Second chapter of part 5, the last one of Samurai NOT
Hope you enjoy
Samurai NOT 46
“Wait, Eiko. We can’t go! Not now!” Ryuu begged, standing before the swordswoman. He was desperate to stop her and made no effort to hide.
“Why not? It is the demon we’re looking. We need to kill it before we lose track of it.” She walked by the priest.
Ryuu raced to walk by her side, struggling to keep up with her quick pace. “You can’t be sure it’s the same demon. Those rumors are–”
“What we’ve been looking,” she said without looking at him. “Think about it. It all makes sense.”
“I am thinking about it. And it seems I’m the only one! You just want to believe. Those people at the lodging said there was something strange at the cave near the beach! You can’t just assume–”
“I’m not just assuming. You heard them. When the soldiers went to investigate, only one came back. And he was different. Like he was a completely different person,” Ei finished the sentence, repeating the exact words they had heard.
“It doesn’t mean it’s the demon we’re looking for. It could be something else!”
“If so, we need to go there to find out.”
“Yes, but we need to be prepared first!” Ryuu finally shouted. He raced to stand before her again, looking her in the eyes. “What if whatever it’s there is too powerful? Do you want to die like Tadayoshi?”
The mention of her deceased master finally made the woman stop. She closed her eyes and slid her hand to the third handle on her waist.
“Even if it’s too powerful, we’ll have to face it anyway. We can’t let such thing loose. But…” She closed her hand around the third handle, the handle of the weapon that once belonged to her master. “I feel it in my gut it’s the demon we’re looking for. According to the rumors, it all started when an old man showed up out of nowhere and expelled the animals from a cave, making them go wild in the nearby area. The soldiers went to investigate and then the younger one was the only one came back. However, he was completely different, went back to the cave and has been living there ever since. No matter how many times his friends call him, they say the same; it’s like he was possessed by something.”
Ryuu bit his lips. “I-it doesn’t mean it’ the same demon… It could be something else…”
Eiko took a deep breath and close her eyes. “Yes, you’re right. But either way, we need to kill it. Isn’t that what we do?”
“But we’re not reckless… We need to watch… whatever it is first before we act. And if it’s too powerful, we’ll call for reinforcements. Taichi is nearby, if I recall.”
At the mention of the Head priest’s name, the swordswoman clicked her tongue. “There’s no reason to call him.”
“You say that but you haven’t defeated him once.”
“Stop trying to annoy me, Ryuu. I already hear enough from him,” she complained. After a sigh, she finally let go of the handle of her sword. “I promise I won’t rush, so let’s get going.”
It didn’t take them long to reach the beach. Ryuu was exhausted; Eiko’s pace was too much for him. Even so, he refused to ask for a break.
There was no one besides them. There wasn’t even a single animal nearby. The swordswoman and the priest knew the reason at once. It wasn’t just the rumors about the soldier in the cave; there was an ominous aura everywhere that made them both shudder.
Ignoring the feeling, Eiko took deep breaths to calm herself and enhance her senses. Then she could feel it. Even though the aura was everywhere around them, there was one point where it was stronger.
“It’s coming from there…” She pointed to the top of a cliff. “That’s where the cave is there…”
“Eiko…” Ryuu looked at her with worry, ready to stop her if needed.
“I’m not gonna do anything reckless… Just like I promise…” Despite her words, the swordswoman never took her eyes off the cliff.
“L-let’s go around the cliff and climb from the other side. That way we’ll have a clear view of the cave and see… whatever is in there…”
Eiko nodded. Before he said anything else, she was already moving, still watching the cliff as if expecting to see something at any moment.
Despite the short distance, it was night by the time they reached the other side of the cliff. Thanks to the cloudless sky and the full moon, they had a perfect view of the cave and the open area before it.
As they put their bags on the ground, a sea breeze blew them.
“The sea air is strong and warm… We won’t need a fire tonight,” Ryuu said in a forced chirpy voice. “That’s good. This way we’ll be harder to spot.”
“Yeah, great…” Despite answering the priest, the swordswoman’s voice was distracted. She only paid attention to the cave. There was no room in her mind for anything else, not even her teacher.
