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

Chapter 5

       The next morning, very early, we set out into town to visit Kei. Hanzo and I asked a couple of townspeople of the location of her house and we followed their directions. They said that she lived deep in the woods, and was a town recluse, for after Ukyo left she hid from society. We took a break to eat in town, and I bought Shizumaru a cup of rice and a pastry to eat. The walk was rather exhausting for the young boy; I carried him on my back for much of it. By evening, we reached Kei's residence, and the forest was dark and haunting. Tall trees ominously towered above it. It was a small home with a faint light glowing from the inside. 
       "Well, this must be it," I declared, even though I wasn't entirely sure that it was her home. "Only one of us should go to the door, or else we'd frighten her. I'll go." 
       "Are you sure, Haohmaru?" Hanzo asked. 
       "Hai," I nodded, showing him that I had the confidence to approach her. 
       I slowly walked to the door and lightly knocked on it. Holding my breath, I waited for her to open the door. I wondered what kind of woman she would be, and how she would react to me. After a short while, I heard the soft patter of feet near the door. Slowly, as if she thought that I would jump out and kill her, she slid open the door. I noticed that her hand trembled and her fists were balled; right away I could tell that she'd recently experienced some sort of trauma. She poked her head out the door, protecting herself from it. "Yes?" she answered, rather tentatively. "Who. . .are you?" 
       I bowed politely to her, but I was so anxious. I wanted to find out what she knew about Ukyo or Amakusa. 
       "My name is Haohmaru," I told her, "Are you Kei?" 
       "Yes. . .what is it?" 
       "I need to ask you some questions?" 
       "About-about what?" 
       Even before I asked her about Ukyo, I could tell that he had already visited her. All of a sudden, Cham Cham jumped out from behind a bush, startling both of us. "Is it her?" she asked. 
       "Yes. . ." I told her. 
       All the others came out from their hiding places. Kei's eyed widened. "Who-who are those people? Are they sent by him? Are you working with him?" Her words became frantic. 
       "No," I told her. "But who is the him that you are referring to?" 
       She began to tremble, her dark eyes frozen in fear. I saw her try to cover her face with her hands to hide her tears. 
       I tried my best to console her. "We are not evil. We just need to ask you some questions." 
       "Please. . .come in. . ." she told us, her voice broken. I beckoned for the others to follow me. We removed our shoes and knelt on the tatami mats. 
       As a walked in I saw one of the most horrifying messes I'd ever seen. There were porcelain glasses strewn across the floor. A table was broken in half. The thick, white paper on the shoji screens was torn. The remains of silk paintings were ripped to shreds. I saw scraps of her clothing on the floor as well, along with her jewelry. Some of the tatami mats were stained with blood. The one lighted candle cast eerie shadows in the messy home. All of us looked around in awe. Shizumaru especially had a troubled expression on his face. He gripped my hand tightly for protection. 
       "Haohmaru. . .what happened?" he gasped. 
       I whispered back, "I don't know, Shizumaru. . .I don't know. . ." 
       Kei tried her best to conceal her anxiety by turning her back to us. She seemed so small and helpless as she shook. 
       "I'm. . .I'm sorry about the mess. . ." her voice became more broken as she spoke. "I would have prepared some hot tea. . .but all my china is broken. Please, take a seat. . ." 
       All of us sat in a circle, facing each other. I looked at her. Worry lines creased her face, and under her eyes were tired bags of skin. Her long hair hung limply down her back. She was a mature woman, but not near being elderly, but her constant quivering made her seem so much older. Kei wore a dark gray kimono with little white flowers and black obi. Despite her anxiety, she sat quite formally, with her tiny hands in her lap. She was a dainty woman, frail as a rose, and she looked at all of us with darting eyes. 
       "What-what is it you were going to ask me?" she asked, bracing herself for it. 
       "You had a lover, named Tachibana Ukyo, did you not?" I asked. 
       She quaked yet more, putting her little hand to her mouth. "Y-yes. . .y-yes. . .how do you know about me?" 
       "I once knew Ukyo," Hanzo told her, "I used to work for Amakusa, but I left when his evil deeds went too far. . ." 
       "And they did indeed, didn't they?" Kei's timid voice rose, but it was still broken. "They did! That man has done something to my Ukyo. . .he has done something to him. . .and I don't know what. . ." 
       "Have you seen him lately?" 
       "Yes-yes I did!" she exclaimed, covering her mouth. "I-I saw him just the other night. When I was bathing. . .he came back. Oh-oh, I was so happy to see him, for-for I hadn't seen him in years, and when he returned, I was so filled with joy! Oh, but that didn't last long; I found out what he had done to him. He has made him evil. The man that returned two nights ago was not Ukyo, but he looked like him, but it just wasn't him. . ." her voice trailed, and she exploded into tears. Hanzo walked over to her and gently put his arm on her shoulder. 
