebellions?" 
       "He was a great man. I was just a boy when he died. In fact, my father fought under him in these very fields in a major rebellion. The one that earned him fame." 
       "He was a great man. . ." 
       The man cocked his head. "I never knew that he had a son." 
       I sighed. "Most people never knew. But I need your help sir. I am very hungry. I have a group of people who is very hungry." 
       "Then we will try to help you. Come," he called to his soldiers. "Where are you." 
       "Near here," I replied. "In a forest nearby. Just up this stream." 
       We began to walk and conversed with each other along the way. 
       "Who are you?" I asked him. 
       "I am General Watanabe of the Reds," he bowed his head from atop his horse. 
       "The Reds?" 
       "This is not a place to be right now," the Samurai warned. "There is a great civil war around here between the Reds and the Whites. We need leadership like your father. The people of Kyushu are splitting into more and more warring factions." 
       He sighed again, "Hai. The whole island is in chaos. The Christians are rebelling again. I am fighting under Lord Tsunemoto-or the Reds as you must call us. Our Lord is trying to keep order in this place, but more and more people are converting. And there are so many sects of this Christianity religion-Catholicism, Calvinism, Puritanism, just to name a few. It is terrible. They use sneaky guerilla tactics on us-sniping at us from the woods, in our homes-why, there could be some right in those wheat fields! Be on the lookout." 
       "The Christians. . ." I furrowed my eyebrows. "Why have they started to rebel again?" 
       His commanding voice got darker and quieter, "Apparently there is a new man around-very secretive. We don't know much about him, but My Lord thinks that is the cause. He calls himself 'Amakusa' just like the old rebel who killed your father. As each day passes, I think more and more that he is behind all this." 
       "Amakusa. . ." I growled at the name. "You must come with us! Right away!" 
       I knew he was causing the chaos. I had to help this man. He had to know what had really happened. 
       "You sound urgent, Haohmaru-san," he stated. 
       "We know about this new man."

Chapter 16

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