Cham Cham 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 6

       " Ahhhhh. . .Haohmaru-san. . ." he began; his chilling voice filled the air, "It has been quite a while since we last met. . ."
       The rage inside me boiled and burning inside me, blistering my heart. "You bastard. . ." I growled, clutching my blade. I looked into his golden eyes with pure abhorrence. I wanted to slice him in half.
       "It's quite nice to meet your childhood acquaintances. . ." he continued. "But my, my, it was a shame about what happened to your father. Such a great warrior. . ."
       "Don't mock me!" I glowered at him.
       "But it was the truth, but he was just too good to last; however, he wasn't a very nice man to me. I had to do something. For, after all, it was because of him that I'd been stuck into an eternal pit for some years. Why, he nearly ruined me. . ."
       "Ruined?!" I shouted at him, waving my fist in the air. "Let me tell you about ruined! You! You ruined my life, fiend! You destroyed everything that ever meant anything to me! Look at what you have done to me!! LOOK!!!!!"
       "Now, now, Haohmaru. . ." he remained coldly composed, "You mustn't get so angry. I don't think that was what your father would want, now would he? But why blame me for your choices? Locked in that. . .that chasm, how could I have stopped you? But it's just such a pity that Akira's only son is afraid of facing his promises. Why? Because he was scared of people because they hurt him? Because he was afraid he just couldn't live up to his father's great reputation? Or perhaps maybe there's a certain girl who factors in here. . ."
       I pounded the table and rose. "All right, you demon!!" I removed my sword, preparing to strike him.
       "But don't feel ashamed, Haohmaru. . .I've heard Charlotte's quite a prize. . ."
       The rage now seethed inside. I lifted the katana in the air. . .
       "Haohmaru, don't!!" Nakoruru tried to stop me.
       She was too late. I had taken a swipe at the devil with my sword, but I only hit the cartilaginous back of his hand. I waited eagerly for the mortal blood to seep through the cut, but instead the torn skin slowly began to patch itself together, renewing his hand as if I had never touched it at all. I knew then that this would be a lot harder to deal with. He had defied mortality, and I had no clue how to stop him. The others watched his hand mend itself in awe. He laughed at my futile effort and sneered.
       "Take a seat, boy. . ." he chided softly, yet looking down on me as if I was nothing but a child. "We must learn to control our little temper now. . ."
       Amakusa folded his hands together in glee, tapping his fingers together. He looked at all of us disdainfully. "It seems here that this a group of offenders, I see. . ."
       We all glared back at him, narrowing our eyebrows and pursing our lips, except for little Shizumaru; he gripped my arm for protection so hard that his nails were digging into my skin, but my mind was far from that minor discomfort.
       Amakusa paced back and forth, that twisted grin still plastered on his face.
       "Aahhh. . .Hanzo-san. . ." he eyed the Ninja, "The man with too good a heart, yet who tries to be a tactful and calm and clever character. Oh, yet so much mulling over your moral issues, you always try to do the right thing, but you are so wrong. Could the issue of betrayal have escaped your too rational mind? Working for that smut Tokugawa just to spite me! You put me to shame, Hattori Hanzo. . .such a waste of great potential you are. Of course, I could not find a Ninja as dexterous as you, but that tainted mind of yours despises me; you are too crafty for your own good. . ."
       "What you do is wrong," Hanzo shot back, but not in an angry way. He still remained emotionless, but handled Amakusa with a reasonable manner. "I can hardly believe that one who lives by Christian beliefs would break one of its own commandments, especially a very serious one."
       "Ha, they are all the same. God thought that he could defy me by dooming me to Hell, but even the Almighty One can't stop me now, for his power lies in the hands of. . .a very naive and foolish man. . ." he eyed me. I wanted to bash his face in. Then the fiend continued, "But I'll get him back, the ungrateful pig. I defend his honorable name against that rat Akira, and what does he do but banish me?! I guess you can relate to such betrayal, can you not, Kei?"
       He eyed the poor woman, who shrunk in her seat, trembling. She began to bite her fingers.
       "Now I see why Ukyo left you with such nasty habits like that!" Amakusa laughed, "But, my dear lady, why must we dress in such dark colors, for your Ukyo is right here. . ."
