Written by Daniel Teh
Act III – Solitude
Rikimaru, Lord Ghoda and his council of advisors, including Sire Sekiya, sat in a conference. Most of the council’s hopes had now fled.
“We need to find a way to stop the Burning Dawn and their giant Warship.”
Lord Ghoda said.
“Our Troops cannot fight it from land, maybe we should send our fleet,”
one advisor suggested.
“Our boats are two small, they will be destroyed long before they get near the Fire Demon…”
Sekiya Shouted, cutting off the other man.
“You talk as if we have already lost, before the battle has even begun. Have you forgotten that you are Warriors.”
Suddenly, loud warning bells began to sound
The blaring warning bells began to sound once the guard towers saw what was coming. They begun to warn the city as the monstrous ship, the Fire Demon, steered into the bay. It turned around the right cliff and sailed forward into the great Bay of the city. The huge Warship was made of one huge battleship, with a building in the middle of its deck, and two smaller (yet still large) battleships attached on the side. As they approached, their Cannons raised up. They fired two fiery cannonballs straight into the side of Ghoda Castle. Two maids making their rounds in a top-level hallway were suddenly consumed by fire as the wall was blown to splinters
The Castle shook with fury as part of it crumbled. The Council sat shocked.
“I will lead the attack against the enemy vessel myself!”
Lord Ghoda declared.
“Prepare my ship!”
“Lord Ghoda, I’m going to board the enemy ship. I’ll come back with Kagami’s head,”
Rikimaru said with spite. Lord Ghoda stood up with Rikimaru. He placed his hand on his shoulder.
“Take care of yourself Rikimaru, you’re too valuable to lose. I’ll see you when this is all over,”
“Yes My Lord.”
Ayame had made her way through the belly of the Fire Demon. Finally, she had found the stairs leading to the deck. She started for them. When suddenly Genbu moved in her way.
“Stop, nice little girl. Genbu protects Lady Kagami,”
“Oh Genbu, look at what she’s doing. She’s not worthy of your protection,”
Ayame told him.
“Everybody says Genbu you big dumb oaf, and everybody laughs. But Lady Kagami says, Genbu you did good. She treats me like she treats the other Ninja. I feel warm inside when she talks to me. She’s worthy of Genbu’s protection,”
“And all the people in Ghoda Castle are worthy of my protection,”
“Then I guess we really fight this time.”
“Yeah. We really fight this time.”
Genbu raised his huge drumsticks and threw them down towards Ayame. Ayame quickly moved. The Fire Demon must have been strong, because it only left a small crack in the floor. Genbu swung one drumstick around at Ayame but she ducked. Ayame quickly cut Genbu on the side. He suddenly jumped around and attacked again. Ayame quickly flipped backwards, and then ran up the drumstick onto Genbu’s shoulder. She then flipped head over heels and slashed Genbu in the back. Genbu shouted and spun around. Ayame kept running around Genbu, and cutting him everywhere. And when she finally had the chance to kill him once and for all she just stopped. Genbu looked up at her. She stared into his eyes, then lowered her swords. Genbu stood up straight.
“Sorry Lady Kagami. Nice girl, what’s your name?”
he asked her.
“Ayame, that’s a nice name,”
he told her. They stood there silent for a minute. Then Genbu’s hand opened slowly, and he dropped one of the drumsticks. Ayame walked up to him and touched his face.
“Goodbye, Genbu the wise. Lord of the Burning Dawn,”
she said then ran up the stairs.
Kagami and Tatsumaru stood at the head of the Fire Demon, high up in a large crows nest. They both watched the battle raging in the waters below. The clash of steel and screams of soldiers and Ninja could be heard from afar. Kagami watched with the determination to win, to complete her dream.
“Ghoda fights with more courage than I expected. But he cannot defeat the Fire Demon. Ghoda Castle will be ours,”
she said to Tatsumaru, who stood not far behind her.
“Rikimaru and Ayame will be here soon. I will hold them off as long as I can,”
“What was that? Rikimaru…Ayame…How do you know…”
she wondered, then realized.
“So, 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,”
he told her.
“But why here?”
“Because your dream, is worth dying for,”
he replied. He began to walk away. Kagami ran to him and hugged him from behind.
