Thunder and Redness
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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."
matter," she said to him, smiling.
have gills behind my ears. And webbed hands and feet!"
a little. "Why are you so ashamed?"
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
"You are a
very beautiful woman," he told her, "Very kind. Haohmaru is lucky to
have someone like you."
"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. . ."
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-
happened?" he ran over to her. He lifted her up onto the bank of the springs.
There was a small cut on her foot.
I know he saw them he would convince them all that I did it. . .
that I stepped on a rock."
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.
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
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.
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.
mean it. He acts this way sometimes."
"I was trying
to protect you, Charlotte. I-I thought that he was going to. . ."
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.
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. . .
self-control and self-discipline Haohmaru-chan never let your heart leave
your body or else your honor has already fled you
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!"
I explained. "It wasn't your fault! He killed her!"
"But how do
"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."
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.
this is just terrible."
I nodded, concentrating
"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."
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."
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."
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."
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 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?"
kinds of animals."
His face turned
pale, "I think I will stick with berries."
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,
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!"
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
I bowed to
the man. "I am Haohmaru, son of Tomura Akira, who was a noble Samurai who
died years ago. . ."
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."
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.
"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."
. ." I furrowed my eyebrows. "Why have they started to rebel again?"
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
." 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
urgent, Haohmaru-san," he stated.
about this new man."
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