       "It is not you, Ukyo! It is not you!!!" she cried, inching closer to Hanzo for protection.
       But that monster saw every mood they made. "Oh, Kei. . .it would really hurt poor Ukyo's feelings that you don't love me anymore, but that Ninja. . ." her face turned pink, yet her pale fear managed to mask most of her feelings. "Why turn to him to love, for he'll betray you as Ukyo did. Believe me, my sweet Sakura, I know. . ."
       He cupped her small-boned face in his dirty hand. She shuddered from his grotesque touch.
       Amakusa paced around yet more, then turned his gaze to Nakoruru. She stood there, with her arms defiantly crossed over her chest, yet I could see that deep inside she was terrified.
       "And little Nakoruru. . .who wants to know everything. Well, child, personally I would rather know too little than know too much. For you have been a bad little girl, poking your nose where it doesn't belong. I have my ways of dealing with problems like you. . ."
       "Don't you touch my family, you monster!" she cried, her voice broken. She shook her small fist in the air.
       "Oh child, foolish child! For that is exactly what I will do. How could you reveal your weakness to me, your immortal foe! Not that I wouldn't have known anyway. . ."
       The diabolical man cackled.
       Cham Cham rose and walked right over to Amakusa with no fear at all. "Just what do you think you are doing?! I mean, you think that you can come around here and pretend that you are some immortal being or something?! Well, you're probably a phony! You're probably just some person who escaped from the asylum!"
       "You, girl, need to learn to keep your mouth shut, for your brashness will hurt you someday! Perhaps you should learn not to bark up the wrong tree. . ."
       "Just what are you talking about, you loon?!"
       Amakusa leaned forward, facing her so close that his nose nearly touched hers, "I mean, you better watch yourself!"
       "Oh, really?! Well, what are you going to do about it?!" she shot back, clenching her teeth.
       Without saying a word, he lifted his hand, and a bright white beam shot from his palm directly at Cham Cham's chest. She yelped as the force of it threw her back on the ground. After she recuperated, she kept silent, trembling in fear.
       Amakusa grinned, "Does anybody else want to try to effront me?"
       We, too, kept silent.
       "Good, good. Well perhaps we have learned our little lessons here. It seems like it will be a wonderful world after I restore my position of power, except I won't be just a daimyo anymore. I will be the ruler of all. . ."
       With that, he turned his back on us with one swish of his cape and walked out the door and vanished. I wanted to chase him outside and beat him to a pulp, but I restrained myself, for how could I ever compete with his immortal powers. . .
       "What was that all about?" Galford asked, sighing in relief.
       "That is the man we are after," Hanzo told him. "If we do not stop him, the world will be in danger, and that is out mission. We must terminate him before it is too late."
       "You mean, I will terminate him," I corrected. My statement seemed to cause him some uneasiness, but I kept reminding myself that nothing would get in my way of killing Amakusa. . .

       We had some debate on whether to rest for the night in Saku, but I, of course, objected. I wanted keep on going. After the incident at the restaurant, I felt even more fervent about vengeance. I had managed to intimidate them into my command, and they complied very reluctantly. We decided to travel on land instead the rest of the night, lugging the boat up and down rocky trails. We were in the heart of Honshu, which was very mountainous and rugged on our bodies. Hanzo told us that there was a short distance of land before reaching the mouth of the Hida river. Our plan was to sail down that river and stop off in the town of Gifu before it flowed into the sea.
       After a while, we all became hungry and irritable from our sleep-deprivation. The moon stood high in the sky, mocking us, and we watched the stars disappear one by one from the night sky. We were reaching the point of delirium. The night was becoming cold, for we were high in the mountains, and it numbed our skin.
       Nakoruru, one of the quietest of the group, was especially affected by the lunacy. She had silently disagreed with my wanting to continue going, but all of the sudden she started copping an attitude with me.
       "Haohmaru!" she ran up to me, blocking my path. She had an angry look on her face. Her hair was frazzled and her eyes were red, making her look like an mad devil. "Haohmaru, just what do you think you are doing?! We can't go on like this! You are mad, Haohmaru, simply mad!! Just look at us! We are starving! We are tired! We need a break! Look at Shizumaru! He'll probably die if we don't stop soon!"
