Boiling point

The stars lit the sky into a mournful painting, full of deep blues and purples. The moon sang a dirge of times past.

A dying fire sat between me and the red armored samurai, he prodded it with a stick to keep the embers glowing.

His face was square and his hair shorn just longer than shaved. He looked young, early to mid-twenties, I supposed. Too young to wear the imperial armor that was on his shoulders.

I guess that was what you received with an ember like his. Although he’s done no work, he still rises in the ranks. He spoke with words he had been crafting in his head for some time. “Look, sir Kowareta Kenshi, I believe you. I’m sorry for what happened, but you were with that child before he turned, you see what that looks like.”

I responded quickly, with anger, or possibly mourning. “How could I turn someone into a yokai? You know that’s impossible!”

He barked back. He seemed angry at my response. “I already said I’m on your side! But I have a responsibility to the Shogun.” A responsibility to the Shogun. There was not enough time in the world to explain to this man who the Shogun was, and why he was the last person you’d want to give your allegiance to.

Seeing the Shogun would be the death of me. If I wanted to survive, then I had to get my pieces in place. Make friends. Talk. “Forgive me. We’ve spent weeks traveling together and yet I must act like this.” I looked into the glowing ash for a moment in thought. Then back to the samurai. “You already know my name, but I’m afraid I don’t know yours. What are you called?”

He thought for a moment, pondering whether or not to tell me. “Hayato. Hayato Adachi.”

“The samurai Hayato… You seem like a good person Hayato. It’s a shame we had to meet under these circumstances.”

He nodded. “Likewise.” Finally, he extinguished the dying fire. “Try to sleep. We’ll be meeting the Shogun tomorrow.”

Sleep. Sleep was a commodity for me recently. Maybe it was being constantly chained, or the eternal night. Possibly both.

The samurai Hayato tied the last bag of supplies to his horse. Then it was my turn to be moved. He looked at me a moment before he unlocked the chains. Not yet.

Unchaining me from the small tree I had been attached to all night, he moved the chains to themselves, keeping my arms behind my back.

Back on the saddle again.

Flying down the hilly countryside was especially concerning when your hands are bound, but we haven’t even gotten to the fun part yet.

The scenery went from hills to rockier terrain. Before we knew it, we were carefully trying to scale the rocky base of a hill. Less of a tumble and more of a drop.

It was a shame, really. Hayato seemed like a good person. I found myself sincerely wishing we had met under different circumstances. Oh well. No way to save my skin and help him at the same time.

I looked down the steep and rocky hill. Hayato noticed my heavy breathing. “Kenshi? Are you alright?”

To hell with it.

My leg swung over the horse and I felt myself flying through the air. With arms behind me, I had no way to brace for the oncoming impact.

The earth shattered into my sternum, and I bounced into the air again.

Not done yet.

Again I collided with the rocky hillside, and again I felt the pain in my side. Time for the landing.

I fell onto my leg, which gave an audible crunch. shit.

My arms wiggled bellow my legs, and eventually I had them in front of me. I mumbled to myself through the pain. “Sorry, samurai Hayato.”

I was left with a sorry crawl through the forest floor. Hopefully I wasn’t leaving a noticeable trail of blood.

Hayato was already following suit, awkwardly sliding down the steep hillside. Great.

My pace quickened as much as my body would allow, but not fast enough. The samurai clanked over me.

A gloved hand grasped my foot, to which I kicked in the hopes of escape. But with each attack my injured leg only grew worse. With enough useless effort, I had given up. I lay limp and defeated on the ground.

Hayato let go of me, knowing I couldn’t go far. Through the pacing, he spoke. “Kenshi!” He sighed. “Why… Why must you do this? We were going so well.” I felt sorry. But not enough to say it.

I pleaded my case . “Hay-… Hayato… You know that I had no choice. If I see the Shogun. He’ll kill me.”

He put a hand on his forehead. “I know. But I have a duty. I’m honor bound.” I understood him. There was a time when I had honor to keep.

An urge to fight came over me, one last attempt to survive. I fought the urge. We both knew it was over. “Fine. Let’s meet the fat sack of lard.” No response. “Hayato?”

I strained to look over at Hayato. His eyes were hard to see in the dark, especially when hidden under his helmet. But I could see them well enough to know they were trained ahead.

Again I strained to see what Hayato was looking at. Oh.

An ashen black yokai stood in a nearby stream of water. Hayato slowly spoke. “Get up slowly.”

“I can’t. My leg-”

Hayato looked down at me and spoke hurriedly. “I’ll carry you if I must! Get up!” The yokai’s attention slowly drifted to our direction. It’s strange beak open and closed constantly, sticky with the dried blood of others.

I struggled to get myself halfway up. Hayato threw my arm over his shoulder to help me the rest of the way.

Hayato looked back. And from his expression, we weren’t in a good situation. We sped up as fast as we could manage.