“I had no tears before I met you. I never knew joy either,”
she told him,
“You are my heart… and I love you.”
She held him for a minute, her eyes tightly shut.
“If only we had met, at another time,”
she let go of him.
“Perhaps, this could have been different.”
He turned to face her. He looked into her eyes, and then tenderly kissed her. They stood there for a moment, lost in the kiss. Tatsumaru moved her hair out of her eyes. He looked at her one more time, and began to walk away.
he said, and climbed down the side of the tower.
Rikimaru swam to the second largest enemy ship on the bay. He could see the entrance to the Fire Demon from there. But as he began to cross the deck, his gaze was caught on someone standing at the head of the ship. He got closer, and soon realized who it was. Suzaku. Suzaku knew he was there, but kept his eyes on the great sea battle.
“Intoxicating isn’t it? The stench of blood. The screams of dying men. That violent flash you get just before you die. Things only servants of darkness can appreciate,”
He said to Rikimaru.
“I will deliver you from your darkness, to the light.”
“Not if I enlighten you first,”
Rikimaru replied. Suzaku slowly turned. Holding his sword up. They both began to circle each other. Rikimaru stared into Suzaku’s eyes. All he could see was darkness. Finally Rikimaru attacked, Suzaku quickly moved to the side and kicked Rikimaru in the back. Rikimaru fell forward to the edge of the boat. He turned just as Suzaku attacked him. He blocked him with his sword, then pushed him back. Rikimaru turned and ran to the center of the ship’s deck. Suzaku followed. As he caught up to him, he began to slash his sword and kick wildly. Rikimaru could not block all of these attacks at once, so he jumped to the side. Quickly turning back to his opponent, he slashed his blade down Suzaku’s back. Suzaku screamed in pain and fell on one knee. Rikimaru went for the attack, but suddenly Suzaku swung himself around and cut Rikimaru’s knee. It was a minor injury, and Rikimaru did not care. They kept fighting furiously. Until finally, Suzaku thrust his sword forward, as Rikimaru turned forward and to the side, just missing him. Rikimaru took this opportunity and delivered one final blow, straight through Suzaku’s back. Suzaku turned to him slowly then fell on one knee. Resting on the back of his sword he looked up at Rikimaru as blood dripped from his stomach and lips.
“You lose…Because the more enemies you get revenge on, the angrier and nastier you become. Until you become as vicious…and selfish…as me, hahahah,”
he said cryptically and fell to the floor in a pool of his own blood.
“I no longer seek vengeance. I simply serve a worthy master,”
Rikimaru replied. Then he leapt off the ship to the entrance of the Fire Demon.
Tatsumaru stood on front deck of one of the smaller side ships of the Fire Demon. He looked out into the battle. Ayame walked in a few meters behind him.
“Ayame. Don’t you remember what I told you,”
he said and turned to face her. She nodded.
“Then you know, I must kill you.”
“Oh you’re right. We will fight, but you won’t kill me,”
Tatsumaru ran at her and did a spin kick. Ayame moved backward. As he faced her again she began to slice at him with her short swords. He Back-Salted away from her. Then unsheathed his sword. He stood there for a second staring. Determination in both of their faces. He held his sword like a knife, as though he was going to stab something. The blade exited his hand away from his thumb, on the opposite side of his clenched hand. He stepped forward and sliced upward. Ayame spun around this attack and so too did Tatsumaru. Both ended up facing each other again, and as Tatsumaru attacked, Ayame ducked and blocked with her two short swords. He pushed his sword down against her then to the side, pushing her away. Ayame rolled away, but quickly got up again. She began to run forward, but he swung his blade back and forth so she Back-Salted away. They both charged at each other and smashed their swords together, causing them to fly out of their hands. Both Ayame and Tatsumaru pushed each other away. Ayame fell back on the deck, and Tatsumaru fell against the railing of the ship. Tatsumaru’s blade, Izayoi, fell spinning to the floor and landed in the wood in front of Ayame. She grabbed the blade and ran at Tatsumaru. But as she sliced it through the night air, she stopped at his chest. She looked at him, breathing heavily. She couldn’t kill him. She couldn’t kill her friend and childhood crush. They stayed in that position for a minute. Not a word said.