       "Look. . ." I sighed, too tired to yell back, "we will be somewhere shortly. . ."
       "No! We are going to sleep right here, right now, in this very spot!"
       "We. . .must. . .keep going. . ."
       "I don't think so!" she retorted, "Just who do you think you are, Haohmaru, our slave driver?! Well, let me tell you something, you aren't going to whip me around; I can promise you that!!"
       I too lacked the strength to keep going, so I declared that we rest for the remainder of the night, and in the morning we would continue. We rested our weary heads on the rocks and grassy banks of a nearby river. I lay on my back and looked at the sky and watched ghostly, gray clouds pass over the moon like large sea vessels. The twinkling stars so high in the sky reminded me again of my loneliness, for it made me remember how large the world was. Yet I also found some comfort in the sky; the stars reminded me of the gods and my father who would watch over me and protect me. They blazed above, bright and powerful. Yes, they would protect us from the harm of Amakusa, but the moon--it seemed like it some large, omnipotent god who oversaw everything in everybody, and its eerie light focused on me again, just like that first night on the boat. . .

       When the morning came, we found some berries in the forest and ate a small breakfast for the long, journey ahead. Our backs and necks hurt from sleeping on the rocks, and we ached and ached while we walked. I carried Shizumaru on my back, while Galford and Hanzo lugged the boat around. We made constant rest stops at various streams so we wouldn't dehydrate from the heat, and was it hot! Beads of sweat poured down out foreheads and dripped into our eyes, making our bodies gleam in the burning sunlight. The coolness of the moon had then been replaced by the blazing heat of the sun, and the cool mountain breeze couldn't compete with its vigor. The sun brought about pests, and when we weren't wiping the sweat from our foreheads, we were swatting out skins to shoo off the bugs, that hummed loudly from the bushes; it was a droning sound that nearly pierced our ears.
       By early next evening we had made it to the Hida River. We set the boat in place on the muddy bank and Galford gave it a hard shove into the water. He decided to row the boat, but it didn't take much effort because the river had a strong current south, which was exactly where we wanted to go. The cool air pressed against me as we glided through the white waters of the mountains, relieving the sticky sweat from my brow and discomposing my long hair. I let Shizumaru, poor and hungry, fall asleep in my lap. Looking down at his emaciated figure, I rued forcing him and the others to walk during the night. Nakoruru was right; we should have rested sooner, and I worried each minute that the child was slowly dying right in my arms.
       "Hanzo. . ." I whispered, as to not wake Shizumaru, "Hanzo. . ."
       "Hai?" he replied.
       "Do you have anything that Shizumaru can eat?"
       He sighed. "No, I'm sorry, I don't."
       "I have something," Kei declared quietly. "I brought some bread in my suit case in case I got hungry, but the child needs it more than I do."
       She pulled out a few small pieces and handed it to me.
       "Arigato," I bowed my head, thanking her.
       I gently roused Shizumaru from his slumber, and his large eyes opened slowly. He seemed so weak and lethargic, and his large head felt leaden and heavy as he woke. The child gripped on to me for support.
       "I have some food for you to eat," I told him and handed him the bread. He ate it slowly, for his body was too feeble to ravenously eat; he picked off small pieces and put them in his mouth. The fact that the bread was a few days on and was stale was of no import to him. It was food, and that was all that mattered.
       We sailed on through the night, and I fell asleep while Galford continued to row. ..

       I woke up sometime in the middle of the night, first looking up at the black sky, speckled with stars. They seemed to whiz by me like tiny fireflies. The air was silent and eerie; only the hissing and churning sound of the water was heard. As I awoke, I saw all of my companions sleeping soundly through the night. . .including Galford. Galford! I suddenly realized that he had been rowing, but he fell asleep. The boat was unmanned!
       I looked ahead at me, towards the horizon, where the stars met the water, yet it didn't seem to be infinite as usual, but it appeared to be coming to an end. The water churned harder, pressing against the rocks and tree roots that grew into the river. It was moving faster, and then I heard a loud, hissing sound from below which came closer and closer. Suddenly, looking at the abrupt ending of the water and the swift rapids, I realized where we were. Ahead of me was a steep waterfall, and we were not far from it at all!!
