Thunder and Redness
Homepage: Save the Sugar
warmth of the sun awakened me on that morning. It seemed like a day that
would bring good tidings, but I knew not to expect anything good. Ever
since that day on Gairyu Isle, my life hadn't improved; it just stayed
the same. Every day I would wake up lonely and bored, despite the fact
I avoided people. I even avoided my father's funeral, for the people would
give me these sad looks, but I knew he would understand the reason of my
absence. . .
was nineteen years later, and I was no better a Samurai than when I was
six! An enormous pang of guilt shuddered through my body. I could feel
his shame for me. I didn't even serve a warlord. In fact, I traveled up
northward, trying to find that bastard Amakusa, but I learned quickly that
the land was too vast for a child. I found this secluded place in the forests
of the north, which was abundant in food. It was near a town, ruled by
a stable daimyo. I could have served him, but I just couldn't bear anymore
relationships with other humans. My father was just too great a person
to match up to, and after a while I even forgot about trying.
day was the same to me. I woke up and prayed to the kami and to
Father for good fortune, and then went fishing or gathering. If that proved
unsuccessful, I had to go to the market nearby. I went, bought the food
I needed, and avoided eye contact with the people walking down the street.
I stopped going after a while since I was running out of money.
food anyway, so I decided to go through the woods for a hunt. Taking my
sword with me, I trudged through a dense bamboo forest. I had a strange
craving for meat. Whenever I killed a creature, I pretended it was Amakusa.
I skinned the animals with the very dagger he killed my father with. How
I would have loved to skin him, and feed his flesh to the sharks, and let
the wolves gnaw on his brittle bones. I spent years pondering on how I
would get my revenge, but illness got to him before I could. Hopefully
that filth died sputtering up blood or choking on his own vomit, and not
in a peaceful sleep. I hoped he died in pure agony and pain, so he'd suffer
for what he'd done to my father.
ruined my life. I would have been an honorable warrior, under the best
training and leadership of my father. Never would I have turned out like
this. Passing a pond, I paused and looked at my reflection. Oh, it was
a pathetic sight indeed! My hair had grown scraggly and uneven, and it
reached down to my waist. My face developed a roughness to it, and I was
beginning to see some stubble. The clothes I wore had become torn and ratty
over the years, and I didn't care. I was never going to see anyone again
anyway, so my appearance would have no importance. I could only revel it
what life would be like if Father was still alive. In that reflection,
I felt I could see his eyes staring back at me, scorning me for choosing
this path. What was honor now?! Just some improbable goal I would never
growled. All my pessimism created an appetite, but the forest was bare.
I cut open a shoot of bamboo, and sucked the gritty stem for its sweet
juices. The damn sun was even scorning me; everything was scorning me.
And what did I do to deserve this?! Why was it my father
who had to die?! What gracious and merciful gods would have let it happen?!
juice from the shoot had left me thirsty, so I bent down over the stream
for some water. It didn't fill me up; I needed meat! Where were
those damn animals?! I just wanted to bellow all my anger in that woods,
but I knew that if I did I'd frighten the game! Patience. It was just something
I didn't have. I didn't wait for anything. My life was tedious enough,
and there was no way I would sit around like a repressed powder keg and
wait for my damn breakfast. If my father was alive, I wouldn't need to
wait around for food! Damn Amakusa! Damn him to Hell!
a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a creature leap
behind a bush. Ha! That was my chance. I saw the leaves of a black berry
bush rustle, and figured it was probably a rabbit; they could brave the
thorns. Rabbit meat sounded delicious at the moment. I crept up to the
bush, unsheathing my katana. I had to be extremely quiet, for rabbits were
very sensitive. No way in Hell would I lose this game. I crept closer,
making each step as quietly as I could. Through a crack in the bushes,
I saw a bit of black. Yes, I would kill that black rabbit of death and
make it my breakfast. I raised my sword, ready to strike, waiting for the
moment. It came down hard on the bush, but then something odd happened.
My sword struck metal, and the force of it knocked from my hands.
back. A black thing leapt from the bushes and stood it my path. He was
merely stared at me, not moving his dark eyes. They fixated on me, keen
and acute, and froze me. The Ninja was a small man, but stood before me
with confident poise. His arms were crossed across his chest, with his
blade in one hand. He was clad entirely in black, with a purple scarf and
sash around his waist. His masked face was intimidating, and a brass head-guard
rested on his forehead, concealing his brows. I hated Ninja; Ninja killed
my parents. I always had despised them, for they were so sly and secretive,
and this one was going to pay. He ruined my hunt, and his stance just asked
me to slit his throat.
bigger than him; I could take him. But my weapon lay on the ground, so
I threw a punch at him, but he counterattacked me. I tried to kick him,
but he artfully dodged my foot. Well, he was just lucky! But each time
I attempted an attack, I missed. I threw punches and kicks at him, but
he avoided every one. Damn, that Ninja was clever! I even hurled
myself at him, but he just stepped out of the way and fell flat on my face.
