Charlotte 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 8

       He turned to me, the fire in his eyes subsiding, and the cold solemnity returned to his face. "It is not. . ." he repeated. 
       "Yes it is." I told him. "That is what we have been calling you by. But what are you talking about?!" 
       "I am saying that I am not Hanzo Hattori." he stated clearly. 
       "Well if you aren't. . .then who are you?" 
       "My real name is Masashige. . ." 
       I gasped. It was no wonder that the Hanzo that I had seen wasn't Hanzo at all! But could I believe him? Ninja were experts at falsity. 
       "You are joking, aren't you?" I queried. 
       But his serious demeanor proved me otherwise; that Hattori Hanzo was a man under a different name. My first instinct was to glare at him and attack him, for why did he not tell us?! But he seemed too depressed to put up any fight, so I restrained myself. Instead I felt fear. He could have, after all, been a spy for Amakusa. 
       "I am serious." 
       "But why?! Why did you never tell us? Who are you?!!" 
       He faced me directly, "It is true that I had served Amakusa as a Ninja when I was young. But after his raid on Gairyu Isle, and watching my partner kill your parents in cold blood, I had realized what evil I had entangled with. So I ran away, but the Ninja who murdered your parents had killed himself. When Amakusa found his body, and couldn't find me, he assumed that I had run away. And that I had killed my partner. So he wouldn't find me, I served in the shogun's band of Ninja under a false name: Hattori Hanzo. Hanzo was a very skilled Ninja who served under Tokugawa Ieyasu nearly a century ago. Few had even known his name; I am a descendant of him. But Hattori Hanzo was just a lie. . ." 
       That poor man, who always wanted to set things right, had lived in falsity. 
       "It was all a lie!" he cried in anguish. "Oh, that Devil Amakusa was right about what he said in the restaurant! That I. . .that I would have betrayed Kei just as Ukyo had, and that I was too crafty for my own good. Haohmaru, his cold words constantly run in my mind!" 
       I tightly clutched the scabbard of my blade in anger. "Amakusa is a bastard!" I seethed. "He is the liar! He is the real sinner!!" 
       "You don't understand, Haohmaru," he wailed like a child, relinquishing his composure. "I wanted to comfort her and love her! I wanted to help her! And Kei loved Hattori Hanzo! Don't you see what I've done?! I took advantage of this poor woman! I fed on her weakness, just as Amakusa did with her former lover! She loved something that wasn't there!" 
       Tears streamed down his frantic face, and he trembled. "I should have told her! I should have told her! I should have told you!!" 
       He finally lost it and collapsed into my arms, bawling. His tears soaked my clothing. "Hattori Hanzo is a lie! Everything! The rationality, unselfishness, and poise. . .it was untrue!" 
       I put my arm around his quivering shoulder. He seemed like a small child. Then he pulled away, breathing heavily. I could have sworn the man had gone insane after the display that I saw. He turned around over and over in circles and choked on his sobs. He grabbed his hair and tried to yank it out. His face was contorted into some strange grimace. His eyes nearly half-way bulged from his face and he foamed at the mouth. 
       "Hanzo, stop!!" I cried. 
       "DON'T CALL ME THAT!!!" he screamed, nearly piercing my ears. 
       "Masashige! You must stop!" 
       He fell to the ground and writhed around, ignoring me. I swore he looked just like an overgrown infant. His ear-splitting shrieks and sobs filled the air. He pounded the ground with his fists. The noise he made attracted the others, and they dashed over to the scene. 
       "Haohmaru, what is happening?!" Nakoruru cried. 
       "I don't know!" 
       The rest of them gathered around, astonishment plastered on their faces. 
       "What did you say to him?" she asked me. 
       "I. . .I tried to talk to him. . ." I replied, "and I don't know what I said to him to make him act this way." 
       "Hanzo!" she called, "Hanzo, what is happening?!" she cried. 
       "I AM NOT HANZO!!!" 
       She backed away and turned towards me, "Haohmaru, stop him!" 
       "Masashige!" I called out to him and shook him. "Masashige!" 
       He finally ceased his tantrum and sat on the ground, with his arms wrapped around his legs, and rocked back and forth. The whites of his eyes were red. He breathed heavily, yet his respiration slowed with each breath. 
