Fan Fiction http://samuraispirits.net
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Nakoruru and Kiko sat together silently on their knees, hands clasped in their laps, both staring into the empty cell that had housed the evil side of Galford. It looked cold and empty in there, the shadows and featureless stone melting into each other, and it was. The electric demon was gone, but the steel bars were still welded shut. He had simply vanished into thin air sometime during the night.
"Damn, you're heavy."
The bloody bag didn't answer.
"If it was up to me, I would've left you for the dogs, fiend. Especially after what you did, there's no love for you in anybody's heart, only hatred, mine included. I'd be much surprised if anybody grieves over your death. But that samurai paid good money for your corpse, so here we are."
Aku continued to pull his heavy burden onward. It left a red and black trail on the green grass behind them. What an ugly thing.
Why on earth had that strange samurai been so adamant about taking care of the madman's burial personally?
And where was he? He had promised to meet him here, on the edge of the forest near the north bank of the river.
As if Aku's thoughts had summoned him, he was suddenly there, stepping out from behind a gnarled old bush. His features were concealed under a worn, brown cloak, but Aku could see the meticulously cared for katana at his side.
That's samurai for you, they'll dress like bums, but their swords have to be spotless and fine.
"Hai!" The samurai bellowed, beckoning him forward.
"Hello there! Here he is, just as I promised, neh?" Aku bowed.
"Aye. You have my gratitude. Here's something extra for your trouble."
The samurai pressed a single gold coin into Aku's palm. Aku bowed deeply again in thanks.
Who cared why he wanted the body? The samurai's money was good.
"I'll take over from here. And remember speak of this to no one."
"As you wish, my lord. My lips are sealed forever, your gold has seen to that."
"Good. Leave us."
Aku bowed once more and was gone. After all, he had plans for his small fortune. Too bad The House of Nine Spirals was destroyed, but there was a fabulous house of pleasures in Kyattahyno, the next town over. The girls there would be more than happy to help him spend his newfound wealth. And he'd be more than happy to sample their wares…
The cloaked samurai watched Aku's passage until he was sure that the man had gone, and then he pulled back his tattered hood. Wild, black hair spilled out like a fountain.
He crouched down and undid the bag, wiping the blood from his fingers onto the clean grass. And then he pulled it open, ignoring the fetid stench that immediately made his stomach churn.
"Genjuro…" Haohmaru whispered softly, his eyes softening.
I knew this day would come, my oldest friend and most hated enemy, but still it hurts. You look so calm, none of that rage in your eyes now that you've started on your last journey. I hope you find some kind of peace wherever you soul finally comes to rest, even if that peace is nothing more than an end to the madness that ate you like a worm day and night.
Haohmaru brushed some of the gore from Genjuro's face.
I won't remember you for the man you became, Kibagami. That wasn't you, it was somebody else. I don't know where he came from or how he murdered my best friend, but it's done with now. Instead I'm going to remember you as you were: My childhood and adolescent companion, back before your secret past rotted your heart and poisoned your soul. In my mind's eye, I will see only the laughing, fiery-haired boy who helped me to push Old Nicotine into the pond when he fell asleep fishing. I will see the brave young man who watched my back when I picked fights I couldn't win with the town bullies. I will remember your good-natured teasing and provocative suggestions as you helped me compose a silly love poem for that exquisite young woman, Aiko, who didn't even know I was alive, even though I thought her a goddess.
A single tear escaped Haohmaru's eye and he brushed it away in shame.
If you could only see me, Genjuro, you'd rupture yourself laughing. Crying over you…
He studied Genjuro's features one last time, almost wishing life into his pale lips and hollow cheekbones again, and then he pulled the bag closed.
"Goodbye, old friend, goodbye. Watch for me, Genjuro. One day, when my time has run out, we'll see each other again. We'll have a drink together and it'll be like old times. The good times. All over again, forever and ever."
The gulls' screams awoke him. His eyes flew open and he stared up at the gray sky, the clouds slowly giving way to the sun and the infinite blueness beyond. He could smell salt in the air. It was unmistakable, the sea. How he loved that bitter taste…
His body stirred, slowly waking, and he felt sand beneath his boots.
Galford sat up and looked around, dazed.
The rock-strewn beach, and the great, dark sea, stretched out forever before him. In the distance he could see several small fishing boats, men were casting out their nets for the morning catch.
What was he doing here?
He didn't know.
