Thunder and Redness
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and I have another boat that we can use that could probably last the seas,"
Charlotte said, after Masashige explained that we would need to travel
down the Kino River, where we would finally reach the southern end of Honshu
at the town of Wakayama. "It should fit all of us. . ."
for your hospitality," Nakoruru smiled. "There was a fire at the inn where
we stayed, and we lost everything, even Galford's boat which we used to
"Well, at least
those gaijin are good for something," I muttered.
Sieger and Charlotte had taken a very large vessel overseas, and had a
much better lifeboat that we could use. They had it tied to a deserted
dock near the end of Gairyu Isle's boundary. Charlotte's wealth sickened
me. I watched her as she pleasantly conversed with some of the others.
She seemed so amiable and kind, very unlike her father. But it was some
sort of a mask. It had to be! Therefore I had to avoid speaking to her
lest I fell into some deceptive trap.
After a night's
rest in Gairyu Isle, we had to lug that gigantic boat a great distance
until the mouth of the Kino river, that was into the foothills of the mountains.
By mid-afternoon we were hot and sticky with sweat. Not even the sea breeze
overcame the oppressive heat. Little Shizumaru tagged along behind me,
tugging at my clothing.
why don't you like the lady with the golden hair?" he asked innocently.
explain to the child my reasons; I couldn't even explain them to myself,
but I could never lie to him.
you later. . ." I replied, hoping to shake him off.
Charlotte allowed for all of us to enter the boat before it set off from
the shore. There was ample room, and it was more comfortable. There was
even a place where one could go below deck.
"This is a
nice boat," Kazuki remarked. "How'd you get it?"
"We were very
lucky," Charlotte smiled.
be very wealthy," Masashige presumed.
As we sat down,
I noticed that Charlotte had deliberately taken a seat next to me. I stiffened
and turned away, praying that she wouldn't say anything to me. She sat
looking straight ahead, straight up, with her hands in her lap, as lady
should. I could smell her; she smelled like a garden of flowers, which
was pretty pleasant for some gaijin. It was not a light scent, but not
overwhelmingly heavy either. As the wind blew, it ruffled her hair, which
gently brushed against me as it blew around.
turned to face me.
why are you leaving Gairyu Isle?" she softly asked.
"I never lived
there to begin with. . .since I was young," I curtly replied, trying to
avoid looking at her.
you go, then? Did you become the Samurai that you promised your father
you would be?"
"No. . ."
"No? And you
refused to come to France with me to promise your father you would live
to his potential, and then you don't even try?!"
I glared at
her, "Well, it's a little hard when you have no place to go and all of
your family is dead!" I hissed.
did you go? How did you live?"
"I moved up
North and ran away, living off of nature-away from people."
"Why did you
come back to Gairyu Isle?" she questioned. It irked me that she would ask
so much. I wanted to ask her questions, but it would only embitter me to
find out she lived in a warm home with a family. What would be so interesting
about that, anyway?
I decided to
tell her why, "Something terrible has happened. I'm sure you remember Amakusa,
an old friend of the family," I spat.
I am very sorry you are bitter about my father. Please don't hold it against
me," she pleaded.
"How can I,
when I look at you and I see him?! I sure wonder what he would do
if he found out that you were here, in 'Devil's Country'," I smirked at
"But I am nothing
like him!" she exclaimed, "Please, you must understand! I've never forgiven
him for what he did to you."
why did you come here?" I interrogated.
sucked in her breath, her eyes darting. For one moment, her lips quivered,
as if tried to say something else, but then she regained her statuesque
posture and looked me straight in the eye.
"I came back
because I wanted to explore. I wanted to visit you and see the people.
In fact, I wanted to get away from my father. I can understand why you
think he's oppressive." She answered confidently, yet rather quickly. "But
you didn't answer my question. Why, after all those years you were away,
did you decide to return to the Isle?"
"It's a strange
story, but you must believe us. Right now, I can believe anything. . ."
I sighed. "Amakusa had his own Christianity, and during his lifetime he
converted this man from a tavern lounger to his most devout follower. When
Amakusa died, this man went to his grave and performed a sˇance, which
happened to free Amakusa's soul from the pits of Hell. During the resurrection,
the man died, and as a gratitude for freeing him, Amakusa possessed the
dead body of this man with his evil spirit."
"He is not
the pious Christian man he was," Masashige added. "He's very bitter from
God's placing him in Hell. He has no religion. He wants power. He wants
conquest and will slaughter those who try and stop him. That is why we
are here. . ."