       My mouth instantly went dry and I panicked. I tried to row the boat away from the waterfall, but my arms. . .I couldn't move them. They were frozen! I tried to scream to my companions, but my jaw was locked shut. They continued to sleep soundly, unknowing of what lay ahead of them. My body felt leaden and heavy with every move, yet my eyes too stay fixated on that vertex where the world ended. The water became choppy and thrashed the small, wooden boat around, making me frazzled and lost. As I found my direction, I noticed that there was a large rock jutting out of the frothy waters. I tried to veer the boat away from it, but it was too close and I was too late! The front of the boat hit it directly with full force, splintering the wood into countless fragments. It threw me off of the boat and into the merciless water. I tried to swim against the current as best as I could, but it was stronger, pulling me towards the waterfall. It battered me, and my body hit the surrounding rocks. I was just about to go over the edge when I got hold of a rock. I remained there for a while, trying desperately to hold on. But the water was too strong and the rock was too slick, and it yanked me into the depths below.
       I fell somewhat slowly. But as I looked at the swirling vortex below, the eddies formed the face of the despised Amakusa, with his eyes as cold as ice, and I saw that contorted grin of his. As I descended further, he opened his mouth, and I saw teeth as sharp as knives and a dragon's tongue. I tried to flail my arms to try and fly away, but there was nothing that I could do. Holding my breath, I fell down into that black hole, knowing that it was inevitable. . .

       "Galford! Wake up!" someone said
       I jerked awake suddenly, realizing that the horrible waterfall was only a dream. I looked at the river in front of me, and I saw ahead that the water flowed for miles; however, it was shallow and moving very rapidly, and there were many stones obstructing our path. A faint glimmer of gold and purple lined the horizon, indicating that the dawn was approaching. I sighed in relief.
       "You need to watch where you're going," Hanzo told him. "That was the fourth rock you've hit."
       "Oh, I'm sorry. . ." he replied, yawning. Hanzo glared at him.
       "Let me take over," he told the young foreigner, and Galford handed him the oars.
       "Haohmaru?" Shizumaru asked me, "Are you okay?"
       "Are you?" I asked him, holding his small, frail hand.
       "Hai," he nodded, "but you were moving around a lot. Was it. . .him?"
       "Zankuro!" his eyes widened. "The evil demon who comes to me when I sleep during stormy nights!"
       "It wasn't him," I sighed, my head throbbing from the nightmare.
       "But what was it?!" the child interrogated, pulling my arm. He seemed eager to know, yet at the same time he was fearful. "What happened?"
       "Well. . ." I began to tell him, "I woke up and realized that the water was moving very fast, and then I looked down the river, and I saw that we were all headed towards a waterfall. I tried to wake you up, but my I couldn't speak. I tried to steer away from it, but my arms wouldn't move. Then, the boat hit a rock and knocked me into the water, and then. . .then I fell down the waterfall, and as I was falling, I could see Amakusa's face. He opened his mouth, ready to swallow me up, and then I woke up. . ."
       Shizumaru clung to me. "But he's a demon, right?"
       I nodded. "Of course. That. . .that thing is the most evil of evil."
       "It. . .it was real Haohmaru, it was real!!" he told me, his voice raising an octave.
       "Don't be silly, child," I told him. I thought then that they were just dreams. They had always haunted me, but I had never considered them real. "It was only a dream."
       "No! Demons are real, Haohmaru! I know they are! They come to you in your dreams and try to hurt you!!"
       "That's nonsense. There was no waterfall. It was just Galford being careless and hitting a few rocks. That was all. . ."
       But it was very hard for this child to believe me when he could easily see the sweat on my brow. . .

       Later that morning, we reached the town of Gifu, and ate quite a large meal. We are voraciously like savage beasts upon prey, for we were famished and tired. Nakoruru suggested resting at an inn for a couple of nights. I knew that we were suffering from the journey, so I complied and allowed us a couple of night's rest. All the inns were full in the town, except for one, but there was only one room for the seven of us. I knew that tensions would sprout, I just knew it.
