Darkness

Written by andy2d

For any of you that donít know the gloves that Tatsumaru wears are called nokane. These were very strong leather gloves that when used properly could even stop a sword blow. If you want to comment send email to
andy2d@altavista.co.uk.
ALL E-MAILS MUST BE IN ENGLISH .

Shrrrrrrrrrink Shrrrrrrrrrrrrink Shrrrrrrrrrink. The stone moved the blade in smooth motions . The cavern was dark lit by only a few torches . Th light flickered around the wall. A figure in red sat honing his blade. Over and over again smooth and controlled. What showed of his skin was white. Well muscled and powerful. A huge white tiger sat near by. Suzaku looked at it. Though not exactly, his eyes were blind folded.The tiger got up and moved away. It had respect for beings of greater power. Seiyru never needed to hone his blade. Or was it Seiyru. He did not know. Lady Kagami his leader told him he had lost his memory in an accident. She said he would regain it in time. He felt reassured by this but was still not certain. Two words haunted him every second. Izayoui. Azuma. What did they mean. He sighed and continued to sit. Presently Kagami appeared. Her dark hair shined in the torch light. She was as deadly as she was beautiful. At her side the long Daikatana was belted. He had seen it do itís deadly work . He was a strong man powerful swift and well hardened to death and war. Yet still he shivered .

“We are going to deal with one of Gohdas allies.”

Her deep voice almost spat the word Gohda. Whenever Seiyru heard it filled him with a kind of warmth. He did not know why.

“He has some of Gohdas troops and his personal bodyguard defending him.”

She paused briefly . All eyes were on her even the tigers. Suzaku and Suzaku alone did not look up. Shrrrrrrrrrnk Shrrrrrrrrrink.

“If he is removed it means Gohda has less troops to come to his aid. Better still this man is Gohdas only blood tie to the Rinzai family. Without this link he cannot demand help from them.”

She let this settle with the Lords.

“Seiyru you have the task of killing him . His name is Tsumoto Kitagawa.”

With that she left. The silence only penetrated by the sword on the stone. He stood and adjusted his nokane.Then he walked into the shadows.

Darkness all around him.It was comforting . Most humans feared the dark. Seiyru found its presence natural. He ran through the forest silently. The birds who roosted above him did not wake. The green passed in a blur. Never did his feet touch treacherous ground. The Forest slowly started clearing. Pausing he crouched.

“Observance is the key to stealth.”

Seiyru clutched his head . The voice again who was it so familiar yet he had never heard it before. His head cleared and he looked around. He could see the outline of the castle in the distance. The moon was floating high in the sky like a great white pearl. That would make it harder to stay unseen. He ran on.

Nangi walked the walls relaxedly. Just his look to get stuck with night duty. He could hear the cicadas all around him. Damned things would never shut up. Shifting his spear into an easier position he reached for the skin at his side. Not that it contained water. He felt the warmth of the sake spread through him. Best go easy this had to last him a whole night. As he replaced the cap he heard a sound from outside the walls. Turning he looked out into the darkness. Suddenly there was a lot of pain in his neck. He collapsed over the wall crunching into the ground with a thud. Seiyru recovered his shuriken. Throwing his grappling hook up he began to climb. Barley a minute later he was on the wall. From where he crouched he could see a large part of the court yard. A single guard walked alone round it. Seiyru waited. As the guard came under he dropped from the wall his sword already in hand. The guards head rolled on the floor his eyes staring blankly into space. The ninja was already gone. Another guard stood on a wooden tower in the middle of a yard. He was too far for a shuriken. He turned at random intervals in all directions. This one had been trained better than the others. Looking up he judged the distance to the roof. 12 feet. He jumped and grabbed hold of the edge. A memory of jumping over a tall corn stalk over and over again while a bearded man watched. Where did these come from ? He let it go concentrating on what he had to do. From this part of the roof he could get much closer unseen. He moved in that strange crouching run which none but the ninja had mastered. Silent and barely visible he moved until he was level with the guard.

“Damn!”

he cursed silently. Still to far for a shuriken or the blow pipe. His training would not allow him to leave him alive. Breathing deeply he gathered his strength. When the soldiers back was turned back he leapt of the roof and landed running. Launching himself up into a high platform he landed behind the guard. With one swift motion he ended the warriors life crushing his jugular. He stalked into the building waiting. No guards appeared. They probably had problems of their own. Keeping to the shadows he moved through the lower corridors until he found the stairs. Seeing a beam above he threw the grappling hook up and climbed.When he reached it he hoisted himself up and retrieved his tool. The Lord of this house should be on the third level. A few more guards ran beneath him. None looked up for the catlike figure in the shadows.Dropping down he climbed the remaining flight. Of stairs. A corridor with a turn awaited him. Seiyru was not that gullible. He got a small leather ball he normally carried with him and rolled it up the corridor. Two arrows shot out of niches in the wall. He proceeded. At the end he poked his head round the corner. He saw two final guards samurai retainers non the less. These would be more difficult. Inhaling deeply he readied himself.