It was humiliating. He was so dexterous and artful in his form, and I was
just slow and barbaric. I just wanted to lie on the ground and let him
up, and he stood in front of me. He seemed a lot taller than he actually
was from the ground's view. I had wanted to rip his throat out for that,
but then he extended his hand, as if he wanted to help me up. I reluctantly
took it and he pulled me off the ground.
sorry I posed a threat to you, Haohmaru, but you nearly killed me. I suppose
you thought I was an animal," he spoke. His voice was deep and articulate,
but muffled from the mask.
he know my name?! Just who was this stranger?! I eyed him again. He seemed
are you?!" I interrogated, shaken. "How do you know my name?!"
been watching you for a long time now, Haohmaru. I was there when your
father was kill. . ."
die!! "So you're the son of a bitch who did it! I'll kill
you!! I'll kill you!!" I lashed out.
his hand out to stop me. I growled at him and clenched my fists, ready
for a fight.
the murderer, Haohmaru. That was the reason I left Amakusa's clan. I was
one of the Ninja who was assigned to kill your parents, but when I saw
them in their home, having tea, I just couldn't bring myself to commit
such a horrible thing, so I left. I had always respected your father."
tell me name of the Ninja who did kill my parents!" I demanded.
sighed, "He poisoned himself, for their very murderer could not live with
to glare at him. He still seemed to suspicious. 'If you had respect for
my father, then why did you join Amakusa's clan?!"
young then. . .just eager to serve a master. But I left promptly after
your parents' death. Escape was not easy. I had hidden in your house, and
I saw you enter. You were just a young boy then, and I'll never forget
that look of horror on your face when you saw them. I saw you leave, and
I followed you all the way here. I serve the shogun now, for I feel that
by serving him I can repent for my service to Amaksua. Yet I too, hide
in the woods, for I fear that I'll be caught, although Amakusa and his
silly beliefs have withered away. I see you sometimes, and you appear so
lonely. I never bothered to accompany you, for you seemed to not want people
around, so I hide in the shadows."
a spy! I know it!" I lashed again.
assume too much, Haohmaru," he remarked. "A Ninja may seem a cunning spy
outside the mask, but we are humans too."
the mask. Once I saw his face, he didn't seem so intimidating. He appeared
around his mid-thirties, and had smooth, swept-back hair, which fell just
below his ears.
is your name?" I asked him, in a more gentler tone of voice.
to the ground and bowed deeply. "I'm Hattori Hanzo."
. .I'm Haohmaru. . ." I told him. I felt like everything was happening
so quickly all of a sudden.
of thunder sounded in the distance. The sun was beginning to shy away behind
do you live?" I asked him.
shadows. . ." he replied.
towards the sky, which appeared ominous. "Well, I've built a small place.
You're welcome to stay, if. . ."
back at where he was standing. He had disappeared.
I called tentatively. "Hanzo?"
appeared, yet I still felt as if I were not alone. An eerie feeling crept
through me, and I hoped that Hattori Hanzo was who he said he was.
he have done that?! The next moment I was talking to him, and he vanishes
before my I eyes. I looked through all the surrounding bushes, behind every
tree and rock, but he was no in sight. Where could he have gone? He was
making me angry.
where are you?! This isn't funny!"
no answer. The sky was getting blacker.
flickered in the sky. I began to feel somewhat panicky.
. .?" I questioned, with more fear in my voice.
you looking for someone?" I heard an unfamiliar voice.
around and saw a young girl carrying a basket of herbs and berries. She
looked about sixteen or so, and had long, black hair and wore Ainu clothing,
dressed in purple. I knew she wasn't Japanese because her skin was white
as snow. I'd seen a few Ainu people up here gathering fruit, and this girl
looked somewhat familiar.
are you?" I interrogated.
. .I'm Nakoruru," she said. "I've seen you around before. Where did you
a long story. . ." I sighed. "And I don't want to tell about it."
were you looking for?" she asked.
Ninja." I told her, trying to walk away. I didn't need any help from some
following me. "Can I help?"
