Thunder and Redness
Homepage: Save the Sugar
Nakoruru and I strolled
even deeper into the forest, searching for him. I could see that she was
quite restless with me, but tried her best to conceal it. Her timidness
had inhibited her from any outbursts; however, she began to aggravate me
with these questions, hinting that she was pretty aggravated herself.
"Just who are
we looking for?!" she finally queried.
I sighed. We
had already taken two breaks, for she tired easily. Most of the stroll
was silent. Hardly any words to exchange. I was so angry at that bastard
for having the backbone to return here; she was very quiet. When she finally
spoke, I realized that she had the right to know who I was looking for.
At first I had kept him a secret so she would get off my trail, for I wanted
to travel alone, but, although she was timid, she was persistent.
"It's a man
I met a few days ago," I told her. "I haven't seen him since, for he just
vanished away without any trace."
She eyed me
curiously, "Was that the man that you were looking for that time I saw
you in the forest when I was gathering? He was a Ninja, wasn't he?"
I nodded. "Yes--yes
that was him. He's a Ninja."
All of a sudden,
she doubled over laughing, partly mocking me, and partly in sarcastic frustration.
"Well, of course you can't find him Haohmaru!" she derided, more
caustic. "He's a Ninja. My mother told me that they can make themselves
invisible! There's absolutely no point in looking for him. You are wasting
I glared at
her. Never would I allow some girl chide me like so! "Do you listen to
everything your mother tells you?!" I asked. "Because if you want to know
everything, like you said, then the last thing you should listen to is
some old maid's tale. Women know nothing!"
back, "Well, what do you know?! You have no social skills at all!
You scream at people for no good reason at all. You let your anger control
you. . ."
up!!" I barked.
She was silent,
but I was somewhat amazed that the girl had effrontery. Ha! But
I had the last word. . .
tiresome walking. The sun was beating on our backs. For each step I took,
for each bead of sweat that cascaded down my forehead, for each time my
stomach growled, I began to believe Nakoruru's words, as much as I tried
to resist. This search was fruitless.
by a pond. Ahh, how the water seemed so fresh and clear. I scooped a handful
and took a drink, letting the cool liquid soothe my parched throat. It
was early afternoon, and the forest looked lovely. The bamboo shoots towered
over us, their blade-like leaves shielding us from the sun's relentless
heat, yet allowing rays to seep through the holes in their canopy. They
nearly touched the sky, like endless, tall, green towers, which seemed
to grow infinitely, as if the whole rest of the world was one, vast forest
of these verdure columns. A small doe peered her head around a shoot on
the over side of the pond, took one look at us, then vaulted over the pond
and scampered away.
she gorgeous!" Nakoruru exclaimed.
I nodded my
head. I had lived in those forests for years, and had become blase to the
wonders of nature, but she seemed to take great pride in it.
I began to
get restless, and urged that we move on.
she asked, "Remember, there is no point in searching for him. We might
as well go back. . ."
I quickly stood
up and stomped my foot, remembering my father and what that fiend did to
can, girl, but I am going to make that demon pay for what he has done,
so that he will never in any life escape it!!!" I declared. "And I'm going
to continue to search for him until my feet bleed!!"
I looked at
my sword, the blade naked and glistening in the afternoon spirit. It gave
me some comfort, for I knew that my father was there, and I was not going
to live these hardships alone. With all the cynicism I had obtained from
my woes, I at least had bit of faith in him, and I would punish Amakusa.
Why did Father deserve this?! He had done nothing but be an honorable warrior
and protect his country against beasts such as Amakusa! And he was trapped
in the Fugu Blade! He deserved to be dwelling with the greatest honors
in the afterlife!
I walked yet
deeper into the forest, hoping it would lead me somewhere. Where it would
go was of no import to me. How I felt then, anything was closer to Amakusa
"You are mad!"
her off and continued to walk.
"Just why are
you looking for that Ninja anyway?" she interrogated.
I stopped in
my tracks. "Because. . .because he used to serve Amakusa, and he may know
something about that priest. . ."
"But we have
no possible idea where he could be," she stated. "And besides, what if
he doesn't know anything about him?"
fact that there's a mere chance he could know something is worth
the pain!" I emphatically said.
still thinking I was mad. "You let your emotions control you like a puppet!
You really are mad!"
"Ahh. . .but
his madness hath method in it. . ." a deep voice interjected from behind.
Both of us
whirled around. I jumped.
It was Hattori
Hanzo himself, but in his mask.
hath method?!" Nakoruru asked.