       First, we squabbled over beds. There were only two futons in the room. We gave one to Shizumaru, for he needed somewhere comfortable to sleep. I ended up sharing with him, for he wanted me to sleep close by in case Zankuro came. Nakoruru and Kei shared the other futon, and Cham Cham was visibly indignant that she didn't get a bed. She began to whine at me for it, but I simply told her she had her choice of the soft tatami mats or the cold, hard ground. That kept her quiet, even though I thought that after the encounter with Amakusa she would have learned to keep quiet. And on top of that, Galford too seemed irritated that Cham Cham had to sleep on the floor. Nakoruru seemed quite disturbed that he supported her, but she just sighed and fell right asleep. I glared at both of them from the corner of my eye; those foolish gaijin didn't see that they were hurting her. I wanted very badly to desert them somewhere in the mountains and let the Tokugawa government deal with them, but they had the boat.
       The following morning the innkeeper served us a hearty breakfast which we ate gratefully. That day we didn't want to go anywhere at all; we had worn out Nature's hospitality, Nakoruru told us. Most of the time was spent bathing and refreshing ourselves from the rugged mountain journey. Shizumaru napped for the longest time, and I as I watched him breathe with content, I felt wretched for forcing him through the cold mountain nights without food. If he had not been raised in the streets, he wouldn't have even made it that far.
       "Haohmaru, do you have any money?" Cham Cham asked me. "I would like to buy some new clothes in the town."
       I nodded, rummaging around for some coins, but I wasn't doing it from the goodness of my heart; I just wanted to get that obnoxious girl out of my hair. She snatched the money from my hand and pranced off to indulge herself. I saw Nakoruru sigh with relief.
       A while after she left, the innkeeper served us a dinner of sushi, rice, noodles, bread, hot tea, and sake. We each took a pair of chopsticks and ate the food. For once, we would go to bed with a full stomach, but we had to leave the next morning; we had to. We all donned our night clothes, even though it was early evening, and the sun was just beginning to set. The meal was quiet and peaceful with Cham Cham's absence.
       I noticed that Nakoruru had taken a seat next to Galford, who was fumbling around with the chopsticks and dropping them. He had given up and picked up the slick fish with his hands, but he knew that it was not the correct way to eat when he saw the rest of us use them properly. I tried not to laugh at him. Nakoruru, however, felt sympathy for him and shyly asked him if he needed help. His humiliating experience had given her something to talk to him about; that was the first time that she had ever exchanged words with Galford. Cham Cham was not there to guard him as if he was a bag of gold.
       "You. . .you look like you need help," she said quietly.
       Galford turned to face her. He chuckled. "Well. . .obviously. . ."
       I could see that he had started to feel awkward as he eyed her intense gaze. His smooth speech had become more clumsy and his hand on the table twitched a few times. When Cham Cham wasn't there to divert him, he could notice that Nakoruru was more than merely a girl along for the trip. She ran he fingers through her long hair.
       Nakoruru made a forward move by taking his hand. "First you have to put them between your thumb and forefinger. . ."
       She positioned the chopsticks between his fingers. "Then you take the one on the top and place it between your thumb and middle finger, and you move that one only and keep the other one still."
       Galford tried to pick up the a piece of fish, but he lost grip on the sticks and they fell from his hand. He sighed. "Um. . .Nakoruru. . .could you help me again?" he asked.
       She smiled. "Sure. remember, put them both between your thumb and forefinger, and move the top one with your forefinger and middle finger, but make sure you keep a strong grip on the other."
       "Okay. . ." he told her. He did as she told him, and he managed to grab hold of the piece of fish he had attempted at the last time.
       "Good," Nakoruru told him.
       "Well. . .thanks for helping me. . .uh. . ."
       "Nakoruru," she replied, a bit wistful about the fact that he barely even knew her name.
       "Thank you, Nakoruru," he smiled. She liquefied into a puddle of sentimental drivel as she gazed into his sky blue eyes. I nearly retched. "Say. . ." he continued; she was locked into his gaze, "How do you know how to use chopsticks, but you're not Japanese?"
