Scenes from the Life of Arashi Moriyama

by Vicky

“Sensei, Sensei!”

The tall man glanced over his shoulder at the diminutive form of his young pupil as she struggled to keep up with his long stride. He was a tall and handsome man, despite wearing the many scars of battle on his features. His long dark hair flowed over his broad shoulders like an ebony waterfall. Few men in the Kingdom of the Crimson Queen had managed to attain the status he had but his hard work and loyalty had earned Kusanagi Aoki the ear of the Queen herself.

His young protégé hurried behind him, her long pony tail waving in the breeze. She was barely in her teens and desperately grasped at the handle of a katana she had not grown into yet. He slowed his pace slightly and allowed his wide-eyed apprentice time catch up with him. Though she was young and naïve there was a keenness in her eyes that said that one day she would become and fierce and bold warrior.

As they approached their destination he cautioned his ward to move with care. He bore a great distrust for Sansonuke Seichirou and was not about to let his guard down in his presence.

“Good evening, Aoki-san,” came the voice from a tall shadow in the doorway of the dojo as they approached.

As she moved closer the young girls eyes adjusted to the dim light and focused upon the features of a young man. He wore an unnerving grin across his face, which bespoke a certain amount of over familiarity. She instantly knew not to be fooled by his seemingly courteous attitude to her master. In his eyes she saw the bright purple hue which revealed that he was a wielder of the power of the namer lords.

“I trust you are well, Seichirou san?” came her sensei’s reply.

“Quite,” he said, his eyes alighting upon the figure of the young girl as she steered close to her master, “I believe introductions have not been made. Tell me who is your new apprentice?”

“This is Arashi Moriyama. Her mother, I trust you already know, was one of the Queen’s most honoured warriors. I made a promise with her that I would train the girl before she died.”

Arashi flinched slightly at the mention of her mother. The pain of her loss was still to near for her to be able to hear her name without a tear rising in her young eyes. She remembered vividly how Sensei had returned from the conflict to tell her that her mother had fallen in the front line. They had paraded the body across the streets, shrouded so that her terrible wounds could not be seen, a true warriors funeral. She had cried herself to sleep that night. Her Sensei had tried to explain that she had died an honourable death, that she ad fought on so that the rest would have time to escape the jaws of death and that her sacrifice had saved many. None of this served to dull her pain. That morning when she woke, Sensei had been sitting there at the breakfast table, a certain resolve across his face. He explained that he would take her on as his pupil and train her to use a sword. At first she felt a certain humiliation at being trained by a man but over time that gave way to admiration.

“Well, then,” said Seichirou, his purple eyes glinting in the pale light, “please do come in,” once again that overly friendly, unnerving grin flashed across his features.

Arashi listened intently as she poured tea for the two men. She did not understand much of there conversation but she caught odd bits as she listened.

“Trouble at the borders again, you say.”

“Yes, and the Queen says she wishes to send in reinforcements, as a show of strength to the King Who Waits,” replied Kusanagi, “We must be cautious in this. The King is powerful and arrogant at that. He believes us to be degenerates, a kingdom of peasants and blood sorcerers.”

“Yes but surely even he would not risk open war, it would mean the end of both our kingdoms.”

“Nevertheless we must be certain we do not act overly hastily. The battle at the Scarlet Plain must have taught us something.”

“You worry too much Aoki-san,” replied Seichirou, “Our men and women could easily defeat the king’s troops and a thousand more of the like. The do not have our training and our discipline,” he turned toward Arashi, “She’s a pretty one, isn’t she. Grow up just like her mother, I have no doubt,” and with this he flashed another smile, the eerie moonlight glinting off his pearly white teeth.

Later that evening the two left Sansonuke Seichirou’s company, the older man deep in thought, whilst his young student followed behind him.

“Sensei?” piped up the young girl.

“Yes?” he replied, the girls words just about rousing him from his private thoughts.

“There’s going to be another battle, isn’t there?”