"Yes. . ."
the Ninja replied. "I found that one from a European playwright, named
Shakespeare, I believe. Very clever fellow. . ."
I growled at
him. I had that feeling he had something tricky up his sleeve.
looking all over these woods for you!" I cried.
"Yes, but isn't
it ironic that sometimes the thing you are searching for is so close?"
been following us?!"
I screamed, "You wait until now to show yourself, Ninja?! When we
are parched?! When we are exhausted?!"
"You must train
hard for your journey, for it is quite a ways ahead. You've gotten nothing
under your belt."
I wanted to
charge at him, but I resisted the urge when I remembered his dexterity
and cleverness. Hanzo removed his mask.
"Who is the
young lady?" he asked, pointing to Nakoruru.
I told him. "She thinks that she can handle a journey like this."
I saw her glower
at me, her arms folded tightly across the chest.
his head. "You see, Haohmaru, you do assume too much. This girl is not
as fragile as she seems. If you ever want to avenge your father, you must
rely on others to help you. No man can do it on his own." He bowed to Nakoruru.
"I am Hattori Hanzo."
"Are you the
Ninja that disappeared?" she asked.
"I didn't believe
that Haohmaru was apt to converse with me yet, for I can't reason with
him. He's been alone for too long. The first time I met him was by accident,
when he mistook me for game."
to scowl at him. He was treating me as some sort of barbarian! I was the
son of the most noble warrior in Japan! That Ninja wasn't going to treat
me like that, and he certainly was not going to go anywhere. I looked
for the first thing I could use to make sure he didn't. Without reasoning,
I snatched Nakoruru's ribbon from her hair.
I grabbed Hanzo's
wrists and began to tie them together with the pink ribbon. He didn't even
move! After I had finished, I placed the dagger, which once slew my father,
up to his throat.
I commanded harshly, "if you even have the balls to move, I will slit every
sinew and vein in your throat in half, you understand?!" He had no choice
but to tell me.
He never even
happened with Amakusa," I continued. "A priest resurrected him from the
dead, and Amakusa has possessed his soul. You are going to tell me everything!
Everything! About what you know of any priest, and if you don't,
I'll kill you!"
say anything at all; he just stood still, even I had the knife up to his
throat. After a few seconds, his hands came out of nowhere, and twisted
my hand from its grasp. Then, he snatched the knife from my hand, and pointed
it at me. I stood there, dumbfounded. His quickness awed me, for I thought
I had him at the blade of my knife, but then he took my own knife, and
pointed it at me!
make me speak, Haohmaru," he said, with assertive composure. "But you are
in great danger, and I would feel terribly shameful if I did not tell you
He picked up
Nakoruru's pink ribbon from the ground and handed it to. "I apologize for
this." She nodded and accepted his apology.
"You have a
lot to learn, Haohmaru," he told me. "A lot to learn. . ."
His words stung
me. I looked at him. He seemed so intelligent and composed, and I knew
I acted like a savage brute, letting my anger control me like I was its
puppet. But he. . .he seemed like a man from a far future. . .a far future
of pure reason and intellect. He must have viewed me as no more than an
ape. And that angered me so! How could he talk to me like that?! Yet at
the time I wasn't angry at Hanzo; I was just angry because of my anger,
but I often released my wrath upon the poor Ninja.
"You are full
of shit!" I told him.
But my words
never seemed to have any impact on him. Did he swallow and digest them,
or let it pass over him like water over a smooth rock. Or did he just internalize
it, and let it canker his insides. Did he cleanse it out through wretched
sobs, or howl at the moon in pure rage like a savage wolf when not a soul
was present? But he never lost his form to emotions.
"You may think
so, Haohmaru, but you must take control of yourself, for Amakusa will feed
on your impulses. If you choose anger as a way of solving your problems,
than you will have subjected yourself to him. And I know, Haohmaru, that
is exactly what you don't want. If you calm yourself, I will tell you about
the priest. . ."
His words were
as true as the grass was green, and I knew right then I would have so much
effort ahead of me to reconstruct myself. Nakoruru and I sat on the ground
and Hanzo began. . .
"Now, I am
not definitely sure, but I have pretty good idea on who might have done
that evil task. You must keep this clearly confidential, for the public
will not know how to handle this. The man's name was Tachibana Ukyo, and
he began as a typical Samurai who served a typical warlord. In fact, according
to Christian doctrine, Ukyo was rather lax in his morals. When he was not
a battle, he would always go to the tavern and waste himself in sake and
gamble. He was notorious throughout the towns for visiting the brothels,
but he was a very handsome man, and women would drop dead just so he would
see him. Ukyo had a girlfriend, named Kei, who used to serve sake at the
bar. Although he solicited with other women, he always loved Kei, and he
reassured her that no matter what he did with other women, she was one
he loved. And she was content with that.
