Samurai NOT 11
The smell filled her, so strong and familiar. Her head hurt, her mind dizzy and slow and her body numb. Even so, Ei knew what the smell was. It wasn’t just familiar; it brought painful memories. And yet she could not remember the name.
She tried opening her eyes, but it was impossible; the eyelids weighed too much. Just like the rest of her body. Kanashibari…? It was stupid, she knew, but it was the first thing that crossed her mind.
To scare the kids, Dai-jii used to say that if they misbehaved, a yokai would visit and leave them paralyzed when they woke up. If you wake up, that is, he used to say with a wicked laugh.
Her mother used to tell a different story. According to her, it was just a lonely ghost who liked to play pranks on kids like him and would do no harm. Though Ei didn’t believe in either stories, she liked Dai-jii’ version a lot more.
The smell became stronger, stirring her hazed mind. Still she couldn’t remember the name, which only made her more anxious. Little by little, she felt her body awakening as the numbness left, but no part of her moved. Trying to calm herself down, Ei took a deep breath.
There was something wrong in the air, something heavy and cold that sent a shiver through her body. Death… Ei knew what the smell was now. Blood…
She tried moving her body, her hand, or anything, but nothing obeyed her. Fear flooded her and her breathing became rapid and shallow.
I can’t… I-I have to calm down, she thought through her panic. Remember Tadayoshi’s words. She took deep breaths. The smell became stronger, but she ignored, focusing all the strength she had in opening her eyes. Little by little, her eyelids moved, but she regretted in the same instant. A pair of eyes stared her back, inches away from her face. If she could, she would have screamed.
Ignoring her instincts, she didn’t close her eyes. It took a while, but she finally recognized the mark across that face. The twin with the scar lied over the table by her side. She tried speaking, but her throat was too dry to speak. The best she managed was a murmur. But Scar had no reaction, his face with the same expression all the time.
Ei knew it, but chose to ignore everything and believe it was just a stupid joke, just like Tadayoshi’s jokes. Did he ask Scar to do this? Yeah, it does seem like something that idiot swordsman would do. A prank like this, she forced herself to think. But as time passed, she could no longer ignore the fact that Scar didn’t move at all. His expression, his eyes, everything was the same; pale, empty, cold… dead.
Her breathing became shallower and faster. She tried to get away from the corpse, but her body barely moved. Only her fingers twitched. Ei focused on her hand and managed to place one palm on the table. Using all the strength she had at the moment, Ei pushed herself up. Halfway up her arm cave in, her hand slipped and she slammed her chin hard on the table. The pain was so much she almost fainted.
With her vision seeing double, she ignored the pain, focused her eyes and saw why she slipped. Something red and sticky covered the table… blood! She screamed, but her voice was stuck in her throat.
Her breathing stopped, her legs didn’t obey her, her body ached and her head was heavy. Even so, there was only one thing in Ei’s mind; she had to get away from the dead body, from the smell, from the blood. She forced her legs and hands to push herself up again. She had no idea how, but she managed to stand up, even if her entire body protested in pain.
Tadayoshi… Tadayoshi… With the image of the swordsman in her mind, Ei fought to keep her consciousness and managed to drag herself along the wall. She had no idea where to go, but she had to find him. In her haste, she never noticed the smell of blood becoming stronger as she headed towards the kitchen.
When Ei finally noticed, her body shivered and sweated and she almost lost all strength again. She grabbed the wall with one hand and the table with the other. I… can’t run away… not anymore…
She tried gulping, but her throat was too dry for that. If… If I wanna go where Tadayoshi is… Ei knew she would regret, but she also knew she had to reach out her trembling hand and pull that curtain.
It was worse than she imagined. The owner, who treated them so kindly, who had such gentle smile, was lying on top of something, staring at the ceiling with her eyes wide open, her face full of terror. The something underneath her was the other twin.
Ei’s legs lost all strength and she fell hard on the floor. Her knees never throbbed so much, but even so, she ignored the pain and tried to control her herself. If she lost her consciousness right now, she might die like them.
If you’re in a bad situation, you must calm down and check everything, Tadayoshi’s voice whispered in her head. Yes… I remember that… If I can’t run away, I’ve got to at least figure out what’s going on, or, in his words, see how deep the shit is. Those words made her laugh at the time. Now, despite everything and before she realized it, they made her cracked a tiny nervous smile.
I chose to look behind the curtain, she thought, reaffirming her decision. With a deep breath, she forced herself to look at the corpses. The owner and the twin’s expression were the same; full of pain, sorrow, and terror. Ei believed she was familiar with death by now, that even if she wasn’t ready to take a life, she wouldn’t just be paralyzed before death.
But she wasn’t ready to see the people who were alive when she closed her eyes in such state, and puked. The smell mixed in the air with the stench of blood and food. She almost puked again, but somehow kept it in. After cleaning her mouth, she dragged herself closer to them.
The owner still clutched the blade that pierced her heart. From the wound, the blood drenched her clothes and spread across the floor and her grandson. It’s… too small… to be a weapon, Ei thought, holding down another urge to vomit. With difficulty, she found out it was a kitchen knife and a grim idea crossed her head. Did she kill herself… or die trying stopping the knife?
What killed the twin wasn’t so easy to find with his grandma on top of him. He lay on the floor sideways with his clothes dyed red, but there was no visible wound or slash. It’s not his blood? After pushing the owner away, Ei finally managed to find it. Underneath all the blood, there was a tiny stab wound at his throat. From the size, it was a knife. They both died with one attack each…
Before she realized it, she trembled and hugged herself, but she didn’t cry. Tadayoshi… she tried calling, but she still had no voice to call the man she trusted. Without strength to stand, she backed away as fast as she could, until something blocked her path. For half a heartbeat Ei prayed it was the wall, but even without looking she could tell it was a person.
She stopped breathing and her mind froze. My sword… my sword… Her trembling hand answered and went to her waist. But her heart sank when she realized there was nothing there. Where’s… my weapon? Without it, I can’t do anything! Without it, I’m just a kid!
Then the image of the fallen warrior and her unable to do anything crossed her mind. Even if I had my sword, what could I do…? The thought felt like a stab in her gut. “Tada…yoshi…” it was only a whisper, but she finally had found her voice.
“I’m here,” the voice came from above her.
Ei turned her head, looked up and saw the man who denied being a samurai blocking her path. Along with the relief came the tears and she did nothing to stop them.
Tadayoshi said nothing as he patted her head until she was empty. After she cleaned her face, he offered a hand. Ei grabbed it and he pulled her up, but her legs could barely support her weight and she had to hold his arm tight to keep standing.
“What…happened…?” her throat was too dry and her voice was nothing more than a hoarse.
Tadayoshi stared at her, his dark eyes pale and empty. “I’m sorry, I didn’t want you to see this…”
Ei felt the room growing cold and closed her eyes. She tried breathing, but it was hard and she grabbed her chest. When the pain was finally gone, she slowly opened her eyes and saw Tadayoshi holding a vaguely familiar small knife.
“What…?” Though was clean, the bit of red on the handle was unmistakable. Blood. “You…?”
Tadayoshi looked her in the eyes. “I killed them.”