Matsuo was not afraid of death. He would be loyal to the end. He had served as a bodyguard for ten years and foiled three assassination attempts. He waited his hand on his sword hilt. Out of the darkness it came almost seeming to swoop forward slashing his comrades throat. Matsuo screamed with rage using Kia the warriors war shout. The ninja was not stunned.He slashed skilfully and quickly but to no avail. Seiyru actually backflipped over the blade , sword coming up in the ready stance. But he faced no normal guard. He had bee trained by Mushai at the two skys school of Kenjustsu. Like Mushai he had never lost a duel. And like Mushai he had never encountered one as skilled as Seiyru. He went into the left guard and drew his wakizashai.

“Can you not even hold a sword properly”

he asked Seiyru seeing his strange technique.

“I do not even need one.”

His voice was low and cold and showing an utter lack of fear. He sheathed his blade. Matsuo was about to offer to fight him honourably and sheath his own blade when the ninja attacked. Blow followed blow in an inconsistent taboo. Seiyrus Nokane deflected a strike and he punched through Matsuos guard paralysing his left shoulder. Matsuo dropped his wakizashai and concentrated on his katana. They circled like two wolves each sizing the other up. Seiyru flung himself forward and down into Matsuos legs. The ground flew from under him. He died with Seiyrus blade in his chest. Seiyru gave the duellists salute and wiped Izayoi on the dead mans clothes. Izayoi it had come unbidden from memory. Was the name of this weapon one of the things that plagued him so. He moved into Lord Tsumotos chambers.

Plans within plans. They had to find the intruder he thought as he studied a map of the castle and grounds. Where could he have got in. He did not even know how many of them there were who they were and what they planned to do with him.

“What about the north east gate , itís well hidden but has been somewhat neglected recently?”

he asked his aide.

“Well my Lord it could have.”

The aides face went white.

“Senjin whats wrong? Senjin!”

Thump. His aide slumped on the table. Whirling round he saw the cause. A ninja in brown and black held a shuriken in his hands. He was tall and well muscled with his dark hair tied back. On his waste a sword was Scabbarded.

“Who are you”

Tsumoto demanded drawing his blade.

“I am Seiyru the blue dragon one of the four Lords of the burning dawn. I am your death.”

He flung the shuriken. The tatami were dyed red.

1 month later
He stood before the house and itís paper door . Why was it forbidden ? Why was it wrong? He kicked the paper through. An old man in his fifties was waiting his back turned.

“I killed your father Tatsumaru so maybe it is your destiny to kill me. None the less I can still fight.”

Seiyru
drew his blade.They circled like wolves each seeking an opening. With a kia shout Shiunsai attacked sweeping his katana down. Seiyru rolled forward under the attack bringing his own blade up to block the blow. No matter how old this man was he knew how to swing a katana. Turning he parried another strike stepping aside in the same motion. He feinted at Shiunsai’s shoulder but Izayoi continued down and thrust. Time seemed to slow. The blade sunk into Shiunsais chest impaling him. With a sigh he slid off the blade and fell to the floor. What have I done thought Seiyru. Who is this man ? Why is this wrong ? Blood washed around his boots. The pains came back and he fell to his knees clutching his head.

“No Tatsumaru you must strike faster”

He missed the old man and lost his balance. Other images flooded through him

“you think you can sneak up on anyone walking like that. Take this sword and become the leader of the Azuma Clan.”

The sword he now held.

“No master”

.The scream from the door brought him out of this. “

Tatsumaru you have sullied your honour and betrayed your clan the punishment is death.”

Seiyru turned and saw the blond ninja again. There was so much he wanted to ask so much he needed to know. But this was not the place or the time. His opponent slashed. Seiyru blocked.And so it began.

Circling Seiyru tried to discern his opponents technique. His fist lanced forward but the young ninja dodged the blow and stepped back.Seiyru now knew he preferred the one strike to kill he would waste no time.The images came through his head again the ,old man

“this is called moving shadows when you make a powerful strike to discern his or her abilities.”