“I sincerely hope not but the more experienced part of me tells me that there is.”

“And if there is will you fight?”

“I should think so.”

“But you don’t have to, do you? I mean I heard you say it yourself, this fight is pointless.”

“If the Crimson Queen calls me to fight, I must fight. Someday you’ll understand. People like us are bound to those we serve, rightly or wrongly.”

“I could come with you. Fight by your side.”

Aoki sighed and turned to the girl, placing his hands on each of her shoulders, “Arashi-san, I can’t let you fight. You have the makings of a great warrior in you but you are not ready yet. You have so much potential, it would be a shame for you to loose you life before you had fulfilled it.”

“Hai,” she nodded.

They walked the rest of the way home in silence.

Kusanagi Aoki felt his heartbeat pound in his ears and he could hear nothing else but the rush of his own blood as he charged into the fray. The air was thick with the smell of death. He brought his katana down on another unsuspecting foe and cleaved the man’s head cleanly from his shoulders. Over his shoulder he glanced Sansonuke Seichirou, his arms bound in chains and his purple eyes blazing, tell tale signs that the man had been using his magic. Even amongst the horror and death of the battle, the idiot still wore the same stupid grin across his face. Kusanagi knew they were loosing ground to the enemy and that they would have to back off if they were to leave the fight with a single man or woman alive.

“Retreat,” he cried out at the top of his lungs.

The command took a good long while to register with the soldiers but gradually they began to turn back. Seichirou threw him a quizzical, almost disappointed look, but then summoned his command to do the same.

Later that evening as the injured were begin attended to Kusanagi Aoki sat in his tent nursing his wounded side. He had not noticed in the fray that a sword had managed to make it past his defences and cut through his armour. He was bleeding badly from the wound but he could see it was not fatal. He noticed the shadow outside his tent and called for his visitor to come in.

“Good evening, Aoki-san,” said Seichirou, “I see you managed to get yourself injured. You wish me to fix that for you?”

“Leave it be,” replied Kusanagi, “there are men far worse off than me, who could use your services more. Now what brings you to my tent?”

“I just merely wished to see how my old friend was doing,” he flashed his signature smile at this, “and to make preparations for tomorrows assault. See how we can turn today’s shameful performance around.”

“You know as well as I do this fight is lost. I should suspect we will be conceding this land and sending our troops home within the next few days.”

“You give up too easily, old man. I will not see us defeated by lesser men,” he spat, “You’ll see. I’ll make this kingdom the greatest the world has ever known. With or without your help.”

Kusanagi Aoki narrowed his eyes. This was a dangerous man. He would keep himself on his guard.

Over the seven days that followed the battle grew harder, as the soldiers grew wearied of fighting their now obviously lost cause. Still Seichirou’s insistence had convinced the Queen to keep forcing her army to fight on. Eventually, with no cause left to her, she sent the orders to the front to withdraw and leave the land behind as lost. This was not before many more had fallen to the blades of the King Who Wait’s superior numbers. Kusanagi felt a pang of relief, as at last his comrades could return home to their friends and families. As he presided over the movements of the troops, Seichirou drew up beside him.

“Well, it seems you got your wish, old man,” he said, “I have to say I’m disappointed in you. I thought of all men a legend like yourself would have been able to inspire them to fight on and prevail.”

“There is no power in the world that could have won this battle for us, Seichirou-san. I am just glad that we managed to escape with so few losses.”

“Pah,” the younger man spat, “Have you no ambition? Do you not wish to see our kingdom rise above the others? This land could have been ours for the taking.”

Kusanagi turned and looked the other man in the eye, “I see now the path you intend to take is pathed in blood,” and at that he left.

5 Years Later

Her sword flew through the air like the bright wings of a blazing hawk, poncing down on its prey. She caught his offensive easily and turned the blow away from herself.

“You underestimate me, Sensei,” she said, “I am not a girl anymore, I will not be caught so easily by such an attack.”