As the night passed, nothing happened. There was no living soul except them. Ryuu and Eiko said nothing to each other. If not for the wind and the waves crashing against the cliff’s wall, it would be a complete silence.
Then, in the middle of dawn, someone appeared.
Almost like the night itself, his presence was all around them. However, under the moonlight, it was easy to see a young man dressed in worn clothes. He had a few pieces of armor here and there, but they were all with some level of rust due to the sea air. However, the scabbard on his waist seemed brand new.
Both Eiko and Ryuu kept quiet, hidden in the shadows of a tree. They barely seemed to breathe, their presences hidden. Even so, the soldier stopped before he entered the cave and looked straight at them.
“He knows we’re here,” Ei said in a whisper, clutching the first handle on the waist. “He can sense us…”
“It’s impossible… We’re erasing our presence… and there’s no fire to give away our position…”
Despite his words, the priest had no confidence in them. Because neither of them could deny the soldier was glaring in their direction.
Without making any sound, Eiko stood up. Ryuu tried to grab her by the wrist.
“You can go! That’s not the plan!” Despite his despair, he kept his voice low.
“He can see us,” the swordswoman repeated, not taking her eyes off the soldier. “There’s no more plan. It’s ruined before it even started. There are only two options. Fight or run.”
What she wanted was clear; there was nothing the priest could say to change her mind and he let go of her.
However, before she had taken two steps, she said, “While I’m fighting him, you must figure out what his nature is. As soon as you understand, prepare the spell. And don’t be afraid to hit me. If it is that demon, we must stop at all cost.”
Ryuu gulped, his dry throat in pain. With his neck stiff, he managed to nod once; he had no voice to say anything.
Ei climbed down the area they were and walked towards the soldier.
“How did you know we were watching you?” she asked when she was close enough.
The soldier snorted. “Child, you’re a thousand years too early if you think you can hide your presence from me. Besides, it wasn’t you who I felt…” His eyes darted to the third handle on her waist, “I could feel that sword… His spirit reacted… wanting to hold it once again… wanting to fight once again even though he’s dead…”
Ei narrowed her eyes. He’s talking about Tadayoshi’s sword… that once belonged to Yasuhiro-sama…
“So you are the demon who possessed Yasuhiro-sama a few years ago,” she said in a low voice To her own surprise, there was no anger in her. There was no thirst for revenge.
The soldier narrowed his eyes. “Child. I may be forgivable but do not insult me like that. I’m not a lowly mindless demon. I’m an existence who surpassed the wall of death and lived for centuries.”
“By possessing others? I wouldn’t call that living.”
His attitude changed a little. “I see you know something about me… Who are you?”
He snorted again. “I see the samurai have fallen low. How can you name yourself like this? When I was human, such attitude would end in seppuku.”
Eiko snorted. “Lucky I’m not a samurai.”
“What you are matter little, but I still have my manners. The name which I attend is Fumetsu, The Immortal One.”
“That’s an impressive name…”
“What a little girl who doesn’t even have a last name thinks of my name doesn’t matter. What do you want from me?” he asked. Then he raised an eyebrow. “It can’t be to bring Yasuhiro’s spirit back, can it? You wouldn’t be the first fool to think they could bring back a dead man.”
“I’m not here for that,” Eiko said in a calm voice. Then she took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a moment. She took in the sea breeze and concentrated. “I’m here to take revenge on Yasuhiro-sama’s disciple behalf!”
The instant Eiko shouted, she ran towards her enemy, drawing the first sword on her waist when Fumetsu was within her blade range.
The soldier drew his sword in an instant, blocking the attack with ease. He held her as if it was nothing, staring at her.
“His disciple?” he asked with a puzzled expression, his eyes vague for a moment. The next moment, his face twisted with rage. “You’re talking about that brat who kill Yasuhiro? He survived? You’re his disciple?”
“Yes! And his name wasn’t brat! It was Tadayoshi!”
Fumetsu raised the leg to kick Eiko on the ribs.