       "It will be okay. . ." he gently told her, "We will help you however we can. . ." 
       She gripped onto his hand, her face contorted from desperation, "But what happened? Please. . .I need to know! Do you? Do you know? What has happened to him?!" 
       "I know," Nakoruru spoke. "I saw with my own eyes what happened. Ukyo tried to resurrect Amakusa's dead soul, and-and he succeeded. Ukyo. . .died in the process of resurrection, but he was brought back to life when Amakusa's soul possessed him. Who you saw the other night was not Ukyo, but it was Amakusa, who is using your lover's body as a means of doing his evil deeds." 
       "Oh. . .if only he hadn't listened to that-that demon! Then this wouldn't have happened. That man has ruined me! Ruined me!!" 
       Watching her anguished brought back my rage at Amakusa. He not only ruined my life, but this poor, innocent woman's life by misleading her lover! 
       "I want to kill him! I hope he rots and dies!!" she started to scream. 
       I couldn't blame her at all, but I wanted to be the one to kill him. I was the only one who would kill him!! 
       "But-but did he say anything to you?" I asked, anxious for information. 
       "Y-yes. . ." she replied. "He-he asked me to join him as his Queen of Darkness, but I refused, for I knew that it wasn't him. And then when I refused, he went mad. He called me a betrayer and destroyed all my things. I was afraid that he would kill me on the spot, but-but he said that he would come for me later." 
       "He's not going to come for you later. . .he's going to come for all of us. . ." Hanzo told her, a dark tone in his voice. 
       "I-I thought that he was dead! I thought his evil would be gone forever, but no! I will do anything to bring Ukyo back! Anything!" 
       "We don't know how to exterminate Amakusa," Nakoruru said, "That's what we are trying to find out." 
       "And we better!" I added, clenching my teeth, anger brewing. 
       "Please. . ." she begged me, "Please, sir. Let me go along with you." 
       I looked at the desperation in her eyes with great consideration, but I couldn't let this frail soul go on that rugged journey. She would get hurt; she'd just be one more woman we'd have to protect. But ultimately, it would be me who would stop Amakusa. It was only right. 
       "No, I'm afraid you can't," I told her, sighing. "It would be too dangerous for you. . ." 
       "What do you mean too dangerous?!" she snapped at me. "As if I am not already in danger?! I'll--I'll tell you this much: that if you don't let me go with you, I will follow you! I will not sit here a broken woman anymore!" 
       "Haohmaru. . ." Hanzo told me, "Let her go." 
       "But she won't survive. . ." 
       "Just let her go," he looked at her, placing his hand on her shoulder. "She might be able to help us." 
       I couldn't fight with him, so I ultimately let Kei assist us on our journey. 
       "There won't be enough room on my boat, though," Galford protested. 
       "Well, why don't you throw your little tag-along off," I eyed Cham Cham. She gave me a snooty glare. Often I had fantasies of throwing her overboard into the dark seas into a swarm of sharks, but nature had her own way of dealing with haughtiness. I saw Nakoruru smile out of the corner of my eye. "Besides, there is enough room for ten of us in that boat." 
       That kept him quiet. 
       "Thank you. . ." Kei told us, rather quietly. "I will be sure to stay out of your way as much as possible." 
       "You will not be in our way," Hanzo consoled her.

       Kei offered us the rest of the night in her home because we consented to let her come with us. I warned her that there would be some discomfort, especially when she told us that Amakusa was headed down to his retreat, Amakusa Jo, which was all the way at the southern tip of Kyushu. I wasn't exactly sure how far away we were, but I knew it was far enough. She packed a suitcase for herself, and offered some of her clothes to Nakoruru, for they were about the same size. She was also kind enough to spare me some of Ukyo's clothes that he left. 
       None of us slept well that night, especially Shizumaru. The child claimed that he had felt a strong presence of a demon, and was convinced that Zankuro was nearby. If he was right, we were fortunate that he didn't attack. He clung to me the entire night for protection. Galford and Cham Cham itched all night from the tatami mats, for they were not used to them. My own brooding kept me awake. Kei's anxiety never allowed her to sleep, and Hanzo stood next to her, comforting her. Watching them, I immediately saw his true motives for wanting her to come with us. 