Galford rose awkwardly to his feet and stumbled to the water's edge. His body felt kind of odd for some reason. God, the water smelled great though. He took a deep breath of the sea spray, purifying his lungs.
And then he looked at his reflection in the rippling, mirrored surface.
What were those?
He bent closer to the water for a closer look.
There were two streaks of white in his normally golden hair on either side of his head, just above his ears. Galford ran his fingers through them in wonder. But his eyes were the same old blue/gray they had always been…but why was that important?
And then he remembered.
He brought his two hands before himself and concentrated. The air hummed and strands of blue/white light snapped and danced in between his fingers. The power was there…
Who am I, really?
I'm me, Galford, who else?
But which Galford?
It didn't make sense, but it was true. He didn't feel much different…more at peace perhaps, but that was all.
What did you expect?
He didn't know the answer to that question either.
And then two thoughts occurred to him simultaneously, two lovely faces taking shape in his mind, first Nakoruru, and then Kiko. But then the distinction blurred and the two women became almost as one to him.
Their names brought forth the same emotions…love and longing.
But how could he love them both?
"Are we done with this Galford nonsense now, Hanzo?" Ruoh yawned. He sat on the edge of the great stone outcropping, his long legs dangling over the sides.
"More or less, Ruoh. Actually, I don't think our intervention was really all that necessary. I think the two would have come together on their own again eventually; we just accelerated the process. But, that's all right, some innocent lives have probably been spared in the process."
Hanzo was well satisfied, things had worked out well thus far. All that remained was for the new Galford to return to Fortess Iga, which Hanzo was sure would happen very soon.
"Hmph. Seems like more than enough innocent lives have already been lost. Were I in your position, I would have destroyed them both. What if they split again, hmm?"
Hanzo's eyes narrowed. Watch yourself, Ruoh. I'll tolerate that type of nonsense from the others, but not from one of my Iga.
"You aren't in my position, Ruoh. And unless you learn a bit more about wisdom and compassion, you never will be. But, to answer your question, I don't think there will be a relapse. The new Galford will deal with life much more appropriately than either of his individual halves did alone, of this I am certain."
Ruoh had gotten the point, Hanzo saw the young Iga wince under his reprimand.
"Tell me, Ruoh, just for a moment, did you consider actually following through with our little ruse and helping the dark Galford destroy me so that you could take over the Iga in my place?"
"Ah…it was a tempting idea, Master Hanzo, I must admit. But, I hardly think I could take your place, nor do I think the electric one could have bested you in mortal combat."
Hanzo said nothing. I think you would destroy me and usurp my role if you thought you could get away with it, Ruoh…I do. But what else should I expect? Many of my Iga are hungry for power, but that's only human.
"No sign of either Galford yet?"
Nakoruru did not turn her head. She just stared out the window, watching the Iga bustle about in the fortress center below. How many Iga were there? She didn't know, a hundred at least, more than that probably. They reminded her of ants, all clad in black like that, running to and fro.
"I bet they killed each other, Nak! Bam! Wham! Boom!"
"How horrible! Don't say such things, Rimu, please." Grandmother scolded.
"Ah, you're no fun! Besides, I didn't mean it."
"He's not dead. I can feel it. Neither of them is."
Are you sure, Nakoruru? No, she wasn't, but that's what she felt deep down inside. But fear nipped at the corners of her consciousness. What if Hanzo had been wrong? What if something unexpected happened?
She couldn't believe her eyes, he was back, alive and well! He opened his arms to her and she rushed to him.
She wrapped her arms tightly around him, but he wasn't there. There was nothing in her embrace but thin air. And then tittering laughter broke out all around her.
But the laughter wouldn't stop, instead it turned to off-key singing.
No more lightning, no more dread!
The electric demon has been bled!
Raise a chalice and break your bread!
'for Galford's dead, dead, DEAD!
"SHUT UP!" She screamed, but the voice just sung even louder. The room began to spin and she thought she would go mad if that damn voice didn't fall silent.
"Shut up! Go away!"
"LEAVE ME ALONE!!!"
And then she awoke, sitting bolt upright in bed, sweat running off her body in beads, terror etched upon her young face.
But he WAS there, his warm hands encircled her arms. He pulled her to his chest, and she began to sob unintelligibly. He smelled good, clean, like the ocean.
"Shhh…it was just a dream, Kiko. I'm back."