Kusanagi briefly allowed a small smile to flash across his normally severe countenace before moving in for another attack. She had indeed improved remarkably quickly over the past few years and in two or three more she may well be ready but she still had much to learn. The young woman was far too reckless and too bold, and that would be her undoing if she were not careful. Her beautiful dark hair flew out behind her as she swerved and danced to avoid his attacks but for all she had grown he still knew how to catch her with her defences down. With a quick movement of his wrist he knocked her katana aside and finished with the point of his own at her throat. Her eyes wided in surprise as the blow had come all to quick for her to avoid.

“Yes, indeed,” he said, “but it appears you are not quite ready yet.”

As they wandering back into the dojo, Arashi absent-mindedly dabbing her face with a white cloth, she turned to her sensei.

“What news from the court, Sensei?” she said, “I hear rumour of some man from the kingdoms calling himself, the Prince of the East. Gathering an army. Plans to march on the Western barbarians, they say.”

“What you hear is indeed true. The Queen dismisses him as some sort of joke. But nevertheless it worries me. I don not think we should turn our backs on our responsibilities so easily and let this man ride out.”

“Perhaps what they say is true but this man surely cannot have the capabilities of summoning an army. Surely no one in the Kingdoms would follow the namer-lords anymore.”

“I am worried for who he has on his side. I doubt Seichirou-san believes in their philosophy, he probably sees it as a chance to land grab. These westerners may be barbarians but they are still humans like us and we cannot just let these men ride out against them. I will go again to court tomorrow and try and sway the Queen from this foolish course of action.”

The two spent the rest of the evening in silence.

Blood. There was so much blood. Arashi’s eyes wided in horror at the sight before her. Why hadn’t they come when she has called for them. When she had stood outside the pouring rain soaking her to the bone, screaming and pounding on the door until her hands bled. Then she realised that Sensei had never expected them to come. Her had sent her out to prevent her being killed, or worse. In the vague fogginess of her memory she remembered how they had stormed in the middle of the night, caught them unawares. He had sent her out through the back passageway, instructing her to bring back reinforcements. At first she had refused, wanting to fight and if necessary die alongside her master. But he had told her everything would be fine, as long as she did as he said. And in her confused naïvete she had believed him.

She knelt down beside where his broken body lay, as tears began to glisten in her lovely dark eyes. She knew instantly who was responsible. Seichirou-san, curse his name forever. If she hurried she might catch him before he headed out into the west. But she knew that she alone would be too weak to kill him. Sensei had been right, she was not ready yet. Tenderly she reached down and shut his eyes.

“Sensei, I l-,” she stopped herself. She would not allow herself to speak those words, of which she was not worthy. Quietly instead she picked up the dead man’s katana. “I swear, to whichever power may be listening, that by this sword I will avenge your death. He will pay for what he has done. He will pay with his blood.”

She would go into the west. Travel the waste of the rose, alone if needs be. It would be hard and unforgiving but she would survive it.

That night she barely slept. She closed her eyes from time to time only to see her Sensei’s face, bloodied and mutilated before her, harsh purple eyes glaring and mocking her from the background. When at last sleep did take her she felt herself wandering aimlessly through a barren wasteland. At first she thought she dreamt of the desert, but there was a staleness and a coldness to this place that did not fit. There was a strong odour about the air. It was the stench of ash. At the foot of a great tower she found herself, as the voice entered her head.

“Child,” it said in cold and sombre tones, “You seek vengence.”

“Yes,” she replied without hesitation.

“Then I will place my mark upon you. If you serve me well you will not only have your vengence but perhaps one day you will join your master here.”

She kneeled, “As you wish, Lord,” she replied.

As she awoke there was some comfort in those words. She still felt the pain throbbing deeply within her soul but now it was edged with hope. At first she believed what had transpired in her sleep to be a dream but there was something tangibly different about herself. The realisation dawned upon her. The Baron of the Glorious Dead had blessed her quest and it was her duty now not to fail.

