A little late than usual, here’s the new chapter of Samurai NOT
After the fight against the demon, Tadayoshi fainted. But now another fight begins.
Hope you like
Samurai NOT 26
Everything grew quiet after the beast crashed into the trees on the other side of the clearing.
Master…? Ei wanted to call him, but she had no voice.
The girl had no idea what had happened. To give time for Tadayoshi to get as far as he could, she and the priest were throwing rocks around the clearing to attract the demon’s attention.
They planned to do the same once the swordsman was far away. But, desperate to help him, they didn’t realize the beast began ignoring the stones and just trashed at random, smashing and reducing everything it could reach to dust.
In its mad destruction, it cornered them.
From afar, the Oni was scary. Close, it was terrifying.
Seeing that demonic face so close was enough for Ei to forget everything she had learned with Tadayoshi. As the tears fell silently, her entire body trembled. All she could do was watch the enraged beast get closer to where she and the priest were.
The wooden statue didn’t live up to the real one. Even if not covered by blood, the demon was enough to paralyze the girl.
Ei could barely look at it, let alone fight such beast. She had no idea how her master could.
When the Oni was too close, Ei’s arm trembled so much she dropped the stones, making too much noise.
But instead of dashing to her, the monster stopped and looked to the other side. A moment later, it ran.
Ei had no idea why the beast left, but her heart froze. They were safe, but something made her feel even more afraid.
From the other side of the clearing, she heard the beast tearing trees, the sound of it jumping and falling on the ground.
Then nothing else. No sound at all.
The entire forest became dead silent.
Ei’s mind became blank. She took a deep breath to scream for her master but a hand covered her mouth. She struggled for a moment and turned around, ready to draw her sword. Only when the swordswoman recognized her teacher’s face she let go of the handle. The girl had forgotten Ryuu-sensei was by her side the entire time.
In her head, she could only think of her master.
The sight of the priest calm angered her, but then she noticed the dread in his face. He trembled just as much as the girl, despite trying to hide behind a mask of courage.
Ryuu-sensei brought a finger to his mouth, his watery eyes begging for silence. The Oni might still be alive, he meant to say to her, or at least that’s what she understood. With difficulty, she nodded.
They managed to throw the rest of the rocks around the clearing, but nothing happened. No reaction from the beast nor from anything else.
Despite the fear in his face, Ryuu-sensei stepped out of the bush they hid. He could barely walk, his legs just as paralyzed as hers as he followed the beast’s trail.
Seeing her teacher with more courage than he had made Ei force herself to move too.
Each step came with its toll. Her feet refused to obey, her instincts screaming for her to go in the other direction. Even so, the girl forced herself to follow the priest. In her head, there was no room to run. There was nowhere to run. Her world was at the end of the trail created by the demon.
Gathering more courage than she had ever needed, Ei peeked at the trail with the priest by her side. All she saw was destroyed trees, smashed trunks, uprooted roots and the footprints of the beast.
And at the end of the path, she could see the back of the monster.
But not her master.
Ei ran, but her stiffed legs tripped on itself and she fell, hitting her knees hard on the ground. The wound bled and throbbed, but she ignored, dragging herself toward the beast until she could stand up.
Ei forgot everything and finally found her voice again, screaming for the man who had changed her life. But her voice echoed through the clearing and then died, followed by nothing.
The disciple reached the beast and looked for her master. There was no sign of Tadayoshi.
Ryuu-sensei caught up to her, panting. Despite his rapid breathing, he made no sound. Ei didn’t know if he was being cautious or still couldn’t speak.
With the finger trembling, the priest touched something on the ground.
It was thin, almost invisible in the dark, but there were two trails of blood. When Ryuu-sensei raised the fingers, the liquid dripped slowly. That one was the Oni’s blood.
Ei could tell the other belong to a human. She had seen it too many times not to recognize it.
Without waiting any longer Ei circled the monster, looking for any clue, any trail of human blood. But she found nothing. Any trail ended on the beast.
She came back and checked the massive dead body. Only now the swordswoman noticed the piece of metal coming out the back of its head. As the girl looked closer, she recognized it; it was the rest of a sword.
With her blood freezing, Ei looked through the gap of the space between the beast and the fallen trees. Even in the darkness, she could see someone, she could hear a weak breathing. Master! Without thinking, she tried to push the trunk.
Ei vaguely noticed someone by her side but didn’t care.
Even with Ryuu-sensei’s help, the tree didn’t move more than a few inches. It was nowhere near enough to create a space wide enough for them to take Tadayoshi out. Even though the tree fell, the roots were still in its place.