"G…g…alford. There was… A…a…man, but he looked like a woman…in robes. And he s…said…you were dead. And then he laughed and laughed and sang a song about it…and…"
"It's alright. He can't hurt you. He's dead himself. Pay him no heed. I'm here and alive, he's not."
She looked up at him, and he winked and smiled reassuringly down at her. But his eyes didn't glow, they were blue and beautiful, but…
"You're eyes…you're not him, you're the other one…aren't you?"
"No. I'm both of us, there's only one Galford now."
"But…where does that leave us…what about?"
"I don't know, Kiko, I don't know. I'm all mixed up right now, I have feelings for you, but also for Nakoruru."
She enjoyed his embrace for a time, convincing herself that he really was there and whole. It seemed almost like a cruel trick, but she believed his words. Neither Galford had ever lied to her…
"Am…am I going to lose you?" She asked at last.
But he didn't answer, he kissed her softly on the forehead and gently broke her unsteady grasp on his body.
"Go back to sleep, Kiko…I have to see Nakoruru, and then Hanzo, but I'll be back, I promise."
And then he was gone, the door opened, letting the afternoon sunlight in momentarily, and she was alone again.
Try as she might, Kiko couldn't shake the feeling that he would never come back…
"I…I…have something I need to tell you…"
"What is it?"
"I'm…I'm pregnant…with a child…yours…his."
"When he first came to our home in the forest…he…you…"
"You don't have to say it, Nak, I know. His memories are my memories, and vice versa."
"…I'm afraid, Galford. Afraid of what the child will be like…and afraid of you."
"Well, I'm afraid of me too, Nak. I think your unborn child will be fine…you'll make a great mother."
"But…what if it's evil?"
"Evil isn't something you're born as, Nak, it's something you become later on in life, it's a transformation. Besides, nothing evil could ever come from you…"
"What my dark half did to you was horrible and wrong…but…in a twisted way, it was his method of saying how much he loved you…do you understand? He didn't want to hurt you…but he didn't know any other way…"
"I can't accept that, Galford. He enjoyed shaming me. You have to rationalize it, you live with him. But I don't, nor will I."
"What are you saying, Nakoruru?"
"I…I …though it would be the same, but it isn't. You're different, I'm different. I need time, and so do you."
"Come here, girl! C'mon, Poppy!"
The dog didn't move, she just sat there and whined, black and white tail thumping lazily on the floor.
What's wrong, girl? Don't you know me?
It was obvious she did not…
And it hurt…bad. Worse than anything else that had happened today. He loved Nakoruru and Kiko, but Poppy had always been his number one girl. Always.
"C'mon, girl! Come to Galford…"
But she wouldn't, not anymore. She was going to pine away for a master who would never return… He had to make her see that he was him.
"Please, Poppy…I'm begging you…"
Tears stung his eyes, but she still showed him no recognition.
"You're breaking my heart, girl. It's already been broken once, don't let it happen again…
Don't you remember all the things we've been through together?
Just you and me, the American ninja and his famous ninja dog, Poppy?
We're a team, I need you."
But Poppy just stood, gave him one last sad look, and slowly walked away. He watched her go until she was out of sight, but he kept watching, just hoping she'd come back in a full gallop, tongue hanging a mile out of her mouth like it always had.
Galford never saw her again.
None of them did.
The sun was setting, all of the previous night's clouds had completely disappeared. The sky was red, blood red, and it reminded Galford of Genjuro.
He and Hanzo stood on the very topmost peak of the mountain that housed Fortress Iga, watching the world spread out, radiating, all around them. They hadn't spoken a word to one another in over an hour.
The world is still the same, it is only I who has changed…
Hanzo finally broke the stillness.
"Nakoruru, Rimururu and their Grandmother have decided to stay on permanently here at Fortress Iga."
Nakoruru. Galford grunted, noncommittally.
Another uncomfortable silence passed.
"And what will you do, Galford? Fortress Iga always welcomes you, this you know…"
"I think I'm cutting out, Hanzo. Me and Kiko. We're going to get back on my ship in the harbor and sail clear on out of Japan…maybe for good."
It got darker and darker, and they both watched the lights and fires spring up everywhere all around the countryside. Some close, others faint and barely visible.
"I think it's time we returned." Hanzo whispered.
They marched down the mountainside together, side-by-side, rocks sliding out from beneath their heavy boots.
"You know what, Galford?"
"I think the two of you were better off separate…I think I was finally wrong for once…"
"You know what, Hanzo?"
"I think you're right."
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