"That is why
I am here. . ." I mumbled under my breath.
I looked at
the German man who sat next to Charlotte; he seemed very confused.
"I just hope
that there is less chaos here than there was in my homeland. . ." he sighed.
Those were the first words I had heard him speak.
"Chaos is everywhere,"
Shizumaru told him, in a grave tone of voice. He seemed no more than a
bug compared to the size of the man. "Why are you here?"
"I came to
escape the king," Sieger explained, "He was a ruthless tyrant. He wanted
military control. One day some men came to my door and recruited me without
my consent. The king wanted strong, big men. I disliked all that hard work
for something unneeded. We were not at war. One day. . .I escaped and fled
to France. . .and I met Charlotte. She wanted to come here. The king will
never find me here. . ." "Evil kings are everywhere too,"
Nakoruru sighed. "Sometimes I wish that I could flee all that is
evil and live in the woods. Nature will never be evil; harsh, sometimes, but
never escape evil, no matter what," Shizumaru said wistfully, "Even if
you try, it will still find you." He began to tremble slightly and bite
his nails, "And even if you escape from something evil. . .what happens
afterward will be trapped forever inside your head."
his large hand atop the child's head and gently patted it. I looked at
him and saw a great deal of compassion in those blue eyes; perhaps he wasn't
as stern as he appeared. He smiled warmly.
"Boy, you may
be small. . .but you have the eyes of ages."
we decided to rest at an inn near the Bungo Strait, which we would cross
in order to arrive to the island of Shikoku. The air was warm day and night,
for the tropic winds brought in hot air from the seas. Our boat was tied
to a dock, which was watched over by a sleepy sailor. We ate a large meal
at the inn, and we ate gluttonously, as if we hadn't eaten in years. I
noticed as we ate that Charlotte had still known how to use chopsticks,
and she was teaching Sieger how. Since we had so many people, we had to
take more than one room, so we put the girls to their own room. I liked
it that way, for I couldn't see Charlotte and be reminded of the horrors
of my past.
I came to like
the German, however. As big and frightening as he was, he seemed the most
placid character I had ever met. Shizumaru especially took a liking to
him; he somehow found comfort in a man so large. He told him stories about
his old country and they compared childhood stories. I caught small parts
of it. Sieger too had been taunted and misunderstood as a child because
he was so big.
I looked out
a window. It was dark and the moon loomed low on the horizon like a massive
god. Over the sparkling water I could see the lights of Shikoku in the
far distance. I knew that my destiny was approaching, yet it seemed so
far. . .
troubling you?" Kazuki asked me.
I shook my
head. He stood beside me, looking out the window and sighing. "You know,
I wonder if my brother is out there. It seems so big. . .like I'll never
find him. If only I could take the world like a piece of paper and crumple
it up into one tight, condensed ball. Then I could hold it in my hand and
do as I please with it." "Would I like to do that with Amakusa," I said
wryly, "and throw him back into the flames where he belongs. . ."
"I just want
my brother back. . ." he turned to face me, "I hate this feeling of having
been taken from. One day my brother and I are walking through town together,
and then the next he's vanished from sight. It just doesn't seem right-it
"I know how
you feel. . ." I replied gruffly.
"But. . .but
do you think that we'll find him alive?" he asked, great concern in his
eyes. "Because if I lose my brother. . .I don't know what I'll do!"
if he's half intelligent, is probably alive. If he is, in fact, in Amakusa's
clutch, then we probably have a good deal of time to find him. Not much
time-but long enough."
"Why is that?"
not someone who will kill anytime. It must be the right time. We've encountered
him once, as you have seen, and he hadn't killed us. But he will try; it's
merely a matter of time."
and the muscles in his arms became less tense. The poor kid could never
take his mind off his brother. He put on a mask of bravery, yet for some
reason he decided to reveal his vulnerability to me. It felt nice having
someone younger confide in me; why myself I didn't know, but he and I were
traveling in the same boat.
He balled up
his fists again, "Oh, what did I ever do to deserve this! I hope that whatever
stole my brother will give him back! Amakusa doesn't even know me, so why
would he do this?!"
Kazuki," I told him, feeling like a wise, old man, "and it always seems
that the young are stolen from the most, for they have the most to lose."
