I wanted to share a short
story I wrote when I was still in college. I think it's one of the best
short stories I've written even though it can be very cliche and tell-y
rather than show-y. Nevertheless, I'm proud of it as one of my
earliest works, and it's always interesting to revisit where you've been
in the past. Here's the final part. Enjoy.
Winter had come. The snow fell to the ground, purifying
everything with its forgiving white blanket. The quietness of the land gave an
illusion of peace and security. The bare tree looked like skeletons, stripped
of all life. The cold, bitter winds blew in every direction, whipping Akira's
face. Although all the predators had gone into hibernation, there was still one
predator that concerned him.
shogun was surrounded by five retainers with Akira by the shogun's side. All
were on horseback, slowly riding on the path. The snow this winter had been
heavy, and huge walls of packed snow ten foot tall ran parallel on each side of
the path. From his black horse, Shogun Hibiki saw the concern in Akira's eyes,
"Something on your mind, Ayukawa?"
lord, he’s out there. Waiting for the best opportunity to strike."
shogun laughed, "I assume you are referring to Morimoto."
lord, Morimoto is not a threat that should be ignored. He is still extremely
dangerous. In fact, I think this trip to Wana is a bad idea. We are wide open
to any surprise attacks, and we do not have enough retainers to defend a
Hibiki waved his hand, brushing off Akira's words, "If that traitor
Morimoto was so bent on killing me, I would already be with my ancestors. I
have not heeded his threats and am still alive to talk about it. It has already
been three months. For all we know, Morimoto is good as dead."
lord, I think you are unwise in your conclusion....."
the shogun interrupted, "I have heard enough of your nagging."
want you and the others to go on ahead to Wana and prepare the villagers for my
arrival. I will be greeted with the respect and fear I deserve."
obey your shogun! I will keep Tsukinai with me for protection. His
swordsmanship will be sufficient to defend me from any threats.
my lord." Akira motioned to the other riders to go to Wana. The three
other retainers galloped off into the distance. Akira looked at the shogun,
"Please do not take my insolence the wrong way, my lord. I am only
concerned for your safety. Please allow me to stay by your side."
shogun nodded his head, "Very well, Ayukawa. Do note that if you were
anyone else besides my head retainer, I would have run you through by
my lord." The trio trodded down the path, heading towards Wana. Suddenly,
Akira heard the twang of a string. Mere seconds later, an arrow plunged into
his horse’s leg, causing the horse to throw Akira before he could react. He
landed on the ground, dazed.
reacting to the arrow, drew his katana. The shogun mirrored his action. A
masked figure dressed in white slid down the snow embankment and landed on the
dares threaten the shogun?" demanded Tsukinai. The white-clad figure
pulled off his mask and revealed his face.
the shogun said emotionlessly.
have not heeded my words, Hibiki. I pray that you have had sufficient time to
prepare for eternal damnation." Satoru drew his katana as Tsukinai
galloped towards him. As Tsukinai drew closer, Satoru jumped at a tree and
rebounded off it at the charging enemy. As their katanas clashed, Satoru
quickly spun and decapitated Tsukinai before he had a chance to parry the blow.
His headless body slumped to the ground, and a pool of blood contaminated the
pure snow with its crimson hue.
shogun just stared at Satoru. "I am impressed, you disabled both of my
retainers effortlessly. I have heard reports of a bandit who has stolen from my
treasury. I can now only assume that this ronin standing before me is that
are correct. All that money has been given back to their rightful owners--the
villagers. Though you rule over this land, you do not own it. You have not
protected the people the same way as your ancestors. I tell you the truth; the
souls of all the men, women, and children you have put to death cry out for
your blood to be spilt. They will be avenged."
shogun's eyes bore into the eyes of Satoru, "The people are nothing but my
servants. The ancestors were fools for not using their resources to rule over
the land. Your ideal of a shogun is nothing but a myth told to amuse little
children. Tell me, Morimoto. Do you think you can defeat me? There is a reason
why I became shogun. No one can defeat me. I have destroyed all those foolish
enough to oppose me. Surely you have known that in the short time you served as
my head retainer. Let us also not forget your hand in the murder of these
‘innocent’ people that you are avenging."