       We woke up early the next morning, groggy, tired, and starving. I felt like my brain was swollen inside my head, and my eyes drooped, burdened by my issues. Shizumaru couldn't take the lack of sleep, and he became nauseous and vomited clear, bilious liquid, for we hadn't eaten in hours. I had a pounding headache, but even that wouldn't stop me. We were leaving. Galford and I heaved the boat into the river, for we were the strongest. Hanzo escorted Kei into the boat. It rocked back and forth as we climbed in. I ended up rowing, with Hanzo as my navigator. 
       "I'm hungry. . ." Shizumaru whined, clinging to my arm. 
       "There's a nearby town down the river," Hanzo told us. "We'll get something to eat there." 
       "But I want something now. . ." the child whined. 
       "Yes, but you're going to have to wait. . . " I told him, "But we will be eating soon." 

       We continued to sail down the Shinano river, until it came to a muddy end; however, we were in luck that the small town of Saku was nearby. Shizumaru had fallen asleep in my lap, for his weakness exhausted him. I knew I had to stop and get the child food; we all needed food. The bump that the boat made against the mucky bank roused those who had slept. I slapped a mosquito from my arm and wiped the sweat from my brow. I stood up on the shore, and I felt as if my legs were going to give under me. My arms were incredibly sore from rowing, and they felt like they would just fall off. All our appearances were hampered by the late summer sun; our hair was matted down to our faces. Cham Cham especially was disgusted with her condition. She wore me out describing how she was a Inca princess from Venezuela and had to look beautiful. I had no patience for one's vanity; I just wanted to get food. 
       "It looks like the river has ended here," Hanzo remarked. He sighed, "But I'm afraid to say that we haven't made any progress. I am not very familiar with the southern part of the Shinano. But it seems as if the river went east instead of southwest and took us into Saku. . ." 
       I wanted to strangle him. I boiled with rage, looking at poor Shizumaru, who was famished. "You-you should have known where you were going!" I growled, desiring to smash his face with my fist. "This child will die if we don't get him food! You have wasted my energy and my time, Ninja!" 
       "Haohmaru, settle down. . .I apologize. . ." "Apologize, huh?!" I sneered, grabbing the handle of my blade. I drew my sword and pointed it at him, ready to slash his throat. "You have some motive, don't you. You probably still work for Amakusa! You just want to throw us off track and give him time to do his evil deeds!" 
       "That is not true, Haohmaru. . .just put your sword down. . .easy, easy. . .it will take longer to get food if we have a spar." 
       I slowly withdrew my sword, the ire subsiding. Once again, he was right, and I felt like a naive child. I slid it back into my sheath and we continued on foot to the dim lights of the small town. I carried Shizumaru on by back, even though I was weary, but he was wearier than I. Hanzo and Nakoruru helped carry Kei's suitcases. Saku was a tiny little mountain town, with only a few homes, a shrine, and a small eating house. It had a hospitable appearance, and the aromas of ginger and fresh fish wafted through the air, tickling our senses. Shizumaru climbed off my back and ran towards the door. 
       "Food! Food! Haohmaru, look! Food!" 
       It was the first sign of energy I had seen from the child that day. The rest of us followed him and eagerly awaited a nice dinner and a nice jug of warm sake. We removed our shoes and the hostess set us down at a large table. She brought us all warm tea and cups of rice. The lighting inside the restaurant was pleasant, and some musicians played samisens and Koto, giving it a placid ambiance. It soothed my anger, along with the fresh herbs of the tea. 
       "Komban wa," she greeted us, bowing. "You are in luck, for came at a nice time. We are having entertainment tonight. The geisha Shie Mikoto will be performing very soon. Enjoy your meal." 
       She bowed and left to attend to her business. 
       "Wow, a geisha. I had always wanted to meet one," Nakoruru declared. 
       I looked over at Galford and Cham Cham, who struggled with eating their rice. They had no clue how to use chopsticks, and they were picking it up and eating it with their fingers. 
       "Haven't you heard of forks here?" Galford asked. 
       "What's a fork?" Kei asked. 
       "It's a small, metal utensil with three tines at the end used to pick up food," I told her. I remember using a fork when I ate dinner at Charlotte's house, and I taught her how to use chopsticks, but I wasn't about to teach those two fools how. I rested my head in my hands, for I was weary and tired; I barely had the strength to eat my rice and drink my tea. I watched them eat in disgust. Soon after, the waitress brought out rice cakes, sashimi, sushi, and noodles. We greedily ate our food and awaited the geisha Shie Mikoto. 