I replied curtly, and walked toward my house.
never find him. If he's a good Ninja."
quicker, trying to shake her off my back, but she persisted in following
me. "You seem awfully hungry. Would you like some black berries?" she offered.
to say no, but I was famished. And the berries looked fresh and ripe. I
grabbed a handful and ate. "Thanks," I replied, and kept walking.
that I've given you food, you must tell me who you are."
said I didn't want to!!" I barked.
to tremble, and back away. Her large, brown eyes became glossy. I felt
terrible for causing that pitiful face. She was just a girl. I had to repress
my short temper.
right, all right, I apologize," I reluctantly said.
. .you need to work on your temper."
"I'm Haohmaru. I came from Gairyu Isle, and ran away here when I was six."
about what happened there," she said, "Was that after the raid?"
. ." I grumbled. "I ran away because Amakusa killed my parents."
a crazy man. My mother told me about him, and about how he sent these priests
to enforce some odd religion on us. They called us fiendish pagans. . .whatever
means your beliefs are primitive," I told her. "And they are, as much as
I hate to agree with him."
he's buried somewhere around here. They had to keep the burial secret,
because he wanted a Christian burial. That's against the law."
is his grave, for I will piss on it!" I growled.
know. . ." she sighed. "But why do you have such spite against him?"
conversation made me boil with anger. "Because he took the life of one
of the best warriors who ever lived, and he ruined my life!" I rasped deeply.
"My father had no reason to die!!"
away, tense. The girl was small and timid, and she shrunk before me at
each word. Her voice was quite high, barely above a whisper. I felt as
if the cold gusts of wind would wisp her away.
. .who was your father?"
"Akira. . ."
sounded so noble escaping my lips.
grew wide in amazement. "You mean Akira, the man who conquered the Christian
rebels? You're his son?!"
I was surprised. The girl seemed so circumspect, yet never questioned me.
Amakusa finally got his revenge. . ." she sighed wistfully. Thunder rumbled
in the distance. "I'm so glad he's gone and buried. I know Tokugawa is.
do you know so much about my father?" I questioned. "You're Ainu. I thought
you always kept to yourselves."
to know things," she spoke louder, with more fervor in her voice, "so often
when I gather fruit, I travel into Japanese villages and hear about things.
Someday, I hope to know everything. . ."
intelligent enough, yet she was still so young and naive. I hated to break
her hopes, but it would save her a lot of hurt. "I'm afraid that's a goal
you'll never achieve."
not. . .but I'll try."
my head. That poor girl had no idea what this world was really like.
raindrops pelted my hair. I looked up at the sky, ominous and dark. Lightning
tore through it, and a clamor of thunder succeeded. I had to return home.
go," I told her. "And you too."
she sighed, the wind blasting her fragile body. "I still have to gather
enough fruit for my family to eat. It's monsoon season, you know. I spend
my time too idly. Good-bye, Haohmaru!"
off, her long, black hair trailing behind her.
left all alone. Alone in the storm. The wind whipped against my clothes
as I moved against it towards my home. The rain, now heavy, blew sideways
and stung my face. I was starving. The hollow of my stomach felt incredibly
empty, yet it was not for food. That was the first time in fifteen years
I had yearned for company. . .
lasted for several miserable days. I'd never liked rain when I lived in
that pitiful house which I had built. The roof, already dank enough, nearly
collapsed under the heavy rains, and my home smelled of dirt, for I had
to seal the cracks with it so the rain wouldn't flood into my house. The
worst part was hunting for food in the rain. Hours and hours I'd spend,
letting the rain drench me. Sometimes I wished it would just melt me into
a puddle, and I would merely trickle away from all that had ever hurt me.
But I just let it soak me, even though I'd ran out of dry clothes. To make
matters worse, there was an earthquake, and my home crumbled to the ground.
I spent hours just to erect a small, makeshift shelter with a roof. It
wasn't even enclosed, and I slept on the cold, muddy ground. The whole
time I was cold and hungry, wishing it was fifteen years ago and I was
at home on Gairyu Isle, sipping warm tea with my parents under a dry roof.
But that would never be possible! For every time I shivered, I cursed that
myself into my little hut, trying as best as I could to stay dry. There
was hardly anything to divert me from the comfortless conditions, except
for my father's books. . .and my thoughts. I thought about many issues
during the monsoon. I thought about Hanzo, and how he was taking shelter.
How close was he? He made me uneasy, for I felt that he knew far too much.
