Thunder and Redness
Homepage: Save the Sugar
traveled down the Shinano river for about a week before we reached Nagano.
The journey was unpleasant, and by the time we reached the town, I was
so weary from rowing. Hanzo helped some, but I was confined to most of
the labor. I would have done anything to find that bastard and throw him
the ocean with bloodthirsty sharks! The water was difficult to row through,
for it was murky and thick, and we traveled slow and steady through the
muck. We saw vipers writhe through the river, awaiting a fresh bite. The
nights were eerie and frightening, especially to the girls. They never
spoke much at all, and Nakoruru continued to sulk near the back of the
By the time
we reached the inn, we were covered in mosquito bites, and we itched like
the devil. A man brought tea and rice to our room, and we devoured it,
for we hadn't had a good meal since the night in Niigata. I ordered some
warm sake, for I had a craving for the rice wine. Hanzo warned me to watch
my drinking, but I didn't care. We changed into dry robes after supper,
for the room attendant sent us some clothes after he saw the pathetic state
we were in. The next day, bright and early, we would set out to find Kei
to see if she had seen Ukyo lately.
The time we
rested at the inn was a rather awkward time for us. Since harsh traveling
had occupied our minds, we hadn't much to talk about, but there we sat.
We hardly knew each other, and I could tell by then that there would be
many personal conflicts hindering our journey. Cham Cham especially added
to the tension. I wasn't very fond of that girl, for she was so childish,
even for someone of fifteen. I saw the way she behaved compared to Nakoruru,
and Nakoruru seemed like a saint. Cham Cham was rude, demanding, and possessive,
and making it incredibly difficult to restrain myself; I just wanted to
slit her throat and I wanted to curse Galford for dragging her along.
are we here for?!" she demanded me.
I wasn't going
to let some child speak to me like that. "We are here on a mission. And
if you aren't contented, then you should have stayed in Niigata."
"A priest has
resurrected an evil spirit, and the evil spirit lives inside the priest.
We are here because the priest's former lover lives here, and we believe
somehow the priest is here."
She gave me
this dumbfounded look, and then released this shrill laugh. I glared at
her. "That is so silly!"
"Then why did
you come?!" I interrogated, anger boiling.
.because. . ."
I had her tongue-tied.
wanted to go with Galford!" she sputtered.
I nodded, trying
to avoid any more spats with her. If I didn't, I swore I would have killed
her. It perplexed me that a girl so headstrong would endure this discomfort
for someone else. And poor Nakoruru! She found a new place to brood, by
a window, and rolled up in a ball, looking away. The poor girl looked so
sad I couldn't stand it anymore; I had to comfort her. Hanzo and I both
decided we needed to speak to her, for he noticed right away her problem.
We told Galford and Cham Cham to take a walk around town for awhile.
When they left,
we approached her. She turned and looked at us, but didn't say anything.
Her large, brown eyes showed disappointment, and when I looked closer,
I could see a tint of green. A tear dropped from eye.
that you have been rather aloof," Hanzo told her. "Is something wrong?"
we knew the answer.
She was reluctant
to speak at first, but felt that she could trust us. "I. . .I. . .am love
with the foreign man, Galford. . ."
"Ahhh. . ."
Hanzo said, "They say that love and hate are polar opposites, but they
are the same. Nothing can hurt more than love. Love can be very hateful.
"It's. . .it's
as if I am doomed. . ." she sighed.
took me back to the day my father was dead, and Charlotte wanted me to
come to France with her, and when I refused, she told me that she hated
me. I had loved Charlotte, but how could someone who I thought loved me
could hate me? Love was the reason that I avoided any personal relations
I didn't run away into the woods just because of my past. I. . .I knew
a foreign girl when I was real little, and her father was a missionary
for Amakusa, but despite that, I still loved her as a sister. When Amakusa
killed my parents, she offered for me to come and live in her country,
but when I declined, she said she hated me. . ."
me strangely. "But. . .but how does this relate to my love for Galford?"
