L5R : Jade Winds
He remembers the flowers. It seemed the entire world was nothing but flowers, pink and white petals fluttering delicately to the ground. He made piles of them, and threw handfuls into the air, squealing and shouting and spinning in circles until he was dizzy, until he fell laughing and kicking onto the sweet-scented earth.
He remembers the obi. Mother bought it at the Festival, and he spent hours tracing the interlocking crabs, never quite sure where one ended and another began. He wanted to wear it, but Mother laughed and took it away, and no amount of foot-stomping or passionate tears would bring it back.
He remembers the village they passed through on the way home. The people greeted them with smiles and bows and the day was warm and bright. Then came the running man, bloody and screaming as he fell. “Oni! Oni!”
He remembers the bells ringing, and his mother and the other women talking while the children huddled together, and the noises from the forest getting louder and louder.
He remembers the basket. Too small, with a lingering odor of fish. He squawks in protest, and struggles to get out. His mother looks down at him, her face serious but calm. “You must be brave, my son. Stay still, and do not speak until I come for you. Do you understand?” He nods, pouting, and she turns to go, but immediately turns back. “Here, take this.” She puts the obi into his hands, then closes the lid. Other baskets are placed around and on top of his, leaving him in darkness.
He remembers the sound of her blade sliding from its sheath. The screams of the villagers. The shouts of the samurai. The terrible inhuman voice of the Oni, and the even more terrible wet sounds of broken bodies being flung to the ground. One hits the baskets, and he bites his hand so hard it bleeds.
He remembers the moans, and the stench of blood and vomit, and the greedy slurping sounds. He buries his face in the obi, which still smells faintly of flowers.
And finally, he remembers the silence.
Later, he hears the soldiers, their shocked cries and curses.
Later still, there is a sudden stab of light, and he looks blankly into a face that is not Mother’s. “Here’s a boy! He’s alive!” Hands reach for him, and he is pulled free, still clutching the obi. He is wet and stinking, and his legs are so stiff he cannot stand. The soldier talks to him as he sits on the blood-soaked ground, but he does not listen. He cannot see Mother among the headless bodies that lie scattered around him. He hears other children screaming and crying, but he is quiet, though his lips tremble with the effort.
“Do not speak until I come for you.” He will obey.