The young woman readied herself, gathering together her few possessions. Her family had left her some wealth but Sensei had taught her well the honour of living frugally and she had chosen to impart it on the city’s poor. She strapped her sensei’s katana by her side.

I will use it well, Sensei, she swore and with that Arashi Moriyama left behind the kingdoms of the east.

It was not far into the desert when Arashi realised she was being followed. The pass was treacherous, and, as the man at the Port of Sands had ever so politely informed her, not one to be undertaken by such a frail looking young lady. Still she could not wait for the caravan to return. Every day she lost would be giving Seichirou the advantage.

“Azuma-kun,” she half cursed under her breath.

She had encountered the young man in a bar just on the edge of the city as she had been preparing a few days before her departure. The man had managed to get himself into a little trouble, saying a few misplaced words to the wrong people. Arashi was not one to leave someone weaker than herself to their fate and in recognising a fellow servant of her god, had interceded on his behalf. Tradition stated that he was now bound to her as her servant, she having saved his life, and she was bound to protect him from harm. Given her intention to tread an extremely dangerous path, she had tried to insist that tradition be waived just this once. He, however, had flatly refused and had promptly left his wife and family to follow her on her quest. She had tried to loose him in the desert, attempting to cover her tracks at every turn. But alas, for all her skill with a blade, tracking was not one of Arashi’s talents and he had managed to avail each one of her attempts to loose him. She did not need such a liability on a quest from which she didn’t even know if she could return herself alive.

That day she lay down to camp. She could sense that she was nearing the edge of the desert and was greatly relieved that she would soon be past its harshness and could rest with more ease. She sipped at her water, as she began slowly to drift into sleep. She was not sure what would await her in the west, and truth be known she was afraid.

“Arashi-san,” she heard a voice drifting in her mind. She gazed up to see her sensei’s face leaning over her. “You’ve come so far Arashi-san,” he said. In the back of her mind she could hear the cackling of an all too familiar voice.

“Seichirou-san,” she gritted her teeth, “Is he near here?”

“No, I’m afraid not. You will have to travel many more miles before you find him.”

Arashi woke to feel cold water being thrown over her face. She choked as she turned to see the sly weasely features and the thinning beard that she had come to recognise all too well.

“What are you doing here, Azuma-kun,” she said.

“My sincerest, apologies, Moriyama-sama. I heard you talking in your sleep and thought you may be delirious from dehydration, so I thought I could spare you some of my water.”

She sighed, “You should go home, Azuma-kun. Your wife and children will be waiting for you. I will lend you the fare to get on the next carvan around this desert.”

Looking in his eyes she knew he would not comply.

It was serveral more days before they reached the first sign of civilisation this side of the desert. Arashi struggled with the unfamiliar words to make sense to the gate guards that they were travellers from the east seeking lodgings in the city. After some conversation she managed to determine that the place was known as Crossroads and was thought of as a trading post for the cities of the west. She had learned that indeed an army calling themselves the Red Griffin had come west under the command of the Prince of the East. They had spent the last couple of years building up an army and had eventually rode upon a place calling itself the White City, which had just managed to survive the attack. She wondered to herself if Seichirou might have been killed when the army fell, and thus her quest have been all for nothing. But something tugged at her insides telling her he was still alive. She knew her next port of call should be this White City.

That night she dreamed again. She saw herself floating on high over a distant mountain pass, up into the very north most part of the world. There at the peak she saw him standing, eyes blazing cold and cruel.

“Come to me, Arashi, come and fight me if you think you are strong enough.”

At that her dream faded away. She stirred from her sleep and reached under her pillow to find a map, the starting point, as she had predicted, the White City. The map led up into the Northern Mountains. Arashi was not sure if this at last would lead her to the end of her quest but if there was a chance she would follow it. That night she snuck out, not giving Azuma a chance to realise she was gone. Hopefully the man would have the sense to take her advice and return home. She turned her back on Crossroads and headed out, for the White City.

misc/fiction/arashi.txt · Last modified: 2011/03/31 21:18 by osj01
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