L5R : Jade Winds
In the Wake of the Fugu Fiend
Written by chickenhat and ednoria to send to buckleyj while he was doing the 2011 MS Walk
Yonaka stares at the top of the Hida’s head and at the Shosuro kneeling before the Crab from the edge of the pit, faking a wounded leg as she fakes so many things. It would be so easy to shoot them down from here, traitors both of them. Dishonorable, though. But no, the time for subtlety is over, he will do this with honor.
“Hoh! Hida!” leaving no question as to the intended insult.
“Is it not enough that I saved you from that Mitanaka samurai, and that I found a Kaiu Blade that you’ve never used, and that I have escorted you through the Dragon Lands, but now YOU, you who are MARRIED and yet waste your time in BROTHELS dare to whisper to MY little Naoki, MY Neko-chan?”
(Somewhere a shamisen is plucked and plays a fast series of quarter tone notes as the Mirumoto draws both swords and leaps into the pit.)
“What’s the matter, Ojo-sama?” the Hida sneers. “Are you not man enough to keep your little pet from straying? Perhaps your blade is not all that is broken!” He swings the dai-tsuchi above his head in a wide arc, making it whistle. “Come dance with me, little brother. Let me show you how we do it on the Wall. As for this” — here he prods the Shosuru with his foot — “this geisha, she is nothing to me. You may have her if you like.” With a roar, he charges, leaving the Shosuro to be hastily pulled up by the others at the pit’s edge.
Yonaka dodges to one side, the wakizashi barely deflecting the Hida’s dai tsuchi and the shock of the blow to his leg sending a wave of pain up his thigh. The Dragon swings as the Crab rushes past and spins around, the Dragonfly katana barely scratching through the Crab armor, but still drawing a deep red welt where the blade made it through.
“Hah!” he shouts through his defense as he tosses his ruined leggings to one side and begins the motions to make his next attack with the Strike of Fire.
“Call yourself a Bushi? MUSHI is more like it!” the Dragon shouts as he rushes at the Crab.
(Taiko drums roll to a crescendo as the Dragon charges…)
Nakamuro waits, grinning savagely, as Yonaka closes with him. At the last minute, he sidesteps, swinging his hammer to deal the Dragon a terrible blow to his shoulder. But he never hits — the ground underneath him is treacherously muddy, and his right foot slips. He is barely able to stop the worst of Yonaka’s strike. The katana clashes with the hammer’s handle, sticking briefly. Yonaka yanks it free, and with his wakizashi he deftly slices the cords securing the armored plates on the Hida’s right side. These clatter against the dai tsuchi, briefly entangling the Hida’s right arm until with an oath he shakes them free, his right arm dripping blood.
“I will tear you in half!” the Hida snarls. “You cannot even write proper haiku!” With that, he lunges.
(… a crash of cymbals as the Crab strikes.)
The words strike at Yonaka’s heart, and the hammer strikes true as well, driving the wind out of Yonaka and cracking the lacquered bands of his chest plate in half as he struggles for air.
“Damn your fat hammer,
Crude chibi, sneaking Hida,
Damn your so-called Wall!”
he retorts as he casts aside the now useless armor, claw and tree tattoo blazing red from the impact of the blow.
Then with a piercing cry Yonaka crosses the pair of blades before he thrusts them down in an “X” shape into the mud, trapping the head of the dai tsuchi the way a playground bully traps the head of his victim between his knees.
(Drums fall silent as a shakuhachi plays a single shrill note.)
Stunned, Nakamuro releases his grip on his hammer, backing up a step as he stares slack-jawed at the Mirumoto. “You… you extemporized?” He shakes himself all over like a wet dog, then, very deliberately, he tears off his own chest plate, throwing it against the wall. “But I am no chibi!”
“The Mountain answers
The Dragon’s challenge — here is
An end to it all.”
Heedless of the shouts and screams above them the Crab and Dragon rush toward each other, sweating chests sliding against one another as they embrace. Arms locked, they stumble about on wounded legs, each taking turns slamming the other against the walls of the chamber. Some moments a hand will reach around to become tangled in a mass of dark hair, at other times reaching out to choke the other’s neck until a meaty arm beats it away.
(Drums again, at first in a broken rhythm, but becoming more regular and frantic until they slowly cease and fade away.)
Small cuts from some of the sharper edges of the lava wall lacerate their foreheads, sending rivulets of blood and sweat streaming into each pair of eyes, yet blindly each continues to strain for mastery over the other as they roll about, now a tangled mass of bare arms and legs, until they can struggle no more.
Broken and bleeding, the two warriors slump against the wall, spent by their efforts. Yonaka stares intently at Nakamuro until the Hida lifts his head. Their eyes lock, and with their last agonized breaths they whisper their secrets to each other,
“I… I didn’t want her, either. It was you, always you.” Yonaka gasps, his bare tattooed chest heaving with the effort as he grasps the shaft of his opponent’s weapon. “Your hammer, it’s so…”
A tear slides down Nakamuro’s scarred cheek. “And I was merely jealous… of her. You…” glancing at the now empty sheaths, “two at a time. How charming…” With a groan, he lays his head on Yonaka’s chest.
Yonaka cradles him tenderly, his eyes slowly closing. For a few minutes they are still. Then, slowly, their bodies roll limply into the nearby pool.
(Cello music plays over the sound of soft breezes through a forest of bamboo.)