       "Well, I. . .I live close to a lot of Japanese, and I watched them eat, and I taught myself how to use chopsticks."
       "Wow. . .you must me a quick learner. . ."
       "I find other cultures quite interesting. . ." she sighed, not removing her eyes from his.
       He was about to say something when Cham Cham burst through the door, looking absolutely ridiculous. She wore a bright green kimono with yellow lions printed on it, and her face was unevenly powdered white. Her hair was tied up in a knot, with various wild-flowers and combs randomly placed in it. Even a couple of chopsticks were entangled within that monstrosity; I guess she had finally found a use for them. When Hanzo and I noticed the red obi she wore was tied in the front, we couldn't help but laugh at her. Sadly, even at that horrific sight, Galford's attention was directed back at her, leaving poor Nakoruru in the dust.
       "Galford, look! Do you like my new clothing? I'm a geisha." She attempted to be graceful by moving her hands around, but it looked more like she was floundering her arms around, begging for attention. Cham Cham was no where near as lovely the geisha that we saw that night at the restaurant.
       I glared at her for mocking my culture and for pronouncing the word gee-sha. She had nerve!!
       But Galford was equally ignorant, "My, my, you look lovely! You remind me of a sweet cherry blossom. . ."
       "I don't know, you look more like a prostitute to me. . ." I purposely blurted.
       We roared with laughter; Nakoruru released a laugh that came from deep within her gut. Cham Cham placed her hands firmly on her hips and glared at us. "What do you mean I look like a prostitute?!" she cried. "I look beautiful, don't I, Galford?!"
       He grinned, drooling over her, "Of course you do." I shook my head in disgust.
       "See?!" she whipped back at me.
       "Haohmaru is right," Hanzo told her, in a more gentle tone. "Real geisha have their obi tied in the back. That is how we tell whether a girl is a geisha or a prostitute. Also, geisha don't put nearly as many ornaments in their hair."
       "Well, fine!" she retorted, pulling the accessories from her hair and stomping from the room.
       "I'm surprised that the government didn't deport her," Kei said, in shock, "Usually they can smell a gaijin from a mile away. Literally."
       "Yes, but she probably scared them off," I muttered.
       "She looks almost like a demon. . ." Shizumaru sighed. He turned to look at me with panicky eyes "What if. . .what if she is?"
       "Then it wouldn't be a surprise," I told him.
       "But. . .but we could be in great danger! What if she serves Zankuro. . .or even Amakusa?!"
       I patted the child on the back, "Shizu-chan, you worry far too much about demons. I believe that it is about your bedtime."
       "But Haohmaru. . ." he whined.
       I knelt down to meet his dark eyes. "Listen to me. She is just some boastful, obnoxious girl who craves attention, and she would die to get it."
       "But you don't know. . ."
       "I know. No demon is going to come and hurt you. Now go on to bed, safe and sound."
       "Good night, Haohmaru," he wrapped his thin arms around me.
       "Good night, Shizu-chan," I replied, and the weary child went off to bed.
       I felt terrible about what I said to him; I felt like a liar, a hypocrite. And he knew it. . .

       Shortly after, we all went to bed early because there was a long trip ahead of us, although we had come quite a way. We all slept soundly through the night. The air was dry, not humid, and the vast black sky and billions of stars blanketed us. All of the town lights went out, and the hustle and bustle of the people was not heard. Not one ominous cloud was in sight. Even the moon didn't regally preside high in the sky. The night was black and peaceful.
       But, for some reason, I couldn't sleep through the whole night. I had woken for some reason, and the first thing that I noticed was the room was incredibly hot, making the air thick and oppressive. I kicked off the blankets. Beads of sweat were cascading down my forehead and down my back; I felt like I was melting. At first I thought I was coming down with a fever, but I had no aches and pains, yet I coughed incessantly. The sweltering heat was so thick that it made the room appear misty. After a while, I felt that the air was stinging my eyes. I rubbed my irritated, watery eyes and coughed; soon the room became unbearable.
