It was an ominous sense that I had about this revelation. The town and its thriving marketplace was already closing up early for the evening due to the heavy rain, lightning, and thunder. But who was approaching the town center with such aggressive moves at this point? I wish that my instincts weren't as sharp as they were. That I could merely brush off this foreboding vision of death and chaos...but I couldn't. I knew what was about to happen. I knew the cost of turning my back on the townspeople who had been so kind to me thus far, even after my shameful rant in the town square. And as I closed my eyes, briefly, and took in a deep breath...feeling the rain shower down on me from above...I asked fate itself what it wanted me to do about it.
And without saying a single word...I felt as though fate had given me its definitive answer.
"Zhao...tend to Tadashi. Make sure that he doesn't go out tonight." I said.
Zhao wrinkled his brow. "What are you talking about? Come inside. The worst part of the storm is headed this way..."
"Please, Zhao. Just do as I ask." I told him again, a hesitant hand gripping the handle of my sword.
After a brief pause, Zhao asked, "What is it? Is there trouble? What are you going to do?"
With a heavy heart, I said, "I fear that I'm going to have to use my 'gift' tonight, Zhao. A gift...no longer wasted. Not tonight." Soon adding, "Stay inside. Please? I must go into town now. Keep Tadashi safe. He doesn't need to know about this."
"Tatsuro..." He said, a concerned look on his face. "...May the fates be with you. Keep your light...always."
"Now is not a time for light." I replied. "Some devils can only do what they do best in the shadows. Darkness is what I need tonight."
And with that, I took off running back towards the town center. Whatever awaits me there...they'll regret making this peaceful town a target for their aggression. I will guarantee them that.
As I ran further down the road, quickly making my way towards the town center, while balancing myself to keep up enough energy to fight when it became necessary...I saw streaks of lightning tear giant rips and gashes in the dark skies above. The thunder, loud enough to nearly rattle the ground beneath my feet. It was almost as if the gods above were warning me not to get involved. As if they were telling me to turn back before I lost whatever was left of my soul. But I didn't stop.
I felt a duty to these people, and I will not let them fall into ruin for my actions. Zhao was being truthful when he said that I had been holding my sword in stillness because I had allowed fear to penetrate my heart. Shame...and remorse. But now is not the time for such things. Tonight...we strike.
I made it into the town square, and as expected...I saw some of these 'hooded ones'' that Tadashi told me about coming back in an attempt to steal their blood god tributes under the veil of darkness. Not expecting anyone of real power to witness their crimes. But they were wrong. Tatsuro Myoki is here! And he doesn't give those who would do his loved ones any harm a second chance!
As a few of them wrestled with some of the villagers, kicking and screaming...one of them being the young woman who had gracefully allowed me a seat in her restaurant when I first arrived here...I felt a burning fury beginning to rise up within me. However, instead of dulling my sense or rational thought and sending me into some kind of beserker rage...it calmed me. My muscles began to relax, become pliable and obedient. My sword skill has taught me a level of focus and precision that most men will never ever know in their lifetimes. I stood in the middle of that road, and allowed each one of my enemies to look upon my dark silhouette through the haze of the heavy rain. With lightning strikes behind me, I could feel many of them tense up with hesitation...despite their advantage in numbers. And when they looked into my eyes...they knew that they had already disrespected the only warning that I had planned to give them. And they were afraid.
I don't even remember drawing my sword from its scabbard. But I held it outright, its razor sharp blade glistening with the limited amount of moonlight that was allowed to penetrate the swirling storm above. I stood in silence. Waiting for each member of their small army to make their own choice on whether or not they were willing to risk their lives for something so foolish. It was the only grace that I had left to give them.
But when a particularly bright flash of lightning illuminated the entire town with its blinding light, followed by an eruption of Earth trembling thunder...they made their decision clear to me.
A few of the hooded ones jumped down from the rooftops, hoping to catch me by surprise...but I knew they were up there long before I entered town. With a single step backward, I spun around and allowed my swift instincts to take over for me. My hand lashed out with a horizontal strike that sliced their bellies open before they even hit the ground. There is something truly horrifying about seeing your own insides spill out at your feet. Something they experienced as they dropped to their knees, waiting for the pain to settle in as their brains finally got a chance to truly process what had just happened to them.
The rain began to wash away the blood from my sword as the others drew their own weapons against me. So, I turned to face them as the small cart of townspeople stared at me, wide eyed...as if they were too fascinated by the sight of me finally letting go of my self restrictions and sending this group of thugs the message that I now wish I had sufficiently sent them the first time around. They didn't even run to safety. They just watched in awe as more of these men in the hoods approached me from all sides...and I took my stance, listening to the rain, the wind, the thunder...and firmly planting my feet on the ground to prepare for what I was about to do.
No more talking. No more warnings. No more excuses.
I'll let my blade speak for me now...