       "Haohmaru, why did you call him Masashige?" Kazuki asked. "That's not his name." 
       "It is," I told him. 
       He furrowed his brow. "Really? Why. . .why did he never tell us?" 
       "Because he used to work for Amakusa, and then he escaped. He served under the Shogun and changed his name to Hattori Hanzo. Why he never told us until now are his reasons." 
       I reached out a hand and helped Masashige off the ground. We circled around him. 
       "Hattori Hanzo was a lie," he confessed, his voice more calm. "Hattori Hanzo was an entity of pure reason and stoicism. But I, Masashige, am very unlike that. I can be just as brash, just as angry, and just as brute as Haohmaru can--" I glared at him, "but I did leave Amakusa, and I do not work for the bastard, and damned if I don't be the one to kill him with my bare hands! But there is no point in hiding it from you anymore, for Amakusa already knows about me." 
       "If you say that you are as brash and angry as I. . .then why did you tell me that anger and brashness would make me a puppet of Amakusa. After all, isn't that what you really are?" I asked him. 
       "I didn't want you to make the same steps as I did. You are young, Haohmaru. You see, it was my irrationality that led me to Amakusa--to see things that I wish that I had never seen. And I curse myself each day for serving him." 
       "None of this is our fault," I said gruffly. "It is all him! There is no room for self-blame! What had I done to deserve having him kill my father?! What had Kazuki done to have his brother kidnapped?! Our adversities are all because of him!" 
       "Maybe so, Haohmaru. . ." Masashige sighed, "But you can choose the path from there."

       We spent the rest of the night on the coast, yet we barely slept at all. I stayed awake waiting for the fire to die down and watching over Shizumaru, who slept soundly. I wondered how he did so, especially since thoughts and visions of demons constantly perturbed his mind. The parasites that fed on my mind certainly kept me awake. But even though he was a child, he was not at peace, as most children should be. 
       The next morning, very early--when the wispy clouds loomed over the leaden sea, and the rising sun was but a thin, reddish line at the end of the horizon--we continued to walk. We left behind our bonfire, which was but a blackened pile of rocks and debris. Ethereal wisps of smoke still reluctantly rose from the rubble into the pink and blue medley above us, and dissipated into the fog. The seabirds had already awoken and hovered around the waters, coarsely cawing into the empty air. There was a slight, cool breeze, chilling the morning air. I savored it while I could, letting it waft through my hair, for I knew that in just hours the coast would be ablaze with intense heat. The water, whose foam had gently nudged the sand the night before, had crashed violently with the shore like white lightning. 
       "Tide's coming in," Kazuki remarked, rather wistfully. "You know, each time I look at that ocean, it reminds me of Sogetsu. Whenever there was trouble, he took refuge beneath the water. I wonder if he can do that now--wherever he is. . ." 
       "Your brother can swim underwater?" Shizumaru asked. 
       Kazuki nodded. "Yes. He has gills behind his ears so he can breathe, and his eyes are able to withstand the salt without them stinging, and his body is apt for pressure at nearly any depth." 
       "Wow. . ." Shizumaru sighed. 
       "Well no wonder your brother was captured!" Masashige interjected, "Do you realize what value he has? All those legends about treasure beneath the sea. . .why, he'd be perfect to go and look for him. I'll bet some thief has gotten hold of him." 
       "But--but I believe more and more, each time you talk about Amakusa--that he did take Sogetsu. I. . .I just have this feeling." 
       "I really don't think so. . ." 
       "I do," Nakoruru declared. "Amakusa was always greedy." 
       "Well, when I served under him," the Ninja said, "I remember reading a Christian Bible, and the book stated that the pursuit of money was the root of all evil. But I don't think that it is money that Amakusa lusts for; I think that it's power." 
       "Well, it's awfully hard to have power if you don't have a lot of money." 
       "Possibly, but true power comes from within. It is the force of mind and heart together. The only thing that can ultimately defeat you is yourself. Everything else is but an extra: a tool to help you." 
       "Where did you learn that?!" I inquired. 
       "I form beliefs from experiences. After all, experience is what we base our reason on." 
       "But how can I ultimately defeat myself?" 
       "If you let whatever tries to oppress you win, then it most certainly will, for you will have handed your soul to it on a silver platter. You must transcend its bad power and overcome it, using your mind and heart. . .but much, much perspiration." 