"One day, Amakusa
and his Christian rebels infiltrated the bar and raised havoc. Somehow,
Amakusa knew that Ukyo was Kei's lover, and he caught him courting other
ladies at the bar. He was singled out by the Christians, and they accused
him of adultery and over-indulging himself, and that he would rot in an
eternal Hell, et cetera, but they said if he converted to Christianity
and did penance for his sins, he would be saved from Hell. Now Ukyo, being
an extreme conformist and a slave to fashion, naturally believed all that
Amakusa said. Ukyo had chronic tuberculosis, and Amakusa also promised
that God would save him from his misery.
then, Ukyo had become a more and more devout worshipper of Christianity.
At first, he worshipped God and the idols of Christianity, but then he
began his figure of worship began to transfer to Amakusa himself. Yes,
that demon became his own God in Ukyo's eyes, for he felt that through
Amakusa he would earn his right to heaven. He resided at Amakusa Jo, his
retreat on a small group of islands near Kyushu and never returned to his
Kei. People then assumed that the tuberculosis had finally gotten to him,
and proclaimed him dead.
of illness some years later at Amakusa Jo, but they decided to bury him
deep in the forests around where no one would find him. I, however, had
escaped from him into those woods, and I saw them there, at the grave.
Instead of running, I watched the whole procession in secrecy. Ukyo was
there, and, standing near my hiding place, declared that he was going to
allow him to "come again" and judge those who wronged him. And he is probably
the perpetrator who has endangered this earth."
"Do you have
an idea of where he is?" Nakoruru asked him.
"Well, I know
that Kei lives in Nagano; that was where Ukyo had lived before he joined
"But that is
so far!" she exclaimed.
"It is far, but if this incident happened only a couple of days ago, than
Ukyo can't be far. Unless he traveled by horse."
have gone far!" I crushed my fist and clenched my teeth. "I can almost
smell his blood!"
this isn't Ukyo now; it's Amakusa," Nakoruru explained. She turned to Hanzo,
"Of what you know of Amakusa, where do think he would go?"
"Oh, probably back to Nagano, I suppose. Or else searching for you. . ."
"Do you think
that he could find us?" she quivered. "Do you think that he knew that I
had seen him?"
"Oh. . .I don't
know. It seems so cloudy. . .he is. . .he not human anymore. Who knows
if he possesses super-senses. I don't know if there is even a way to stop
him. . ."
"There is one
thing, though, and I know it." Nakoruru shook. "This is why I am
so afraid that if he finds out about me, he will kill me or my family.
When Ukyo had become possessed, he stated that Akira's spirit is contained
in Haohmaru's sword, and as far as I know, another spirit is the only way
to kill him. Amakusa will stop at nothing to find Haohmaru and his sword.
If he gets his hands on that sword, then the world is doomed!"
frozen. His lips tightened, and I even saw his hand twitch once or twice.
"We must all protect each other, for I know that Amakusa would bring his
soul back to Hell to have us all dead. . ."
We rested a
night in the house of an old Buddhist monk, who had come from China. He
lived far deeper into the wilderness than I did, for foreigners were banned
from Tokugawa Japan. His name was Chin Tsu, and was amiable to let us stay
with him, just as long as we didn't interrupt his meditation sessions.
It was quite
comfortable, and he also happened to be a great cook. We had warm dumplings
and Chinese herbal tea. Chin offered me some new clothes: a Chinese vest
that was three sizes too small for me, and a pair of loose-fitting gray
pants. I washed my clothes in the stream behind his house and hung them
on a branch to dry.
In the morning,
we rose early with the sun and had some bread and blackberries for breakfast.
We thanked Chin for his hospitality, and headed off.
far south of here," Hanzo told us, "We must use the sun as our guide. This
would be quite a rugged journey once we clear these forests; then the trek
will be uneven and rocky. Our best advantage would be a boat which we could
sail down that river. I know that nearby stream; it widens into a river.
But we must find a boat. Perhaps we could find one in Niigata. The town
is right on the Shinano River, which leads to Nagano. . ."