As three more hooded ones ran towards me with their swords raised, my eyes followed them and analyzed their movements in order to predict their movements. It took no thought at all to cut each one of them down with a single strike. When their swords were held high, I swiped at their middle. When their swords were low for a side strike, I brought my blade down to chop into their necks and collar bones. I was much too fast for any of them to keep up or to have even the slightest chance of challenging my swordsmanship. Years of practice had made killing an automatic reaction to the imminent threat. That's all there was to it. And as more of their heavy numbers poured into the streets to help their companions in the battle...the faster my strikes became. But my muscles remained loose. Swift...but free of strain. My breathing slight and measured, my body still operating at full capacity. These men had not been trained as I have. Nervous and overconfident...it was like fighting children.
Lightning flashes were the only few glimpses that they were able to catch of me as I worked my way through them. Severing limbs, cutting throats, slicing at them in ways that I knew would incapacitate them for a few seconds while I cut down the rest of their closest brethren before coming back to deliver the final blow.
Warm blood splashed across my face and coated my arms in a thick syrup of injury and death as I dodged, blocked, parried, and spun low to cut their legs from beneath them. My sword had gotten a taste for murder now...and it almost felt as though it was out of my control, what it might do next. There were a few times when some of the hooded ones were luck enough to connect swords with me, the harsh 'clang' of metal against metal echoing off of the walls surrounding us, but they could only defend themselves from one or two strikes before my strategy altered itself to deliver a killing blow. No one who dared to stand against me was going to leave here alive tonight. No one.
More men jumped down from the rooftops, and I began to widen my area of attack. As the rain showered down upon us, the road became slick with deep puddles and pits of mud...but I knew how to use that to my advantage, while they stumbled around and tried to regain some sort of stability on their feet as they tried to push the fight forward. I was able to lower my stance after a few steps of running towards them...and slide through the mud puddles to split them in two before coming to a stop behind them. Others, I used an up strike to slice against the protective bones in their chest. I was able to spin and slide and maneuver in ways that they never thought human possible. I cut them to ribbons, one by one...and there was nothing that they could do about it, other than scream and bleed.
The townspeople were so entranced that I had to remind them, "GO!!! Get as far away from here as you can!" And even then, they were hesitant to look away from the murderous display happening right in front of their very eyes. "GO!!!" I shouted again, and they were finally able to snap themselves out of their trances and begin running for shelter from the storm.
There were a few hooded ones who attempted to chase them down...but I ran towards them and slid in the puddles with my dominant leg forward to cut them off. Then I rolled to my feet and used my sword to sever their arms from their shoulders, their hands from their wrists, their feet from their legs...they fell to the ground in agony, and couldn't even find the strength to crawl to safety before I spun my samurai blade around and brought it down hard to pierce them directly through the heart.
My adrenaline seemed to be flooding my system with such a sense of satisfaction and purpose that I feared I wouldn't be able to stop myself once I had slaughtered all of my attackers. My sword seemed to have a bloodlust of its own, and if I was going to be fast enough to protect myself from the rest of the hooded ones headed my way...I was going to have to trust my instincts and let the sword do what it does best. A moment of conscious thought could mean the end of me, and the end of the people in this village. I can't allow that to happen. I have to get rid of them. I have to get rid of them ALL!
Exchanging a few clashes with a few more of their men, I ran towards one of the barrels placed by the side of one of the buildings in town, and jumped up, using it to propel me to the rooftops above. Up there, I saw more of their numbers waiting to pounce down upon me. But I wasn't going to give them that chance. I rushed towards them, my feet tightly gripping the slippery rooftop beneath me to keep from sliding off to one side or the other, and they prepared themselves for my attack. Why bother? They won't be fast enough.
Our swords collided with a ferocity that defied the brilliance of the storm itself as lightning streaked across the sky above us. I felt my blade cut through one of the hooded ones and spun around to duck a sword strike...pushing my blade out behind me to spear him directly through the stomach.
He couldn't even yell out...his life line pierced, right through the center of his navel. He merely gasped, and I spun out of the way before he was able to vomit a torrent of blood over my shoulder.
More came, and they were cut down, just the same. Hack and slash, slash and hack...body parts splashing down into the puddles below as I dismembered them where they stood. As much as I wanted to cherish my grace and see myself as a good man...I could not deny the fact that this is where I felt most at 'home'. The battle was my element. My nature. It was the one place where I had no worries or conflicts at all. Gripping my samurai sword and striking out with the sole intention of its lethal design...it made me feel whole. Complete. One with the divine purpose of a prophet, and the courage to deal out the punishment required to restore the balance these cretins have thrown so far out of line.
I kept slashing at them, watching them fall, one by one...and then hurried forward to hop up to the next rooftop to attack more of my enemies. They couldn't seem to understand how I was able to keep so steady on the slippery tile of the slanted roofs in the heavy rain...but attempted to defend themselves regardless. More out of desperation than anything else. It was too late for them to find their grace now. I TOLD them to leave these people alone! Now they have to pay the price!