Though she saw it and jumped to the side to soften the impact, it still hurts. If he was wearing metal boots, it’d have a few broken bones…
She raised her defense right away, but he didn’t come after her.
“That changes everything! You’re not just a child! You’re the disciple of that brat who ruined my plans! Yasuhiro was a perfect vessel for me. Despite the age, his body was still strong and he had a lot of influence! And better yet, he wasn’t strong enough to take his own life, not with me inside him. But then he asked his disciple to kill him… To do what that coward couldn’t do… Because of that brat, I lost a perfect vessel I worked decades to get it!
He grabbed his sword with both hands and leapt in Eiko’s direction, his face twisting with hatred. “If you’re his disciple, then you’ll pay for your master’s sin!”
Fumetsu brought the blade at her. Eiko raised her sword to block. At the same time, she moved her body diagonally.
As the swords collided and sparks flew, the swordswoman was safe. However, she felt Fumetsu’s whole strength. He’s indeed a monster!
Even so, she held it. The instant her weapon as free, she swung it at the soldier’s back, aiming at a vital point.
However, instead of hitting flesh, she hit metal, the sound echoing louder than the waves.
The spirit had blocked her sword with his own, almost as if he knew what she was planning.
“Do you really think that move would work? Who do you think taught that to your master? It was Yasuhiro!” he shouted and kicked her in the stomach. “Everything that brat knows was taught by Yasuhiro, and I know everything useful he knew!”
Eiko flew and lost all the air in her lungs. Her eyes saw double and everything around her spun. As she tried to breathe despite the pain, she knew what she had to do; ready herself for the impact. The instant she hit the ground, she rolled, saving herself. When she stopped, she raised her sword to block Fumetsu’s blade.
“I have the experience of hundreds of warriors and samurai. I saw all the fights Yasuhiro ever had in his life! Do you really think a child from out of nowhere like you can defeat me?” He applied more strength. One of Eiko’s knee caved, hitting the ground hard. “The only reason that brat defeated Yasuhiro was because I was weakened due to that priest’s damn spell! If not, I’d never have lost the perfect vessel!”
“It’s true… you’re strong… Much stronger than me…” Just the effort of stopping his blade from killing her was enough to drain Eiko’s strength. Even so, she never took her eyes off her enemy. “But no matter what you say, you’re not Yasuhiro-sama! And you don’t know everything Tadayoshi taught me!”
She shifted her body and raised the left hand. As her weapon went up, the soldier’s sword slid on her. Before it hit the ground, she drew the wooden sword and struck him on the ribs with all the strength she had at the moment.
Without wasting an instant, she pulled the wooden sword to hit him on the back of the knee. However, before she could do that, Fumetsu let one hand go of his weapon and grabbed the bokken, breaking in two with his bare fingers.
However, it was enough for Eiko to get some distance from him. As she stood up panting and sweating, the soldier possessed by the spirit massaged his ribs as they faced each other in silence. Even the ocean seemed dead to them now.
“I can see a lot of that brat in you… A wild, animal-like brat that had a mysterious strength… Where is he, anyway? I never imagined he’d sent his own disciple to take revenge in his place. Is he afraid to face me again? he that much of a coward?”
Eiko knew it was just empty words, that he was just trying to annoy her and induce her into a mistake. Despite knowing that, her blood boiled. It always did whenever someone badmouthed the man who changed her life.
“He was braver than a trash like you! He faced death like a man, unlike you, who survives like a parasite!” she shouted, charging at him.
Fumetsu’s face twisted with hatred. “I’m not a parasite! I was supposed to become God! But I was betrayed! Then when I became one, I was robbed of my body and reduced to possessing others because of those damn priests!”
When their blades met, the sound of metal on metal echoed throughout the area, ringing in their ears.
Eiko could feel the raw strength behind his blade. He’s possessing a young man, physically stronger than me… However, that didn’t matter to her. It never had been. Ever since she followed the Way of the Sword, she only had fought physically stronger enemies. What’s important isn’t strength, but how to use it!
