Jubei Samurai Shodown
Fan Fiction
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Rotting Flower
by Mark Patraw
Homepage: Mark's Art Page

Chapter 6

      "There were only three of them? Are you sure?"
      "Yes, I'm positive. There were only three, no more, no less. Well, there were seven to begin with, but only three after…after my husband's accident, but you know about that." Despite the unpleasant topic, Kaori felt like dancing, she couldn't believe she had finally been rescued! When she had heard footsteps and voices approaching the rundown house where the ninja had kept her imprisoned, she had feared the worse, certain it was they, returning to finally do away with her. Kaori had almost feinted when, instead, she had seen two samurai cautiously open the door by spear point and stare stupidly in wonder at her before whooping and shouting that they had found Lady Nozomi at last.
      "I must thank you all, again and again!" She continued, tears in her eyes, "Oh, but I was certain I was doomed. I owe you all I debt I can never repay."
      Yaggyu Jubei, one of the Shogun's finest (and quite handsome in Kaori's opinion), bowed deeply. "Don't thank us, Lady Nozomi. Thank Ryooshi! If not for his keen sense of smell, we would never have found you. And also thank your son, Yoshio."
      Upon hearing his name, the dog immediately began to jump up and down at Jubei's legs, making a great racket. The samurai sank to one knee and rubbed Ryooshi's head affectionately, "You did a good job, my friend. I'll see that you eat your fill tonight, and for many nights to come, eh? Galford promised that you would serve me well, and you have done all that and more today, Ryooshi!"
      Tanaka scowled and glared darkly at the animal. "Outdone by that furry rat; I can't believe it! When his Lordship hears of this, I just know he's going to order every unit to have one of these filthy beasts amongst its ranks! Argh!"
      Jubei laughed, "At least one of you will know how to do his job then, eh Tanaka?"
      Tanaka grumbled, but joined in the hilarity.
      Kaori laughed as well, clapping her hands.
      "Oh! This is a glorious day. I'm going to have a feast tonight to honor all of you when I get back to the city and…"
      Jubei's face suddenly became serious again and he held up his hand to silence Kaori's jubilation.
      "There will be time enough for celebration later, Lady Nozomi, but this matter is not yet resolved. I'm afraid I must question you further, so please by patient with me. The role your husband played in these sad events still disturbs me, and also, while we know one of your three remaining captors is now dead, two are still unaccounted for and…"
      "Begging your pardon, make that one, Yaggyu-san."
      Jubei turned. "Eh…?"
      Pakuro and Taishi, the two samurai that had stayed behind to escort Bado and Yoshio back to the city, bowed. They had just now arrived upon the scene, their horses tired and slick with sweat.
      "We found another body, dressed in black and blue like the other, merely by chance." Taishi gestured to the body in question strapped to the back of his mount, "We were passing through the forest edge to save time on our way to rendezvous with you again when we stumbled upon her. She had been run through by a sword, and her cowl and mask were also missing."
      Jubei studied the body for a few moments before turning to Kaori. "Is this one of them?"
      "Yes…yes, I recognize her." Kaori stammered, averting her eyes from the dead woman's, "Her name was Zhishu I think."
      Jubei nodded, rubbing his strong chin thoughtfully between his finger and thumb. "Two dead and one remaining, the most dangerous one. She who kills with a mere touch, rotting death."
      "Kusaru." Kaori whispered.
      "Kusaru." Jubei nodded.