The blade whistling for his head brought him to the present. His nokaned hand blocked while the other slammed into his enemies shoulder. Rikimaru gasped with pain and whirled round blade close to his body to block further assault. He jumped back to survey his opponent again. Riki came in fast and low slashing for the stomach.Seiyru turned aside so the blade only nicked his waste. He improvised a roundhouse using the momentum of the turn. Riki was flung back his upper chest burning like fire. Seiyru went into the second killing position and stood ready. Riki stabbed at his opponents face and then swept the blade underneath his enemies hands. Seiyru flung his arms aside. He kicked aiming for the nerve cluster in Rikis left leg. Side stepping Riki sent a thunderous punch into Seiyrus shoulder spinning him round. He fell to the floor. Riki stood over him sword raised.

“Tatsumaru prepare to die.”

More images.

“Will you teach me to fight Tatsu?”

A small blond boy looked up hopefully

“When I grow up I want to be just like you.”

“Tatsu will you play with me?”

“What are you waiting for. Do it.”

Seiyru could not understand. Why does he hesitate I am his enemy. His hand shot out for his sword and he brought it up. His opponent blocked but fell back blood spurting from his cheek. For a second Seiyru felt it was wrong that he should not be fighting this boy. A noise made him raise his head. Kagami kicked down the door slaying one of the Azuma in the process. The young ninja attacked fury in his heart but she flung him back. Tatsumaru sheathed his
blade and got up . She motioned him by her side. He jumped to it and watched the boy on the floor. Kagami spoke to Rikimaru but Seiyru did not hear. Had he done this. Killed this old man he had never seen before. Why was it so wrong ?

the dream ?”

Kagami protested

“… but she is but a girl she cannot provoke me I…I.”

, she sighed and sheathed h

They ran outside across the roof tops. Kagami pushed the girl waiting for them aside. As they ran Seiyru felt something was wrong. A feeling he had done something terrible. The scenery around them quickly passed. Cherry trees let their blossom float on the wind creating vivid contrast with the night. They came to the top of the hill. Here there was a huge old cherry tree the pink leaves contrasting with the darkness above. They stopped to get their breath. She turned to him

“Here let me see to that wound”

. She removed his left nokane and bandaged the gash.

“For a boy he certainly has strength.”

A scream from below alerted them.

“What now ?”

The girl ran up to them her knives dripping with blood. Seiyru sighed. How many more will have to die for the dream ? , he thought.

“Tatsumaru.”

It felt familiar. Tatsumaru that word what did it mean ? Kagami brought him out of his reverie.

“Oh its that stubborn little girl. When you arrive in hell let them know lady Kagami sent you.”

She raised her weapon.

“Your the one with the drooling idiot followers arenít you. How did you manage to add Tatsumaru to your pack of losers ?”

The girl is brave Seiyru thought. Brave and clever.

“You insolent brat Iíll.”

No Kagami. You let her provoke you. Forgoter blade..

“Your right. I let her provoke me. Deal with her.”

He saw some thing in her eyes that had not been there before.

“Come home to me safely Seiyru.”

She ran into the darkness. He turned to the girl.

“Did you kill Master Shiunsai Tatsu? Oh tell me itís not true.”

“That old man was your teacher ?”

What was happening to him ?
Something inside him was changing.

“And yours to. Whats happened to you Tatsu are you saying all that time we spent together wasnít real ?”

He could no longer here her. The pains were back again .More images. some thing tried to break through.

“Tatsu Tatsu Tatsu. When I grow up Iím going to marry you Tatsu. Tatsu Tatsu Tatsu.Were going to live on a hill under a big beautiful cherry tree.”

He he remembered. Tatsumaru remembered. The elation of knowing who he was what he was crushed instantly by what he had done. To commit seppuku would be pointless now he was too far gone. Her methods were wrong but the dream was right and he.. he felt something for her.

“Ayame. Your name is Ayame .”

“Tatsu you remember !”

She ran towards him. Izayoi blurred out of its scabbard and she fell back.

“No. It can never be like it was.”

“But why ?”

The pain in her voice tore his heart.

“Because thats the way it is. If we meet again I will kill you.”

He turned and ran. Silent tears flowed for all of them.Shiunsai the old samurai all those Azuma ninja what he had done to Rikimaru.

“Lord Seiyru”

, a Burning Dawn ninja ran along side him. His rage exploded . Tatsumaru kicked his legs from under him.

“Lord Seiyru what ?”

“Never call me that.”

He crushed the mans windpipe. He stopped. He could not atone not now. He would have to go on. He approached the caverns.