"I think that
Haohmaru is trying to share his experience with love, and how much it can
hurt. . ."
yet again. "He's. . .he's not the first. I've fallen in love with many
within my tribe, but it seems that they are the property of other girls.
Sometimes, I feel as if I am some odd stitch, stray from the rest of the
quilt. I receive more love from animals than from humans. Animals can't
hurt you. . ."
they are the "property" of other girls, that doesn't mean that you cannot
win their love," I told her. Then, I thought Father. "My father once told
me that you can achieve anything if you strive for it. You must defend
your honor, Nakoruru. Don't let these other girls deprive you of it, and
if you truly want Galford to love you, then you must prove that you are
more honorable. Don't let others get in your way. . .believe me. . .don't.
She and Hanzo
continued to discuss the issue of love, but my mind was in another realm.
I though about what I had just said to her, and then I realized that my
saying and my actions contradicted. I knew, from my father, contradictions
were a major flaw; they were not honorable. It was hypocritical what I
had said. How could I, determined to become an honorable warrior, tell
this aspiring young lady those things when I myself was impeded by my anger.
Whatever I said was empty, and that frustrated me even more. My rage against
Amakusa returned, and I too sulked, my arms folded tightly across my chest.
I could not stand to wait any longer!
In order to
deal with my rage, I decided to evacuate the inn. I wanted to leave before
my anger tried to manipulate me, and I would have outlashed at Hanzo or
the brooding Nakoruru. I told the both of them that I would be going for
a walk and I'd return just after evening. I noticed that Nagano was a busy
city at night. I saw many people around, and a large group of colorfully
dressed people congregated in front of the town theater. They were waiting
to see Senryo Kyoshiro perform. He was a very talented Kabuki actor; he
had been a budding figure when my father was alive, and then became a renown
actor. I, however, had no interest in theater, so I wandered around the
town, looking for something to divert my mind from Amakusa.
I saw a small
fish and bread market nearby, which was run by an obese vendor. The fish,
especially the salmon. Salmon was one of my favorite meals, and it smelled
incredibly delicious. The large slabs hanging from the racks made my mouth
water, and since I hadn't eaten any dinner, I decided to purchase some
a slab with what was left of my father's money. I walked over as if the
salmon had cast some spell over me, dragging it towards it. Its scent seemed
to grab my nose and carry me over.
"How are you
this evening, sir," the fat man greeted. I bowed. He was acting overly
kind to me, for he noticed I had money.
"I am fine."
"So, will you
be seeing the play tonight?" he asked, attempting light conversation.
"Ahhh. . .but
I heard that Kyoshiro Senryo is starring! You shouldn't miss out on such
an event. . ."
. ." I sighed, my eyes fixed on that appetizing slab of salmon.
"And what will
you be buying, sir?"
"I would like
that slab of salmon up there, in the middle. . ."
the man grinned, taking the blushing morsel from the rack. "That will be
two gold coins, please."
around in my bag of money, and handed the man six coins. As he greedily
counted the money, I heard a child's voice shout about the bustling of
whirled around; for some reason, I though that the child was referring
to me, but as I looked closer, I saw a group of about four of five pre-pubescent
children gathered around a small, meek little boy. They circled him, laughing
at him and taunting him. The child trembled in their presence. People walked
by the poor waif, taking no notice of the brutal treatment that I saw.
I asked the vendor. "There's a child over there who is being victimized
by other children. Why doesn't anybody do anything about it?"
The man looked
around, and then saw the bullies and the child right next to the playhouse.
"Oh. . ." he replied casually, shaking his head. "That is the demon child.
That miserable little wretch stands on the streets, begging for food. Ha!
Of course, I wouldn't give the urchin a crumb of bread, much less
a loaf. Those kids are trying to teach him a lesson!"
I looked closer
at the child, and it was obvious that he lacked a home, and had not a coin
to pay for a good meal. He seemed so small and malnourished, and dirty.