We were not
far from Niigata at all; in fact, we were unknowingly close. Fortunately,
Hanzo had a keen sense of direction, and we had reached the port town by
that early evening. We took a small break once we arrived, and ate at a
small eating house. I was extremely thirsty, and nothing tasted better
to me than warm sake. After dinner, I was quite woozy, for I had one to
many drinks; Hanzo and Nakoruru had to help me from the restaurant. The
night was becoming darker, and the lights of the port gleamed off in the
distance. Niigata reminded me somewhat of Gairyu Isle, my home, except
this place was a lot more populated and commercial. There was a lighthouse
over there near the port that reminded me of a black and white striped
light house, which was used to guide Dutch traders, that stood on that
distant promontory. I saw it every night from my bedroom window, and it
beamed faintly through my window, as if it were a heavenly spirit that
protected me from the evil and darkness. Of course, after he came, he burnt
it down with his flames, and it never glowed again.
and I began to walk towards those lights, which guided the ships to the
harbor. I heard that occasionally foreign ships came here to negotiate
trade, or else they were completely lost, but this port had only a meager
guard, who leaned against a post on one of the piers, lost in a jug of
ale. Out of the distance, I saw a small ship with large sails approach
the harbor. A small light flickered near the stern. On the port side there
was an emblem which looked like some sort of foreign flag; from where I
stood, it had red and white stripes, with a small, blue rectangle on the
"Ahhh. . .a
foreign ship, a gaijin," Hanzo declared, "He should provide us well, that
is if we can threaten to him that if he does not give us his ship, then
we will turn him in to the shogun himself. I hate using force on people,
but this is so important"
approached the pier, where two worn boys tied the vessel to a post with
thick ropes, and ran off when they were finished. When the ship had finally
docked, we waited for the visitor to reveal himself. I looked at the name
of the ship, trying to figure out where it was from. In white paint, the
words S.S. Poppy were printed on the side. I had no clue as to where it
came from. Hanzo put on his mask, attempting to intimidate the visitor.
man stepped out from inside and began to walk down the plank towards the
dock. Oh, he certainly appeared foreign. He was pretty tall young man,
with swept-back, light-blond hair and golden skin. Even from a distance,
I could see his blue eyes shine. He was well-built, as if he had endured
a life of hard labor. His half unbuttoned cotton shirt revealed a firm
chest, and his rather tight navy blue pants showed his calves. He casually
slung a firearm over his shoulder. I had qualms about him shooting us,
but as he approached us, he didn't seem very threatening.
I noticed that
Nakoruru, however, had her eyes fixated on this man, as if he had entrapped
her in his gaze. She ran her hands through her hair many times and readjusted
her pink ribbon. It seemed though she was becoming anxious as he approached.
Her body began to tremble, and she began to incessantly play with her hair,
which, after a while began to annoy me. I could nearly hear her heart pound
in her chest, for I knew what she was thinking. . .
closer to me as he approached, and concealed herself behind Hanzo.
the man saluted casually, but with much assertiveness and freshness. "Are
you the ones who are picking up the sugar and bananas?"
his head. "No," he replied flatly, "Where are you from?"
"The New World,
America," he replied. "This is India, right?"
We all tried
to conceal out laughter; Nakoruru had a broken laugh from her nervousness.
"No, this is
Japan," Hanzo told him, "And we do not allow foreigners here. I work for
the government. . ."
The man seemed
quite baffled, but he uttered a laugh of disbelief, "Oh. . .I'm sorry.
I thought this was India. You see. . .I needed to give these goods to the
East India Company in exchange for spices. Those Englishmen. . .always
wanting a pinch of sugar for their tea. . ."
The man was
still laughing; he seemed to take lightly Hanzo's intimidating introduction.
With a grin
on his face, he headed back to the ship. "I guess I'd better go. . ."
Hanzo exclaimed. The man turned.
"I won't turn
you in to the shogun if you do us a favor. What is your name?"
his right hand. Hanzo bowed.
"Ahh. . .I
forgot. This is Japan; you bow. I completely forgot. Well. . .name's Galford
D. Weiler, American tobacco merchant from Virginia," he eyed Hanzo, "Hey.
. .are you a Ninja?"
for the thing that interests me most about Japanese culture are the Ninja.
Someday, I hope to learn the art of Ninjutsu and become the first American
luck in pursuing your dream, but if you are seen here. . .who knows what
they would do to you. But, Galford. . ." Hanzo grinned, "I may teach you
some of Ninjutsu if you do us a favor."
been a crisis here, and we need to get to Nagano as quickly as possible,
for we need to find someone urgently, and we need a boat to get down the
river. Could you provide us with a small boat?"