Ei gave up pushing and took an ax from her bag still on the priest’s shoulder. With uneven and hurried chops, she managed to cut most roots and they pulled the tree enough to free Tadayoshi.
The disciple didn’t scream at the sight of her master. All she did was stare in disbelief at the state of the swordsman.
The swordsman’s face was covered with blood, both his and the beast’s. A wood spike was stabbing him on the shoulder and broken pieces of his sword were piercing on the side of his torso. Several wounds throughout his body.
Tadayoshi remained still. Ei too.
The priest’s hand trembled so much when he placed it on the swordsman’s chest Ei doubted he could sense anything. She waited, forgetting to breathe. When Ryuu-sensei breathed out in relief, she almost cried with him.
But there was no time for that.
The priest took from his own bag cloths, two bowls, a small piece of wood, two bottles with water and several plants wrapped in a cloth.
Despite the trembling, Ryuu-sensei unwrapped the cloth and chose a few herbs, putting it on one of the bowls. With the piece of wood, he crushed it with an amazing speed. Soon there was a greenish paste. He rested the bowl, but his hands barely stopped as he dumped the water on the other bowl and dipped one of the cloth.
Only then he stopped. Ryuu-sensei closed his eyes and took deep breaths until he was still. When he opened his eyes again, he seemed like a different person.
Ei had seen it before. Despite only seeing it once, the sight of her teacher working to save a life had left a mark on her.
I need to help… I need to do something… I need to save master… Ei told herself, but she still couldn’t move. She turned to Tadayoshi with tears coming down her face.
Then she saw it.
It was barely noticeable, but there was a fog coming out from his mouth and his chest moving up and down a little.
When she saw his expression, her heart became lighter. His face wasn’t empty like the dead bodies she had seen so many times. It was hard and pained, but it was the expression of someone fighting for his life.
He’s still alive!
With his hands steady, the priest took the pieces of metal from Tadayoshi. Even though most of the blood had dried, some dripped from the wound. He cleaned with the wet cloth but his hands never rested. He took a leaf and dipped on the greenish paste. When he rubbed the leave on the wound, Tadayoshi reacted for the first time, his face wincing a bit.
Ryuu-sensei didn’t order Ei to do anything while he cleaned and placed the paste on Tadayoshi’s wounds. It wasn’t because he thought she wasn’t of any help. Nor that she would get in the way. It wasn’t even that he had forgotten about her.
He was too concentrated on saving his friend. Whenever he became like that, he forgot about the world around him, even if he was in the middle of a fight.
When Ryuu-sensei cleaned the blood around stake on the shoulder, the swordsman grunted lowly. Her master’s low voice was enough to wake her. If Tadayoshi died here, Ei would spend the rest of her life blaming herself for not doing anything.
From her own bag, Ei took the plants, bowls, and cloth and imitated her teacher. She cleaned and placed a leaf with the past on every wound she could, no matter how small it was. The water became red, so she turned the bowl, poured the second bottle and cleaned more wounds.
Together, they had cleaned the wounds and scratches. Then they tied Tadayoshi’s left arm with two pieces of wood. But even so, her master showed almost no reaction.
The wound on Tadayoshi’s shoulder was the worst. Though the stake wasn’t that deep, it would harm the movement from that arm. For someone who lived by the sword, that could be fatal.
If his luck is just as bad as he likes to complain, he might never swing a sword with that arm again, Ei thought, holding back her tears. But she knew her master would overcome that. Yes… he’ll overcome that with that stupid grin on his face… I’m sure…
But he would have to overcome that without half his sight. Ei knew the moment Ryuu-sensei opened Tadayoshi’s eyelid. As he washed the blood with some water, she realized her master had lost that eyesight when it didn’t react to the light.
Ei believed he would overcome that too. But deep in her heart, there was only fear.
Tadayoshi hadn’t shown any reaction when the priest opened the eyelid. Though it was expected that he wouldn’t regain consciousness this fast, the complete lack of reaction was worrying.
“Eiko-chan…” Ryuu-sensei spoke for the first time with a low voice when his hands finally rested.
Don’t have to say… please, don’t say it, Ei begged in her heart, on the verge of tears. She already knew; her master was at death’s door.
“We… need to move him to a safer and warmer place… right away,” the priest said instead when he noticed.
They tossed everything back in their bags without organizing. Before they could figure out how and where to carry her master, a human scream broke the silence of the forest.
The swordswoman and the priest turned at once to the voice.
At the beginning of the beast-made path, standing on the clearing where the fight had occurred, and looking in their direction, were the villagers. Even from that distance, the girl realized they were terrified.