His hair was scraggly, and his clothes were torn from the cruel children.
All his had on him was a blue umbrella. If I was that child, I would have
bashed them over the head with it, but the poor child seemed to weak to
even carry it. As I looked even closer at the boyÑthe poor, hopeless
boy without a family, and spat on by society, he reminded me of myself.
I too was like the child. I was never starving, but at that moment I could
feel the torment that child was feeling. It brought me back to my last
days at Gairyu Isle, with Charlotte's father standing over me, cursing
me. I just couldn't let a child like that--even a demon child who couldn't
control his fateÑsuffer in poverty and isolation. The more I saw
those heartless children scorn him, the more I wanted to stop it. I knew
Father wouldn't let happen.
my salmon and a loaf of bread, I confidently strided over to the scene.
Taking care of a mob of bratty, little kids would be no problem at all.
Looking at their sneers, their insults, their faces made me want to kick
them in the head and teach them a lesson! Before I decided to scold the
bullies, I decided-to watch the scene for a short while.
Demon child! Nobody likes you! Demon child! Demon child!" one bully jeered.
rather pudgy one, added. "That kid's a retarded freak! And he stinks
because he hasn't ever had a bath!"
The kid pinched
his nose, and the others did the same. Lousy followers!
The child never
fought back; he just stood there and let these unyielding people deride
him. But one of them, who seemed to be the leader of that petty party,
said something that really angered me. After more scrutinizing comments
from the bullies, the small child began to cry.
she mocked, pretending to rub her eyes, "he's crying. What's the matter,
scared Zankuro's gonna get you?"
the child fell to the ground, cowering in a ball against a wall.
leave. . ." he kept repeating, looking away from his tormentors and to
The kids roared
with laughter, pointing their fingers at him. The boy still lay, with his
legs tucked tightly under his chin; he trembled violently. I saw genuine
fear in his eyes, and, at that moment, decided that their taunting had
gone too far.
I declared. The bullies turned around to face me, with defiant sneers on
their faces. "Just what do you think that you are doing to this poor boy
"He's an evil
demon child, and we're trying to stop him before he hurts anyone!" the
leader proudly declared.
added, "My mother told me to stay away from him because he's evil."
I retorted, "Why don't you listen to your mother and stay away from him,
trying to teach him to not be bad!" a younger bully spoke up.
you just leave him alone!" I told them.
The stood there,
their arms crossed over their chest.
budge. Obviously, these kids didn't acknowledge my authority, so I did
the only thing I could to get them to leave.
"I SAID LEAVE
HIM ALONE!!!!!" I bellowed as loud as possible.
The kids bolted
away, running back out into the crowd. The little boy still lay crouched
in a ball next to the wall. I slowly walked over to him and extended my
hand in order to help him off the ground. His hand felt so small and bony
in mine, and I was afraid that I would crush it. I looked into his face,
caked and dull with grime; however, his large, brown eyes lustered from
"Do you. .
.do you think that I am a demon?" he whispered to me, as if asking the
question was shameful.
"No. . .you
don't look like a demon. You don't sound like a demon, and you don't smell
like a demon; you just smell like you need a bath. You look rather hungry."
I offered the
child a piece of bread. He gratefully took it and inhaled it. "What. .
.what is your name?" he asked, very timidly.
I bowed to
him. "I am Haohmaru."
waif was a bit hesitant to speak, but he quietly told me his name. "I--I
am Shizumaru," he bowed. We stood in silence for a short while, then he
asked me: "Haohmaru. . . will you--you be my father?"
I looked down
into his obscure eyes; they seemed so pitiful, so sad, so wanting. Even
though I was on a rather dangerous mission, it was not in my heart, bitter
as it was, to refuse the child's offer. I knew that this miserable urchin
could have been me, and I wanted to know more about the boy. I wanted to
give him something that was taken from me: my father. Even this poor wretch
deserved a father.