Then suddenly Tatsumaru grabbed the blade and plunged it into his own chest. He screamed in pain. Ayame looked at him in despair. Tears began to sting her eyes.
“Why Tatsumaru? Why?”
she asked, sobering.
“Unforgivable crimes must be punished…the traitor…must die!”
And with those last words, Tatsumaru, of the Azuma Ninja, died.
Soon after Rikimaru approached her from behind. He looked at the body of his friend, then at Ayame.
he said. She stood up, still looking at Tatsumaru’s face, and still with tears running down her cheeks. She closed her eyes and tears fell from her eyelashes. She threw Izayoi back into the air. Rikimaru caught the blade. He stood there, remembering all of the events that had occurred recently, everything that had changed his life so drastically. He turned around and stood silent. Then walked away.
Ayame kneeled, bent over Tatsumaru, weeping in the night air. She stood and hopped up onto the railing. She stood there silently. Then let herself fall forward into the cold ocean waters.
A woman in a white kimono holding a metal Japanese fan performed an ancient Japanese dance on the roofed stage at the back of the Fire Demon. She wore a faceless white mask and had her hair tied in a bundle. She shuffled forward and bowed, then turned and shuffled forward again. This time she kneeled down and stood up again. The woman held the fan up to her chest.
Rikimaru walked across the huge ship. Heading for the very back, behind the large temple-like building. He made his way up the stairs, trying to rid himself of all anger and emotion.
The woman shuffled to the middle of the stage and held her arms out to the side. She slowly looked up.
“So. Lord Seiryu is dead. Or else you never could have gotten this far,”
the woman said with a familiar voice and turned to the front. Rikimaru stood below the stage. Izayoi in his hand. The woman turned to face him.
“Rikimaru, will you really put an end to my beautiful dream?”
she said, and ripped off the kimono. When the clothes fell to the ground, Kagami was left in the womans place.
“You killed the beauty of your dream, with the ugliness of your methods,”
he told her.
He raised Izayoi up in level with his face. Kagami closed the metal fan. She ran forward at him and sliced the sharp fan through the air. Rikimaru simply blocked her attack. It seemed as though he had finally attained selflessness. Kagami spun around with the fan held out. Rikimaru ducked and punched her in the stomach. She heaved and fell backwards. She quickly Back-Salted onto the stage again. Tossing the fan to the side, Kagami then grabbed the handle of her Katana, which lay in its sheath at her side. She slowly pulled the long blade out. Then stood positioned to fight. Rikimaru ran at her and attacked. She blocked then slashed down, up, and spun slashed. Rikimaru blocked her combo in time and threw his blade forward. Kagami turned to the side and sliced at him again. Rikimaru, moved quickly. The two began to attack and block, in an amazing show of swordplay. As the Battle went on Kagami got faster and faster until she finally thrust her sword forward. Rikimaru moved his head to the side. The edge of the Katana just missing his ear. He quickly plunged his sword straight through the tender flesh of Kagami’s stomach. Her eyes widened in shock. Rikimaru pulled out the ancestral blade, and stepped back. Kagami turned and stumbled to the ground, dropping her Katana blade. She lay on her side coughing and breathing heavily, blood trickling from the side of her mouth.
“You …you think you have destroyed my dream, by killing me…but my…dream lives!”
she breathed heavily.
“You cannot stop it from coming true because…we will pay any price for freedom!… freedom…but you…only a fool, follows the rules without questioning them. And fools…can never…stop…us! Gaghagh!”
Kagami gasped in pain and her head fell to the floor. She lay there, lifeless.
“I’ll happily suffer the title of fool, if it means I can save even one life from your blood drenched dream. Farewell Kagami,”
Rikimaru spat, and he turned and walked away.
Rikimaru kneeled on one leg before Lord Ghoda. They were one his ship. Lord Ghoda stood in his blue and red battle armor.
“Rikimaru, everything taken care of?”
“But where is Ayame?”
“She wasn’t on the boat.”
Rikimaru told him.
Ghoda fell silent for a minute, then turned and stepped forward.
“Archers! Prepare flaming Arrows!”
he shouted, and dark midnight sky lit up as the archers on the small boats began to shoot their fire arrows into the beast that was the Fire Demon.