just shook his head, "You are wrong. Though I have done the villagers
wrong, I have trying to make up for those deaths by become their champion. The
villagers have forgiven me and embraced me."
shogun said haughtily, "Is that so? Come, ‘champion of the people,’ I will
personally hang your bloody head on top of my palace to show everyone how
futile it is to oppose me."
on the ground, Akira tried to recover from his fall and looked in the shogun's
direction. Seeing that Satoru and Shogun Hibiki were charging at each other, he
jumped to his feet and rushed to aid his shogun. He ran erratically, still
leapt at the shogun, parried his blow, and kicked his horse, breaking its leg.
As the horse fell in the snow, the shogun jumped off the horse and landed
opposite Satoru. A dizzy Akira fell to the ground but scrambled to his feet.
shogun swung his katana in an arch, intending to separate Satoru’s arm from his
body. Satoru deftly blocked the blow and reached behind his back. Shogun Hibiki
lunged to impale Satoru, but he easily dodged the blow and swung his arm from
behind his back and plunged a dagger into the shogun's throat--Karumi's dagger.
Shogun Hibiki fell to the ground, gasping for air.
stood over him, "Indeed your swordsmanship was formidable, but the gods
favor those who protect the weak."
his shogun felled, Akira cleared his head in determination and charged at
Satoru, shouting at the top of his lungs. Satoru instinctively raised his
katana as Akira's blade swooped down, threatening to cut him in half. Quickly,
Satoru’s dagger was at Akira’s throat. He looked into Akira’s eyes that were
filled with hate and fear.
tightened his trembling grip on the dagger. "Farewell, old friend."
However, as his grip tightened, he felt the scar press against the hilt of the
dagger. Satoru paused for a second, "No, I cannot do this,
Ayukawa-kun." He quickly pushed Akira to the ground and jumped on
Tsukinai’s horse, galloping away. Akira gasped for air. His soul was a wrist
flick away from joining his ancestors. Noticing that the shogun was no longer
struggling, he chased after Satoru. He chased to avenge his dead master.
slowed down to wipe the blood from his katana and dagger on the horse’s saddle.
His mission of vengeance was complete. He sheathed his weapons and urged the
horse to go faster. Leading his pursuer by a good 100 yards, Satoru had almost
reached his escape route. "This was too easy, Ayukawa-kun. I expected more
of a challenge from you." Reaching a wooden bridge suspended by ropes,
Satoru then noticed forty riders coming towards him. Satoru cursed. He hadn't
expected reinforcement to be right behind the shogun. He quickly cut the ropes
holding up the bridge, stranding the riders on the other side. But it was
inevitable--he had to face Akira. Satoru drew his katana, waiting for Akira's
approach. Akira came and stopped twenty feet from him.
said to him, "Hibiki was an unjust ruler who abused the people. Why do you
not understand? He deserved to die."
dismounted his horse, "You are correct. Shogun Hibiki was not as virtuous
as he seemed, but he was my master. The lord's words are the law, and I must
avenge his death." Akira drew his katana.
longer did two men stand there, ten paces from each other. Unlike the other
times they sparred, this time it would be all out. No quarter would be given,
and both would swing at each other hard--as hard as two young boys wielding
sticks and giving each other dark, purple bruises."
they circled each other, Akira inquired, "Why did you kill Tsukinai? Was
not Shogun Habiki's blood enough?"
accompanied me on some of the tasks I completed for Hibiki. He enjoyed killing
those people, raping villagers, and other horrid things. It was clear he was
not only acting under the orders of the ‘lord protectorate, Hibiki.’ I had no
other choice. Please tell me. Why do you avenge this monster,
Ayukawa-kun?" asked Satoru.
matter what the shogun asks, I am vowed to serve him faithfully."
will come a day when the shogun you serve will push you beyond your limits. I
have heard of how you have shed innocent blood in the name of the shogun. Do
the cries of those people echo in your head? Do they prick your
bellowed, "The shogun's commands are the law."