What did he already know? Then I thought about Nakoruru, on her quest to
figure out all there was to know. I felt she knew too much for someone
so young. She, too, gave me that eerie feeling that she had been watching
me closer than she claimed she had. And how did I know that they were just
more people to hurt me, setting me up just as Charlotte had. Were they
pure, or black with evil? Or possibly they were for good--no! Of course
not! Nothing good ever came from people.
the sun finally decided to show itself, I emerged from my "home" and decided
to take a walk. My clothes were all damp, and all I had was a pair of baggy,
black pants that my father used to wear when he trained. They draped over
my feet unto the muddy ground. I was tall enough, but not as tall as my
father. His clothes always hung loosely on me. I had to hold the pants
up to avoid having them caked with mud. I removed my shoes, and decided
to let my feet sink into the sodden earth. I was famished and homeless.
That little hut took me nearly two years to construct. Although it was
heresy against my views about people, I wished I knew someone who could
a walk into the forest, feeling much more low than I had the last time.
I unsheathed my Fugu Blade and swiped at a few bamboo shoots in anguish.
What was I going to go?! I had no home anymore! I couldn't show my face
in a village with these filthy clothes. I looked again at my reflection
in the pond. Then I looked harder, but I never saw the noble face of my
father like the former visit. For the first time since I was six, the redness
returned. Instead I though I saw him--that bastard--contorting his
face into a hideous grin mocking my misfortune I wanted to scream and step
on that grotesque face I saw before me and shatter its image in the water
that turned red like blood like the blood that was shed on the rocky shores
of Gairyu Isle that day when I was a little boy and everything I ever had
was yanked from me--
YOU, AMAKUSA!!!" I cried, as loud as I could. The cry reverberated through
the never-ending woods.
my sword in anger, marching through the forest like a savage beast. My
heart immediately felt the toxins of pure rage insane rage, the kind of
rage where the world becomes nothing but a red blaze red like blood!
Just the thought of it made my mouth foam I wanted to kill I wanted
to kill someone I didn't care who! I just wanted to kill! It pounded in
my skull, that ire!
a shrill voice rang through the forest.
I screamed. "What?!"
ran towards me, repeatedly calling my name.
I have to talk to you!" she exclaimed, with a high degree of panic in her
felt blood thirsty. I trembled in rage. "What do you WANT?!! What do you
WANT?!!" I screamed. Nakoruru began to get that glossy-eyed look, but I
was too enraged to notice it she looked just like she did when she cried
for me hanging from the cliff and I tried to save her and her father hit
me with the came and everything went black.
let it go!" she screamed. "I must talk to you! It's important!"
the hell away from me!! Or I'll kill you!! I'LL KILL YOU!!!"
down!" she yelled, nearly as loud as I. "You must listen to me!!"
began to shake me, but my sentiments, what little I had, couldn't inhibit
me from my anger.
broke me from my madness when she kicked me as hard as she could in the
shin. The redness faded, and the tranquil mien of the forest returned.
I felt somewhat dizzy trying to reenter the sane world. I huffed, for the
ire was exhausting.
. ." she sighed, "I. . .I have to tell you something. . ."
I asked. "What happened?"
thing I needed was more misfortune!
afraid I have some bad news. . ."
news?! Well what is it?!" I interrogated. I wanted to hear the dreadful
tidings quickly, so I could know it as quick and painless as possible.
.I saw something a couple of nights ago. . ." she sighed. Her wide, brown
eyes filled with fear. "It was. . .at Amakusa's grave. . ."
grave?!" I sputtered. No! How I loathed that name! I knew
deep in the pit of my heart that it would be dreadful news.
she restated, "I--well I was gathering food during my family a couple nights
ago, and I happened to pass by his grave stone in the forest. I. . .I saw
a man there. He was in his early forties or so, and wore a long, black
robe. He carried a book with a cross in one hand, and led a little, white
lamb with the other. Around his neck he had some pewter emblem of a crucified
man. I'm not familiar with Christianity. . ."
book with the cross is the Holy Bible, which is what Christians read. They
live their entire lives by its teachings," I informed her, recalling from
when Serge came and preached to us. "But please! Tell me!"
. .the man knelt down and read from the Bible, about the day some evil
being would come again. Then he deeply bowed to the grave and worshipped
it, kissing the cold, hard stone and all. He repeatedly said, `O Great
Prophet, I bow to thee! May thee reign again!!" And then he took a
small knife from his hands and cut open the lamb. It was the most horrific
sight! He left the lamb's blood fall thrice upon the ground; once for the
father, twice for the son, and the third time for the Holy Spirit. I didn't
quite understand the practice that he used to resurrect that demon, but
all I know is that he held the metallic emblem around his neck up to the
sky, and all of a sudden he was struck by lightning. The man fell to the
ground, and immediately afterward, the ground began to shake violently.
was the earthquake that destroyed my home!!" I filled with rage! Even six
feet under that fiend knew how to ruin my life! "That son of a bitch!!"
