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

Chapter 9

       "Sieger 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. . ." 
       "Thank you 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 get here." 
       "Well, at least those gaijin are good for something," I muttered. 
       Fortunately, 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. 
       "Haohmaru, why don't you like the lady with the golden hair?" he asked innocently. 
       I couldn't explain to the child my reasons; I couldn't even explain them to myself, but I could never lie to him. 
       "I'll tell you later. . ." I replied, hoping to shake him off. 
       Sieger and 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. 
       "They must 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. 
       Finally, she turned to face me. 
       "Haohmaru, 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. 
       "Where did you go, then? Did you become the Samurai that you promised your father you would be?" 
       I scowled, "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. 
       "But where 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. 
       "Haohmaru, 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 the thought. 
       "But I am nothing like him!" she exclaimed, "Please, you must understand! I've never forgiven him for what he did to you." 
       "Well, Charlotte why did you come here?" I interrogated. 
       She quickly 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 evil." 
       "You can't 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." 
       Sieger placed 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."

       In Wakayama 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. . . 
       "Is something 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 just doesn't." 
       "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!" 
       "Your brother, 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?" 
       "Amakusa is 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." 
       Kazuki sighed, 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?!" 
       "You're young, 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. 
       "Look's like 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. 
       "Bon voyage," 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! 
       Kazuki, who 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. 
       "Haohmaru, 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 hopes? 
       "It's not the storm I'm scared of. . ." he stated gravely. 
       "Well, what?! 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. . ." 
       "Well, he's 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. 
       He shriveled 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!" 
       "Nakoruru, 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. 
       "Don't let 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. 
       "We're coming, 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. . ." 
       Just then, out of no where, like a gold flash, Galford leapt into the violent eddies of the water. 
       "Are you crazy?!" Kazuki cried. 
       "Galford, your 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. 
       Amazingly enough, 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. 
       "Look, there's 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. 
       Galford gently 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. 
       Perhaps that 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. . ."

       Fortunately 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. 
       "Of course, 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 home." 
       She seemed 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 whispered. 
       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.

Chapter 10

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