       "Much perspiration, indeed," Nakoruru dryly restated, wiping her brow. 
       We continued on, the lighthouse slowly nearing.

       By the time we reached Gairyu Isle, it was late afternoon, almost dusk. The blazing sun had concealed itself behind gray clouds and mist The black and white lighthouse wasn't some insignificant barb atop a massive rock of land; it regally towered above us, as well as the wasteland that surrounded it. The air felt humid and heavy; everything felt heavy, especially the Fugu blade that hung at my side. 
       "Is this where you used to live, Haohmaru?" Shizumaru asked. 
       I nodded solemnly. 
       "It doesn't look very pretty." 
       And he was right. We were nearly up to our ankle in the ashes from long ago, and when the wind blew, the gray specks whirled around the air, making the view even hazier. Beneath the ashen blanket lay countless piles of black wood, and even the remains of those that lived there. I looked into the eyes of some of those festering skulls, into their gaping eyes, and they reminded me just of what this place--the place I had once called home--was: empty. Hollow and devoid. Those dark sockets in the brown bone were merely dark voids, forever nothingness. It seemed hard to believe that decayed thing which lay in front of me lived and talked and breathed, and even had thoughts. For all I knew, I could have seen who that thing was before his horrible end. Along with the bones, their belongings were scattered about the hoary coast. There were broken porcelain cups, dusty clothing, jewelry, and many more numerous abandoned possessions lying around. Why, there were even gold coins mixed within the debris. 
       Cham Cham and Galford's eyes glowed. They rubbed their hands together in glee and grinned. 
       "Wow! Look at all this money!" Galford exclaimed. "I'm surprised this place hasn't been looted yet 
       "I know! Let's take it!" 
       "Stop!" Masashige commanded when they were halfway bent, their greedy hands reaching towards the ground. They froze in those ridiculous positions at his command. "That is not yours to take. You must respect the belongings of the dead." 
       Even Nakoruru's eyes gleamed in desire. "But look at all those clothes! We've lost everything in the fire! We've been wearing the same clothes for the past three days! We need this stuff!" 
       I scratched my head, yet even I was overcome with lust for the treasures dispersed around us. She was right; we needed those things. As much as I hated stealing from the dead, I gulped and told myself that we were merely borrowing from them. I tried to think of them as using their things to help us stop kill the thing that killed him. Maybe somehow the gods made sure their things had gone untouched and waited for our use. After all, they sure made this place unattractive even for looters. 
       "Nakoruru's right. We must take the things. Just think of it as borrowing it to help defend their deaths as we go and stop Amakusa, who killed them. There will be no frivolous use of the money. In fact, I will handle the money. Whatever coins you find, please give to me. And no sneaking any for yourself!" I eyed Cham Cham. 
       Eagerly, they grabbed as many coins as they could, and I watched Cham Cham closely to make sure she didn't smuggle any behind my back. It pained me to even imagine how she would spend it. Most of us had found some extra clothes that fit halfway decently, although their colors had faded and they were a bit tattered-looking. Those who had found money honestly handed it to me. By the time we were done scavenging, we had found nearly a hundred gold coins. 
       "Wow, we're rich!" Shizumaru exclaimed, looking upon the tarnished coins with awe. Money, even eroded money, was not an everyday sight to him. 
       "It should get us by," I stated, trying to be modest, yet even I yearned to spend it on something fancy. 
       "But Haohmaru. . ." Galford inquired, "it's awfully strange that this place has been untouched. Why. . .why do you think so?" 
       "Possibly because my people have respect for the dead," I huffed under my breath. I knew that he was sending me subtle hints that if he had his way, he'd take it all, no matter who it belonged to. After all, the government had its reasons for keeping the gaijin out. 
       "If it had been in the New World, it would be gone in a day." 
       "I don't find that hard to believe." 
       "Haohmaru, what are we going to buy with the money?" Shizumaru asked, tugging at me. 
       "If there is something that we desperately need, we'll buy it." 
       I brushed my long, black hair from my face and looked ahead. There was nothing but blackened debris. Gairyu Isle was exactly as he had left it--and the way he wanted it. We still continued to hunt around for useful items. As I was looking, I came across a very familiar piece of white cloth, with black at the hems, and printed on it were large blue flowers. I held it close to me, and I could nearly feel the warmth that it brought me, the love and warmth I had felt in my childhood. My mother would wrap me in that blanket and sing to me when I was very small. I kept it with me for memories and protection. 