I decided that
it was near time to return to the inn, so I asked the child if he would
stay with us. "Come," I led him. Yet, he still seemed hesitant, as if he
thought that I would abandon him to the streets as his former parents did.
And, knowing from my experience, I couldn't blame him. But I would not
abandon this child and ruin his life! I would not! "You can stay with me,
and you can have a nice, warm bath."
followed me back, but he cowered behind me when he saw the strangers in
the room. He clung to my clothing and looked up at me. "Haohmaru. . .will
they be mean to me?"
I shook my
head kindly. Nakoruru, who had given up her grievances for the moment,
eagerly approached the newcomer. She bent down to greet him, for he was
one. What is your name?"
to bite his nails, which had become ragged from the dirty habit, for he
was nervous. He clung to me tighter. "Tell her your name," I told him,
as gently as I could. "She means no harm."
"My name. .
.is Shizumaru," he replied, in a small whisper.
to meet you, Shizumaru," she smiled at him.
"Oh, my! What
an adorable little boy!" Cham Cham squealed. She ran over to the
poor kid and tousled his hair. That razzed him quite a bit, and he hid
behind me, clutching my belt. Of course, with her wild clothing and extroverted
personality, she was a rather frightening sight to a small child.
Shizumaru to Hanzo and Galford, I led him to bathroom, where a tub full
of warm water waited for him. I remembered the early days of my childhood
when my father would bathe me; I always felt so warm and secure during
those times. It was a large wooden basin, and I slid open the top, which
retained the heat in the water. Shizumaru stripped his clothes. The child
was malnourished and underdeveloped. Bruises and small cuts covered his
sallow skin, and he was so thin that his ribs and spine jutted from him
like rigid mountain ranges. I looked at his face, and his large eyes were
sunken. His head was disproportional with his body; it was unusually large
due to malnourishment. I placed him in the tub, and the water came nearly
up to his chin. I took a cup and poured water over his head to purge the
grime from his body. Shizumaru winced a bit, for he probably hadn't felt
pure water before.
I decided that
Hanzo, Nakoruru, and the others were out of sight, and it would be a good
time to try and talk to the child. "How old are you?" I asked him, attempting
to start a conversation with a simple question.
eight," he whispered, but he looked only five. The child needed food, nourishment,
and love in order for him to grow. Never could any child thrive the way
he had; Shizumaru seemed special, as if there was some force in him that
never grew weak and allowed him to die. "I want to big and tall and strong
as the mountains. . ." he said mystically, looking up at the ceiling, "then
maybe I can be brave and beat Zankuro. . ."
I started to
rub the dirt from his skin with a rag, while talking to him. "Who is this
Zankuro character?" I asked him curiously.
"He's. . .he's
an evil, evil, demon. And he's big and scary! Sometimes. . .during
stormy nights. . .he'll come and try to get me, and I then I run and run
down the streets until he goes away. And the people in the village think
that I am crazy. Everyone thinks that Zankuro is my father, and that is
why they call me the demon child. . ."
His talk of
Zankuro provoked a fear inside of me. What if this demon that he spoke
of was real? Then there would be a whole other entity that I'd have to
deal with, but unfortunately there was only one issue I had to burden my
back, and then there was a chance for a confrontation with another. I gently
scrubbed his bruised back while mulling over this new issue.
listen to what they think," I consoled him, but with a bitter tone, for
the thought of Charlotte's father came into my mind. "Don't let them define
who you are. I've been called a demon before, but I know I am not."
"Yes. . ."
the child sighed, "But--but it could be true that Zankuro is my father.
not written in stone."
"I just wish
that I knew who I was. I wish that I knew who my father was. . ."
I poured some
more water over his head and wrung the dirt from his hair. His state was
pathetic indeed. I felt at that moment that even though I hadn't made my
father proud by becoming a warrior, I could be as good as father to this
boy as he was to me. Shizumaru deserved to know what it felt like to have
a true father, and I knew that I only could communicate with him. I had
experienced what he had, and I would help him defeat Zankuro.
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