       She arrived shortly after our food did, dressed elegantly in a green kimono, with pink cherry blossom prints and a blue obi, tied with a golden rope. In her tiny, alabaster hands she held light paper fans. Her face also was painted white, with blood red lips and red make-up that ascended from her eyelid to her brow, accentuating its perfect arch. Blushing pinkness streaked her cheeks, and her dark eyes were thickly lined in black. Her hair was done up very ornately, fastened with a golden comb and decorated with tiny white flowers. I thought she was very beautiful and I was entranced by the way she moved gracefully in time to the airy sounds of the flute. She swayed her body and moved her willowy arms to the melody. Her eloquence and beauty had in fact silenced the whole restaurant; even little Shizumaru was impressed by her. I could not take my eyes off of her. For some odd reason it seemed as if she was watching me the entire time. She had relieved me of all my anger and concerns, as if she had godly power to revoke them for just that short while. I felt like a senseless animal, wanting to grab her and take her away, but then I remembered that she was a geisha, and geisha were forbidden any relationship. 
       When she finished her number, she folded her hands in front of her and bowed as we clapped loudly for her stunning performance. Once again, my feelings of burden returned, and I remembered that I was on an important quest. There could be no time wasted spent swooning over some woman I could never have. Then her second dance begun. . . 
       Yet I knew she was watching me; I could feel it! She looked directly into my eyes, yet she seemed rather sad. The soulful music of the flute changed from smooth and peaceful to a more choppy number. It seemed anxious and foreboding. Shie began to tremble violently and flung her hands in the air, tossing her folding fans up. She flung herself on the ground. Watching her, it seemed as if she were communicating that something terrible would happen. Still, I was fixated on her. Then, she gracefully arose and slowly walked over to me. As I looked in her eyes, they appeared desperate, as if she were imploring something. Her gaze petrified me. She looked up at me and fell prostrate before me and cupped my--my--hand in hers. It felt cold. I noticed that a tear fell from the corner of her almond eye. She then let go and walked over the fans that she had thrown and picked them up. The drums pounded harder and quicker. She floundered her hands through the air, swiping at it as if she were trying to kill some odious fly with the fans. Once again, she fell to the floor, yet then remained there. The music ended abruptly. 
       Shie Mikoto took another bow, and the audience roared with applause. I, however, was still awed by her performance, but I clapped loudly like the others. After taking another bow, she left the eating house, her dainty little feet gracing the floor. She turned her head once more, looking at me, before she departed. . . 
       We then returned to our meal, discussing her act. 
       "Wow, she was amazing, wasn't she!" Hanzo remarked. 
       I nodded emphatically, yet I was still frozen. . . 
       Galford had a cloudy look in his eyes. "I'll say. . ." 
       Cham Cham glared at him. 
       "She was very expressive," Nakoruru commented. "I think that she was trying to communicate some sort of message to you, Haohmaru. . . 
       "Yes. . ." I replied, staring off. 
       "She sure was beautiful. . ." Kei said, wistfully. "I remember when I was that young. . ." 
       "You still are," Hanzo told her. "Your skin may age; that is inevitable, but your spirit will never. But it is your choice whether to keep it burning or smother it. . ." 
       All of a sudden, a tall, dark, cloaked figure confidently entered the restaurant, startling all of us. It was followed by a piercing blast of cold air. Shizumaru took one look at it and buried his face in my chest and shuddered violently, knowing that the entity was evil. I could feel the air and room press hard on my shoulders; its intensity nearly choked me. Nakoruru, I saw, was nearly crushed by its pressure. Kei placed her hands over her mouth, her customary display of dire fear. The hostess, unsure of what to make of it, simply bowed and greeted to the shadowed man. 
       "Komban wa. . ." she greeted tentatively. 
       It extended its arm and shoved her to the ground. The guests in the restaurant gasped and fled the building, except for us. We watched it. I was ready to confront that thing. After the rest of the people abandoned the eating house, it removed the long, black cloak. He had long, slick-backed, ebony hair and highly arched eyebrows. His oblong face was pale and colorless, with hollow cheekbones. He had glaring, amber eyes, which froze us with his cold stare. Tall and thin, he was dressed rather regally, like a daimyo, with a long, purple kimono tied with a black sash at the waist. A burgundy cape was draped over his bony shoulders, and it loitered behind him like the slimy trail of a slug. Slowly, he strode over to our table, his eyes fixated on me. 
       He stopped, and placed a rigid hand on my shoulder. It felt as if the chill of ten thousand winters was rushing through me. He grinned, a very twisted grin, contorting his face into a hideous mask of pure evil. But this demon was not wearing any mask. . . 
       "Ah. . .Haohmaru-san. . ." he leered. "Look at you're a young man now-so much like your father. . ." 
       The placidness of the restaurant was dissipating into a red void of extreme anger. I fixated my glare on him, rasping heavily. I knew who he was! I knew it was him! I knew it was!!

Chapter 6

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