       I found many more memorabilia from my past, such as my frog kite that my father gave me on my third birthday. I had very vague memories of that day, but I remember many loving faces and many gifts, and my parents taking me to the temple to pray for prosperity. That kite lay only a heap of splintered wood and torn paper. For a moment, I looked towards the coast and could have sworn I saw a picture of Father and I flying kites on a sunny day flash before me. I even found some of my old kimonos from when I was little, and I gave them to Shizumaru, for he was small enough to wear them. I wrapped him in my old baby blanket as my mother had done to me. 
       "Look ahead!" Masashige called, and the soft visions of my childhood dissipated into the air. 
       I sharply looked forward and noticed two tall, cloaked figures approaching us from the opposite side of the coast. They were partially concealed by a translucent sheet of fog. A lump formed in my throat. Was it him? And was the other that Zankuro character? I gripped my sword, preparing to strike him. I would get him that time! I would get him for good! Right where he killed Father. Filling with anger, I marched towards them, ready for a fight. 
       "Haohmaru. . .wait!" Nakoruru called after me. "They may not be hostile!" 
       "Oh, I know it's him!" I shoved her away, angrily approaching. 
       When my companions and I met up with the two cloaked strangers, I immediately began my repugnant greeting. 
       "Who are you?!" 
       "Sir. . ." the shorter one spoke. "We inquire your help. My friend and I are looking for someone here. . ." 
       "You're looking for me, fiend?! Well, I'm right here, you bastard! Come and fight me!" 
       After all, the shorter one stood at about the same height as Amakusa. He cringed, and I delighted in his fear. 
       "Here?" Kazuki asked, a baffled expression on his young face. "There is absolutely nothing here. Why, not even a crow would make a home here!" 
       "It was once a flourishing village. I used to live here." 
       "But I thought that nobody made it out alive after Amakusa burnt this place down!" Masashige exclaimed. "Except one person, and he is with us." 
       "He is?" 
       "I know Amakusa made it out alive!" I sneered. "Just who is it that you are looking for?" 
       "Sir. . ." the stranger began, his voice somewhat light and timid. 
       "Gaijin!" Masashige exclaimed. "He used 'sir'. That is European indeed!" 
       "Send those bastards back to the pig sty they belong to!" I declared. 
       "We are looking for a man named Haohmaru. . ." the shorter stranger replied. I could nearly look into his eyes, but they were hidden by the navy-blue cloth. His companion was enormous; I had seen trees that were shorter than he, but he just stood there, not even attacking me. 
       But they weren't gaijin! It was him! It was! After all, what other survivor would know about me? And Amakusa was a heavy follower of everything European. And who was that huge man beside him? Zankuro? I looked down at Shizumaru and expected him to be cowered in a tight ball, his large eyes popping from his head, or clinging to me. But to my surprise he didn't seem frightened at all, and he even slowly approached the strangers. I knew that child could smell a demon from far away, and it gave me some comfort that Amakusa was not close; however, I still could not be sure. . . 
       "Shizumaru, stay away from them!" I commanded. 
       "Who are you?" he asked curiously, "How do you know Haohmaru?" 
       "I knew him a long time ago. Do you know him, young man?" the shorter stranger bent down to ask him. "Is he alive somewhere?" 
       "Yes! He's. . ." 
       "Shizumaru!" I barked, and I turned to the strangers. "Show yourselves! Why do you hind behind those cloaks?! What are you afraid of?!" 
       As I looked closer at the smaller one, I saw a small wisp of golden hair peek out from behind his dark disguise. He was a gaijin indeed. 
       "Japan isn't still isolated, is it?" he asked. 
       "Of course," I beamed, "Keeping the gaijin out has saved us a lot of controversy. But, strangers, if you are gaijin, I will not persecute you. I only want to know who you are." 
       Reluctantly, they dropped the capes, which lay around them a crumpled mass of blue. 