“What… have… you… done,” the leader of the village said, her voice weaker than before. “You… killed… our…” She fell on her knees, the tears falling from her good eye.
Ei watched the expression of the men and women by her side. Some did like the leader, crying for the dead demon. Rage filled some faces, their eyes focusing on the humans near the massive cadaver. Some seemed relieved.
The swordswoman didn’t care at all with what the villagers felt. There was only one thing in her head as she looked between her master, and teacher, and the villagers. I have to protect them!
Her hand went to her waist, looking for the handle of her sword. But when she found nothing, a cold sweat came down her neck. With her breathing irregular, she glanced down to confirm; her weapon wasn’t there.
Ei felt her body growing numb when she found Asahi. Her sword, her only way to protect the people she cared about, was in the middle of the beast-made path, closer to them than to her.
The men and women didn’t move. All they did was cry and glare at them. No one had noticed the sword on the ground.
Ei couldn’t let go the chance. She clenched her fist and ran as fast as she could. Some villagers took a step back, startled by the sudden movement. The girl almost smiled.
But it only lasted an instant. One man noticed what she wanted and ran after the sword as well.
Ei was faster, but the villager was closer. Even with the little advantage, they would reach the weapon almost at the same time. No, he’ll grab Asahi faster… Shit! If my legs didn’t tremble so much, she regretted, but she dismissed the thought. There was no time for that.
Desperate, the girl, still running, grabbed two pieces of wood. A few splinters pricked her hands, but she ignored the pain. When they were almost at the sword, Ei threw the wood.
The man raised his arms and blocked it with ease, just as she expected.
In that brief moment, she threw the second piece of wood right between the man’s legs. This time he couldn’t defend. Though it was weak and wouldn’t hurt much, it was enough to slow him down, enough for her to throw herself at the sword.
Her hands flew towards Asahi. When her fingers closed around the handle, Ei used the impulse to roll forward. As the man got out of the way, she hugged her sword as if her life and of those precious to her depended on it.
When she stopped rolling, Ei stood up right away and jumped towards the man. Before he could react, she stuck him on the stomach with the sword still on its scabbard. He fell to his knees and the swordswoman hit him on the head.
He dropped to the ground unconscious, but the girl had no time to spare.
Ei drew the sword and threw the scabbard away, turning to the clearing where the villagers were.
But at the end of the path, there was only the old leader and two bodyguards.
With her heart sinking, Ei turned around.
The villagers were trying to get to Tadayoshi and Ryuu-sensei.
Ei ran towards her master and teacher, swinging her sword. The villagers were almost on them, but they jumped back, retreating into the shadows.
“Get down,” she shouted to the priest, who obeyed right away, crouching next to Tadayoshi.
The swordswoman didn’t need to enhance her senses to know; they were surrounded. Shit! In this tight space, I can’t use my sword right! Shit! C’mon, Ei, think! How would master protect everyone?
All this time under her master’s teaching, she had learned to solve things only through the sword. Tadayoshi even tried to talk his way out of the situations, but she had never seen it work. Things ended up in a fight because the enemy didn’t want to listen, or because the money and the glory on his head were too tempting, or because the hatred towards him was too strong.
But right now, it wasn’t time to fight. If it was only her, Ei had confidence she could kill all the villagers. But she had no confidence she could fight while protecting her master, and her teacher.
One mistake and they could die… die because of me, the girl thought, the sweat drenching her clothes, her breathing rapid and shallow.
When she realized her hands trembled, she tightened the grip around the handle. Taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly, Ei knew what she could do.
As the swordswoman made sure the villagers didn’t get close enough, she relived the little time they spent on the village, trying to remember every detailed. At the same time, she moved closer to Tadayoshi and Ryuu-sensei
The desperate man. The frightened children. The bloodthirsty villagers. The old leader full of hatred. The hostility against outsiders. The lies about the soldiers. Their words. The forest that seemed to make the outsiders lost. The demons statues. Everything.
As Ei think, a hand flew from the darkness of the forest, trying to catch her off guard.
She swung her sword to keep the villager away from her, her master, and her teacher.
There’s something wrong, she realized as she tried to keep the innumerous hands away.
The villagers had the numbers. And that wasn’t their only advantage. They knew the area. Trick or get her from a blind spot should be simple. They didn’t need to rush in like this. Even if driven by rage for the death of their demon.
There’s discord among them, she realized. Taking a deep breath, Ei betted hers, Tadayoshi’s and Ryuu-sensei’ lives.
“This demon would’ve destroyed everything… you know that,” she whispered to the darkness, her words echoing and dying in the trees.