I huffed in anger.
continued, "One of the trees fell on the man. Then, all of the sudden,
the ground split right in two! I gazed in awe at the fiery chasm
that emerged from the ground. Smoke billowed from it, like ghastly spirits
in the deep woods. But then. . .then the most horrific thing occurred.
The air began to feel very heavy with evil; so heavy I felt as if it were
pinning me to the ground. And then I saw this black presence rise from
the pit, a darker cloud of smoke than the wisps that preceded it. It had
no shape at all; it was just some dense entity which hovered above the
fire. And then it began to talk!
servant. . .' it said, `you hath saved me from this pit of misery,
this pit of eternal Hell that God the Traitor hath put me in. I once believed
in His divine power. I worshipped him in my earthly life, and gave him
my all. And now He hath locked me into this crevasse of eternal torture.
You, dear servant, hath now given me the second opportunity to reign again.
I will show God, once and for all, who is the Supreme Being! Curse that
devil for punishing me. . .'
continues and continues about his hateful feelings towards his God, and
then he rewards the dead priest with his evil soul. And this, too, I shall
never forget. The black, billowing form infiltrated the mouth of the priest.
The man awoke again, lifting the tree from his back with superhuman strength!
He rose, unscathed, as if nothing had ever damaged him. But his eyes--oh,
his eyes were hideous! One eye remained normal, but his other eye,
amber in color, gleamed from the fire. Then he hurled his burnt emblem
into the flames, telling it to go to where it truly belonged."
to find that priest!" I exclaimed. "I'll kill him!"
act so hastily!" she cried.
you could release his spirit from the flesh! It could feed on other souls
at will! Who knows what it could do?!"
find I way!" I rasped. "I'll find a way. . ."
at the ground and shook her head, "Somehow, this seems strange. We're trying
to kill someone that's already dead."
. .I'll find out!" I replied gruffly, "Even if I have to die
to do it!"
. ." she tried to stop me, "there is something else that I forgot to mention,
and it will certainly inspire your vengeful feelings even more."
her grin a little before she went on.
sure you know that the person Amakusa despised most was your father," she
continued, "and ultimately he is who Amakusa blames for his eternal punishment.
He seeks just as much revenge on Akira as you do on him. His plan was to
kill your whole family-even you--that day years ago, but you were not there.
He never knew about you when he was alive.
ran away, out of sight. I don't think a soul in Japan even knew that Akira
had a son. He knows now, and has another chance. . ."
like I have another chance to stop him and preserve the honor of my father!"
you are a threat to Amakusa's plans. He thinks that the kami have given
you special powers, which are within your sword. Amakusa wants that sword,
and that your father has not gone to the afterlife because his spirit cannot
of course he cannot rest!" I spat, "Not until I win him back the
honor that he lost!"
father will guide you. He is everywhere. If you are very quiet, he will
talk to you."
hope you are telling me the truth!" I growled.
father will only help you, but this is your struggle. . ."
if what you say is true. . .then where do we find Amakusa?" I asked her,
somewhat calmer now.
.I don't know. He could be anywhere. Lurking in these forests possibly.
I. . .I have this great fear that he saw me spying on him. I don't believe
he intended for you to know this. . ."
my sword tightly, brewing with anger. "Well, that fiend isn't taking my
sword; I'll make sure of that!"
into the deep forest, feeling like my life had a purpose again. It was
I who would defeat Amakusa. Only I, and no one else, and if anyone--anyone--
tried to impede me from it, they would pay dearly.
wait up!" Nakoruru called, running behind me. "Where are you going?"
that son of a bitch!" I huffed, marching along. "I have no meaning here
moving on. . ." she stated, "I'm coming with you!"
I scoffed, "It's too dangerous for a little girl like you!"
tell by her face that she didn't take to kindly to my remark; I had hit
a soft spot.
matter," she said. "I'm coming with you."
can't!" I exclaimed. "You have a family to take care of. . .and
be grateful you have one!"
in following me. "I'll be safer with you! My little sister can take care
kill your family if he knew what you did," I told her. "Speaking from experience,
he pleasures himself in that!"
I must come with you in order to protect them!!"
She wasn't going to give up, and I didn't have the energy to argue with
her. Throwing up my arms, I huffed, " You can come. But stay out of trouble!
I'm not going to run to your rescue if you get yourself in some sort of
complied, and we walked through the forest.
what the priest was like before he became possessed," Nakoruru speculated.
"If we knew that, it could help us find him."
a sudden, I though of a way we could ferret some information on the priest.
.I know someone who might be able to help us. . ." I assured.
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