solemnly said, "Has your loyalty to some idealized abstract of some
perfect shogun drowned out your conscience? Do you not care that because of
you, fathers have lost their sons, young girls have been cast out of their
villages for having illegitimate children, and a son have to watch his elderly
father die of hunger because the shogun needs a new silk robe for some
pointless, unimportant occasion? What has gotten into you, friend? Perhaps
someday you will understand."
pounced fiercely at each other like two lions. Satoru swung his katana at Akira
who blocked the blow and tried to kick Satoru. Satoru shrugged the kick away
with his free hand and leapt back. Akira slashed at Satoru's head, but Satoru
simply ducked and foot sweeped him. Akira fell hard to the ground but managed
to roll out of striking distance. Charging again, Akira took a wide swing at
Satoru to sever his torso from his legs. He simply jumped straight up in the
air, and as Akira's blade missed badly, Satoru planted his feet in Akira’s
fell back, blinded by pain and snow. When he recovered, he saw Satoru looking
at him, relaxed and ready for another attack. By this time, Akira was breathing
hard. With the remaining energy left in him, Akira yelled as he charged at
Satoru for one last time. The blow arched down at Satoru who barely blocked it
with his katana. Satoru whipped out Karumi's knife and once again, pressed it
up to Akira’s throat. Akira closed his
eyes, prepared to meet his ancestors.
knife pressed against his throat as a trickle of blood leaked down his neck.
The scar again. Satoru hesitated. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain in his abdomen.
Akira had run him through with his katana.
said, "Your mistake, Morimoto." Satoru dropped the dagger and katana
in pain. He looked into Akira's cold eyes filled with hate. Putting both of his
hands over Akira's hand and katana, he forced the katana across his abdomen and
pulled it upward. Clenching his teeth, Satoru collapsed on the ground as Akira
knelt by his side. Akira pulled his katana out of Satoru and dropped it on the
ground. Satoru's trembling hand grabbed Akira's hand; two slash scars touching
each other. Satoru reached into his pouch with his other hand.
different emotions arose in Akira. One part of him felt relieved for avenging
the Shogun's death, but the other part betrayed his loyalty to the Shogun
Hibiki. The scar on his palm reminded him of an oath he made as a child to his
best friend. His one true friend. And he had betrayed him. What had he done?
No, his loyalty to the shogun must preside over any other. That's what he was
told. The shogun's command are law.
a soft voice, Satoru whispered slowly, "Next time I meet you, Karumi and
I.....will welcome you."
tear dropped to Satoru’s cheek. "Farewell, sonkei
tomodachi," Akira said as Satoru’s grip relaxed,
"Farewell......Morimoto-kun." Akira looked at what Satoru had
retrieved from his pouch. It was a gold rod.
body along with the gold rod and his katana as his mourning partners were cast
out to sea in a small boat on fire. Clutching Karumi's dagger, Akira watched as
the boat aimlessly drifted out to sea and slowly sank. He didn't know what to
think. What could he do? There was only one thing he could do--the thing that he
was taught all his life. Although Satoru's death was tragic, life went on. Is
not the ocean greater than anything else?
The waves of the endless sea could not be stopped. This is what he would
lord, what is your request?" Akira knelt before the new shogun, Hibiki
Sahiro. A week had passed since Satoru’s death.
are you loyal to your shogun?"
my lord. What is your bidding?"
chuckled, "I want you to bring your wife to my bedchambers tomorrow
closed his eyes and clenched his fist, "I understand, my lord." As he
left the throne, the deep laughter of the shogun rang in his ears. Closing the
sliding door behind him, he heard a strange sound. At first it sounded like a
baby's cry, but the noise slowly increased in volume until it became
unbearable. He sunk to his knees, hearing hundreds of voices wailing. The cries
tore into his soul, leaving him a sobbing mass on the ground.
The next morning, the bodies of Akira and his
wife were found embracing each other. Karumi's dagger and Akira's katana were
stained with their blood.