Galford Samurai Shodown
Fan Fiction
--The website dedicated to all Samurai Spirits fans--~ver5.0~
Thunder and Redness
by Irene Trent
Homepage: Save the Sugar

Chapter 3

       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 precious time!" 
       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!" 
       She glared 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. . ." 
       "Just shut up!!" I barked. 
       She was silent, but I was somewhat amazed that the girl had effrontery. Ha! But I had the last word. . . 
       More silent, 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. 
       We stopped 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. 
       "Wow! Wasn't 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. 
       "But where?" 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 him. 
       "Maybe you 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 than here. 
       "You are mad!" Nakoruru exclaimed. 
       I shrugged 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?" 
       "Well, the fact that there's a mere chance he could know something is worth the pain!" I emphatically said. 
       She shrugged, 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. 
       "His madness 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. 
       "We've been 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?" 
       "So you've been following us?!" 
       He nodded. 
       "Dammit!!" 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. 
       "That's 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. 
       Hanzo shook 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. 
       He nodded. 
       "Why?" 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." 
       I continued 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. 
       "Hey!" she yelped. 
       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. 
       "Okay, Ninja," 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 answered! 
       "Something 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!" 
       Hanzo didn't 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! 
       "You cannot 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 anything." 
       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. 
       "Ever since 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. 
       "Amakusa died 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 Amakusa." 
       "But that is so far!" she exclaimed. 
       Hanzo nodded. "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." 
       "He couldn't have gone far!" I crushed my fist and clenched my teeth. "I can almost smell his blood!" 
       "Remember, 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?" 
       He sighed. "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!" 
       Hanzo seemed 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. 
       "Nagano is 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. 
       Hanzo, Nakoruru, 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 top-left corner. 
       "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" 
       Eagerly, we 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. 
       Finally, a 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. . . 
       She clinged closer to me as he approached, and concealed herself behind Hanzo. 
       "Greetings," the man saluted casually, but with much assertiveness and freshness. "Are you the ones who are picking up the sugar and bananas?" 
       Hanzo shook 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. . ." 
       "No! Wait!" Hanzo exclaimed. The man turned. 
       "I won't turn you in to the shogun if you do us a favor. What is your name?" 
       He extended 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?" 
       He nodded. 
       "Thats great, 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 Ninja!" 
       "Well, good 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." 
       "There has 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. . ." 
       He returned 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. 
       "Poppy," Galford commanded, "Down, girl. Down." 
       He whistled 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. 
       Nakoruru's 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. 
       "Nakoruru," 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. 
        Once 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. . ." 
       "Five 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. 
       "Cham Cham 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. 
       Galford prepared 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. 
       "Ladies first," 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. . . 
       Nakoruru also 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. . . 

Chapter 4

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