L5R : Jade Winds
The darkness crept in.
Kaito could feel the cold and no matter which way she faced, it always seemed behind her. She turned quickly to see nothing. The horizon spun and it made her feel dizzy.
Then the voice…her voice…Hisako laughed. But the sound always disappeared as soon as Kaito looked toward it. It was not true. She was dead. Her chest tightened. Takeda Endo was dead, yet his spirit tormented her. Her ears ached from the piercing laughter. The only place that was silent was the shadows.
If she looked at the shadows, she started to long for them, to beg for the empty void within. But then she recalled the dark, and squeezed her eyes shut. “Please wake up, Please wake up,” she repeated like a prayer.
A cold finger scraped across the back of her neck. She screamed. She turned to find blank landscape behind her, the only feature was the echoes of Hisako’s laughter in the distant fog. The fog bubbled along the ground as if something, maybe many things moved under it. She turned quickly to run.
As she turned, her vision was filled with the narrow streets of the Painted City. She ran down the hard packed streets. Her feet had wooden geta on, and she tried to shake them from her feet. Hisako’s laughter filtered from the alleys on either side of her. As she shook her feet, the geta grew in size and became heavier. They never came free and as she ran again they made terrible clattering.
Again Hisako’s laughter, “Oh has the Empress forgotten how to take her sandals off?” the laughter thundered, “Could you even dress yourself without me?” Next to her a shadow was just out of reach. “Oh no, Tsk tsk tsk, no going there,” and a strong wind blew her backwards away from the shadow,“I cant have you go there.” The gale pushed her about, surrounding her with the taunting laugh.
She tried use the wind to move her, to tack out of the storm, in a flash she was dressed as the Mantis. The wind spun her around, and the world became the deck of a Mantis ship, sailing on a foggy sea that bubbled, as if alive. She saw an island with one lone large tree. It cast a very dark shadow across the sand that the bubbling sea did not go near. She pulled on the rigging, to try and steer toward the island, but the rope became wet and cold in her hands. It was now a graying piece skin, and that sloughed off exposing a rotten skeleton of an arm.
Again she screamed, crawling backwards until she smashed into the gunnel. Graying arms reached over trying to grab her. She crawled, screaming toward the center mast. Hisako’s voice whipped at her, “Oh a Mantis? How could you? Could you even imagine how to tie a rope?”, a large mooring rope wrapped her tightly against the mast, “when you could not even tie your own obi?” The obi ripped from around her waist, the obi Hida Nakamuro gave her, his mother’s obi. “NO!” she screamed as the obi flew out of reach. The obi flew up into the sky, and the ship crashed onto the island. Kaito screamed, “Nakamuro!” as the obi floated toward a large fire. “No!” screamed Kaito as tears streamed from her cheeks. “He cannot keep you safe,” Hisako’s voice laughed, “no one can.”
Next came a crash and a primal roar, “What is this?” Hisako’s voice sounding almost surprised. From the shadow by the tree, a large armored figure pulled himself up, as if out of a pit. The figure of Hida Nakamuro stood and grabbed the obi from the air. Kaito tired to rush toward him, but a strong wind pushed her to an almost standstill. The armored shoulders whipped about in the heavy wind and the helmet struggled to stay up. “KATS…”Nakamuro’s words were cut short by the fierce wind, filled with Hisako’s horrid laughter. Kaito willed herself forward, tears burning her face. She fought and lunged, able to grab the Crab’s elbows. The wind seemed to stop and her tears fell straight onto Nakamuro’s hands. Where the tears hit his skin, they burned into the skin like acid. A scream came from the Hida. She looked up to see his head thrown back, but under the helmet it was not Nakamuro, but the cold grey lifeless face of Hisako. The helmeted head rolled back and fell to the sand. “Nakamuro! No!” Kaito screamed, and tears flew from her face as she stumbled backwards. The tears bored large holes through the Bushi’s armor where ever they struck. She stumbled backwards crying uncontrollably.
Her back stopped at what she thought must have been the beached ship, but she turned to find it was the wall of a small shrine. She turned quickly, the grounds looked familiar. It was the shrine to the Fortune of Luck. She gasped in horror. Not this she thought to herself. It was silent. Kaito edged along the wall, her mind screaming “do not look around the corner.” As if compelled, she did anyway. On the roof of the small side building a cloaked figure hovered above the door. She felt a cloth pull across her mouth, as a figure appeared in the doorway. The figure was Mirumoto Yonaka.
Kaito tried to yell for him to watch out, but the cloth stopped her. She tried to run forward but felt as if the ground itself was pulling at her. She clawed at her face to remove the gag, but it would not rip free. Blood appeared on her fingers as she struggled forward clawing at her face. Then the cloaked figure looked over at Kaito. It was Kaito looking back at herself. Then the face changed into Hisako’s and she fell on Yonaka. The full moon cast shadows that stretched just out of reach, as Kaito ran straight for the rustling pile.
Several times shadows seemed to press their way into her path. Maybe she could control the shadows enough to use them, maybe to escape, maybe to save Yonaka. Hisako seemed unable to affect the shadows. Maybe the shadows were where the true power lay. But with a laughing voice, the wind made Kaito just missed the shadows, her steps blown out of their path. “Ah ah ah, that would be cheating,” and the evil laughter echoed through the mountains.
Her legs were tired but she reached the pile of clothing. “You let him go! He is…”as she reached the cloak and ripped it free, the only thing under it was Hisako. Her head was removed from her body, separated head staring with sunken grey eyes, just as it was under the Painted City. “You are nothing to him,” the head mouthed in a mockery of speech, “he could never love you, you have betrayed him…” Kaito screamed in rage, “NO!!” and she drew her tanto, falling on Hisako’s skull, stabbing at it.
“No! Never again, I will have my life back Hisako! You cannot take this from me….you are dead! Dead! DEAD!” the stabs sunk in rhythmically.