However, this wasn’t like her other fights. Unlike thugs and bandits and demons, this parasite is skillful… Just like a parasite, he got a bit from everyone whose body he took over…
He is indeed powerful…
No matter what I try, no matter what I come up with, I won’t beat him, Eiko knew that the instant their blades crossed. As time pass, I’ll get close and closer to death…
She closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. When she opened them, she didn’t see someone stronger than her. There was only an enemy she had to beat in order to give her master’s soul a closure.
But even if I beg the Gods for that, there’s nothing I can do…
If I was alone, that is.
As the swordswoman tried to withstand Fumetsu’s blade, she saw Ryuu moving on the corner of her eyes. However, she wasn’t the only one who noticed him.
“A priest?” Fumetsu shouted. “I’m not gonna be sealed again! I’m supposed to be God, not a lowly demon!”
He kicked Eiko on the stomach again, so hard she almost fainted. As he turned to the priest, however, she stabbed him right on the back of the knee.
“Do it, Ryuu!” she shouted above her enemy’s scream of pain.
The priest didn’t want to do it; his face showed it. Even so, he threw a knife with a talisman attached to it.
At the same time, Eiko pulled a similar knife from the inside of her clothes and stabbed the ground.
A yellow circle full of symbols appeared beneath their feet, trapping her and Fumetsu inside.
As the possessed soldier turned to her, his face became livid. “You bastard!”
Before he could swing his sword down on her neck, Ryuu’s knife hit the ground inside the circle. At once the magic of the talisman activated and electricity filled the contained space.
Fumetsu screamed with pain. Though Eiko felt the same pain, she still flashed a smile.
It’s much more powerful than I imagined… This parasite’s nature is different than what we thought… But this isn’t enough to take me down… And I know he’s the same!
Before the magic from the talisman ended, she swung her sword.
Though she wanted to kill Fumetsu, she missed and only took one of his arms. As the blade slipped from the numb fingers, the limb fell on the ground.
As the electricity ended, they were both hurt, but still alive.
He panted and smoke came out from him. Even so, he glared at her with pure hatred in his eyes. “Bastard… Just like your master…”
“Speaking of him…”
Eiko placed the right hand on the third handle on her waist, ready to draw the weapon.
Though Fumetsu was still alive, he had no more strength left. All he could do was raise the remaining arm to block the sword.
However, it wasn’t a sword. Despite the long scabbard, what was inside was a short blade smaller than a wakizashi.
Fumetsu’s face showed his surprise, but he wasn’t fast enough to react.
The short blade pierced his stomach and went through, reaching the other side.
“This sword…” He tried to speak despite coughing blood.
“Yes… It belonged to my master. Before that, it belonged to Yasuhiro-sama,” Eiko said in triumph. That alone was enough to drain her the remaining energies, but she didn’t care. “It broke as master fought an Oni… But I had the remains into this short sword.”
“A cunning bastard…” Fumetsu coughed more blood, but then he smiled. “But don’t think this is enough to end me… I’m someone who crossed the wall of death…”
As he spoke, his eyes shone green. As the light faded, his limbs began to become pale. From the fingers, up to the arm, the skin lost the color. As if the life itself was draining from him.
However, Eiko wasn’t surprised. She knew what that was. Fumetsu was trying to transfer his soul. And there was only one person who could receive; her.
As the spirit moved through the blade and into her, the swordswoman took a deep breath.
The poisonous soul entered her arm. She felt as if it was burning. Despite the blinding pain, she still recited the words Taichi had told her once.
They were the words to seal the spirit. The same words he had taught Tadayoshi but he couldn’t use it.
“Eiko!” Ryuu came running to them.
He noticed her arm becoming gray and quickly pulled blessed bandages he had prepared beforehand, wrapping around the elbow.
Eiko didn’t stop reciting the words. As she did, symbols and characters covered her arm, from the bandages to the tip of her fingers, sealing the spirit inside her right arm.
As Ryuu took care of her wounds, she raised the arm covered with words. She painted and barely could maintain her consciousness. Even so, she flashed a weak smile.
It’s over, master… I did it…
It was the last thing she thought before fainting.
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