But what followed wasn’t just the silence of the villagers ignoring her words. It was a silence she knew well. It was a heavy one, full of doubt, fear, and anxiety.
Fewer hands flew out of the darkness this time.
They’re hesitating, Ei thought, driving the hands away with her sword.
A hand tried to grab her from behind, but she turned around, brandishing her weapon.
Then she realized something; the hand wasn’t firm. It was trembling. When Ei changed the direction of her blade, she avoided the arm by a hair’s breadth.
The villager was unharmed.
Thanks the heavens, Ei thought. If her frail plan was to work, she couldn’t hurt them. Not now. Not yet.
“How many of you died because of that demon? How many more would have died?” she screamed at the darkness, turning around in her place, her sword always ready.
There was no answer, only silence. Even Ei held her breath, afraid to break the frail balance.
“You… you don’t know anything about Yashamaru-sama!” a voice shouted.
“You’re right. I know nothing. But I saw the fear in your kids’ eyes,” Ei said as a hand tried to grab her. She missed her sword on purpose, but it was enough to make the owner retreat. “How many kids, how many sons and daughters, friends and family would be sacrificed to the monster? Who would be next? That girl with pretty hair? That boy with the mark on the cheek?”
She described the only children she could remember. But Ei knew it wasn’t enough. Think! Think!
“Or would that baby on her mother’s arms be offered next? If not for those soldiers, who would be the next sacrifice? Who would you burry next?” she shouted. Then she grew silent as she let her words sink.
After a long time, someone spoke.
As Ei turned in the direction of the voice, someone stepped out of the shadows.
The villager fell on his knees, holding his head as he cried. The swordswoman recognized him. It was the man who led them to the village. Ei lowered her sword, making sure the tip was far from him. But she kept her grip on the handle.
“My son… my son…”
“You killed our protector and now try to divide us…” A sharp voice drowned out the man’s cry. It was the village’s leader.
The old woman walked to them without the help of her bodyguards, using only the cane as support.
Shit… she had to come now, Ei thought, tightening the grip on her sword.
“We’ll never listen to an outsider’s words. You try to divide us while Yashamaru-sama protected us. You’re the real demon.”
Ei had trouble containing her urge to swing the weapon and shut the old woman forever. That’ll only turn the villagers against me for good. Against her instinct, she changed the direction of her blade a bit. She can’t be in the same direction as my sword.
“No… you’re the demon…” A woman stepped out of the shadows. She too was crying. “My daughter was sacrificed because you said it would bring peace to our village…”
“But it wasn’t enough… Yashamaru-sama wasn’t satisfied… he never is… then you said we had to sacrifice my son…” another villager came out from the shadows.
“You’re listening to this outsider?” one of the leader’s bodyguard spoke, standing in front of her like a shield. “Don’t you dare doubt Otose-sama’ word! It’s thanks to her we’re still alive!”
“Alive because we sacrificed our children!”
It’s working! Ei’s breathing became shallow as she waited. She tried to make her presence smaller. Even so, her sword was ready.
“It’s… your… fault…”
A man jumped right next to Ei with a knife.
His hands trembled so much the swordswoman wondered how she could have missed the sound of the metal clanking.
The man never looked at Ei, his hollow eyes fixed on the leader. He raced towards her with his arms stretched. One of the bodyguards tried to grab the knife. They both fell and rolled, but then the bodyguard lied on the ground, the knife buried in his chest. Both men stood still, observing the knife, neither one letting go of the blade.
“No!” the other bodyguard ran to them, pushing the villager and pulling the knife out. He pressed the wound with both hands.
It’s useless, Ei thought when she saw the man’s eye lose its light. A moment later, he was dead.
The bodyguard grabbed the knife, turning to the villager with hatred on his face. The woman who cried raced and stood between them. Before the bodyguard could stop, the knife went into her neck.
“No… no…” the old woman’s voice echoed weakly as she looked at the scene.
No one heard her. No one besides Ei.
The other villagers left the shadows. Some charged towards the bodyguard while others knelt beside the dead, crying. Only one ran towards the leader. He too held a knife.
Ei stood near her master, and her teacher, watching the mayhem that followed in silence, ready to kill if anyone came towards them. But no one attacked them.
“No… No…” the leader spoke again, kneeling next to a dying villager, the tears rolling down her wrinkled face. She grabbed his hand with all her strength. “Don’t die… don’t die…”
But there was nothing the leader could do as the life left the man and his hand slipped out of hers. With her face pale and her good eye hollow, she turned towards the girl who had caused all those death.
Ei never felt so much hate in one single word.
Thanks for reading.
Hope you enjoyed the chapter