Early in the
morning, after a nice rest (for some of us), we walked to the port where
our boat was tied to the pier. The air was nippy and cold, and the sky
was thick and gray. Fog loomed over the water. A fierce wind whipped at
my clothes, nearly forcing me to stumble backwards.
a storm is coming," commented a man at the dock. His voice was low and
ominous. He was cloaked in a bright-red cape, which halfway concealed his
face; but when I looked at him, the half of his mouth that I did see turned
into wry grin.
All of us climbed
into the boat, and the man at the dock untied the ropes with his callous
fingers and pushed us out into the choppy waters.
he said lowly, and silently walked away.
There was indeed
something unique about the man-unique in a rather odd way. He never showed
us his face and initiated no conversation with us. He was an odd man!
was usually talkative and lively, seemed very tense. He sat with his back
straight, and his eyes fixated on the water. Nervously, he drummed his
fingertips on the side of the boat.
The sky seemed
even blacker and more ominous than when we had left, and the land on the
other side of the water seemed farther and farther away. The water became
choppier, and I was beginning to feel a little nauseous. I clutched my
chest and swallowed, hoping I wouldn't vomit. A faint rumble of thunder
clamored in the distance, and the wind picked up. Small drops of rain began
to gently pelt our skins. Galford held his arm protectively and winced
in pain; the rain was making the cloth around it sodden.
"I hope we
make it over before the storm really sets in," Masashige remarked.
I watched as
the shore of Wakayama diminished in the fog, and I felt more alone as we
drifted farther out into rocky waters.
The waves were
violent against the boat, and each crest it encountered nearly capsized
it. Through the dark sky, a bolt of white lightning crashed before us.
Nakoruru screamed. Preceding it was a large clap of thunder, nearly too
potent for mortal ears. The storm was worsening by the minute; rain that
shortly ago fell lightly pierced our skins like ten thousand tiny knives.
It stung my face and eyes, and matted my hair to my face. "I really
want to get off this boat!" Cham Cham shrieked as the boat clashed
with a wave.
I'm really scared. . ." Shizumaru whimpered, clinging to me like a barnacle
on a rock.
I patted his
head, "Don't worry, boy, we'll get through this. It's just a little storm."
I tried to comfort him through the gods' anger. Gray water, gray skies-gray
"It's not the
storm I'm scared of. . ." he stated gravely.
Is there a shark in the water or something?!" I responded cynically; the
blustery winds blew hard from every direction and disoriented me. I gripped
my head for I felt that it would blow off.
"That man at
the dock. . .he was really scary. . ."
all the way at the dock. No one but us is crazy enough to sail in this
weather!" I yelled, trying to overcome the whistling wind, hissing rain,
and deafening thunder.
away from me for some reason and inched towards Charlotte. She held the
child in her arms and comforted him, keeping him close to her breast. I
glared at her for trying to take the kid away from me, for she would fill
him with the same pain she did me, but my anger was short, and the perils
of the storm helped relieve my mind from it.
"How far is
it from shore?!" Nakoruru screamed, her clumpy-wet hair whipping around
her like black tentacles. She leaned over the edge of the boat and peered
ahead, placing her hand next to her forehead to shield her eyes from the
rain. "I can't see!"
don't--!" Masashige exclaimed quickly arising as best he could,
despite the circumstances.
But it was
too late. There was a large swell that lifted the boat high and nearly
tipped it over. It would have thrown the rest of us overboard had we not
clutched to the sides. I heard the scream as she was plunged into the depths.
The vastness of the water made her seem like such a tiny speck. It thrashed
her about violently, and the waves crashed down upon her head successively.
She barely had enough time to catch her breath before the second one came.
her out of your sight!" Masashige commanded.
I heard her
screams, which were faint compared to the storm. She reached out a white
arm for us to come and save her. The Ninja and I took command of the oars
and tried to fight the wild seas. We watched in anguish as she seemed to
drift farther and farther away from us.
Nakoruru!" he called. "Just stay strong!"
We strove and
strove to try and reach her, but it seemed that for each advance we made,
she was just out of reach. It was as if some omnipresent force was taunting
me-laughing at me.
It pained me
to see her out there in the open waters; she seemed so vulnerable and helpless.
Nakoruru was too young to die in this harsh, watery grave. I prayed and
I prayed that it would not take her life as fire had taken Kei's. No! I
tried to tell myself that she was too determined to live and would not
passively allow death as Kei had. She's not a fragile as she seems.
. . Masashige's words ran through my head.
But it was
no use! I could tell that she was becoming weaker and allowing the dark
waters to envelope her. Masashige threw his arms in frustration.