"Well. . .I
must get these goods off to India. Perhaps I can have Walter send the goods
for me. . ."
to he ship, but just as he began to walk back up the plank, we heard a
bark from inside the ship. A large black and white dog bolted out from
the door and ran towards Galford. It stood on its hind legs, graciously
allowing its master to scratch its ears. Then, assertively, it dashed towards
us, eagerly jumping on Nakoruru. She laughed and kindly petted its head.
"Woa. .. whoa.
. ." she laughed, the dog almost toppling her over.
commanded, "Down, girl. Down."
and she ran over to him. He turned to Nakoruru, who immediately began to
flush, as if some crimson rash had pervaded her entire body. He grinned
again. Galford never just smiled; he grinned. "Hey. . .she really seems
to like you," he said.
white skin became completely red, so red I could almost feel the heat of
her body. "Oh. . .thank you. . ." she said quietly, barely audible.
"What is your
name?" he asked.
I could see
her hide halfway behind Hanzo, but her eyes were still fixated on Galford.
"Nakoruru. . ." she whispered. He had some power over her, as if he had
taken her voice away by his charm, and I could see he was no novice at
communicating with women.
she repeated, burning hot. Her voice was hardly louder than before.
"Nice to meet
you, Nakoruru. . ." he grinned again. Then he walked back into the ship
to talk to his crew.
he had left, the redness had gone, and left her shaky and sweaty, as if
the hottest of fevers had broken. She clamored a bit, still somewhat clingy
to us. I saw her wipe the perspiration from her brow. But when he returned,
the blood raced through her skin once more. . .
"Well, I talked
to Walter, and he is going to transport the goods, but I have a spare life
boat we can use. It should be big for the five of us. . ."
of us?" I asked.
I looked up
at the ship. Coming out was another foreign woman. She wore the most outlandish
attire I had ever seen. Her black hair was long and wild, decorating with
green vines and red and blue and green feathers, and her face had bright
colors racing across the cheeks. She looked like some sort of wild savage,
especially in her leopard skins and tribal tattoos. Her nose had a small
hoop through it As she approached, I saw that she was only a young girl,
who seemed only a couple years behind Nakoruru. The girl was taller, with
a well-honed body. She had darker, redder skin than us.
insisted on coming with me," Galford explained, "I met her in the West
Indies. She helped me pick bananas, and wanted to come to Asia with me.
She has great interest in Japan as well."
I looked over
at Nakoruru. All of a sudden, the redness fled from her face. I saw what
flaming spirit she contained had suddenly been extinguished and driven
from her body. She who once stood tense and jittery, now reclined against
a post, limp as sodden bread. She sighed profoundly. The poor kid. I wished
I could have helped her, but I knew not how.
the boat for us. Two of his men descended it from the ship into the harbor.
It was a decent sized boat with two oars, which was pulled up to the dock.
We entered it. It felt somewhat shaky at first, for I had never been on
a boat before. Galford had decided to bring his dog, which was nervous
and rocked the boat. I began to feel a tad seasick.
Hanzo said, allowing Nakoruru to enter first. She seemed a bit hesitant,
but finally set foot in. Galford was the last one in the boat; he had commanded
for the ship to depart and waved farewell to his crew.
After the ship
was well at sea, we set the boat down the river, with Hanzo as our navigator.
Galford and I paddled down the river. The night was humid, and nocturnal
pests buzzed about our ears. High, jagged mountains overshadowed us, enclosing
the river. Hanzo told Galford and Cham Cham about Ninjutsu and Japan; however,
I was rather silent. Rowing the boat against a strong current tired me,
but my burning vengeance overpowered exhaustion. I would have given anything
at that moment to find Amakusa and slay him!
The river became
clearer and the current became stronger, carrying uf quicker to our destination.
Yet I could feel the water becoming shallower, and I had to evade rocks
and snags that protruded from the cool blanket of water. Many times the
oar hit the rocky bottom, overturning smooth, rounded pebbles. I saw the
slim fish dart from the boat, their iridescent skins reflecting the white
light of the moon. It shone on us, penetrating into me with one focused
beam of light, swallowing the light of the stars. I felt like it was an
eye, watching every move and every thought of mine. It reminded me of right
then of how lonely I really was. . .
remained silent. She sat quietly near the back of the boat, but she was
not looking at Galford; instead she looked down on the black river, watching
the way the ripples in the water reflected the full moon, looking on her
from below. . .
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