L5R : Jade Winds
By now, it is a familiar dream. He does not always know when it starts, but soon enough, he is being pulled down a long stark hallway by… what was her name? He can never remember her name. He has had too much to drink, and he is clumsy and slow as she tugs at his hands with almost childlike enthusiasm. She giggles as he stumbles. She is so small, so perfect. Her unscarred face smiles up at him, and her beautiful white hair swirls around her shoulders. Her silken kimono is richly embroidered with blue and white birds taking flight, and the graceful way she moves in it is beyond his comprehension. She had wanted to see the Great Forge, but smitten as he was, he knew he could never get her in there. Instead he had brought her to the Academy, where his wife—a wave of unease washes over him, and he hesitates. The girl tugs at him again, and when he does not move, she comes closer, close enough for him to smell her delicate perfume, flowery with a hint of some spice. She looks up at him again, and gently traces the scar on his cheek. Her voice is like the bells in the temple, like water running over pebbles. “I have never heard that the Hida feared anything. Do you fear me?” Stung, he reaches for her, but with a swirl of her robes she dances out of his grasp. He follows, knowing he has as much chance of catching her as the tortoise does the hare, but also knowing that he has no choice. She stays teasingly out of reach for a few moments, then unexpectedly reaches back to grasp his hand, pulling him in her wake. And he cannot resist her, even though he knows what will come.
There is the suddenly sagging floor, and the sound of splintering wood, and with a sickening lurch he falls. His hand tightens on hers, and she falls with him. Something slams into him, something designed to shatter bones and carapace, and for one terrible moment he is pressed tightly against her in a parody of an embrace. There is a sharp pain in his left leg, a scar-to-be, but one he will not wear proudly. His armor protects him from the worst of it.
He hits the floor on his hands and knees, grunting with the shock. He does not want to look. He will not. But she moans, and he lifts his head, his eyes turning inexorably to where she is pinned against the wall. Her mouth is an “O” of surprise and pain, and though her once-perfect body is hidden by the piston, he can see that her robes are slowly turning red. Strangely, her hair is untouched, a fan of brilliant white tangled in the sharpened spikes. She gazes down at him in confusion, and tries to speak. Blood runs out of her mouth, and she is gone.
He has had this dream many times. He no longer wakes up screaming. But tonight—tonight as she looks down at him, her face cracks in two like a mask. Beneath it is the face of the Shosuro, wet with tears.
Tonight he screams.