Kagami crawled towards Tatsumaru’s body, leaving a blood stained trail behind her. She struggled to put her left arm over his body.
“Tat…Tatsumaru. Hmmm, I like the way your name sounds,”
she said to him.
“I wish I had called you, Tatsumaru. You kept your promise. You died in a manner that served me. Served me in the highest way.”
Flaming arrows began to land all around them.
“I failed us. Death, has opened my heart. And I see…oh my love. Next time; I will heed my heart. Then… we can truly build a world… where Ninja… can live in the light.”
She then laid her head on Tatsumaru’s chest and with her last tears, died.
The fire arrows began to land everywhere. Several of them landing in a large box of explosives. Suddenly half of the Fire Demon exploded, bursting into flames and lighting up the black sky. The City was covered in light from the bay, and Rikimaru and Lord Ghoda watched from afar, as the Huge Warship burned in the night.
Ayame lay on a large broken chunk of wood, which floated in the calm ocean waters. She looked up into the night sky at the stars, and thought to herself.
[First my Master, then Tatsumaru. Why does everyone I love have to die? I’d rather face the demons of hell, then face another second of this… emptiness. My work is done, it’s time for Ayame to follow Tatsumaru.]
Ayame dangled her Sisters bell over her face. A beautiful sound came from the Rose shaped bell. It was such an intricate design. She realized how skilled Lady Kei must have been.
[Hmmm, what a pretty sound. I’ll miss it, and Kiku, and the promise I made. Oh, poor baby, she’s counting on me. She must be so lonely right now, and scared, with her mother gone. Just like me.]
She turned her head to the side, and stared out at the horizon. Tears began to roll down her cheeks. They were welling up in her eyes. She then looked up.
“I gotta keep my promise,”
she said to herself in realisation. She wiped the tears from her eyes with the backs of her hands.
“No more crying. I gotta be tough now.”
She held the bell up again, and watched it bounce back and forth as the wooden plank did in the small waves. The tiny sound drifted off into the night ocean air.
Late in the night, the giant Warship still blazed furiously in the ocean. The many bodies of dead Ninja and soldiers, lay in a fiery grave with what ever else was left of the Burning Dawn. But somehow a man stood in the middle of the flaming boat looking into the flames. His long black hair blew back in the ocean breeze. He held a large sword in his right hand. The man turned to the front of the boat. And that man, was…. Suzaku.
Suzaku pulled off the ribbon mask and revealed his pitch black eyes.
“Ahhh, hahahaha. What fun we’ve had, and I still have those pesky Azuma Ninja to toy wit’,”
he slashed his sword up and down and looked around the boat.
“Is this enough carnage to satisfy me? No! More destruction! More blood!”
The pillars began to fall around him in a flaming mass.
“Soon. Soon the master will return to me. Lord Meh’oh. I await your return oh exalted one. Mmhahahaha!”
He said and his evil laugh drifted into the ocean wind.
Rikimaru walked down the beach toward the waterfront. Seimaru passed him from the other direction. Rikimaru grabbed his arm. He stopped. The boy looked at him. There was pain and sadness in his eyes. They stared at each other. Then Seimaru pulled his arm away and walked off toward Ghoda Castle in the distance. Rikimaru turned and saw Ayame crouched on the Sand.
He approached her, yet still standing a few meters away.
Ayame laid a flower on the pillar of rocks and sticks she had made. A memorial stone for her lost loved one.
“Ayame, you made it.”
Rikimaru said relieved. She crouched staring at the shrine, remembering her friend, her love.
“I’m going to become strong, so no one can ever take away anything I care for,”
she said with determination and stood up.
he replied. Rikimaru turned and began to walk away. Ayame quickly turned and faced him.
“What will you do now?”
she asked. He stopped, and turned his head.
“I wish only to serve Lord Ghoda,”
he replied and continued walking. Ayame ran after him. She stood beside him and looked at his face.
“Good. I’m going with you to Ghoda Castle,”
“I have someone there worth dying for, and worth living for,”
she said as she started to walk. Suddenly a white dove glided passed their heads. Rikimaru and Ayame both turned and watched as it flew off into the bright morning horizon.