The yokai made an ungodly screech, then started slowly making its way out of the water.

I yelled. “Faster!” Which caused Hayato to look back, only slowing us.

We had enough of a lead to get back to the rocky hillside. Hayato held his hands together, letting me use it as leverage.

Quickly I climbed onto the plateau. And after enough struggle, I managed to pull Hayato up with me.

The creature was fast and arrived almost before the samurai Hayato got his footing.

Hayato unsheathed his sword and started stabbing at the yokai, to no avail. Every attack just bounced off its beak. Slowly it started climbing up to us.

We were lucky this one was smaller than average. In any other situation, we would have already been dead. Not that it made much difference.

Alright. Alright. Survive. Use your head.

I fumbled around the flat shelf of rock while Hayato kept the thing busy. There had to be something. Oh. That’ll do.

With a great amount of struggle, I managed to lift a loose rock from the hillside. Slowly I shuffled to the edge of the platform. Hayato saw what I was doing and halted his attacks.

My hands ungrasped the rock, and it hit the yokai’s cranium. For a brief second, its head was back, exposing its fleshy neck.

Hayato quickly seized the opportunity and stabbed through its windpipe. After a small gurgle, the beast let go of the rock and fell limply to the ground. After that, it turned to ash.

Hayato sat down. “That was excellent work.” I nodded in response. “Let’s make our way back up. I think I have something for that leg.”

Hours passed. Soon enough we were back on the road. Hayato didn’t bother to shackle me. We both knew I wasn’t going anywhere.

Kamakura, Nihon’s capital. The city was easily in sight through the dark. The large stone walls illuminated with firelight.

It was a nice city, somewhat posh. There were worse places to be sentenced to death. I had made an effort to stay away from these cities for years. Honestly, I had no idea if my memory was giving me an accurate representation of the city or not.

But I guess I would find out soon enough.

The gates slowly opened at the sight of us.

We galloped through the lantern-lit city. People sneered and whispered at the sight of me like I was on display. And if I were being honest with myself, at some point I would have done the same.

The second round of gates opened, separating the military housing from the common. In the center, was the Shogun’s chambers.

There weren’t as many odd looks now. People in this district had no time to leisure. Well, except for one.

We got off the horse and entered the Shogun’s expansive marble halls. Spoiled food and scantily clad women lay idly about, waiting until they are wanted again.

Soon we reached the final room, wherein the center sat the Shogun. Hayato kneeled at the sight of him, I refused.

The Shogun looked down at me, waiting for me to kneel. I spoke with a smile before he could speak. “Sorry, my leg won’t allow me…” I softly pat my broken leg. The entire fall almost felt worth it just for that.

Hayato spoke as he rose. “Shogun, allow me to present myself. I am Hayato Adachi, with my prisoner Kowereta Kenshi.”

The Shogun’s brows raised. “Kowereta Kenshi? I almost didn’t recognize you. Age has been cruel to you.” He snickered at the thought. I’m barely middle-aged, fat man. Well… Not barely.

All the same, I kept myself from speaking.

Hayato continued. “While I was at my post, a child turned into a yokai. This man was seen with the child before he turned.” He paused for a moment. Then spoke out of turn. “But, Shogun, I just brought him here as a precaution. I don’t believe he-”

The Shogun spoke over him. “Silence.” He leaned down, then waved at us. “Kenshi. Come closer.” I reluctantly took a few steps forward, along with the samurai Hayato. “I’ve gotten numerous cases of this happening, actually. Dozens of people just like you make their way in here every day. And I’ve let them all go.” He smiled. “But you know that isn’t the case for you, is it?”

Hayato looked shocked at the Shogun’s words. “I-”

Again the Shogun spoke over him. “I think I’ll put you in Camp fuman o matsu to rot for a while. Then you can have a meeting with the Emperor and I.”

I didn’t know if the Emperor was supposed to faze me. I responded as calmly as I could muster. “Why wait? The Emperor only does as you say. Sentence me without your puppet.”

Hayato looked uncomfortable. We were speaking beyond his knowledge. The Shogun replied. “True. But the waiting is the fun part.” He smiled as I grimaced. Hayato looked as if his beliefs had been crushed.

I was to be taken to the most secure holding facility in our nation, amongst the most hated and sinful criminals. A death sentence most likely waited for my return. An experience said to be only second to hell.

My rules had been broken, now I paid the price.

4 thoughts on “Boiling point

  1. Hidden truths, but at least the Shogun isn’t denying the existence of this phenomenon.

    I’d like to see more of people’s embers, but I imagine there’s some build up that has to be done first for sure.

    Off to prison camp it is!

    Like

  2. I’m curious to know just what history our hero has with the Shogun, and why he has such a distaste for the man. Here’s hoping the prisons aren’t too mean to him. My bet’s on him not dying, but we’ll see just how bad things get.

    Liked by 1 person

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