       All was quiet except for a slight crackling sound when came from outside the door. As I glanced to my left, I noticed a faint, orange glow. My heart began to pound in my throat when I realized that we were in great danger. Was it a dream?! Yet everything appeared so real! No, it wasn't a nightmare! There really was a fire!!! I rose to my feet, but the smoke was thicker. I got down on my hands and knees and crawled, frantically calling to my companions.
       Hanzo responded immediately and gasped. "Wake up! Wake up! There's a fire! A fire!!"
       Kei took one look at the fire and screamed and panicked. Tears ran down her cheeks.
       "We've got to get out of here!!!" Nakoruru cried.
       I crawled over to Shizumaru to rouse him. He awoke slowly and coughed. I held him close to me for protection.
       "How are we going to get out of here?!" Kei cried.
       "Through the door!!" Hanzo replied, but when he slid open the shoji screen, the flames burst right through, and the Ninja leapt back just in time. They were voraciously eating away the wood and paper and approaching towards us.
       "Look!" Galford exclaimed, "We can bust through the window!"
       "Are you crazy?!" I cried, "We're to far from the ground!"
       "It's our only way!" Hanzo cried. "We'll. . .we'll use the blankets as ropes! Haohmaru, try to break an opening through the window!"
       I grabbed my katana and sliced at the wood; I had to break through it before the flames did. Galford and Hanzo helped me. The girls grabbed all the blankets that they could and tied them together. Shizumaru froze while he watched the scene and clung to me. The flames were now massive and ominous, hungry for our flesh. They roared for the taste of our unburned skins like ravenous tigers. I wasn't going to let anyone die!
       The girls had the sheets ready to go as I managed a large enough hole. We slipped it through and prayed that is was long enough.
       "Hurry! The fire's getting bigger!" Galford cried.
       "Shizumaru, you go first since you're the lightest!" I commanded.
       But he clung to me, his large eyes filled with tears.
       "I. . .I'm too scared. . ." he whimpered. "I. . .I don't want to go without you. . ."
       "I have to stay here to make sure everyone gets down safely! You go first!"
       "I don't want to go without you."
       "Nakoruru will go with you then!" I declared desperately. He was too young to die like this.
       "But I want to go with you, Haohmaru!" he cried.
       "But I must stay here! You go on!"
       He grabbed my arm and shook it. "I don't want to go by myself!"
       I sighed, "Oh, fine!" Although I felt rotten for leaving first, when I should have been chivalrous and bravely helped everyone down; I know that was what my father would have done, but the little child's pleas had won me over.
       "I'll make sure everyone escapes safely!" Hanzo declared over the roaring flames.
       I nodded and grabbed the rope. Galford and Hanzo began to slowly pull us down to the ground so we would not fall. "Hold on tight," I commanded to Shizumaru.
       I looked down on the ground and noticed those who had escaped. They watched us with fear as we descended, praying and whispering. It was almost as loud as the wail of the inferno--and the wails of those still trapped inside. Yet I also noticed that the rope that we made with the sheets was not long enough to reached the ground.
       "Give it more slack!" I called up to Hanzo.
       "It won't give anymore!"
       "You're going to have to jump!" Nakoruru commanded.
       "I can't! Not with Shizumaru!"
       I noticed from below that a kind, young guest with reddish hair had thrown up a rope, which latched onto a protrusion on the eave of the roof, and it was long enough to reach the ground safely.
       "Arigato!" I cried to him. He bowed once. "Swing us to the left! Hard!"
       They heaved with all their might to try and let us reach the second rope. I reached out my hand to attempt to grab it, but we came just a hair too short. Shizumaru, all the while, was crying, and he gripped on to my head, yet his hands were covering my eyes, making me more flustered. "Shizumaru, move your hands!"
       The boy didn't budge, as if it were the only way that he could support himself. "Again!" I called up, frustrated. But he still had his hands over my eyes, and I missed the rope yet another time!
       "Shizumaru, you must move your hands!" I demanded.
       He finally obeyed, but he moved his grip from my head to my long hair. I winced in pain as I commanded up top for them to swing us again. They gave the mightiest of mighty pushes, and I managed to latch on to the rope. Shizumaru ceased his crying and loosened his grip as we climbed down safely. The both of never took our eyes off our window, and we impatiently waited for our companions to escape.


Chapter 7

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