Sogetsu Samurai Shodown
Fan Fiction
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Rotting Flower
by Mark Patraw
Homepage: Mark's Art Page

Chapter 7

      "What are you going to do about the last kidnapper, Yaggyu-san?" Tanaka yawned, "Oi, I'll be glad when I can finally put my head down and get some sleep." They had been riding in silence for some time, the emerging sun casting long shadows besides them, back towards the city.
      "Nothing for the moment; we don't have any leads or clues we can follow. Maybe she'll turn up again, but then again, maybe she has already vanished back into the shadows from whence she came." Jubei answered, "She may even be dead for all we know. At any rate, if she shows up back at the shack, the five troops we left behind to keep an eye on it will take care of her, won't they?"
      Tanaka grunted his approval, "Hai, my men will make short work of her if she shows her face there again. I promise you that!"
      "Ee, if they follow orders and keep their distance from her and only use arrows that is." Jubei added gravely.
      "Do you really think she can rot people just by touching them, Yaggyu-san?" Tanaka continued, "I've seen many strange things in my short career, but that one is hard for me to believe, even after seeing the bodies."
      "Do you doubt the eye witness accounts of your own soldiers who saw her do it, Tanaka?"
      "No. But still, fighting plays tricks on a man's mind, as you know. If you ask me, I think it's some sort of blasted ninja poison she has on her fingernails…"
      "Tell me, Tanaka-san, if the poison's touch brings instant death, why then does the poison not consume her as well?" Jubei grinned.
      "How the hell should I know? I'm no damned alchemist!" Tanaka growled, scowling at Jubei.
      Tanaka appeared to have nothing more to say on the subject, so he did not press it. He was glad they had found Nozomi Kaori alive and well; Yoshio would be overjoyed to see her. He wondered if Yoshio would take his father's place at court, he didn't seem like that type to Jubei, maybe he would let his younger brother take the position instead. Only time would tell.
      "What are you going to write in your report to his eminence about these events, Tanaka?"
      "I don't know. What will you write?"
      "I'm not sure myself. The truth, I suppose, no matter how strange it may be."


       Hazuki gasped. She couldn't believe her eyes. There, not far away, was her brother, Kazuki, dozing peacefully in the grass beside a Lin Kuei woman! And even in sleep, he held her hand loosely in his own, like a lover. They looked so…so content, almost like children…
       "Oh, Kazuki…" Hazuki whispered, tears in her eyes, "Sogetsu was right; you are a traitor…how could you?"
      She felt hurt and angry. How could you do this, Kazuki? She's Lin Kuei! Did you help her kill Kazama and samurai alike during the fight, Kazuki? Did you? No, you wouldn't have done that…would you?
      She heard movement behind her in the wet grass, and she turned. Sogetsu had arrived, silently fuming at the sight of his younger brother, his fists clenching and unclenching, and Gatsu was hot on his heels. She knew not even Sogetsu had expected this. Hazuki only had to take one look at his narrowed, unblinking eyes to tell what was on her elder brother's mind.
      She placed her hands on his chest.
      "No, Sogetsu! No, please, I beg you! We can't!" She whispered frantically, "There has to be another way, there has to be, please! He's our brother! We can pretend we never saw them…"
      Gatsu came to a stop besides Sogetsu, his mouth open in horror and shock. "By all that's sacred…Kazuki!" He breathed in awe, eyes wide and unbelieving.
      Sogetsu drew his sword silently, and Gatsu followed suit.
      "There is only one way to deal with traitors." Sogetsu spat. "Draw your blade or share his fate, sister."
      Hot tears fell from her eyes and coursed down her cheeks, blurring her vision. "What's wrong with you? I can't kill Kazuki anymore than I could kill you, Sogetsu. We're family. Please, don't make me. I can't do it."
      "You can, and you will!" Sogetsu ordered.
      "No, I won't!"
      "Maybe we should think this through first, Sogetsu…" Gatsu stalled, fidgeting nervously with his sword, "Maybe it's not what we think…"
      "He betrayed his clan! Don't you see him there? Lying with our enemy in the grass as though she wasn't the snake she is? You know what the Elders would do with him, with any traitor, both of you know very well!" Sogetsu hissed, growing angrier and angrier by the moment, "If you don't help me deal with him, you're both just as much traitors to the Kazama as he is!"
      At last, Gatsu shook his head silently in agreement, his decision made.
      "Sogetsu is right. Kazuki is a traitor and we have to treat him as such, no matter what our personal feelings are. We have to kill him. I'm sorry, Hazuki."
      "Yes. No more talk. Kazuki and the Lin Kuei witch die, now! Gatsu, you circle left, I'll go right, bring up the middle, Hazuki." Sogetsu commanded.
      "I'm not doing it, Sogetsu, you can't make me kill my own brother." She sobbed, backing away.
      Sogetsu grabbed her by the arm, roughly, pulling her forward again; his blue, piercing eyes boring into hers.
      "Then, when Gatsu and I finish with him, you can join Kazuki in hell with all the rest of those that betray the Kazama, sister…" Sogetsu growled menacingly. She shivered; she knew he meant every word.
      Both men began to silently creep towards the sleeping couple, and reluctantly, Hazuki was surprised to find her feet doing the same.
      What am I doing?
      I can't kill Kazuki; I can't.
      But if I don't…