“Seiyru your back. Did you deal with her ?”

“I….”

“Good. Rest for while now .”

He went to his quaters and sat on the bed. Death would be welcome now.

“Ready for the final assault”

Suzakus voice rasped.

“Leave me. Now!”

He left.He thought of teaching Rikimaru to swim and Ayame how to make a kite. The time they had played at the water fall and he had fallen in.When Ayame made him the cherry blossom picture .The day he got his nokane. When they planted the cherry tree.When Master Shiunsai went to deal with Lord Godhas troubles and left him in charge . They would stay up all night and he would tell them ghost stories .Tatsumaru doused the lantern and sat in the darkness. That was all he had left now.

Some time later he did not know how long some one entered.

“Lord Seiyru Lady Kagami requests your presence near the dock.”

He got up and walked through the dimly lit passages lost in thought. He arrived at the dock.

“Incredible is it not the greatest war ship ever built. With the fire demon nothing will stand between us and the dream.”

Another messenger approached

“Lady Kagami there are intruders in the caverns.”

“Damn!. All right listen. Iím moving the schedule ahead. Were sailing for Gohda castle tonight. Come Seiyru we have much work to do.”

He walked through into the bowels of the ship. The floor swayed slightly under his feet . He followed her past the many guards and rooms. They came to the entrance to above deck. Genbu stood guard.

“Lady Kagami Iím ready to fight for you.”

“Be ready Genbu and show no mercy.”

Poor naive fool Tatsumaru thought.The mind of a child in the body of a man. He could have been a farmer and he would have been happy. Now he is fighting for a cause he does not understand. They came to the command tower and scaled it swiftly. He could feel the wind in his face and smell the sea air. He thought about the coming battle. He thought about what he felt for Kagami. One part of him wanted to kill her where she stood. The other was willing to die for her.

“Look out there Seiyru. Soon all we behold shall be for ninja. We will no longer have to serve Samurai to fight their battles. We shall be free. No longer bound to darkness.”

Once he had so firmly believed this. Now he knew , the darkness was his home.

There was a shout from below.

“Gohdas troops sail to meet us.”

“Prepare for the assault. Remember we fight for our freedom.”

“Gohda fights with more courage than I expected but he cannot defeat the fire demon Gohda castle will be ours.”

He made his choice.

“Rikimaru and Ayame will be here soon I will hold them off as long as I can.”

“What was that Rikimaru Ayame but how do you. Ahh your memory has returned.Then why did you come back ?”

“A ninja seeks a place to die and though your methods are wrong this is mine. Your dream is worth dieing for.”

He turned to go but she reached for him her head resting against his back.

“I had no tears before I met you. I did not know joy either. You are my heart and I love you.”

Her voice broke with emotion.

“If only things had been different perhaps all this could have been avoided .”

He turned and wiped a tear from her eye.

“Farewell.”

He left he tower . Now he would do what he must. Moving silently he prowled the ship killing Gohdas troops with chilling efficiency. Finally he came to Jubei.

“How like a ninja to sneak out of the darkness. But can you fight like a man ?”

Tatsumaru drew his blade. Jubei attacked with dazzling speed. Tatsumaru side stepped and slashed at Jubeis head. His enemy blocked and pushed him back. He could not be forced on to the defensive. He stepped in and kicked with devastating accuracy. Jubei fell back but he was far from finished. They moved around the deck exchanging blows Jubais shear power and Tatsumarus speed. The ninja attacked his nokane deflecting his opponents right blade. He slid Izayoi against the left blade but pushed further in. It slammed into Jubeis chest. The light of life left Jubeis eyes and Tatsumaru kicked him off the blade.

He went to the front of the ship and turned to face the sea. He heard steps behind him.

“Ayame I told you what would happen if we met again. Now I have to kill you.”

“Oh weíll fight but you wonít kill me.”

She ran at him blades drawn. He turned and blocked. He punched but she dodged aside. He jumped over her sweep kick and rolled to his feet. They faced each other. He drew Izayoi and attacked again. She flipped back to dodge. She ducked under his roundhouse and tried to slash his other leg but Izayoi lanced down and blocked. He did not want to fight her yet he had to. Ayame slashed upwards flinging the sword into the sky but she lost her own daggers. She caught Izayoi and slammed him into the side. The blade hovered over his chest. He reached out and rammed it hard into his chest.

“Why Tatsumaru why?”

He marshalled the last of his strength.

“Unforgivable crimes must be punished.”

He fell back. She knelt over his body and wept.