       The taller one was a large, muscular man who wore a plate of steel across his breast, with a golden lion emblem on it. Draped around his shoulders was a red cape which dragged to the ground, and on his right arm was a large metal guard; it seemed to weigh a ton, and it too had a lion on it. He had cold, blue eyes and a small nose. His lips were thin and nearly as white as his skin. The man had no hair atop his head, and I saw no trace of eyebrows. He looked somewhat cold, especially his stance; he stood tall and dignified above us, his back straight and chin up. 
       The other stranger. . . 
       "It's a woman!" Nakoruru exclaimed. 
       Galford fixated his eyes on her and grinned. Cham Cham glared at both of them. 
       One look at her and my breath was sucked right from my chest. 
       She was a rather nice-looking woman, and she was awfully tall for one. I could look her straight in the eye. She had a thin, lithe body. Her face was delicate and fair; she seemed as if she was some hand-painted puppet. Her golden eyebrows had a perfect arch above her heavily lashed blue eyes, and she had this tiny, upturned nose. Her mouth was small and pink, like a cherry blossom. She had thick and shiny golden hair, which fell in undulating waves down to her elegant chin. The woman stood upright before me, just like the giant beside her. She had on this blue, figure-fitting coat. If that coat was any smaller the but Îtons would have burst due to her swelling breasts ( which Galford was highly fascinated by). I could tell that she wore hardly anything under that coat. Hanging from her belt, she had this long, thin sword, which she clutched, as if ready to attack us. 
       "So you don't work for the government?" she asked, her voice more clear; it had been deeper and muffled from behind the cape. 
       We shook our heads. 
       "Who are you?" I asked them, even though I already knew who one of them was. 
       "I'm Charlotte Cordeau, from France," she stated confidently, "And this is my companion Neinhalt Sieger, from Germany. He has helped me come here. We are looking for a man named Haohmaru. You say that you know a man named Haohmaru. Do you know where he is?" 
       "I am," I stepped forward, looking into her blue eyes. "I am Haohmaru from Gairyu Isle. My parents were killed here by Amakusa. . ." I stopped and glared at her, "who your father supported." 
       She stepped back from me. 
       Looking at her, I had first seen a lovely woman, but then the memories of my past flooded my mind. The Sundays that her father would come and preach fire and brimstone sermons. The scorn he had held for my family and I. The time he whacked me over the head when I wouldn't confess. The time she told me she hated me. 
       I looked at her again. She looked just like Serge. Tall and thin, with cold, blue eyes. A hard chin and upturned nose. Thin, arched eyebrows. I so much of that hateful man in her. How could I had helped but hate her as well? 
       "My father doesn't know I am here," she told me, her voice a bit more tentative. Then she looked at me, "You are him! You look so much like your father. So. . .so handsome." 
       Handsome? I questioned myself. Nobody ever thought of me that way. For a moment I was flattered, but then I had to remember my past. . .she had to have some trick under her sleeve. For all I knew, Amakusa sent her to haunt me. . .to torture me. . . 
       "Well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Charlotte," Galford said, rather eagerly as he shook her hand. "It's great to have another blonde here. . ." he ran his hands through his hair and winked. "You know, France is a wonderful country! It. . .it. . ." he was certainly at a loss for words, "they've got great bread!" 
       She looked down on him as if he was some child, but she forced herself to be civil to him. "Are you from the New World?" she asked. 
       "Why yes I am, madamoiselle." I tried to restrain the gorge in my throat from rising. 
       "Oh. . ." she merely replied. 
       "Actually, I'm a tobacco merchant from Virginia. I trade with the British in India." 
       "Oh. . ." she smirked. "Aren't you going to introduce me to the rest of your colleagues Haohmaru?" 
       "They'll introduce themselves," I replied, walking past her. I just could not look at her. 
       "Wait, where are you going?" she called after me. 
       "To take care of some business." 
       I was tired of her persistence. I whirled around, "Nothing that concerns you." 
       "But there is so much that I am just dying to know about you." 
       "Well if you're dying to know, I suggest jumping off that cliff and then maybe my dead father will tell you. . .who your father helped kill." I turned to my companions, "Let's go." 
       They obediently followed and I walked ahead, as usual. Periodically I looked behind me, as I always did to make sure no one would do something behind my back, and I noticed that Charlotte and that German held their heads close and spoke in whispers. They continued to shake their heads. What exactly they were talking about, I did not know, but I knew that it concerned me. 

Chapter 9

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