I dodged a sword strike to spin around the hooded one on the roof and slice his side, kicking him off of the rooftop shortly after. Blocking another strike, I kicked another man's feet from under him and watched him roll down the slanted roof to fall hard on the ground below. I leapt over a third to decapitate his partner, only to spin around and trade a few clashes with him before spinning low to sever one of his legs from his body...well above the knee. He fell to the ground too...and I dashed forward to hop to the next rooftop without looking back.
No matter how many men attacked me, it was clear to me that their skills with a sword were amateurish at best. What a pitiful clan of cowards...coming here to threaten the townspeople with death and torture when they had nothing to back it up with. STRIKE! Dodge left, duck low, step forward...STRIKE! Another one down! Spin right, lean back, block...STRIKE! There goes another!
Two more approached me at once, but their attacks were slightly out of sync, allowing me to block one sword and then the other, in rapid succession. They were really moving as fast as their limited training would allow...but it wasn't enough. They had to know that. If not, they learned when I kicked one of them back a few steps and then stabbed him through the chest, using my sword to fling him off of the rooftop as well. Only to spin around and slash the throat of the other hooded enemy so deeply...that the back of his head nearly fell off...a thick piece of bleeding flesh holding it on just long enough for it to touch the back of his shoulders before he fell in a heap before me.
And when I had finally vanquished all of the enemies above me, jumping down to the ground below and feeling the ice cold water splash up on me as I landed in a puddle and held my sword steady, ready for more...I noticed something that I hadn't expected. A pair of glowing orbs in the distance. Gold in color at first...but then swirling to a much deeper shade of blood red only seconds later.
I know those eyes! I remember their demonic gaze. They were the same ones that had once murdered my family and forced me to slay my own brother against my will. To see that look in the eyes of another shadowed figure surprised me to the point of almost being frozen in my current position.
As a flash of lightning brought his silhouetted form into view, I heard him say, in a soft, but very deep tone...
Attempting to breach the fog of my confusion, I stood back up on my feet and wiped the excess rain from my eyes as I geared myself up to take on this devil, one on one. So many questions...and no time to ask them. Is this one of the fabled 'blood gods' of which the townspeople speak of? If so...I see nothing special about him at all. Certainly not anything worthy of tribute. And he shall fall and bleed in the mud just like the rest of his ineffective army. "What are you, demon???" I shouted.
"Oh, the secrets we keep...samurai." He grinned. "So lost. Daylight has blinded you. But you already know that, don't you? Tatsuro Myoki!"
"You know me, demon?!?!?" I said.
"I do now!" He said, and with an evil laugh, I watched him dash off to the side to make an impossible leap onto one of the rooftops above. An inhuman leap. And he became a blur as he began to run away from me...but I wasn't going to let him get away that easily.
The thunder roared overhead as I chased after him, my blade dragging in the mud behind me as I kept it ready. I took the alleys and leapt over crates and boxes and barrels, all while attempting to keep an eye on the creature above. He was fast. SO fast! But I was determined to keep up with him for as long as I possibly could.
Another enemy attempted to surprise me by rushing out from between two of the town's buildings with his sword raised, but I slid under his strike and answered with a strike of my own...cutting him straight up the middle, and then slicing the center of both of his eyes...leaving him blind for life. All while keeping my forward motion.
Someone else tried to attack, and I cut his entire arm off at the shoulder. One of the hooded ones attacked me from behind and I drove the handle of my sword into the bridge of his nose so hard that I could hear the bones in his skull crack behind it. And still I ran! I wanted answers! I wanted to know what this 'thing' was and how something like that could ever infect my brother, Jiro, with such a bloodthirst and rage! Come BACK here, you coward!
As the silhouette made its way out of the town square and jumped back down to the ground...I found myself falling behind. Far behind! How can any man run that fast? How is it possible? What kind of sorcery is this?
"May fortune be with you, samurai! Hahahaha!" He said, and just as it got closer to the woods surrounding the town, I came to a breathless stop as I saw the very roots of the plants themselves rise out of the ground and wrap around his arms and legs...as if to carry him off towards a safe escape from the angered edge of my blade.
Just like that...he was gone. Just...gone.
I heard the violent crackle of thunder overhead, the rain falling down on me without mercy...and I tried to comprehend what it was that I was dealing with here. What manner of creature could do the things that this one could? And how can I be expected to protect an entire town from a devil with this level of power?
All I know is...this won't be the last time we cross paths, demon! Of that..you can be certain!
Forum timezone: GMT-6|
VF Version: 3.00b, ConfDB:
VoyForums(tm) is a Free Service from Voyager Info-Systems.
Copyright © 1998-2019 Voyager Info-Systems. All Rights Reserved.