      "It's over. I'm finished." Hana whispered, sliding to the ground in despair, her head cradled in her gloved hands.
      Kazuki frowned. Careful not to disturb his throbbing leg, he pushed the broad leaves of the plants that concealed them aside to peer at the scene unfolding before them again. Across the barren field, Tokugawa's samurai squad was clustered all around the little shack Hana had been leading them to. Kazuki could see that Lady Nozomi had been rescued. He also saw the dead body of one of the Lin Kuei strapped to a samurai's horse…doubtlessly that had upset Hana more than anything else.
      "I was going to let her go anyway, Nozomi Kaori I mean, but it's all the same…poor Zhishu…I should have listened."
      "You're still alive, Hana, that's something. As long as life remains, so does hope." Kazuki offered, "Now that they have Lady Nozomi back, maybe they'll give up searching for you."
      She looked over at him, all the anger had fled from her dark eyes; all that remained was sorrow and despair.
      "Hope? There is no hope for me. I failed in my mission. My brothers and sisters, all of which I was responsible for, are slain; the Lin Kuei Masters will have me put to death for my failures if I dare to return to them. There is nothing left for me, nothing."
      "You can start over again, Hana, build a new life for yourself here in Japan, or somewhere else…"
      She laughed, her giggles trailing into sobs as she ripped off her cowl. Kazuki half-expected to see some nightmarish creature revealed, but it was only the face of a lost young woman, not much older than him, and a not unpleasant face at that.
      "A new life? For a freak like me? Don't make me laugh, Kazuki. How can I lead anything even remotely like a normal life? Death is all I know, and it's all I have to give. My life in the Lin Kuei wasn't much, but at least it was something. I was accepted, feared and reviled, but accepted." Hana paused to run her hand through her short, black hair, "You still have family and friends, return to them. I'm dead, inside and outside. The dead are not fit company for the living; leave me."
      "You didn't leave me when I needed you, I'm not going to abandon you when you need me." He stated, gingerly sliding his body over the wet ground to sit beside her.
      "Who says I need you, Kazama?" She frowned at him, drawing away.
      "You need somebody, Hana, everybody needs somebody."
      She only laughed painfully again, shaking her head slowly back and forth.
      "What I need, I cannot have. Do you know what it's like to never be touched, Kazuki? Never to feel someone else's bare skin brush yours without it rotting away? Of course you don't. To never have someone wrap their arms around you, to never be kissed? Ever? To watch other people show affection for each other, fall in love, knowing you can never have that?
      Can you believe I even killed my own mother, Kazuki? All she wanted to do was pick up and coddle her newborn baby girl and when she tried…" Hana's voice trailed away into sobs again, "…I kill everything I touch, everything."
      She plucked a pale, white flower from the dew-covered earth, and brushed the petals across the nape of her neck. They both watched as the plant withered and wilted between her gloved fingers, blackening and dying.
      Hana fixed her deep, brown eyes on Kazuki's, fresh tears coursing down her cheeks.
      He reached across the distance between them and took her leather-clad hand in his, the dead flower fluttering to the ground again as it slipped free. Hana tried to pull away, but Kazuki tightened his grip. Timidly, and then with more strength, she finally relented and squeezed back.
      "It's not your fault. We're born as we are; no one can change that, Hana."
      "No. It's no accident I'm like this, Kazuki; it might be easier to accept if I was just some joke of the gods, but I'm not. Every ninja clan has their secrets, but the Lin Kuei's are blacker than most." She continued, her voice becoming very bitter. "I can tell you more than human blood courses through my veins. There are other worlds besides this one; terrible places…and the Lin Kuei made an alliance with the ruler of one such place hundreds of years ago. Despite whatever your elders told you, that's the main reason we're so hated, we're tainted by an evil I don't even think the Lin Kuei Masters truly understand. My clan wanted an edge over their rivals, power, and they got it, although not quite the way they had envisioned it. My "gift" is the end result of the unholy matings between my ancestors and the creatures of that other, invisible place. Most Lin Kuei are born normal, but for some of us, like myself…normal just doesn't apply."
      Kazuki blinked his eyes in confusion.
      "I don't know what to say to that."
      Hana smiled through her tears and tightened her grip on his hand.
      "You don't believe me, do you, Kazuki?"
      "I don't know, Hana. Dark alliances? Other worlds? It's all very strange to me."
      "It's all right; you don't have to believe, Kazuki. But there are others like me among the Kuei, except, unlike me, their gifts truly are gifts and not curses. One of my ninja brothers, Zahn, can turn his skin into impervious stone at will, and another, Batsu-ra, can move objects with his mind, just by thinking about it."
      "That's…that's unbelievable!"
      "You wouldn't say that if you had seen it with your own eyes as I have, Kazuki. You have seen for yourself what I can do. Trust me when I say all these things and more are true."
      "I can summon and control the spirit of fire, Hana, but I wasn't born with the ability, I had to work and train at it for most of my life to master it. It's an ancient Kazama ninja magic. My elder brother, Sogetsu, has done the same, except with the water spirit."
      "That is good. You had to earn your power, and because of that, it's pure. Not tainted, like the secrets of the Kuei."
      They sat in silence without speaking for a time. Occasionally, they caught bits and pieces of the samurai talking from time to time as the words came to them on the wind. He closed his eyes; more than anything, Kazuki wanted to sleep. His whole body ached and he was far past exhaustion after last night's battle and their escape into the forest. He wondered what was happening back home right now?
      "Do you know what I wish sometimes, Kazuki?" Hana whispered.
      "That you could be normal?" He answered, not opening his eyes. Despite the circumstances, it was pleasant and peaceful here, sitting besides her, his hand in hers.
      "That?" Hana continued, "No, I gave up on that wish long ago. No, I wish that I was not immune to my own touch, so that I could rot myself away as I have done to so many others."


      "Sogetsu! Come quickly!"
      "What is it?"
      "Look!" A wide smile lit Hazuki's round face as she held up the piece of bloody, red fabric she had found. "It's Kazuki's; I know it!" She beamed, "He's still alive, Sogetsu! Isn't that wonderful?"
      Sogetsu snatched it from her hands and examined it.
      "Hai, it's his all right. He's still alive, or at least he was. The question is, what the hell was he doing way out here…and with a Lin Kuei woman?" Sogetsu growled, crushing the fragment of Kazuki's clothing inside his fist. They had been carefully following this trail for hours without rest, and they had known from the signs and clues they found along the way that they were following a wounded man and a woman, one of them Kuei, but Sogetsu would never have suspected that one of them was Kazuki. He had been all but positive his younger brother had died with the others in battle until now.
      "Maybe she captured him?" Gatsu offered, yawning, as he scratched his fat head and looked about his surroundings unenthusiastically, "It's clear from the blood droplets we found along the way and on that rag Hazuki just found that Kazuki's wounded. If he's hurt bad, he wouldn't be able to offer much resistance, right?"
      "Oh, I hope not!" Hazuki breathed, clutching her hands tightly to her chest, "Do you think maybe she's going to do something awful to him…as a warning to the Kazama?"
      He said nothing, his eyes spying the burnt stick lying half buried under some leaves that Hazuki had missed. Sogetsu picked the charred object up and pressed it to his nostrils. It stank of burnt flesh, but whose?
      "What is it, Sogetsu?" Hazuki asked, concern in her voice.
      "I don't know. Something just feels wrong about this whole situation." He frowned, what the hell are you playing at, Kazuki? "I don't think the Lin Kuei woman would have taken him alive. No, she would have killed him as we would have killed her if given the chance."
      "What are you suggesting then, Sogetsu?" Gatsu wondered, "I hope you're not implying that Kazuki is a traitor…"
      "Oh, no! Kazuki would never betray the Kazama!" Hazuki agreed, "Don't even speak of such things!"
      "I don't know what's going on, but I'm going to get to the bottom of it." Sogetsu breathed, "And for Kazuki's sake, if he's still alive, I hope he has a very good explanation for whatever it is."

Chapter 7

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