"We can't fight
this current, Haohmaru!" he wailed. "Another loss. . .another loss. . ."
out of no where, like a gold flash, Galford leapt into the violent eddies
of the water.
"Are you crazy?!"
arm!" I cried. "Get your ass back on this boat!"
But he willfully
ignored our protests, and in spite of his injury, he continued to swim
outwards to save her. I myself could nearly feel the wrenching pain in
his arm when he clenched his teeth in agony. He bit his bottom lip in determination
to take the pain from his arm, and it bled like mad. But he really swam!
His shirt clung to his skin, and I watched his young muscles ripple through
the wet cloth. He fought his way through the stone barriers that rose in
his way, reaching arm after arm in front of him to pass through.
he was making much more progress than Masashige and I did, and after a
few more painful movements of his arm, he reached her. She seemed barely
alive and her skin was nearly white, but he allowed her to float atop the
crests, which had begun to be gentler.
a break in the clouds!" Charlotte remarked.
I sighed in
relief at the tiny rip in the gray shrouds above us. A small ray of light
beamed through and shone on the sea, bringing the glistening, emerald color
back to the tiny patch of water it touched.
rode the waves back to our boat, carrying the unconscious Nakoruru with
him. When we intercepted, Masashige and I hoisted her back on board the
boat, and I reached out my hand to help him up.
foreigner was not such the fool he appeared to be. Behind that boyish grin
of his lay great honor, and it surprised me that one could play the fool
and the warrior at the same time. I was very proud of efforts, although
they seemed absurd at first; however, I never questioned him, but I had
a pretty good idea why. He wasn't scorned for his brashness, not even by
Masashige. All that mattered was that he succeeded.
When we arrived
to the shores of Shikoku, the storm had nearly died away. All that remained
of it were a few stray clouds that just wouldn't leave. I carried Nakoruru
to shore, for Galford was unable because of his arm. I could tell that
he was in a considerable amount of pain, and the bones in his arm had probably
become displaced again.
When we set
foot on the land of Tokushima, our legs felt wobbly beneath our feet, and
we staggered onto the dock like drunkards.
"We have to
get Nakoruru and Galford to a doctor," Masashige said, "I just hope that
it isn't to late. . ."
there was a doctor nearby. He was a small, shrunken-looking man with thinning
hair, and he was located right near the river. Our boat had gone through
too much torment in the storm that it was not suitable for sailing; I never
wanted to go on another boat again. The kind, old doctor gave Galford some
narcotics to ease the pain in his arm, and he gave him a new splint to
secure the bones in place. He allowed Nakoruru to rest, for she was too
weak to continue on the next day, even though she had regained consciousness.
I was somewhat embittered by that, for I had not intended to rest here.
The sooner I can find him, I thought and clenched my teeth, the better.
Luckily I had
not lost the money that we had scavenged back at Gairyu Isle, so we had
enough for a nearby inn. I didn't want to leave Nakoruru alone at the doctor's,
but we all needed to rest, and there was no place for us there. After giving
us rice and tea, the doctor set us on our way and told us to check on Nakoruru
the next morning.
It was late
evening when we reached the small inn, and our room was large enough for
all of us. We had a nice view of the Yoshino River. That brought up another
problem: the boat.
"There is no
way to the Amakusa Islands without a boat; that is, unless you want to
swim there," Masashige said.
that is something I'm not going to do," Cham Cham flipped her hair
in defiance, "You know, I think that I am going to take the next boat back
extremely bitter that day; her customary attitude and selfishness seemed
to take on a spark of anger. For a moment, I feared her. I hoped that she
did go back to the jungle or wherever she came from. She stood against
one corner of the wall, her arms folded tightly across her chest.
"I think that
it was the fact that Galford suddenly rushed out to save Nakoruru," Masashige
I nodded. Something
petty like that would ire her; after all, only petty things affect petty
people, I smirked to myself. Perhaps Galford would have done that for anybody.
I shook my head and discarded the though. Gaijin would only risk their
lives for something they truly liked. Both Cham Cham and I knew that he
wouldn't have saved just anybody. If she had fallen from the boat, I would
have left her.
During the evening
more bad weather set in, and we were all huddled up in that room as we
slept on the floor. Shizumaru snuggled up to me. The warmth of his body
felt nice; it brought back the memories of when I would snuggle up to my
father for protection when it stormed. I had always been afraid of thunderstorms;
bad things always seemed to happen during thunderstorms.
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