      His eyes fluttered open, just in time to see a blurry shadow rushing towards him. He instinctively rolled to his left, but he was still groggy and half asleep and not nearly fast enough. Kazuki felt sharp steel rip a wide gash in his shoulder. He tried to scramble to his feet, but forgot his bad leg and collapsed again because it would not support his weight.
      For a moment, Kazuki wondered if Tokugawa's butchering samurai had uncovered them at last, but no, he found himself staring into the cold, dark eyes of his old friend, Gatsu. Kazuki's blood dripped from the tip of his shining blade.
      "Gatsu! What the hell are you doing?" He cried, scrambling away as best as he could from the advancing man. Behind Gatsu's bulk, he could see Hana in a similar situation with his brother, Sogetsu. And in the distance, Hazuki stood alone, her hands pressed to her face in horror, unmoving.
      "Don't call me by my name, traitor! Our friendship ended the second you took up with her and betrayed us!" Gatsu growled springing for another attack.
      All traces of sleepiness had fled Kazuki, and this time he was ready for Gatsu. Kazuki concentrated and a wall of flame leapt up between them, but it didn't dissuade Gatsu in the least. He burst though the barrier of flames and pinned Kazuki solidly to the ground with one sandal clad foot.
      "Forgive me, Kazuki." Gatsu whispered, his eyebrows and hair smoldering from the flames, as he raised his sword to deliver the killing blow.
      But it never came.
      Gatsu fell heavily to the ground, dead, an arrow protruding from his throat.
      "Samurai!!!" Hazuki warned.
      The air was suddenly filled with a rain of the deadly projectiles, and Kazuki scrambled to find what scant cover there was behind a small grove of young trees. There were five soldiers, all mounted and armored, and they weren't stupid. They kept a safe distance away from any ranged weapons the ninja might employ, firing off a well-aimed barrage of arrows from their long bows anytime one of them dared to even hint at movement. As far as he could tell, Sogetsu, Hazuki, and Hana hadn't been hit…yet. The four ninja could afford to wait, the samurai had a finite amount of arrows, and when they ran out, they would have to engage them at close quarters. Unfortunately, Kazuki had seen that each samurai had two extra quivers full of arrows strapped on either side of their saddles, so it was going to be a long and dangerous wait.
      Sogetsu's level voice suddenly spoke to them all from wherever he was hiding from the samurai's onslaught.
      "When I say go, everybody move."
      The earth began to tremble underneath him, and Kazuki immediately knew what his brother was up to.
      Five water geysers suddenly burst up from the ground, one underneath each samurai's horse. The surprised animals went crazy, tossing their riders.
      "Gee, that's a great plan for those of us that can run, Sogetsu!" Kazuki muttered to himself as he did his best to crawl deeper into the forest. Suddenly, Hazuki was beside him. She grabbed him up roughly by his armpits and laboriously threw him over her shoulder.
      "You need to lose some weight, Kazuki." She puffed as she carried him away to safety as quickly as she could manage. They both knew Sogetsu's little water surprise wouldn't stop the samurai for more than half a minute at most, and probably not even that.
      "What about Sogetsu and Hana?" He tried to turn his head backwards to see what was happening, but couldn't, and got a mouthful of leaves as a reward for the effort.
      "So that's your little Lin Kuei friend's name, huh? Don't worry, they can take care of themselves, which is more than I can say for my poor back."
      Kazuki spit the leaves irritably from his mouth, "That's not what I'm worried about, and you know it, Hazuki."
      "Well, all personal feelings aside, Kazuki, I think it might actually be best for both of us right now if Sogetsu and Hana killed each other. She's Lin Kuei, and Sogetsu won't rest until you're both dead, and probably me too for helping you."
      Kazuki was stunned. Sogetsu, you really are a crazy bastard, aren't you?
      "Are you kidding? So that's why poor Gatsu attacked me. They wanted to kill me just for being seen with a Lin Kuei? Sogetsu isn't that fanatical, is he?"
      "Oh, yes. He takes his obligations to the clan very seriously, brother, very seriously indeed."


      "Well, witch, it looks like it's just you and me now."
      She nodded. The five samurai were dead, two black and bloated by her hands, three more dead by the swift blade of Kazuki's brother. The soldier's horses had already forgotten everything, milling about chewing grass as if nothing was amiss. Sogetsu and Hana stood facing each other now, both ready to strike at a moments notice.
      "Before I kill you, I must know. What lies did you feed my younger brother to get him to join your ranks? To betray his people, his family? Tell me that. I always knew Kazuki was weak, but despite my jests to the contrary, I never dreamed he'd ally himself with dogs like the Lin Kuei."
      She shook her head sadly at the man.
      "What lies? Your brother has betrayed no one. Kazuki is still Kazama, not Lin Kuei. He was hurt and wounded in the battle by the river. I helped him to safety rather than leave him to the nonexistent mercy of the samurai. And I found, as time passed, that I rather enjoyed his company. That is all, nothing less, nothing more."
      Sogetsu laughed.
      "A likely story. If you're going to lie, put some effort and forethought into it, hmm? Lin Kuei don't help Kazama, and Kazama don't help Lin Kuei. From the way you two were curled up sleeping together, I'd say you've been giving my brother some extra tender care, haven't you? That's how you turned him against us, isn't it?" Sogetsu punctuated his final sentence with a lewd and suggestive gesture.
      Hana laughed herself.
      "I can only wish, Kazama. No man would survive doing that with me. Your hatred blinds you to hearing and seeing the truth."
      Sogetsu eyed the two rotting corpses of the samurai she had touched, one eyebrow raised.
      "Perhaps. These two didn't appreciate your touch at any rate, but then, I'd be inclined to rot before I let a filthy Lin Kuei woman caress me as well." He spat.
      "Are you going to insult me all day or fight, Kazama?"
      His smile widened as he brushed an errant strand of his long, blue hair away from his eyes. "Well, I was going to end your life quickly and relatively painlessly, but, seeing as how you refuse to answer my questions truthfully, I guess I'm just going to have to cut your lying tongue from your mouth, Lin Kuei bitch."
      "Come and try, Kazama, come and try…"

Chapter 8

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